Why the World Heavyweight Championship belt is still wrestling’s best title

Championship belts are a signature element of hand-to-hand combat. Thus, in professional wrestling, they are a centerpiece to the drama. Where everything is grandiose in the world of sports entertainment, so too are the titles. Over the long history from carnivals to stadiums, we have seen a tremendous amount of variety in the stylings and presentations of these various straps.

We all have our favorites: be it for the men and women who held them, the center plate, the color of the leather, or the matches in which they were won. For me, there is hardly debate. The World Heavyweight Championship belt is the best belt ever to be showcased in a professional wrestling promotion. Why? Let’s take a look:

Design

nwa big gold belt

At a very superficial level, I find the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) belt to be supremely attractive. Most of that I find in its simplicity: a giant gold centerpiece flanked by two gold side plates. A few accentuating rubies added for good measure, and you’ve got one of the finest looking championships in history. It is not dripping in jewels, nor does it feature extraordinary imagery. The symbols it does feature (a crown, a globe, and a few grapplers) are hardly noticeable excluding close inspection. Its common moniker, The Big Gold Belt, captures all necessary elements of its design: big and gold. This belt does not need any special logos or colors to prove its point. If you saw the WHC around a wrestler’s waist, you knew – even if you had never seen a single match – that he was the champion.

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Lineage

 

triple h big gold belt

Shiny gold things are inherently valuable, on that I think most can agree. What makes a shiny gold thing even more valuable? Time. What stood out from the very beginning of my time as a wrestling fan was the history of the Big Gold Belt. When I began actively participating in the wrestling scene in the early to mid-2000s, I saw that the belt held high by Triple H was the same belt that had been worn by the likes of Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Dusty Rhodes. I was vastly more interested in the storied WHC than I was in the belt that had changed shape and design near-countless times in mere years.

flair and big gold beltThe WHC draws its lineage through three of the most important pro wrestling organizations in history: the NWA, WCW, and WWE. That lineage can be traced back to some of the very first world champions and world championships. The Big Gold Belt is historic, and it carries the pride of some of the finest wrestlers in history. In the decades of constant change and innovation, the WHC was a constant; for that consistency, it represents greatness.

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Champions and Challengers

While this can be folded in with its lineage, I think it important to focus on the men who made this belt mean something, especially for me. As aforementioned, I came into wrestling during Triple H’s long tenure as holder of the WHC. The storyline that ran through the Evolution faction, a group of some of the most talented, impressive, and popular performers in wrestling history, forged my relationship with the belt. It was the totem that titans clashed over. For a sizable portion of my early tenure as a wrestling fan, there was only one championship – I paid little to no attention to the supposed ‘flagship’ WWE Championship. When the WHC transitioned over to SmackDown, I tagged along.

On the Blue Brand, the belt would truly become iconic in my eyes, as modern day legends like Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Edge, and The Undertaker would vie for the title in its three-year tenure on SmackDown. For most of its nascent time on WWE rosters, it was the WHC that was treated as the top title – the championship only the greatest Superstars could challenge for.

sting with nwa belt

The World Heavyweight Championship belt became a symbol of wrestling, not through forced branding, but through the crucible of time and care. It was never a prop, always a badge of supreme excellence. Its simple, gilded design easily conveyed that message, without any needless imagery, colors, or jewels. It was reserved for the best of the best, the few men who would come to define their eras: from Rhodes to Steamboat, Flair to Sting, Hogan to Goldberg, Triple H to Batista, and Edge to Undertaker. The Big Gold Belt would lose some its shine during the dark days of the late 2000s and early 2010s, but it will always remain my favorite wrestling belt of all time.

–Scott Saffran

Photo Credit: WWE.com

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