Championship belts are the most important props in all of professional wrestling. They are what all wrestlers, in the best case scenarios, are focused on winning. Some will hold them over their heads, some will wear them to the ring, some will drape them on their shoulder, and some heels will simply hold them at their side as if walking a dog, letting the strap disrespectfully drag upon the ground. Fans cannot imagine their favorite champion without picturing the specific belt that he or she held.
The design of a belt is important though. The color of the strap, the type of metal and jewels used, the design and layout of the plates, what is written on the plates – all of these add to the credibility and strength of a title. The following of some of the worst and best examples of design in title belts.
Top 5 Worst Belts
5. WWE Universal Championship
When this title belt debuted in Brooklyn at SummerSlam last year, it was booed heavily. That initial physical reaction was likely the shock of the belt’s Corvette red color to match that of the RAW brand, but the psychic reaction during that moment and after is the more concerning and long-reaching. Everything about the belt ties back to corporatism. The design is the same as the current black WWE World Championship, a title with a lineage going back at least 33 years and more than 50 years if Vincent K. McMahon’s WWWF titles are included. Suddenly, fans are expected to accept this belt as its equal. The color choice of the belt is the most unsubtle and obnoxious way possible of branding it to RAW. Furthermore, its name, “Universal,” was supposedly an allusion to Vince’s corporate jargon for the fans – the WWE Universe. This was “their belt.” These corporate and brand tactics are what really caused people to react so poorly even if they couldn’t verbalize it. And, incidentally, who is going to look good with this belt unless they wear black or red?
4. CZW Wired Championship
The CZW Wired Championship, formally the CZW Wired Television Championship, which accounts for the design choice, looks like the type of belt that one would see in a cartoon for children about wrestling, and they need to make it easy for the kids to understand that it’s a television title. Some graphic design major was proud of themselves for this gaudy, base title: “It’s a TV title, right? Well, I got an idea for you. Let’s make the plate an actual TV, and because it’s hardcore wrestling, the screen is broken and you can see the test color bars behind the broken screen! That’ll make it recognizable, unique, and give it color!” Instead, it looks like a toy, a belt that M.U.S.C.L.E. men would carry around.
3. AWA World Heavyweight Championship
The problems with this version of the AWA World title are too many. First, the gold on silver always looks atrocious as it’s the complete inverse of what can possibly work as, occasionally, silver on gold can look pleasing, but only if the silver is used as a highlighter. This also creates a feel of cheapness as if Verne Gagne wanted to save a few dollars (and given his reputation, that’s entirely possible) and use silver as a base because it’s less expensive. Second, the amount of different colored gems on the plate makes it look like skittles were stuck to it. There’s gold, silver, red, blue, green, and yellow in this belt. It’s distracting and off-putting to look at. Finally, the size of the font is much too large in addition to the amount of space, which is often inconsistent, between the letters. This gives the feel of having been done by a child as an arts and crafts project.
2. WWWF/WWF Heavyweight Championship – “Big Green”
This version of the WWF Title – labeled “Big Green” – is most associated with Bob Backlund, who held the title the longest, but was also held by The Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan. Like the AWA Title, seemingly little thought was placed on its look; in fact, they could almost be siblings. The title has a flimsy-looking gold placed upon a forest green strap. It avoids the mistake of its AWA sibling by using gold as the base rather than silver, but it also has an assorted color of gems on the plate that make it look (tic) tacky. It avoids the childish and over-the-top lettering of the AWA, but it increases its ostentation by having eight side plates, which list the previous title holders and the dates of their reigns. This is a good idea that establishes tradition, but it makes the belt look cumbersome and unwieldy. Can you imagine Hogan trying to whip it at an opponent to keep them from the ring? Lastly, the green color of the strap is a mistake, particularly for its primary champion Backlund, who wore bright blue tights and boots. This green against that blue stood out, but in an unsightly, not striking, way.
1. WWE Divas Championship – “The Butterfly Belt”
Oh, this belt. No other belt in the history of wrestling might be as reviled as this one for what it represents. First, it represents one of the worst eras of women’s wrestling in WWE history with the likes of Kelly Kelly, the Bellas (before Nikki became a bareable worker), Layla, Kaitlyn, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox, Maryse, and more serving as the top talent. Second, the name, “Divas Championship,” signified a view of women that they are all “divas” at heart. It might as well be called the “Bitch Championship.” One might argue, and surely the company would, that this was attempt to redefine the term “diva,” but given the story lines, promos, and bookings of the time, that wasn’t the case. Third, it represented a sexist view of women as if they were all little girls that love things that are pink and shiny, that love floral prints and butterflies.
