A Brief History Of Championship Wrestling Belts In Professional Sports
If there’s one thing that we’ve all dreamt about in our life, it’s doing something so dope that we get to hoist a championship belt over our heads, toss it onto our shoulder and strap it around our fucking waist.
There isn’t anything that gives more instant credibility than having one, as a few athletes have taken notice of pro wrestlers, either getting title belts for themselves or receiving one as gifts from WWE superstars to increase their swag.
With a few instances better than others, we’re giving you a brief history of championship wrestling belts in pro sports.
Otis Anderson Is The Original (1991)
There’s no telling for sure, but when it comes to using a championship wrestling belt in sports, there’s a good chance that former New York Giants running back, Otis Anderson, was the first to strap the thing around his waste in celebration.
After taking home the Most Valuable Player Award during his team’s Super Bowl XXV victory in 1991, Anderson was named the Potamkin “Professional Athlete of the Year,” which came with a sick belt that resembled one that a WWE/WWF Superstar would don.
Yeah, ol’ dude got a Chrysler, too, but, fuck that, his championship style belt doesn’t need no oil change, just some shining!
Rasheed Wallace Reps The Reigning Champs (2004)
If there was one team who was counted out in a championship round before the damn thing even started, it was the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, who were huge underdogs against a team featuring four future Hall of Famers in Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
With the Lakers completely self-destructing after a 20-point blowout in Game 3, the Pistons shocked the hoops world by winning the title in five games, then rubbed it in the faces of all the haters.
Following the victory, Detroit big man Rasheed Wallace made it known that he didn’t want people to forget who the reigning champs were, carrying a championship belt into the arena with him, seemingly, every game.
Sheed was so proud of the title belt that he even gave each of his Pistons teammates their own, which is a boss fucking move.
Freddie Mitchell Was A World Champion Trash-Talker (2004)
There are a lot of athletes who have done great things to earn themselves a championship belt. Former NFL wideout Freddie Mitchell isn’t one you might think of.
Sure, the man known as FredEx desperately believed that he was a top receiving threat who defenses needed to be cautious of, but other than an insane 4th-and-26 grab for the Philadelphia Eagles against the Green Bay Packers in a 2004 playoff game, no one remembers a damn thing about Mitchell—except for his penchant for carrying around his self-given title belt.
This isn’t to put down the guy for the career he did have—after all, he did play in the NFL, while I sit here writing about him—but other than one big play on a big stage, FredEx was often late on his delivery.
Aaron Rodgers Turns The Strap Into A Branding Opportunity (2011)
Of all the people in sports who have worn championship belts, can I vote for Aaron Rodgers to get his snatched away now that it’s been over five years since he earned it?
While Rodgers remains one of the most lethal QBs in the NFL, because of that championship belt that he was handed on the podium after Super Bowl XLV—and that dumb pelvic thrust celebration he does—the bro got hooked up doing Discount Double Check commercials for a fucking insurance company.
They were OK at first, but they’re shitty now, so let’s steal the belt away from Rodgers for good to retire this fucking awful mess.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE “BIG GOLD BELT”
As evidenced throughout this piece, the two most popular wrestling titles among professional athletes are the current WWE World Heavyweight Championship Belt and the classic World Championship Belt. Here’s a brief history of the origins of both championship belts.
The inception of the World Championship Belt, or “big gold belt”, begins with Ric Flair and his reign as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Originally designed by silversmith Charles Crumrine, as commissioned by Jim Crockett Promotions, Crumrine had little experience in making wrestling belts. He specialized mainly in cowboy-style, western belt buckles. The original belt held no branding to any specific wrestling promotion and read only World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. In 2003, the WWE added its logo to the design for copyright purposes.
In 1986, the new belt was introduced and replaced the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt which had been used since 1973. On February 14, 1986, at the Battle Of The Belts II, NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair defended the new strap against Barry Windham.
Two years later, media mogul Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW maintained a partnership with the NWA and continued promoting Ric Flair as the world heavyweight champion. The belt signified that Flair was the champion of both organizations.
