Championships are everything in wrestling. At the end of the day, it’s what the men and women are fighting over. We all know the history of the WWE Championship, with its lineage dating back to its time as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship when Buddy Rogers “won” a tournament in Rio de Janeiro. But did you know this wasn’t their first attempt at a world championship? Did you also know that the WWE has deactivated 22 different titles, dating all the way back to the 1950s? We’ve got tons of fun facts about 15 champions you may never have even heard about.
For this list, we’re going to focus on some of the strangest belts to ever exist. Whether it be in specific divisions that required their own championship, an interesting looking title, or ones that are so old that they’ve been forgotten about over time. We’re not looking at belts that have been redesigned, like Edge’s Rated-R Spinner or when the WWE Women’s Championship was split in two. We’re checking out fifteen of the most bizarre belts, ones with particularly fascinating history, and championships that don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Are there any of these defunct championships you would like to see revived? Or any of the current ones you’d like to see get more notoriety? Let us know in the comments!
15 FCW Jack Brisco 15 Championship
Back when NXT was a game show where wrestlers carried kegs around the ring and cut promos about mustaches, WWE’s best-kept secret was their developmental program known as Florida Championship Wrestling. Their top title, the Florida Heavyweight Championship, was held by folks who would go on to have main roster success like Sheamus and Jack Swagger, but it was their secondary championship that was much more interesting. Represented by a gold medal, the FCW Jack Brisco 15 Championship was named after famed grappler Jack Brisco. It was also only defended in 15-minute Iron Man matches. These created exciting and unpredictable matches between some of WWE’s future talent. The most notable feud over the few ounces of gold was between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. When their first bout ended in a draw, the time was upped to 20 minutes, and eventually, a half hour after their second outing was a tie as well.
14 WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship
WCW was known for having some of the best cruiserweight action, especially on American television. Wrestlers like Rey Mysterio, Kidman, Eddie Guerrero, and Psicosis wowed viewers with their highflying acumen on a weekly basis. Even towards the end, WCW still had a great deal of talent within their cruiserweight ranks. They still had Mysterio and Kidman, 3 Count was an underrated faction, they even had a fresh-faced AJ Styles in their ranks. With all of this talent, the first champions were…Kid Romeo and Elix Skipper? Sure. That’ll give tournament runner-ups Kidman and Mysterio, the Filthy Animals, an exciting chase to claim the gold. Except WCW was bought eight days after the first champs were crowned. The Filthy Animals won the gold on the final episode of Nitro, and the belts were never brought up again. Speaking of belts, they were surprisingly dope. They used the centerpiece and side plates to form an eagle, which is something I’m surprised we don’t see more often.
13 AAA Mascot Tag Team Championship
Remember during the Attitude Era when WWE would parade around mini versions of Superstars like Mankind, Vader, and Goldust? Well, how great would it have been if there were tag belts that Vader and Mini Vader could have held together? Well, Mexico’s AAA promotion answered that question in 2002 when they created the Mascot Tag Team Championship. The only way to be eligible to compete for these titles was to be a team consisting of a wrestler and a Mini-Estrella. Particularly, a miniature version of the same wrestler. The Mini-Estrella is a Mexican wrestling tradition that goes back decades and is taken a lot more seriously across the border than in the States. Even today, you can still see diminutive versions of Mascara Sagrada and the entire AAA stable, Los Psycho Circus (no relation to the late-'90s KISS album). Fun fact: the inaugural champions were Abismo Negro and Mini Abismo Negro, who portrayed Mini Goldust in the WWE.
12 WWE North American Heavyweight Championship
Before he created his own Million Dollar Championship after failing to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Ted DiBiase was making a name for himself in Mid-South Wrestling. The WWE's owner at the time, Vincent J. McMahon saw something in the future Million Dollar Man and soon gifted him the newly created North American Heavyweight Championship upon signing DiBiase in 1979. His reign and the title itself would be short-lived. DiBiase would eventually drop the championship to Pat Patterson after the French-Canadian nailed the champion with a pair of brass knuckles. Patterson’s championship reign would go on to be the catalyst of the creation of the Intercontinental Championship when he unified it with the South American Heavyweight Title after allegedly (emphasis on that word) winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro (a great place to hold a tournament). Interestingly enough, footage of this “tournament” has yet to see the light of day.
