Late last week, it was announced that WWE is in for some major title redesigns. This has started a huge debate online over which titles need redesign. I for one like the current title designs. To me, all of them look modern, and they all have a uniqueness that I think is missing in other organizations. The US title looks amazing, the IC title looks do look classic, and the women’s and men’s World titles have very recognizable looks. One thing I’ve read online is the fans’ desire to have older designs return. Particularly Big Gold and the white IC titles. To be honest, I can’t disagree.
One thing about wrestling, the designs of title belts are amazing. It would not be until 1972 that the WBC created the green belt design for boxing. Before the green WBC design, boxing belts were often an afterthought. Wrestling had mastered making the belt part of the show. The belt had to look prestigious so that fans would know why they were fighting. Territories like the AWA in Minnesota, or Jim Crockett in the Carolinas did have great belt designs.
Today, no territory is as talked about as the WWF in New York. The designs and history of the belts are now part of wrestling lore. Part of that lore was the champion that made the belt. Some will say the 1986 WWF title design looks generic, but many fans will remember that belt Hulk Hogan’s when he slammed Andre the Giant. Yes, the belt made the champion, but sometimes the champion makes the belt. I want to go over each design and identify who made who.
The Original 1963 WWWF Title
When Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt left the NWA and changed Capital Wrestling Corporation (CWC) to World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), they needed a new champion. Because the CWC held most of the power in the NWA, they felt they should control the World title. This is why McMahon and Mondt decided to create their own World title. Buddy Rogers, being the NWA champion at the time, would be the first WWWF champion. McMahon and Mondt were able to book a controversial finish which satisfied the NWA, but left wiggle room for the WWWF to continue to recognize Rogers as their champion. Rogers use a title belt he owned, a United States title belt. He would only defend this title once, as he lost to Bruno Sammartino right away.
I posted both champions to represent this design. This belt is the only title to not be defined by the wrestlers that wore it, but rather a moment. That moment is the first time the WWWF title changes hands. Rogers would walk in as the champion, Bruno would walk out. Just like that, a title is born. This design would only be used for a short amount of time. To be honest, this is a good thing, as the belt doesn’t look like a world title. Other than the moment it represents, it doesn’t hold compared to the beauties of that era. Thankfully it would be replaces pretty quickly by a more permanent design.
Bruno Sammartino’s First Belts 1963-?
There is a theme with two wrestlers, Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan. In their first reigns, both saw a lot of belt redesigns very quickly. I cannot find a real timeline of the belt changes, but I do know that between 1963 to 1971, Bruno had about 5 different belts that I can find. One of these titles posted, I would assume is the belt which replaced the Buddy Rogers US title. The first and third design borrow heavily from the NWA. I am assuming the middle title to be a temporary one, and here is why.
The story goes that in 1965, Bruno went out to eat, like he did after many title defenses in Madison Square Gardens. When he left the restaurant, his car had been broken into and his belt was stolen. Of the designs above, the two outside designs look clean. The one in the middle does look different than not just those two, but the next design I’m about to show. Therefore, I am assuming that the middle design was the place holder until they can get a new belt. The stolen belt has never been recovered.
Bruno Sammartino’s Most Famous Belt ?-1972
I honestly don’t know which year this belt debuted. I am sure someone out there can look at magazines from the past and piece together Bruno’s title history. Maybe if I didn’t have a job, that person would be me. With that said, I do know that by 1971, Bruno was holding this title. Like the other designs, it borrowed from the Buddy Rogers version of the NWA title. What also stands out is the side plates have both Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino’s names on there, recognizing their status of World champions.
Up until this point, only the Rogers US title was passed from one champion to the next. But that changed when Ivan Koloff shocked the world and pinned Bruno Sammartino in Madison Square Garden in 1971. It almost seemed unreal that Bruno would finally lose. Bruno changed title belts before he ever had to pass it to another champion. Seeing Koloff, then Pedro Morales wear this belt seems weird. (Video here of Pedro beating Koloff.) Sadly, this belt would be found in a New York pawn shop. Pedro claimed the title was stole from his car, much like Bruno. Others from that era said Pedro might have had a thing for fast women and slow ponies. Though that’s just rumor. By 1972 the WWF had a new title. And this time it would influence future titles.
