The crowning moment in the career of any wrestler is when he or she achieves championship gold. That shiny, sparkling title represents years of hard work. Forever, that wrestler will appear in history books, as well as thousands of photos holding their newly-won prize.
In the months or years preceding the event, that precious championship grail has been crafted meticulously. It goes from blueprint to belt under the watchful eye of its creator, who strives for perfection. Because in many ways, the iconic image of champions features titles that are just as recognizable as the men who wore them.
In some cases, however, the gift of gold doesn't always glitter the same way. Here's a list of titles that were too strange, unique, or complicated... even for the squared circle. It's time to test your will to be weird, by taking a look at the 15 Most Unusual Championships in Wrestling History.
15 15. Another Man's Treasure
The most famous belt on this list is also the ugliest. Part prop, part trainwreck, the Hardcore Championship was basically just a shellacked version of the WWE's famous winged eagle World title belt.
Originally awarded to Mick Foley as a sort of odd gift from Vince McMahon, the trashy looking belt has a similarly strange history. While it originally fit Foley's odd, boiler-dwelling Mankind character, it inevitably became a joke. Always up for grabs thanks to it's "24/7 rule," the title was hot-potatoed to everyone from women to giants to senior citizens.
The belt was eventually- and thankfully- retired in 2002. But that's not before it was tossed around the company like common trash. And quite frankly, that's exactly what it looked like.
14 More Than A Mouthful
The Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship featured some of the finest wrestling ever witnessed in North America. It's champions were typically mat technicians, with the title itself essentially created for the legendary Dynamite Kid.
Following in Kid's lead were superstars like Bret and Owen Hart, so there's no doubt the list of alumni for the championship is impressive. There's only one real problem: It's name was way too long.
The very complicated moniker for the title often left fans, journalists and even the own company's employees confused. Many times it would be referred to as the 'jr. heavyweight title', or people would leave out the word 'Commonwealth'... suggesting that the title originated from the UK, instead of Western Canada. And, let's not even talk about how many wrestlers fumbled over it during interviews.
In the case of this tricky title, it may have been better for promoter Stu Hart if he had picked a name that actually fit on viewer's television screens.
13 The Wonder Twins Title
This is another example of a dark time in WWE history. At a time when female wrestlers were still considered 'Divas,' many of the intertwining storylines were involving the personal relationships of the roster's women.
Michelle McCool and Layla were teaming as LayCool when they shared the title. But, unlike co-titleholders or defending by using The Freebird Rule, the two ladies split the championship in half, physically. Not only did they butcher the belt, but they fashioned it in the shape of a BFF charm, FURTHER degrading its value.
Today, the WWE's female roster is given an opportunity to showcase their talents and the Womens' championships are given as much respect as their male counterparts. But in the time of the literally split title, it was merely nothing more than a prop for a joke.
12 The North American Foldout
Mid-South wrestling promoter Bill Watts always liked to pit big guys against each other in the ring. He loved to pit two grapplers who looked like they could legitimately hold their own. Bold and bad names like Dick Slater, Paul Orndorff and The Junkyard Dog all captured the crown, which was considered a steppingstone for many wrestlers' careers.
Winning the title might be one thing, but holding it was another. That wasn't necessarily because of the rugged competition, but also because the belt itself was gigantic. In what can only be described as diorama of metal and leather, the physical championship itself resembled a foldout of the Sunday paper.
When a smaller wrestler, like Terry Taylor, held the belt, he looked like a midget trying ti drive a Buick. The cartoonish size of the title made it seem very important, but in the end, it's awkward appearance didn't stack up with the more stylized belts of other federations.
Changes in Watts' organization led to the North American Championship being renamed (and streamlined) as the UWF Heavyweight title in 1986.
11 What Money CAN Buy
The WWE of the 1980s was a universe where just about anything can happen, so why wouldn't a frustrated contender just claim a championship of their own? It doesn't seem that far-fetched does it?
That's precisely what Ted DiBiase did when he 'purchased' the Million Dollar Belt in 1989. At the time, the move was unprecedented. There had bounties and even an instance where a wrestler tried to sell his championship to another wrestler. But, DiBiase actually went out, and in storyline, got one that was custom-made to order.