In July 1991, Flair left WCW due to creative difference with then-Vice President Jim Herd. To make matters worse, a stipulation of being champion at the time required a $25,000 deposit from the reigning belt holder that was to be returned after the champion lost the title. Herd refused to return Flair’s $25,000 deposit.
WCW stripped Flair of their recognition of world champion and introduced a new belt design representing the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The NWA did the same. Flair and WCW parted ways while Flair was still champion, so out of spite from being stiffed the $25K, the big gold belt left with Flair and both showed up in the WWF shortly after. Flair wore the big gold belt for the first few months of his first WWE tenure and called himself “The Real World Champion.” He eventually stopped after winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the 1992 Royal Rumble.
The WCW eventually broke away from the NWA and established themselves as their own federation. Since they legally owned the rights to the World Heavyweight Championship Belt, they brought it back, and called it the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. The federation still maintained a separate WCW Heavyweight Champion and eventually unified the two belts in 1994. From that point forward, until its purchase by WWE in 2001, WCW recognized the big gold belt as the sole heavyweight championship belt in the federation.
When the WWE purchased WCW, all of the belts became the property of the company. The WWE used the World Heavyweight Championship Belt to signify the WCW champion during the Invasion angle and kept the belt. Chris Jericho became the first wrestler to hold both belt simultaneously and became the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion of the WWE. The belts were eventually combined in 2002 into one belt after Triple H defeated Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8.
A year later, the World Heavyweight Championship Belt would make it’s return to the WWE during the brand split between Raw and Smackdown. The Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar announced that he had signed an exclusive contract with SmackDown and would therefore not show up on Raw to defend the title against number 1 contender Triple H. Raw General Manager had no choice but to create a Raw champion and brought back the big gold belt. The belt stuck around for another ten years until it was once again unified into one belt by Randy Orton in 2013. The belt has been in storage, or under Vince McMahon’s shirt, since.
On the August 18, 2014 episode of Raw, a newly designed single championship belt was presented to then champion Brock Lesnar, while the Big Gold Belt was once again completely retired in the process. That belt is the title athletes wear after world championship wins.
— by Chris Illuminati
LeBron James Christened The People’s New Champ (2014)
After winning his second NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2014, LeBron James got the chance to toss a championship belt over his shoulder—and it was courtesy of The Rock, giving him just a little more street cred than other athletes.
James, who claims that he always wanted to be a WWE champ while growing up, even got his Heat teammates their own gold bling, too, with the squad posing in the locker room with their new hardware.
The team might not have been the peoples’ champs, but they were definitely the world champs.
View this post on Instagram
Special thanks to @therock for making my childhood dream come true! U have no idea how many couches and old mattresses I jumped off thinking I was one of y'all! U, Ultimate Warrior, Sting, Legion of Doom, Goldberg and The Undertaker I could watch all day plus many more! I feel like a little kid again. Thanks again Champ! #CanUSmell #StriveForGreatness
San Francisco Giants Say ‘Yes!’ (2014)
After winning the World Series in 2014, the Giants were all set to celebrate with their fans with a badass victory parade. That’s cool and all, but WWE superstar Daniel Bryan made sure the things got even more lit.
Supporting the club throughout their postseason run, Bryan showed up with a championship belt and presented it to outfielder Hunter Pence, who was amped AF to get the new piece of jewelry.
Trophies and rings are cool, but championship belts are an accessory that will turn more heads.
Kansas City Royals Play ‘The Game’ (2015)
Now, when talking about championship belts, it doesn’t get much cooler than getting a customized one sent to you by a former WWE heavyweight champ. But that’s what longtime wrestler Triple H gave to the Kansas City Royals following their World Series title last fall.
The one awarded to the aforementioned Giants was dope, but it doesn’t belong in the same category as the one the Royals received.
So all of these other teams/players can go ahead and march around with their gold and talk shit, but they’re just faking it and hoping to be making it, because the one Triple H sent to K.C. was the real thing, which included their team logo on both sides.