The Contentious Ten 01.28.13: Top 10 Secondary Title Belts
Welcome back to The Contentious Ten. As you read this, the Royal Rumble is over and everyone knows who’s going to Wrestlemania (at least who’s supposed to go). I’m betting it’s Dolph Ziggler. I’m probably wrong, but I don’t have it in me to pick Cena to win his second Rumble. I fulfilled my Royal Rumble-centric obligations earlier in the month with some math related lists, so I’m starting a new mini-series here for the Contentious Ten this week. I’m going to be looking at title belts over the next few weeks, split up into logical sections. Next week will be tag team title belts, the week after will be world title belts. This week, that leaves “secondary” titles. Confused? Don’t be. Here’s the criteria forThe 10 Best Secondary Title Belts
-The title belt itself is being judged, not the significance of the title
-Must be a singles title
-Must be a North American title
-Must be an “officially recognized” title
The first criteria, that the belt and not the significance of the title is being judged, means that it’s entirely possible for the Ring of Honor Pure Title to rank higher than the WWE Intercontinental Title. It’s all about visual appeal. No United States titles featuring a topographic map of the United States here, folks. I only considered singles titles because all tag team titles will be lumped together next week. I excluded Europe, Japan, and Australia because I’m simply not informed enough about their promotions to even know where to look for all of their title belts in order to compare them. Sorry if this offends anyone. The Million Dollar Belt won’t be making an appearance here, despite looking awesome, because it was never officially recognized. I know, I know, it’s nitpicky. Sorry again. As always, my personal preference plays a role in the list. Finally, the dates listed are the dates that the actual title belt pictured was in use, not the date that the title existed. This is to distinguish among championships that had multiple versions of the title belt throughout their history.
Items that just missed the cut: ECW World Television Title, WWC Caribbean Title, WCW Cruiserweight Title
AWA Southern Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
Mainly defended in and around Memphis
-Active from 1981 through 1987
The AWA Southern Heavyweight Title has an odd history. While officially a part of the American Wrestling Association, based in Minnesota, the belt was mainly defended in and around Memphis. That would account for Jerry Lawler’s 30+ reigns with the title. It would also be associated with the CWA out of Memphis, as well as the USWA after the AWA folded. The lineage of the title reads like a who’s who of legends from the 1970’s and 1980’s, even beyond “The King.” Randy Savage and Nick Bockwinkel held the title. So did Bam Bam Bigelow and Jesse Ventura. King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, and Tommy Rich were former Southern champions. The belt also went to regional favorites such as Jerry Oste, Eddie Gilbert, Austin Idol, and Bill Dundee. The belt itself wasn’t very large, but wasn’t so small that it looked cheap. There’s almost equal portions of gold and black on the plating, which is something you don’t see much of anymore. There’s no name plate attached, but that wasn’t a feature that became common to title belts until more recently in wrestling. The belt does look dated, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a design similar to this in a major promotion again in the near future.
AWA International Television Titlesize=6>
Maybe the worst lineage ever.
-Active from 1987 through 1989
The AWA International Television Title has maybe the worst lineage ever. How bad is it? The title only changed hands once due to a pinfall or submission. The original champion, Greg Gagne, won a tournament that was (like most things in the last days of the AWA) ridiculously convoluted. He won the title when he defeated Adrian Adonis by countout. He was then defeated by Ronnie Garvin, but Garvin had the title stripped when it was declared that he won the title under controversial circumstances. Gagne would regain the title, again by countout. The belt would remain with him until Gagne retired from wrestling in 1989. The belt retired with him. The belt itself was much better. The exaggerated crown at the top of the belt made for a unique face plate. Between the globe on the main plate and the flags on the side plates, there’s a lot of color on the belt but not so much as to be distracting or too busy. I enjoy the design of this belt a great deal, mainly because I feel like it looks important. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Ring of Honor or a large indy promotion adopt a belt similar to this for their own television title.
Ring of Honor Pure Wrestling Titlesize=6>
Ring of Honor’s best since the original ROH World Title.
-Active from 2004 through 2006
The title itself seems like a natural fit for Ring of Honor. Given the structure of the product when the company first began, the title was unnecessary. As the product evolved and the company strayed from things like The Code of Honor, there was a place for the Pure Title to exist. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as familiar with the history of Ring of Honor as many on the internet are, so I don’t know how and why the title disappeared. I will say, that as title belts go, this was Ring of Honor’s best since the original ROH World Title. The belt has a nice broad face plate, and features two wrestlers engaged in the midst of grappling. The bright red of the word PURE stands out, and matches the ROH logo on the side plates, as well. The belt, as it should, makes the division seem important. It’s also somewhat of a throwback design, similar to the old UWF title, which I like.
WWE NXT Titlesize=6>
Best new title design in years
-Active from 2012 to present
In my opinion, this is WWE’s best new title design in years. It trumps the spinner belt, the red, white, and blue US title, and the “penny” tag team titles by a mile. The belt is distinctive without being hideous, and has a nice alt-culture quality to it. The belt stands out, and it’s very easily identifiable to the division that it pertains to.There’s no way you see this belt and wonder which one it is. It’s not bogged down with any excess design or decoration at all. Sometimes, simplicity is nice. This isn’t a design that would fit in for a lot of things – it would be an awful Intercontinental title, for example. However, for the purpose that it serves – identifying the champion of WWE’s division dedicated to young talent – it’s pitch perfect.
