DATELINE: APRIL 11, 1963 – WASHINGTON, DC
Buddy Rogers is awarded the inaugural World Championship of the World Wide Wrestling Federation at a Capitol Sports TV taping, after defeating Antonino Rocca in a ‘mysterious’ tournament in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
In reality, there was no tournament, and the storyline was used to cover Northeast promoters breaking off from the established National Wrestling Alliance office. Rogers had recently dropped the NWA World championship to Lou Thesz, a move that New York promoters Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt took issue with. They decided to form their own title, in order to take greater control of the huge metropolitan areas in the North Atlantic.
The company and the championship would go through two name changes over the course of the last 55 years, with Vince McMahon Jr. shortening the name to simply ‘WWF’ in the early 80’s. In 2002, a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Fund would force McMahon to switch to the modern-day, World Wrestling Entertainment.
According to the official WWE title history, the World title of today (currently on their Smackdown brand) still shares direct lineage to the championship awarded to Buddy Rogers on this day in 1963.