Pedro Morales and what appears to be the temporary belt that replaced the missing belt
WWWF 1972-1983 World Title Belt
In 1972, the WWWF released a title which would shape modern belts for many years. The WWWF 1972 belt was the first to feature a large winged eagle, something that would be a major feature in WWF belts moving forward. The first design’s eagle looked like its neck was sticking up. A 1973 redesign would switch the eagle to look like it’s swooping down to grab something. This title was originally on a red strap, much like the NWA’s first Domed Globe belt design the following year. To feel like a world title, different countries like Israel and England are featured in the side plates. Due to the length that WWWF used this design, I had many wrestlers to chose from to represent this design. I choice “Superstar” Billy Graham. Though I could have chose Bruno, again, or Pedro, or Bob Backlund (who held this belt the longest); Graham seemed like the obvious choice because he represented the future.
Billy Graham was a bleach blond haired body builder, who also changed the colors of the title. The title started red, but Graham would change the strap to blue during his reign. It would be the blue title that Bob Backlund wore much of his five year reign. Many would later argue that Vince Sr. took the title off Graham too early. Graham had many legendary defenses, including the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Putting the title on Graham would open Pandora’s box in wrestling.
Big Green 1983-1984
Much like the Roger US title above, Big Green represents a huge transition in the now WWF. Created when Vince McMahon Jr. took over, this was the first WWF title belt. I am not sure Vince Jr. saw the size of the AWA title and felt like he needed to rival that, but Big Green was a huge size upgrade. Though this title had a short life span; it is the title Hulk Hogan won from the Iron Sheik. That alone means this belt’s design will forever be etched in wrestling history. One other interesting note; Big Green is the first belt to be made into a toy. LJN used the Big Green design for Hulk Hogan when you buy his action figure. Though Big Green’s life was short-lived, it left its mark on the industry.
I’d like to note, in a throwback to the Bruno belts, Big Green did list the former champions on the side plates. Also, it does not have an eagle on it, rather it has a person holding up a title belt on top of a globe. It does not say WWWF or WWF like the previous and later titles. Instead, it say World Wrestling Federation spelled out. This is an iconic design, made famous because of the transition it represented.
I think it’s safe to say that the AWA title influenced Big Green and Big Gold.
Hulk Hogan’s belts 1984-1988
Much like Bruno Sammartino, once Hulk Hogan won the title, the champion became more important than the belt. In the 1970s, wrestlers fought over the Eagle belt. During Hulkamania, it felt that the belt was secondary. Both the Intercontinental and Tag Team redesigned from this era are timeless classics. But it would take many attempts to get the World title right. I’ll go over the titles. Not shown is the Andre ’87 belt, as that title was never defended.
The first design was the 1984 belt, which replaced Big Green. The NWA would borrow this design for their TV title belt. It featured an eagle at the top and a globe directly underneath. Also, like Big Green and the Bruno belts, the side plates had a list of the WWF’s title history. Next, we had the Hogan ’85 belt, which had the same design, but now they painted parts of it black. This helped the design pop more. Hogan would wear this title during WrestleMania 1. These belts were silver, which Vince felt made the titles feel like second place, so he had a new title ordered.
Next is the Hogan ’86 belt, which I think is the best of this era. The ’86 belt I chose to put with the big blue steel cages since this image is how I remember this era. It had a large globe on it, but missing was an eagle. This belt is also the first to feature the WWF logo on top. This belt lives on when Hogan wore it to slam Andre the Giant. Finally, the rare ’86 custom title. Borrow from Moolah’s NWA title, this title has a picture of Hulk Hogan on it. Both Hogan ’86 belts featured flags on the side plates. It custom belt was used for 2 weeks, so very little is known of this belt. Hulk Hogan’s last defense of his first reign introduced the world to…
The Winged Eagle 1988-1998
It took some time, but the WWF finally found its belt. Much like the WWWF in the 1970s, the WWF in the ’80s found a title that defined their era. The Winged Eagle first appeared in 1988 during The Main Event. Hulk Hogan wore it out of the ring against Andre the Giant. On this night Andre would beat Hulk to win the title, then sell it right away to Ted DiBiase. Over the years the title would be smashed, stolen, had the logo snapped off, claimed to be a trinket, and wrestlers would screw each other for this belt. Randy Savage even became the first champion to use velcro on his first belt and chipped one of the wings during his second reign. The history of this design is legendary.