11 WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
After withdrawing from the NWA, the WWE had a few leftover relics from their days as part of the Alliance. One of those was the NWA Women’s World Tag Team Championship, at the time held by Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria. Despite keeping a low key presence throughout the six years of its existence, the (renamed) WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion was defended at the first Royal Rumble pay-per-view in an underrated two-out-of-three falls match that saw the Jumping Bomb Angels dethrone the Glamour Girls, ending their 906-day reign. Today, women’s wrestling is not only more popular than ever, but also better than ever. We’ve come a long way from the Attitude Era when watching ladies trying to tear each other’s clothes off in a pool was the norm. In recent years we’ve gotten the first women’s Hell in a Cell and Money in the Bank matches. This year, we’re getting the first ever all-women Royal Rumble. With a stacked roster with the likes of Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Naomi, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss I think we might be due for the return of these belts.
10 DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship
WWE’s Hardcore Championship is notable for having a ridiculous amount of title reigns, somewhere around 240. This is due to the fact the title was defended 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as long as there is a referee present. In 2000, Japan’s DDT Pro-Wrestling replicated this championship and quickly lost their damn minds. Over the 17-plus years the title has been around, there have been 1,288 reigns. That’s over five times the amount of reigns as WWE’s, thanks in part to the one night where the belt was exchanged 62 times. Throughout the championship’s lifespan, not only have human beings won the title, but inanimate objects like a baseball bat, a pint of beer, and a steel chair and animals like a cat, a dog, and a monkey have also achieved greatness. You see that picture? That right there, that is the face of a champion. You’re looking at Yatchan, the primate grappler who ended Shoichi Ichimiya’s 15th championship reign and held the belt for a staggering 62 days.
9 ICW-ICWA Texarkana Television Championship
If you followed independent wrestling in the mid-2000s, you probably know the name “Sweet ’n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney. He was a standout in promotions like Chikara, NWA Upstate, and the early days of Ring of Honor. His incredible mic work was a throwback to the southern wrestling territories of the 1970s and 1980s. One thing that definitely helped get the Golden Palomino over as a heel was when he began showing up to wrestling shows claiming to be the ICW-ICWA Texarkana Television Championship. The (fictional) legend goes that the title dated back to 1981 when the two promotions from the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas area merged. Past “title holders” were Bobby Eaton, “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel, and Sweeney’s mentor “Playboy” Buddy Rose. Despite the title’s made-up origin, it was eventually defended like a regular belt. Sweeney would go on to become the greatest man to ever hold the strap and went on to be a 27-time champion.
There is no cooler look for a wrestler than when they are holding multiple championships at once. It shows that they can be dominant over multiple divisions or even promotions. Folks like The Miz in WWE, Lance Storm in WCW, and Kurt Angle in TNA all looked like bonafide superstars when they walked around wearing multiple belts. Even when you include Kurt’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he maxed out at five belts. Folks who won the J-Crown? They got to hold eight titles at once. The Great Sasuke won the eight-man tournament that unified the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Welterweight Championship, UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship, WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship, WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship, and the oft-forgotten original WWE Light Heavyweight Championship. Although it was only defended for a little over a year, the crown was held by other legends like Ultimo Dragon and Jushin Thunder Liger.
7 New South Pro Wrestling Championship
This entry is specifically on the list for cosmetic reasons. Look at the bad boy! Let’s just take a minute to marvel at this beautiful piece of leather and metal. If WCW had the Big Gold Belt, this has to be the Bigger Golder Belt(er). That is certainly more than the ten pounds of gold wrestling promotions of yesteryear used to brag about. It’s almost too much, but the relative simplicity of the title keeps it from going over the top. The belt in question is the New South Pro Wrestling Championship, a relatively new promotion based in Alabama that claims to be the “Real deal in Southern Style Pro Wrestling.” Granted, I had never heard of NSPW until these pictures of Indy wrestler Sugar Dunkerton began circulating all over the web. If they put half the love they put into their shows that they’ve given to their title, they may very well be on the way to becoming a prominent institution in the ever-growing independent scene.
6 TNA World Beer Drinking Championship
Wrestlers like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Sandman would be the first to tell you that beer and professional wrestling are a match made in heaven. Heck, if you see me at any wrestling show, I’d be more than happy to agree. (Also, feel free to buy me a beer!) In 2007, TNA’s resident beer swilling cowboy, James Storm decided that recreational drinking had no place within the squared circle, and the art form should be elevated to a competitive nature. Already embroiled in a feud with Eric Young, Storm debuted the title at that year’s Genesis pay-per-view. Before we go any further, let’s talk about the title itself. It’s a replica WWE Spinner Championship with bottle caps and a beer bottle taped to it. TNA couldn’t even be bothered to use on of their own belts. In his first defense, the Cowboy lost the strap to EY after passing out.