World Class Texas Title 1989size=6>
-Active in 1989
Once again, I fear my personal preferences betray my age. I remember not just this belt, but it’s predecessors as well. It’s a throwback to the tail end of the territorial eras, where a belt that represented a single state could qualify as the #2 title in the area. By comparison, could you imagine WWE instituting a “New York Heavyweight Title” in 2013? I chose this version of the World Class Texas Title because of the distinctive coloring of the title. The red, blue, and silver work together to make the design “pop”, for lack of a better word. The history of this title goes back to the NWA and into the 1930’s, but was retained by World Class when Fritz splt from them. By 1989, World Class was on their last legs and preparing for a merger with the USWA, but there were still some quality names competing for the title. Regional stars such as Iceman King Parsons and Eric Embry would hold the title in 1989, as well as a youngster named The Punisher. As many of you probably know, The Punisher would go on to become “Mean” Mark Callous in WCW before becoming The Undertaker in WWE.
WWE Hardcore Titlesize=6>
Made Steve Blackman matter.
-Active from 1998-2002
Mistakenly believed by many to be the WWE Championship that Mr. Perfect smashed with a hammer during an angle with Hulk Hogan, the WWE Hardcore Championship was introduced in 1998 as a gift to Mankind. The belt was contested in various matches for two years, and had some highly entertaining moments along the way, notably Road Dogg and Al Snow’s encounters. The belt gained a ton of entertainment potential when Crash Holly instituted a “24/7” rule that meant the belt could be won or lost literally at any moment of the day. While this increased the comedy potential of the belt tenfold, there were still great matches in “regular” defenses of the title. Raven vs. Big Show vs. Kane for the Hardcore Title at Wrestlemania X-7 was arguably the high point of WWE’s hardcore division and remains an entertaining match nearly ten years later. The most impressive accomplishment of WWE’s hardcore title, though, was that it made Steve Blackman matter. At 172 total days, Blackman is the longest reigning champion in the history of the title.
NWA Television Titlesize=6>
statement from blurb
-Active from 1987 through 1992
My love for this belt is based on one thing alone – the color scheme. The red and silver stood out from everything else at the time, and so the belt has stood out in my memory since I was a child. It was designed very similarly to the old NWA National Title, but with a slightly different color scheme. This belt will forever be linked to Tully Blanchard in my mind, despite the fact that Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Mike Rotundo, and Steve Austin also held the title. Looking back, the fact that the belt was red and silver, combined with Tully’s red, black, and silver entrance gear, almost made it seem like the belt was custom made for him. The belt would be “upgraded” in the 1990’s, but at that point it became just another generic gold title with a rounded face plate. The names of various networks on the side plates of this design were an excellent touch, as well, and just another detail that makes the belt stand out.
NWA United States Titlesize=6>
A rose among the thorns
-Active from 1986 through 1991
The United States title hasn’t had a great history when it comes to designs. This version stands out as a rose among the thorns. Early versions of the title were oddly shaped and featured actual outlines of the United States rendered in brass. There’s been a spinner version, and the current version that uses the flag as a backdrop. To me, the current version looks like they let third graders design the title then slightly improved the design. When this version was phased out, WCW’s United States Title was a garish, generic gold belt. For six years, though, there was this jewel. Mostly carried by Lex Luger, this belt always appealed to me. It suited anyone that wore it, from Lex Luger to Michael Hayes to Stan Hansen. It never looked out of place. Also, like the NXT title, it looks like it should. The United States map is on there, but it doesn’t dominate the belt. There’s an eagle and an American flag. The side plates look like vintage Captain America shields. Since the Intercontinental title was redesigned, I keep holding out hope that we see a return of the “classic” United States title as well.
TNA Legends/Global/Television Titlesize=6>
Should be the World Championship.
-Active from 2008 through current
I remember when Booker T awarded himself this title in 2008. I was immediately taken aback by the title and how remarkably good it looked. Of all the titles on this list, this is the only one that could, or should be the World Championship for its given promotion. Even though the belt has been treated as a sideshow, a lower card gimmick, and largely ignored over the last few years, it still looks like the most important title in TNA. I keep hoping against hope they’ll realize that it makes no sense whatsoever for a lower card title to look better than their World Heavyweight Championship and move this belt up and redesign the Television Championship. Never going to happen, though. Best I can probably hope for is seeing the TV title defended on Impact a little more often.
WWE Intercontinental Titlesize=6>
The crown jewel
-Active from 1985 through 1998; 2012 through current
I’ve never been more disappointed in a title redesign than I was when the distinctive classic WWF Intercontinental Title was redesigned in favor of an oval, nondescript strap that bounced through the Attitude Era. Looking back, I get it – they were redesigning virtually everything in the company, from the logo to titles to characters to sets. As the years went on, though, the “new” Intercontinental aged just like the Attitude Era in general – poorly. I didn’t expect to see the classic IC title return, but I was happy to see Cody bring it back out last year. As an added bonus, Cody reintroduced the version with a white leather strap as opposed to black. As with many of these titles, distinctiveness goes a long way with me. It’s easy to design a title that looks like every other titles. This one stands head and shoulders above the crowd, the crown jewel of secondary titles in professional wrestling.
Did I leave out your favorite title? Think something doesn’t belong? Leave your own list and discuss the above list in the comment section below and I’ll join the discussion sometime during the week. You can find me on Twitter @GavinNapier411 and check out my new podcast on iTunes by searching for The Casual Heroes, or go to www.thecasualheroes.com and I’ll be back here in 7..6..5..