WWE and World Heavyweight Championship Vacancies

Usually a title changes hands in the world of wrestling when one wrestler beats another in a title match.  However, sometimes there has been enough controversy surrounding a title bout that WWE officials have had no choice but to declare one of their World Championships vacant and come up with a way to crown a new champion.  This is a list of all the times that either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship have been declared vacant.  All dates used in this article are the offical dates used to determine title reigns by wwe.com.

2/5/88 - 3/27/88: The WWE Championship Doesn't Have A Price

Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. Russell Turiak/Getty Images

After winning the WWE Championship in the most-watched match in wrestling history, Andre the Giant sold the title to Ted DiBiase. WWE President Jack Tunney ruled the sale of the title was illegal and stripped Andre of the title because he had already given the title away. A tournament to declare a new WWE Champion took place at WrestleMania IV. Randy Savage won the title by beating Ted DiBiase in the final round of the tournament.

12/4/91 - 1/19/92: Be Fair to Flair

Ric Flair. Photo of Ric Flair: Steven Henry/Getty Images
Following the Undertaker's controversial WWE Championship victory over Hulk Hogan at the 1991 Survivor Series, Jack Tunney ordered a rematch a few nights later at This Tuesday in Texas. Jack Tunney was at ringside for this match which Hulk Hogan won with the aid of the ashes inside the Undertaker's urn. Because of the controversial finishes of both matches, the following day Jack Tunney declared that the was vacant and put it up for grabs in the 1992 Royal Rumble. Despite entering the match third, Ric Flair wound up winning the match and the title when he last eliminated Sid from the bout due to aid of Hulk Hogan.

2/13/97 - 2/16/97: Shawn Loses His Smile

Photo of Shawn Michaels: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Citing a career threatening knee injury, Shawn Michaels vacated the title in a memorable speech where he also claimed to have lost his smile. A few night's later, Bret Hart won the title in an Elimination Match that also featured the Undertaker, Vader, and Steve Austin.

9/27/98 - 11/15/98: Don't Cross the Boss

Steve Austin is about to stomp a mud pie on someone. Photo of Steve Austin: Getty Images

At Breakdown 1998, WWE Champion Steve Austin was pinned simultaneously by Kane and the Undertaker. A jubilant Vince McMahon grabbed the title and declared the title vacant. A few weeks later at Judgment Day, the Undertaker and Kane fought for the title in a match that saw Steve Austin serve as the special guest referee. That bout ended in a no-contest after the Undertaker hit Kane with a chair and didn't get a chance to pin his brother because he was hit by a Stone Cold Stunner. He counted a double pin-fall and declared himself to be the new champion. Steve Austin was fired immediately by Vince McMahon but wound up being rehired in time for the championship tournament at Survivor Series 1998. The WWE Championship tournament was won by the Rock who defeated Mankind in the final round thanks to the help of Vince McMahon.

9/20/99 - 9/26/99: The Boss Doesn't Want the Championship

Photo of Vince McMahon: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

With the aid of Steve Austin, Vince McMahon pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in wrestling history and won the WWE Championship from Triple H. The following week, Vince vacated the title. At Unforgiven '88, Triple H regained the title by winning the Six Pack Challenge against the Rock, the British Bulldog, Big Show, Mankind, and Kane.

12/6/04 - 1/9/05: The Chamber Eliminates the Title Controversy

Photo of Triple H: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The World Heavyweight Championship was declared vacant for the first time by Eric Bischoff following a controversial finish to a Triple Threat Match between Champion Triple H, Edge, and Chris Benoit. Edge tapped out to the Crippler Crossface at the same moment the referee counted Benoit's shoulder's down. The title was declared vacant and was put up for grabs in an Elimination Chamber Match at New Year's Revolution 2005. Triple H regained the title when he won the match which also included Edge, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and Batista.

1/10/06: The Animal is Wounded

Photo of Batista: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Batista's first World Heavyweight Championship reign lasted nine months and only ended because he was forced to vacate the title due to a biceps injury he suffered in a match against Mark Henry. For the first time in WWE history, a championship vacancy was filled on the same day the title became vacant as Kurt Angle won a battle royal to win the title.

7/17/07: The Ultimate Opportunity

Photo of The Great Khali and Edge: Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

Edge was forced to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship due to a torn pectoral injury. The Great Khali won a battle royal later that evening to win the vacant title.