But that wasn't what really caught fans' attention. It was the stunning appearance and gaudy-but-beautiful arrangement of sparkling stones that forced the audience to take notice.
The Million Dollar Belt would lay the foundation for prop belts and gimmick championships that would follow. It was even defended as a sort of unsanctioned title in the company. It even resurfaced 20 years later, when DiBiase's son, Ted Jr, began wearing it for a time on WWE television.
10 Woulda Been Better For The Junkyard Dog...
From the glamour of the Million Dollar Belt, we go to the garbage known as the License Plate title.
This was a very short-lived version of the Hardcore Championship in another of WWE's constant attempts to seem cutting edge. Unfortunately, this Tommy Dreamer special didn't do anything to lift the reputation of the brand, or wrestling in general, for that matter.
Quite simply, it was a belt with a New York license plate on the front, forming it's masthead. Looking more like something you would pick out of the trash, it was clearly supposed to portray Dreamer as the ultimate symbol of the hardcore style. Instead, it made him look foolish and the title idea was scrapped (pun intended) not long after its first appearance.
The mere fact that this faux title was even taken off the trash heap is beyond anyone's guess. At last report, the belt was seen plastered on the back of a '72 Buick Elektra.
9 Custom Made, From Hip To Hip
At least Tommy Dreamer's belt wasn't a vanity plate. Because personalization seemed to be the trend of the day when it came to wrestling titles, starting in the late '90s.
What used to be considered a sort of holy grail of sports entertainment, the gorgeously crafted title belts of the past gleamed through our television screens. For example, the "domed globe" version of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was, for years, viewed by wrestling fans the way followers of other sports view the Stanley Cup or the Lombardi Trophy.
In the late-90s WWE, that thought was melted down and melded away. When The Rock or Stone Cold held the company's top belt, they frequently had custom manifestations made. It threw off the continuity and the special feel of the championship strap. It became another example of the wrestler being more important than the title, which rubbed many old school fans the wrong way,
Quite simply, re-arranging any title for any specific wrestler is just wrong, It's a wrestling tradition that should be honored. After all, the title should be the most important thing in the ring, no matter who's wearing it. Matching the belt's identity to the wrestler only devalues it.
8 That's A Hell Of A Belt Buckle
In the old Memphis promotion, the Continental Wrestling Association, their version of the World title was a big deal. It was also just flat out big, too.
With a face plate that you could land a 747 on, the CWA World Heavyweight Championship dwarfed many of the wrestlers who carried it. And while there's no denying the lineage of the championship, which includes southern fried legends like Jerry Lawler and Austin Idol, it pizza box shape and ridiculously thick leather strap were an eyesore.
It also didn't fit with the times. Most regional titles at the time were simple and smaller. The CWA belt had all the subtlety of a Hollywood Avenue billboard. It was retired in the '80s, but not before taking up MOST of your television screen for years.
7 The United States Women's Title?
It's been established that personalized titles are a bad idea, but this one probably takes the cupcake.
In what can only be described as a mix of half title/half Rolex, the gaudy United States belt given to John Cena in the early 2000s takes a more feminine turn. Resembling a Ralph Lauren logo, the belt fit the company's polo model prospect.
Unfortunately, the title belt's circular shapes and the stylized Cena signature make it look way more artistic than it is athletic. While it may have looked nice to wear on a Paris runway, it certainly doesn't conjure up images of wounded warriors battling it out for ring supremacy.
Thankfully, the WWE belts of today have gotten away from the prettiness of the past. Cena's belt represents an era in the company's history that many fans would like to forget. Add in the fact that it didn't look very masculine, and it's probably a good thing that this model has taken its last walk and turn.
6 The Cup Runneth Over
Perhaps unique, instead of unusual, is a better way to describe the three-year run of this amazing Tag Team Championship held by Jim Crockett promotions. In what became a critically-acclaimed series of matches, JCP launched the Crockett Cup as an all-out, open invitational for tag teams from other federation and all over the world. It was an instant hit, beginning with the Road Warriors winning the first Cup in 1986
The Super Powers (Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff) and the team of Lex Luger & Sting were the only other two teams to win the tourney in its brief history. The Crockett Cup would be discontinued after Ted Turner's purchase of the promotion.
