I love championship belts. I even have a few of them. (Before you ask, no, I do not take them with me to wrestling shows. I believe that people that do this should be forced to defend their belt against all challengers throughout the show.) To me, they’re one of the best parts of wrestling—or any combat sport for that matter. I just love the idea of it. What should signify the person that is the best at this sport? A trophy? A sash? A plaque? Nope—a massive, gaudy, gold cummerbund to be worn around your midsection so no one can ignore your greatness! It’s so obnoxious and I love it.
Behold, Captain Raymond Holt and his Championship Cummerbund.
Over the years, I think all wrestling fans can agree that there have been some great belts and some… not so great belts. A belt is supposed to be regal and represent accomplishment, but sometimes, companies use them as toys or marketing ploys. But a championship belt is no simple accessory. So let’s talk about five belts we love in professional wrestling. This’ll be fun!
Before we start, here’s my official disclaimer: This is my opinion based on my own research and the unhealthy amount of time I spend on r/belttalk. If you disagree, that’s cool, but remember, this is not an exhaustive list based on every option from every wrestling fan ever. This is, at best, a general consensus and, at worst, a weird fan’s ramblings. Also, in the interest of not making this a 50,000 word affair, I’m restricting this to currently active titles. I could seriously do an entire article on Big Goldie, so let’s keep it recent.
Let’s get started!
IWGP Heavyweight Championship (NJPW)
Established: 1983 (Early version)
Current Champion: Tetsuya Naito
This is my absolute number one. In my opinion, not only is this title one of the best looking belts in the history of pro wrestling, it’s one of the most prestigious titles currently around. I think this belt is regal without being gaudy and a perfect representation of the high level of athlete you find in NJPW. But in my opinion, the thing that sets this apart from all other belts are the nameplates.
The names of all 29 wrestlers to have held the title are forever etched into the nameplate that make up the side plates on this belt. So if you want to carry the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, you have to carry the name of everyone who won it before you. This detail makes this already beautiful belt even more prestigious and a real thing of beauty.
NXT Championship (WWE/NXT US)
Current Champion: Adam Cole
Wow, this belt had a glow-up. Remember the fist one? Remember when it was a big golden X smacked on top of an enlarged leather movie reel?
Yeah… You remember…
This belt came a long way. I don’t really like to give shine to current WWE belts because I feel like they’re nothing but marketing tools. That’s why the WWE logo is massive and the word “Champion” is an afterthought. But the NXT championship does it right. The logo is still huge, but it’s the main plate is a good size and the color makes it look important, like it’s supposed to. I used to feel like NXT titles were an afterthought because it was considered the developmental brand, but since NXT is clearly some of the best wrestling WWE has to offer right now, it’s fitting that their belt should be on par with other top titles in other companies. Also, I’m coming around on the side plates idea. For those who don’t know, instead of a nameplate, WWE pits side plates on their belts that carry the logo of the champion. Again, marketing, but it’s actually a good idea and gives the champion some unique flair.
IWGP United States Championship (NJPW)
Current Champion: Jon Moxley
This one is newer and I was hesitant about picking it because of that. But I needed to include a mid-card title and I was thinking about the various American championships. For a long time, I used to say that the WCW US Heavyweight championship was the last good American title. The WWE US title has been out of date for more than a decade. The NXT North American title is an improvement, but lacks the gusto that an American belt should have. The NWA National title is… terrible. Really bad. I want to call it a dumpster fire, but at least dumpster fires provide warmth and light, making them at least twice as useful as the NWA National title.
To the person that approved this design: Oh Say… CAN YOU SEE?!
It’s ironic that the best US title comes from Japan. The IWGP US title was introduced in 2017 as part of NJPWs “long con” of western expansion. I’ve heard plenty of people say that the belt seems a bit too over the top with the red, white, and blue motif and the flag in the center plate. The thing is, that’s what I like about it. It’s a bit brash, but that’s kinda how Americans are! At the very least, it’s how folks in other countries might view Americans. Japan is known to love kitschy Americana, so I can see why they’d design their belt like this. It’s what us “gaijins” are to them—loud and proud. I don’t think at all that it’s meant to be an insult, and I love how loud this belt is.
NXT UK Tag Team Championship (WWE/NXT UK)
Current Champions: Gallus
I’m not aware of how NXT UK is faring overseas, but I feel like not enough attention is paid to it on this side of the pond, especially considering the level of talent they have there. That being said, when I saw these belts debut, my first thought was, “immediate credibility”. They don’t look like the belts of an offshoot developmental brand. They look like belts that can headline any event. These are the kind of titles that make a tag team look even bigger and better than they are. They elevate teams. They’re a callback to the prestigious world tag team titles of old, from brands like WWF and NWA. They look important, like a world title should. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.
IMPACT Wrestling Knockouts Championship
Established: 2007 (as TNA Knockouts Championship)
Current Champion: Jordynne Grace
This is going to be considered a swerve for a lot of people. I’m putting an IMPACT Wrestling belt up here? They’ve had 20 or 30 belts just due to the fact that the name keeps changing! They’ve been barely in business for a decade! They’ve been the joke of pro wrestling almost since inception! Yeah, all of that is true. But the latest round of belts they’ve produced look really good—a refreshing departure from the “black letters on gold” aesthetic we’re so used to.
I love the silver plates. It doesn’t take away from the championship in my opinion. I’ve heard some people say that the fact that it isn’t gold makes it seem less important, but by that logic, no one should care about WWE titles since their main talking point is a “large, glittery W.”
I also love that, for the most part, the Knockouts Championship has never looked dainty. I’m not against a women’s belt having feminine qualities, but most wrestling fans can remember a time not too long ago when the WWE Women’s division were called Divas and they fought over a big silver butterfly.
Look, we all know that NWA-TNA/TNA/GFW/Impact Wrestling has made plenty of mistakes, but one thing that you can’t take away from them is that they always had a women’s division that was about wrestling, not bikinis and stripteases. The Attitude Era was terrible and the Divas Era was worse. But Impact never bought into that.
(Don’t even think about trying to @ me. I can see already see the hateful comments from the trolls and smart marks. Bottom Line: No self-respecting man can look their significant other in the eye and justify a time when nip slips and public humiliation of women was considered “wrestling”. Period.)
Heck, even the term “Knockout” is more respectful than “Diva”. And, oh my God… It works on TWO levels!
They’re facing off, but also.. Their FACES came OFF!
My point in all this is to say that the Impact Women’s Championship has spent almost 15 years doing what these other organizations like WWE and ROH just started trying to do three years ago: treating women like equals. And the belt reflects that. It isn’t pink. It isn’t cute. It looks like the men’s belt. It looks like how a championship belt should look: important. Of course, Impact Wrestling has already topped themselves when it comes to fair play for men and women. The current World Champion of the men’s division is Tessa Blanchard.
One day, I’ll spend an entire article talking about this, but here’s a spoiler alert for you: I love Tessa Blanchard.
There were several honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut because I committed to doing just five. But maybe in future months, we can talk about some of the best looking belts in history and some of the bad ones. Believe me, there are so many bad ones. Include ones that spin.
You know what I’m talking about. Don’t make me say it.
If you disagree with my picks or you have some belts you wanna add to the list of great ones, feel free to reach out to me here at Geekade or on Reddit at u/GuiltyWatts. I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll be discussing this. Anyway, thanks for reading and I’ll see you next month!