10/2/07 - 10/7/07: The Champ is Injured

Photo of John Cena: J. Meric/Getty Images

During the October 1, 2007, edition of Monday Night RAW, John Cena suffered a torn right pectoral tendon. The following night the championship was declared vacant. Cena was scheduled to defend the WWE Championship against Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing Match at No Mercy 2007. Orton was given the championship by Vince McMahon at the start of the show and wound up both losing and regaining the title from Triple H that night.

5/2/08 - 6/1/08: Choking Your Opponent Isn't Legal

Photo of The Undertaker: Getty Images

Vickie Guerrero stripped the Undertaker of the World Heavyweight Championship because he had used his banned choke hold in a prior title defense against Edge. A TLC Match was held between the two men at One Night Stand 2008 for the vacant title with the stipulation that the Undertaker would be fired if he lost the bout. Edge won the title and the Undertaker was fired. That choke old would later become a legal maneuver and has been named the Hell's Gate.

9/7/08: The Punt That Led to A WrestleMania Match in 2011

Photo of CM Punk: Gaye Gerard/Getty Images

At Unforgiven 2008, the World Heavyweight Championship was going to be up for grabs in a Scramble Match. A few minutes before the match, Randy Orton punted World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk in the head which lead to Punk having to miss the match. He was replaced by Chris Jericho who won the vacant title by beating Batista, Rey Mysterio, Kane, and JBL.

6/9/09 - 6/15/09: The Viper Strikes

Photo of Randy Orton: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Batista won the WWE Championship from Randy Orton in a Steel Cage Match at Extreme Rules 2009. The following night, he was attacked by Orton and suffered a torn left biceps injury which forced him to vacate the title the next day. On the following episode of Monday Night RAW, Orton won the title when he beat Triple H, John Cena, and the Big Show in a Fatal 4-Way Match.

4/15/11 - 5/1/11: Edge Is Forced to Retire

Edge at the press conference for the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania. Photo of Edge: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

The day after successfully defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXVII, Edge took an MRI. A week later, Edge was forced to announce his retirement due to a neck condition he has been dealing with and doctor's refusing to ever medically clear him to wrestle again. A Ladder Match between Christian and Alberto Del Rio was held at Extreme Rules 2011 to crown a new champion.  Christian won the title thanks to the help of Edge.

7/18/11 - 7/25/11: The WWE Championship is Punked

Rey Mysterio. Photo of Rey Mysterio: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

CM Punk entered Money in the Bank 2011 with a WWE contract that was going to expire at midnight. Despite his best efforts, Vince McMahon could not get CM Punk to sign a new contract. Vince said that Punk was an ingrate while Punk was angry that the company misused him for years and never made a commemorative cup with his likeness on it. CM Punk won the title from John Cena in one of the greatest matches in WWE history and left the arena with the title. The following night, the first two rounds of an 8-man tournament were held to crown a new champion.  The following week, Rey Mysterio beat the Miz in the final round of the tournament to win the title. By the time the show ended, Rey had lost the title to John Cena and CM Punk returned to the company after an eight-day retirement.

9/16/13 - 10/27/13: Face of the WWE

Daniel Bryan. Photo of Daniel Bryan: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

WWE COO Triple H did not want Daniel Bryan to be the face of the company and went out of his way to make sure he wasn't.  At , Triple H cost Daniel Bryan the WWE Championship and for the next month made his life a living hell. Daniel Bryan wound up winning the WWE Championship at Night of Champions 2013 but Triple H stripped him of the title the following night because of a fast three count made by the referee. A match between Orton and Byran to fill the vacancy at Battleground 2013 resulted in a no contest.  Three weeks later another rematch was held at .  In their Hell in a Cell Match, Special Guest Referee Shawn Michaels gave his former student the Sweet Chin Music that resulted in Randy Orton winning the title.

6/9/14 - 6/29/14: Being Injured Isn't Best for Business

Daniel Bryan. Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Daniel Bryan was stripped of the title after being unable to defend it due to neck surgery.  After he refused to hand the title over to Stephanie McMahon, she stripped him of the belt and announced that the winner of the Money in the Bank Match will become the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  John Cena defeated Alberto Del Rio, Bray Wyatt, Cesaro, Kane, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and Sheamus to win the title.

11/5/15 - 11/22/15: The Face of the WWE Suffers an ACL Injury

At SummerSlam 2015, Seth Rollins walked out of the show as both World and United States Champion
Seth Rollins. JP Yim/Getty Images

Seth Rollins was stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship a day after tearing his ACL in a match at a house show against Kane.  The vacancy was filled when Roman Reigns beat Dean Ambrose in the tournament final to crown a new champion at Survivor Series 2015.