Those shiny golden belts mean so much don’t they? Boxers always wore them so it was an easy move to bring them into the world of professional wrestling. It actually makes a lot more sense for a business that’s all about the show, spectacle, and style, to have their champions add a shiny accessory to their costume. It makes less sense now for the ‘real’ fighters of boxing and MMA to still wear a large golden belt. Although I’m sure it still feels better than anything to win, and wear said shiny belt, no matter what sport you compete in.
I even had one of my own. When I was 9, I was the Intercontinental Champ of my house (liked that design and Mr. Perfect better than Hogan and his winged eagle). I was a working champ too, defending it nightly against my brother, neighbors, and my dad’s heavy duty punching bag. We would have 12-kid Royal Rumbles with a microwave timer signalling the entry of the next participant. We all competed for that heavy plastic belt like our lives depended on it.
How bad would it be to dedicate your entire life and body to professional wrestling, working your way up from the community halls to finally hit the top and win your first championship….and have it be ugly. When you reach the top of the mountain and strap that gold piece of legitimacy around your waist, it better look damn good.
Fortunately, over the past couple of decades, belt design has really stepped up its game. Long gone are the clunky, flimsy, slabs that looked more brass than gold. The WWE winged eagle and WCW's Big Gold set the standard for size, quality, and style.
There were so many to choose from for our list. Times change and wrestling companies are constantly trying to keep up with the times in order to connect with their audience. Sure the winged eagle is many fans all-time favorite, but it might look a bit out of place today.
So let's narrow it down and feast our eyes on the top 15 most beautiful belts in wrestling history.
15 ROH World Championship 2nd design
ROH’s first belt definitely looked indie. Generic gold with gigantic RED FONT across the front. The upstart promotion got it right with their second try.
It’s an homage to the WWE ‘winged eagle’ done right. The Canadian, American, and UK flags were a nice touch that definitely added legitimacy to the claim of ‘World’ Champion.
14 ECW World Championship
The 90s were Xtreme man! This belt really captured the ECW spirit. It borrowed the blue globe from the WWE but slathered it with blood-red writing in the Halloween Havoc font.
Those funny looking crosses on either side are baseball bats covered in barbed wire, although they look more like a bones arranged in a nice star formation.
Did you know that the first ever ECW World Champion was Jimmy Snuka? It was still called the NWA-ECW title at the time. Shane Douglas was the 'real' first champ when he denounced the NWA, and kicked off the transition from Eastern, to Extreme.
13 Attitude Era
Before the winged eagle was abandoned completely, it was slightly refined with this perfect re-design. It’s almost identical in fact, but by simply keeping the wings inside the perimeter, it removed the ‘cartoony’ feel of the previous generation.
12 The Smoking Skull
Imagine this belt on anyone else - say, Papa Shango - and it becomes unbearably cartoony. But on the toughest SOB in the business it was damn cool.
Austin didn't wear the King of the Ring crown, threw the IC belt off a bridge, and wore his own Championship belt. That's like going into work and setting your desk and chair on fire so you can bring in a leather recliner, a massage table, and a hot masseuse to go with it.
11 Spartan Tag Team
I like this idea. Two soldiers who have each other's backs (apparently the historical Spartans had more than that) in the battle that is working up the card. Tag teams are traditionally a stepping stone for the mid-card. They suit up and go to work every night in hopes of impressing the management enough for a singles push. Or perhaps they stay a team because of the insane work they do in the ring.
10 AWA Southern Heavyweight
The most unique belt on our list. It had more black than gold, which gave it a very tough, no-nonsense look. It also had a chrome trim which is rarely used on belts.
The six mini plates on the side had illustrations, which is very common amongst other title belts, but the dominant black background highlighted the gold picture, making it very easy to see.
9 NWA World Television
Talk about unique, you rarely see this much color on a belt. The bright red was just short of being an eyesore and it really benefited from switching the leather from red to black.
The television championship was originally introduced as a belt that would always be defended on TV since the NWA champ had other places to be.
Arn Arnderson, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Sting, and The Great Muta all wore the shiny red and gold.
8 TNA Knockouts Championship
The current WWE Divas title is a sexist joke that only worked with the models who spent more time provocatively walking to the ring than actually wrestling. Now that Charlotte Flair has won the title, a new design is in order.