5 Chikara Young Lion’s Cup
Right off the bat, you can see the main difference between Chikara’s Young Lions Cup and most wrestling championships. Instead of being represented by ten pounds of gold to wear around their waist, this is a trophy that’s carried to the ring. The cup also has its own set of rules that make it special. Try and keep up. First, an annual tournament is held with wrestlers 25-years-old or younger. The winner of the tournament is bequeathed the titular “Young Lions Cup.” He or she then defends the trophy in regular matches against others in the age group. The title is defended until the next year’s tournament, where the winner of that becomes the new Young Lions Cup Champion. Also, previous winners are barred from competing for the cup in both singles matches and future tournaments. It’s a great way to build up younger talent and give them something to do while they hone their skills. Former champions have included Indy standout Chuck Taylor and the current leader of WWE’s Riott Squad, Ruby Riott.
4 WWE World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship
In addition to being one of the most legendary professional wrestlers of all time, Antonio Inoki can also be considered one of the earliest supporters of mixed martial arts. His 1976 match against Muhammad Ali was a forerunner to the types of matches one would see in the early days of UFC. When the WWE entered into a working partnership with New Japan, owner Vincent J. McMahon awarded Inoki with the WWE World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship due to his success in a variety of combat sports outside of wrestling. The title was defended in alleged shoot matches with rules that resembled current MMA fights. The championship’s most notable WWE defense was when Larry Sharpe challenged Inoki during a show at Shea Stadium in 1980. After WWE cut ties with NJPW, the belt was exclusively defended within the Japanese promotion. During the championship’s 11 years, the only other man to hold the belt was Georgian Olympic Gold Medalist Shota Chochishvili, who managed to knock Inoki out in the fifth round of the match.
3 BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Championship
You might not think this belt looks like much, but if I were to have gone with a picture of a champion after a successful defense, you wouldn’t be able to read this article at work. For those of you unfamiliar with Big Japan Pro Wrestling, think of it as the perfect promotion for someone who thinks ECW didn’t take things far enough. The shining example of this is the BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Championship. The belt, which has been around for 20 years, can only be defended within a deathmatch. If you’re worried that might get stale after a while, fear not! This championship has been fought over in a whole slew of different deathmatches that reads like a sadistic Mad Libs. From a “Glass and Fire Coffin Cremation” deathmatch to a “Bunkhouse, Double Hell, Super High Ladder, and Barbed Wire Hell” deathmatch to the deliciously painful “Lemon, Salt, and Mustard Deathmatch,” the BJW’s deathmatch division has everything a masochist could ever ask for.
2 ECW FTW Heavyweight Championship
Taz was one of the toughest SOBs to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, just ask him. During the glory days of ECW, the One Man Crime Spree was the perfect candidate for the face of the company. He had a brash, no-nonsense attitude, could brawl, and throw folks around indiscriminately with his variety of suplexes, or Taz-plexes as ECW announcer Joey Styles called them. Unfortunately, when it was Taz’s time to reach the top of the mountain, the current ECW Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas, had suffered an injury and couldn’t defend it. This lead to Taz creating his own belt, the ECW FTW Heavyweight Championship. I’ll let you figure out what the FTW stands for, and it isn’t “For the Win.” With Douglas unable to defend his belt, Taz referred to himself as the “Real World Champion” and defended his prize until he was able to get his rightful shot at the ECW Heavyweight Championship.
1 WWE International Heavyweight Championship
If you ask most people what the first championship to ever be established by the WWE, they would say the WWE Championship. They’d be wrong. Kind of. Despite having a lineage that dates all the way back to 1963, the WWE Championship was created after the International Heavyweight Championship. The International Heavyweight Championship has an extremely complicated and convoluted past. Before officially clinching the belt in July of 1959, and holding onto it for four years, Antonino Rocca first won a version of the championship all the way back in 1948. The title would be once again vacated in favor of the newly created WWWF World Heavyweight Championship (today’s WWE Championship). However, that wouldn’t be the end of IHC. The belt would be revived in 1982 and was regularly defended in Japan after Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Gino Brito to become the champion. Three years later, the title would finally be abandoned once and for all.