In looking through the different golden prizes on the game, it really does hit you how many different eye-catching designs have graced the waists of wrestling's champions over the years, and they truly do run the gamut of quality. Some belts stand out boldly, with a sense of genuine prestige. As in, "I would have been honoured to wear that belt." And others, like those with spinny centres, look like something you'd fish out of an arcade prize grabber. I'll settle for the lobster harmonica, please.
But this list will look at the primo designs, the best looking belts that have been commissioned by the greater WWE authority - the ones that you'd be proudest to wear.
10. WWE Championship Of The Mid-80s
That four year run of Hulkamania would see wrestling's most indomitable champion sporting gold that was simple in its design, but had a quaint beauty to its simplicity. The Hulk Hogan that vanquished giants and turned back all walks of villain in that unbreakable wave would sport several belt designs, but was most prominently seen wearing this particular piece.
The colourful flags of eight different countries underscore the relevance of the belt as a "World" title, in addition to the token image of the blue and gold globe on the centre plate. It's showy and colourful, but it's a design that pretty much anybody could have come up with. But there's nothing wrong with that, is there? Sometimes wrestling belt designs have the same solution as the Gordian Knot, in that the simplest solution is what works best.
9. The Original ECW Design (2006-2008)
I'm not talking about the follow-up look, with the silver plating and the belt that had the same width of Hulk Hogan's Yappapi strap. Frankly, anybody who gets all dreamy over that design can't be counted on for anything. I'm talking about the initial run of the ECW brand, when it seemed like WWE was actually going to let the tenets of authentic ECW bask in the forefront.
For two years, the ECW Championship design was pretty much the same thing as what closed out ECW as a promotion, as Jerry Lynn and Mike Awesome held the same strap that John Morrison and CM Punk would rock on Tuesday nights. And then that tinsel-looking monstrosity had to come in and ruin everything (not that ECW wasn't already laying in a piss-filled roadside grave at that point anyway).
8. NXT North American
The first time I laid eyes on this belt, I found it utterly jarring, and I think that was the point. WWE's prefab designs for their current main roster belts are so cookie cutter and unimaginative (WWE logos with different surrounding shading!) that when this brown-and-gold concoction felt like it came from another era. And again, I think that may have been what they were going for.
NXT feels at times like the modern take on a classic territory, chicken soup for the dedicated wrestling fan's soul, so a belt that feels like it comes from late-seventies Portland or Mid-Atlantic feels utterly welcome. All we need now is for Adam Cole to regain it, and then put a $100,000 bounty on his top challenger, and the time warp will continue in earnest.
7. The Latter-Day Intercontinental Belt
There's much to love about Cody Rhodes, the man who today continues to roll nothing but sevens after leaving WWE and betting on himself. In addition to being at the forefront of the movement to provide the best possible wrestling alternatives to his former employer, he balances that forward-thinking by respecting tradition. His yearning to win the NWA World Heavyweight title once held by his father is one prime example.
Another example was his exhuming of the classic IC title design in 2011, the familiar plates (with modern WWE logo) on a white strap. That white strap was a nice little callback to the alternate designs that The Ultimate Warrior and Shawn Michaels would tote around in a bygone era. But I have to admit, the black strap is a better look for the IC belt, and we'll visit that one a bit later.
6. Classic WWE World Tag Team
Maybe I'm mighty drunk on my usual dose of rose-coloured nostalgia (heh, when am I not?), but I hold that this World Tag Team title design is the greatest in WWE history. Though there would be some subtle modifications over time, the design would last for essentially 17 years. Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake essentially wore the same belts that Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo donned, again with some minor tinkering over time.
The belts, like many straps on this list, had the power to legitimize the holders. Something about that red "WORLD" over the dark blue and gold globe added several gallons of prestige to the man carrying that belt around. Maybe it's because tag team wrestling in WWE saw two major zeniths during the lifetime of these belts (1985-91, 1999-2002), so perhaps the champs made the belts, and not vice versa? I'm calling it a push.
5. Million Dollar Championship
Forget the Smoking Skull belt, the Brahma Bull belt, and the FTW Championship. If you want a self-commissioned championship belt that's designed with one specific wrestler in mind, this is the alpha and omega of them. The Million Dollar Championship represented the epitome of Ted DiBiase as a WWE villain and the belt itself as a vital piece of classic WWE lore.
Gold plated with cubic zirconia and genuine diamonds within, the belt represented DiBiase's greed and gaudiness in one wearable entity. It was rarely ever put up for grabs in matches, but that hardly mattered. It's safe to say that no wrestler has ever been so intertwined with a particular championship belt in the manner that DiBiase and this flashy showpiece are. The belt is as beautiful as it is over-the-top.
4. NXT United Kingdom Championship
Now *this* is a belt that screams regality and majesty. Many of the looks I've written about, and have yet to write about, boast very basic schemes and structure, the "easy does it" approach. Sometimes you can overwork something, giving the appearance a design that is too cluttered and too busy. It's a hard balance to maintain - you want showy, but you don't wanna overdo it.
The UK belt deftly walks that particular razor's edge, and comes out looking like an absolute work of art, modelled on a coat of arms with a lion and a horse (both looking sporting and aggressive) framing the centre plate. It's probably the classiest belt on this list, and for as ambitious as its visuals are, they never bleed outside the boundaries.
3. WWF Championship (1998-2002)
This one gets lost to history sometimes, partially due to its relatively short lifespan (four years), and partially because it had to take a backseat when Steve Austin wanted to drag around the Smoking Skull belt instead. The primary championship of the Attitude Era deserves a little more love, because it's actually a great-looking bit of flair.
Call it "Winged Eagle 2000", since it's essentially the prior version of the belt ramped up, with a more well-rounded centre, and appears to be larger as well. It's definitely a far cry from the garish nightmares of the future, be they belts that spin, or the logo-laden centrepieces that lack character. WWE could have made the belt more "Attitude-like", but instead maintained the dignity of the prior designs, simply making it, well, different.
2. The Classic IC Belt
If you were a WWE-watching kid of the 80s and 90s that valued flashier wrestlers, mat-wrestling wizards, and a little more substance in their action, this was the belt you wanted to win. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Shawn Michaels - they all wore this version of the Intercontinental belt, and that run of greats made this design synonymous with "workhorse belt".
Maybe you had to be a fan of the time period to experience the oohs and ahhs that come with seeing this belt, but to somebody who likes this design a lot, they'll agree that a lot of has to do with the individuals who competed for it. When the Intercontinental belt was the Intercontinental belt, they remember a million and one classic battles, and they remember this look. Just seeing it unlocks the memories.
1. The Winged Eagle WWE Championship
Traditionalists can speak wistfully about the "15 pounds of gold", but I think I'll stick with WWE's literal gold standard. Introduced in early-1988 at the tail-end of Hulk Hogan's four-year reign, the Winged Eagle would become the most famous and popular design of the WWE Championship in the belt's 55-plus year history.
The ends of the eagle wings billowing from the top of the plate help create the unique shape, framed by two curved sidebars that you don't find on too many other belts. It's just simple gold, black, and blue that comprise the colour scheme, and yet that's as vivid as it needs to be. There exists a timeless grandeur in this very belt, as timeless as the period itself. This was *the* belt worth holding, and though its name carried on to new designs, this remains by far the best.