Today, wrestling historians still discuss the significance of the event, it's mystique, and even the possibility of a similar tournament being resurrected in WWE. But make no mistake, the sight of the winning team holding this massive trophy, along with the one million dollar winners' check, made an indelible mark on the sport's history.
5 Kick Some Brass
The NWA Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship sounds pretty cool, huh? I mean it's obviously some sort of hardcore title, right?
Not exactly, long before ECW ever opened it's own hardcore doors, the brass knucks title was held by the man who won matches where both competitors wore them on their fists. So, basically it was a brawl with really heavy hands.
Many notable names have held the different regional versions of the strap throughout the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Modern-day promotions have even revived the concept, often adding new stipulations and tag team matches to the metallic mix.
The Brass Knuckles Championship often confused fans who weren't familiar with southern 'rasslin. But the men who held this odd and violent title, were the foundation for the more rough-and-tumble ring culture that would emerge years later.
4 Immortally Awful
When Jeff Hardy returned to TNA in 2010, it was pretty clear that the company had big plans for him. Having broken from the tag team ranks and establishing himself as a legitimate singles competitor, the Little Company Down South thought that they could hitch their wagon to his soaring star.
In what was supposed to be a major twist, Hardy joined the Immortal faction, aligning himself with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and capturing the TNA World Championship in the process. Shortly thereafter, he was given a belt that was dubbed, The Enigmatic World Title.
With its pink strap and odd shape, it resembled a women's title. Add in the fact the the entire face plate of the belt was actually a FACE plate, a carton version of Charismatic Enigma. So basically, Hardy was wearing a strap that represented him, not the company as a whole. And in the fact that his run as champion was disastrous, and it completes the whole, ugly picture.
Because of its radical break from tradition and terrible appearance, this may qualify as the worst version of any major world championship in history. Whatever it was hiding in the closet, this title probably should have just kept it there.
3 A Profane Protest
Taz has long been known as a guy who is vocal. And by vocal, we mean about everything. He can be an angry little man when he feels like he's been wronged.
So when the sawed off-suplex machine was getting tired of being slighted in the ECW Championship mix, he decided to let his feelings be known. He emerged with a billboard strapped around his waist that was a rather angry and emotional response.
Taz's F**k The World title (FTW) was a way to stick it to management and the company's champion, Shane Douglas. And while it's name certainly fit with the atmosphere of the late '90s ECW Arena, it wasn't exactly the most marketable or family-friendly name.
Much like other made-up titles, this naughty name was also defended as if it were an actual part of the company. But also like them, it was confusing, unnecessary, and most of all, unsanctioned.
2 The Mid-South Television...Medal
As mentioned, Mid-South promoter Bill Watts was known to be fond of 'rasslers with legitimate athletic backgrounds. Many a former football star or freestyle grappler got a look from the Cowboy when it came to scouting potential pro prospects.
So it should come as no surprise that, at one point in the company's history, its television championship was represented by an olympic-style medal.
So basically, after an incredible, barn burning battle, a worn out combatant would turn to the ref, only to be given what appears to be a participation award.
And while Watts handed out a medal to the winner of his Television Championship, it's only proper to note: There was no podium, and no wreaths placed on anyone's head. The flimsy medallion was replaced by an actual belt when Mid-South transformed into the Universal Wrestling Federation,
1 The United States Heavyweight Atlas
No title lives more up to its name than the Jim Crockett Promotions version of the United States Heavyweight Championship.
Represented by a physical belt that will guarantee you never get lost, it features a full map of America at the center. There is no outlying metal around the continent... no sphere or square. There's no eagle or banner like other patriotic prizes of the past. Just a hunk of metal shaped like the contiguous United States, plastered in the middle of a worn, red-leather strap.
Because of the classic matches that involved such names as Steamboat, Flair, and Valentine, the country-shaped strap is considered to be iconic. Despite its unusual appearance, the memories associated with it make it part of the sport's pop culture.
We've certainly come a long way from the championships on this list. Hopefully, promoters have learned their lesson when it comes to conjuring up new fictional awards. They might not want to put too much emphasis on something that their audience will one day look back on and laugh at.
It's a lesson learned: Whether it's because of the look, name, or aura, some titles of the past have been just a little too unusual... even for the world of professional wrestling.
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