Beyond what it represented, the design of the title looks like an untalented Lisa Frank wannabe dreamed it up. It’s all swirls and curves and flowers. While the pink doesn’t necessarily look bad against the silver, the choice of the color pink is what is problematic. It attaches a stereotype to the holder of the title, and ultimately, makes the title seem less serious. The style of the “Divas” font is meant to look glamorous but instead looks like a middle-school student drawing on her book cover. Lastly, the most horrific element of the belt is the “V” in “Divas” that is written and curves in such a manner to resemble a labia. So it’s not the “Bitch Championship,” it’s the “Pussy Championship.” Ugh.
This belt was simply gross as was the philosophy of how the women during this era were viewed. Its eight years of existence were eight too long, and out of everything that happened at last year’s Wrestlemania, the best was the retirement of this disgrace and the introduction of a true WWE Women’s Championship belt that showed some measure of decency and respect for the female competitors that hold it.
Top 5 Best Belts
5. WWE United Kingdom Championship
After lambasting WWE for the choices made for the Universal Championship, the designers of the WWE United Kingdom Championship deserve some credit. While it still holds the same boxy design as the other current belts, this looks like a dignified belt that a wrestler would cherish holding. The use of the royal coats of arms adds a touch of class and a nod of respect to the region it serves. The gold on black looks classy as well. In addition, there are a limited number of colors that do not overwhelm the viewer, which is a good decision considering the intricacy of the Royal Arms design. The red connects the main plate with the side plates and the lines and squares establish a consistency throughout the belt.
4. NWA Western States Heritage Championship
This is another simple yet effective design for a little-known title belt. The Western States Heritage Championship was a secondary title defended around the NWA territories, but primarily in Bill Watts’s UWF. Two men held the title before it was vacated forever – Barry Windham and Larry Zbyszko. This is a simple gold plates on matte black strap design. It utilizes only three colors: black, gold, and red. The black and red atop the gold is particularly effective here as it highlights the map in the center that represents the territories the belt covers. Lastly, the placement of the three red gems gives the title a symmetry that increases its sense of stability and importance.
3. NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship
Simply upon looking at this title, there is no mistaking what it is and what it represents. There is a definite trend developing of gold plates on black straps working extremely well, and for good reason: the belt could look good on any competitor. This title was defended primarily in, you got it, Texas and has a litany of impressive NWA names attached to it. The lettering is large but not so large that its extravagant. The coloring in the belt is balanced. The blue is used for the ribbons and is balanced with the blue in the small, circular side plates. The lettering is gold atop the blue ribbon, which also keeps that gold the consistent color throughout. All of this allows the red to do its job and highlight the Texas state emblem in the center of the belt. One might argue this is too much color, but it’s perfect for a secondary title and unforgettable in its look.
2. WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Winged Eagle”
This is one of the most recognizable belts of all-time as it is associated with most of Hulk Hogan’s run in the 1980s. Again, a gold plate atop a black strap is used, but even more impressive is only one color besides that is used, the blue in the globe behind the eagle. It is other elements that make this belt so memorable. The giant eagle itself is the primary factor that makes it stand out. Its wings are raised and “hold” up the word “WORLD,” and inside those wings, it cradles the globe that, as mentioned, is the only splash of color, which heightens its importance. Every element of the design is showing that this is the world championship. Meanwhile, while the eagle is holding everything in, the lines around the eagle are pushing outwards as it they are rays of light trying to burst from the plate. Also, the bars on the side of the main plate curve in, which puts extra focus on the main plate and almost rejects the side plates. This belt has a sense of gravitas to it once all the elements are combined. Additionally, the design is so strong that it looks good on any color strap as it’s been on sky blue – used by Hogan – and white – used by The Ultimate Warrior – and it looks just as beautiful.
1. NWA/WCW World Heavyweight Championship – “Big Gold”
Whether someone picks “Winged Eagle” or “Big Gold” – the title belt most associated with Ric Flair and is most commonly thought of as the NWA or WCW World title – as the most prestigious title is likely where they lived and what they grew up watching. The sheer size of “Big Gold” makes it a sight to behold. In terms of height, it’s nearly double the size of most belts, but it’s not too large. It reaches just the right size before it becomes exaggerated. The intricately-designed wreaths and the silver highlighting lead the eye to focus on the primary elements – the words “WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT WRESTLING CHAMPION” at the top, the crown and world underneath, and the name of the current champion at the bottom. The only other color besides the gold metal, silver highlighting, and black strap are the red gems, eight on the main plate and four in each side plate. No title is more symmetrical and striking: it is an achievement, and when someone won it, it felt like an achievement for him to hold the Big Gold over his head.