Over the years, WWWF/WWF used eagles in their belt design. This belt made the eagle the biggest feature of the design. Borrowing from one of Bruno’s belts, this design also included a side pieced next to the main plate. A globe was also featured, just like previous designs. And though the size was not as big as the Hogan ’86 title, it fits both large wrestlers like Hogan or Undertaker as well as smaller wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Though I feel no wrestler held the title as well as the Hitman.
Even though Hogan was the first to wear the belt, to me the Winged Eagle represents the change in wrestling. Macho Man, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels were all smaller, faster wrestlers. With a New Generation rising, Hart lead a youth movement in WWF as larger wrestlers were being fazed out. This is why when I think of the Winged Eagle, I think of Bret Hart carrying this title.
Attitude Era Belt (Big Eagle) 1998-2002
There was a short-lived version of the Big Eagle belt that was given to Stone Cold the night after WrestleMania 14. It was blue and had the traditional WWF logo. Eventually, Steve Austin would replace that belt with the Smoking Skull title, which would be the first belt with the WWF scratch logo. Once Austin lost the WWF champion, they introduced Big Eagle with the scratch logo. Much like the Winged Eagle belt, Big Eagle features a large eagle and a globe. It feels like an updated version of Winged Eagle. Being bigger, Big Eagle not only fit the Rock and Stone Cold, but also the waist of the Big Show. This title would also feature the McMahon family crest on one of the side plates. When WWF bought WCW, Big Eagle looked perfect next to Big Gold when Jericho was carrying both titles.
Without question, no champion carried Big Eagle, as well as the Rock, did. The Corporate Champion was the perfect gimmick. The Rock with his $500 Versace shirts, large belt, and endless charisma felt like an updated version of 1980s Ric Flair. Both looked like and presented themselves as champions. To me, the decision to not give the Rock a custom title was the correct one. This reinforced the fact that the Rock represented Vince’s WWF, with Vince’s belt. He had Hollywood looks, and expensive clothes; truly Vince’s ideal image of a champion.
There is something wrong with Steve Austin carrying a title with the McMahon Family crest during this era. The Smoking Skull title was MUCH better suited for him. When Austin turned heel and wore Big Eagle, it fit the story, but just didn’t seem right.
WWE Undisputed Title 2002-2005
Debuting in 2002, the WWE introduced the Undisputed title after WrestleMania X-8, and was first awarded to Triple H. From there, there were different versions of this title, mainly to adjust the size. To me, the first version of the title with the WWF logo looked too small. It was during the Undertaker’s title reign when they switched to WWE and created a larger belt. Soon enough, that belt found itself around the waist of Brock Lesnar.
For design, the Undisputed title felt like it borrowed from many past titles. Of course, it featured an eagle and globe, which had been a theme for 30 years at this point. The placement of the eagle was above the globe at the top of the plate, which seemed to borrow from the Hogan belts of the 80s. The shape is more oval felt like an update from the ’70s’70s title. It also featured the McMahon family crest like Big Eagle. New was adding a nameplate. Big Gold for years had a nameplate, so it was only fitting that a nameplate be added here. I love name plates, which is why this title is my favorite on this list.
My bias says Eddie Guerrero looked the best with this title. And though the title looked great on him, I can’t deny that Brock Lesnar defined this title. Lesnar holding this title on Smackdown defined the Ruthless Aggression’s early era. It’s because of Lesnar’s dominance that Guerrero’s winning the title felt so special. This belt revolved around Brock. If I had it my way, WWE would have kept this after 2005, giving it to whoever won the WWE title that wasn’t named John Cena.
Undertaker is the last WWF champion in history, as during his reign WWF would change to WWE
The Spinner Belt 2005-2013
I can say what everyone wants to say, but I wouldn’t. I’ll just say that the Spinner belt was a thing. It was a cool alternative to the traditional belt, customized for a particular wrestler. I will quickly go over some changes made to the belt. So at first, it had branded side plates on the left side, first for Smackdown, then Raw. Eventually, both side plates just said WWE champion as the title would switch brands often. Yes, it got very confusing.
One positive, there is an eagle above the WWE logo. From the looks of the title, it kept the same shape as the Undisputed title, more oval than round, and it kept the nameplate. In a foreshadowing of things to come though, the WWE logo is the largest part of this belt. Truth be told, this belt stuck around for so long because it sold so well as a toy. This title generated a lot of money, something a publicly traded corporation cannot pass up.