TNA got their Knockouts division right by treating them like athletes rather than pure eye candy, and the belt followed suit. It's indistinguishable from a men's title if not for the 'Women's' emblazoned on the top.
7 WWE Tag Team 'wings'
This one stuck around forever, lasting from the mid-80s to early 2000s. It was a little larger and more of a rectangle compared to the singles belts, which made it unique. So many great teams have worn this, and it's still the best ever tag iteration.
The Hart Foundation, Owen Hart, LOD, Demolition, The Rockers (uncredited because the top rope came off, but they did win it) The Hardy Boyz, the Dudleyz, and Edge & Christian.
6 1986 AWA
My all-time favorite wrestler Curt Hennig won this as his only World Championship from Nick Bockwinkel. This was a replacement belt after Stan Hansen destroyed the previous incarnation. It was a huge upgrade, with it's layered and sculpted design. It used simple yet strong features to convey its message.
5 WWE Hardcore Title
This wasn’t actually the belt that Mr Perfect smashed years before, but the idea was still brilliant.
Mick Foley’s Mankind character was starting to gain sympathy with the fans and this shabby reward for doing Vince McMahon’s dirty work was perfect. Mankind was treated like trash, and was rewarded with trash.
4 WWE Winged Eagle
This belt is part of the reason Hogan’s pre-match interview was obviously taped days or weeks before the massive WWE The Main Event in 1988.
The older, globe belt was shown in Hogan’s interview, but was replaced by the new winged model as he made his way down the aisle.
He would only hold the new belt for one match, as the Hebners and their evil twin magic would cost him the gold. Hogan, being the babyface he was, would then pick up Evil Hebner over his head and HURL him from the ring, overshooting the waiting hands of DiBiase and co. (was Hogan the first tweener? He always seemed to bully the refs).
3 Intercontinental Championship: 1988-1998
Another from the golden era, this belt was commonly held by the best workers in the company…..as well as Honky Tonk and Warrior. It was also used as a stepping stone to bigger things.
Here's a quick comparison.
IC: Steamboat vs Savage - heralded as the greatest match ever at that point
World: Hogan vs. Andre - a ‘main event’ style match with little technical ability.
IC: Hart vs Perfect - A technical dream between two of the best actual wrestlers in history. Hennig worked with a horrific back injury so he could put Hart over.
World: Not contested. Hogan tagged with Warrior to face an aging Slaughter and two even older guys.
IC: Hart vs. British Bulldog at WEMBLEY! - An incredible match with the atmosphere of a World Cup soccer final.
World: Savage vs Warrior - Savage’s OCD match planning gave Warrior his best match, although it ended in a countout.
IC: Michaels vs Razor Ramon in a ladder match
World: Diesel vs Mabel
I cherry picked a few of my favorites of course, but generally it holds true. The IC belt was for the best in-ring talent, and the World was for the biggest name or biggest guy.
2 Big Gold
Many young WWE fans in the early 90s had only seen the winged eagle, IC and tag belts. So when Ric Flair invaded the Federation with his white gold belt and hair, proclaiming himself the real World Champion, we almost believed him. The WWE at that point never acknowledged that any other wrestling company existed. Established veterans would debut in McMahon's promotion with zero mention of their past exploits. We thought Arn Anderson was a rookie!
But Flair had the Big Gold belt that went perfectly with his cocky attitude and lear-jet flying lifestyle. It legitimized him and opened the eyes of ignorant young fans to a whole other world of wrestling.
It's insane that WCW let him take the belt with him over a $25,000 deposit, but it's just one of the many wacky stories from the consistently mismanaged promotion.
The Big Gold was first worn by Flair to replace the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1985. He actually lost the NWA portion to Japanese star Tatsumi Fujinami in 1991. He could only call himself the WCW champion for two months until he won it back from Fujinami.
1 Undisputed WWE Championship
How fitting that the belt born from combining the WCW and WWE World Titles would be the best of both worlds.
It's an incredibly balanced belt with near-perfect design. The only thing that could be removed to improve it would be the slightly cartoony WWE attitude logo at the top. But it's small enough that it stays out of the way while still signifying the company it belongs to.
The stark black on gold is very powerful and it looks like it's made from solid gold. There's a very subtle jeweling to add a little 'Flair', but like the logo, it doesn't overwhelm the design.
For once the WWE was subtle and knocked it out of the park.
And then Cena and ruined it.
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