It’s hard not to pick John Cena as the representative of this title. The belt fit John Cena’s rapper character. Instead of a champion, like the other belts, this belt spells out the champ. When the title moved to Raw, instead of saying Monday Night Raw, it says Mon-Nite Raw. So they tried to keep the hip-hop theme of the title. On more traditional wrestlers like Triple H, Randy Orton, Sheamus, or Batista, the belt doesn’t fit. Even in Cena’s later career, it felt as though he evolved passed the belt. It’s important to note that Edge had a custom belt made. In my opinion, he was Cena’s greatest rival. He felt like Cena’s Lex Luther. So it’s only fitting that he modified the title to fit their rivalry.
Edge with his custom Rated R version of the Spinner.
Big Logo Belt 2013-2014
I debated long about either having the Big Logo belts count as one, or having them under two separate logos. The Big Eagle had a logo change, I didn’t make two different sections; I put them both under Big Eagle. Same with the Undisputed title. The difference is the logo is now the most important part of the belt. After the success of the Spinner belt, WWE tried to recreate a toy-friendly belt that kids will love. Using the logo as the base and filling the title with jewels, the Big Logo belts have now become additional advertising for the company. The Spinner took out the globe, now Big Logo took out the eagle. So for the first time in 41 years, the main WWE title does not have either a globe or an eagle on it.**
So what does this belt have, well, it had the logo and it says Champion on the bottom? What is fun is that you can change side plates to make the champion. This allows the champion to have a belt with their logo without making everyone a custom title. I will say that I prefer nameplates myself. The wrestler that stands out with this title is Randy Orton. The Authority storyline was great. It had everyone cheering for Daniel Bryan. Watching it, I felt Orton had his best heel work ever. Yes, the best heel Orton was well wearing this belt. That’s saying a lot. It’s also fitting that Orton represented the Authority, so having a belt with a large logo fits the story. This design wouldn’t be long for the world, as it was soon replaced by…
(**Hogan’s custom belt and the Smoking Skull belt also didn’t have either, but both were custom-made for their wrestler.)
WWE Network Logo Belt 2014-Current
Originally the current WWE logo was only going to be used by the WWE Network. But in 2014 the whole company switched to using this logo. To be fair, the scratch logo ran its course. Since WWE was PG, the product didn’t fit the edginess the scratch logo represented. The new Network logo felt fresh and needed. With a new logo comes a new title design. I will say that this new logo fits the Big Logo belt series better than the scratch logo. But the scratch logo did add a bit of character. The design is not too different, as the logo is the largest part of the belt. Gone is the large piece that reads Champion, which made room for a larger logo. Just below the logo, as part of the border, World Heavyweight Champion is engraved.
Of the champions who carried this title, Roman Reigns is the obvious choice to represent this title. Reigns have finally come to his own. His recent reign as Undisputed Universal Champion is defining the post-pandemic era. In some ways, Roman before the pandemic was a better representative of this title. Both Reigns and the WWE as a whole, and this belt felt sterile and sanitized. Reigns felt like McMahon’s cookie cutter champion, and the belt felt like a corporate product meant to both sell toys and advertise at the same time. But in the last two years, it feels like Roman has come to his own. And honestly, I would like to see this title remain until he loses it. For the first time, I think Roman has made the belt look better. Wrestlers can define a belt, Tribal Chief Roman Reigns has finally elevated it
You can’t forget the Daniel Bryan Eco-Friendly World title belt. In a famous clip on the Solomoster’s opening, Bryan revealed that people didn’t like his belt was made of leather, he’s not a real vegan!
I remember an idea I had when the white IC title returned. Why not give each brand a completely different image? One fault of Vince McMahon was everything was too polished. Everything now can look sterile, including the belts. They look like they were designed to be toys. If you insist on having two brands, why can’t each brand have its own identity? You can have Raw be the modern brand, they can have the modern design of WWE, US, Women’s, and Tag Team titles. If I was Triple H, I’d throw in the Cruiserweight title as well. On Smackdown, you can have the old-school designs of the World (Big Gold), IC (white strap), Women’s (any design but Divas), and Tag Team (1986-2002 design) titles. Each show should have its own feel. One can be the modern show. The other can be the gritty Friday night show.
Cody Rhodes introduces the modern version of the white Intercontinental championship
I don’t think WWE has to have one image if they keep the brands separate. This is a chance to make both shows feel different. The sanitize feel of the show can change. Hopefully, Triple H can help give both shows their own identity. Yes, you can have your title which sells to the kids, and also have your title which sells to adults. The company is big enough to make that happen.