The Contentious Ten 2.11.13: Top Ten World Heavyweight Titles
Welcome back to the third and final installment of the best of the best when it comes to title belts in professional wrestling. Two weeks ago, I dug into the history of secondary singles titles, and last week it was all about the tag team belts. This week, we’ll put the icing on the cake by going through and looking at the best world titles ever. The criteria this week is a little different than the last two weeks, so make sure you read what’s below. That said, here’s the criteria forThe Top 10 World Heavyweight Title Belts.
-Must be a singles title
-Must be an officially recognized title
-Must come from a “major” promotion
-The title belt itself, not the importance of the championship, is being judged
I would think that the part about being a singles championship would be self explanatory, but I’m usually wrong about those things. That’s just to make sure there’s no complaining about the WWF Tag Team Championships not making the list. The “official” designation excludes things like the FTW Championship in ECW or personalized belts like Jeff Hardy’s monstrosity in TNA. Companies worldwide are eligible for inclusion in this list, but they must be major promotions. As much as I may enjoy some of their work, Pro Wrestling Guerilla doesn’t quite stack up here. And finally, my personal preferences determine the final order of the list. Enjoy.
Items that just missed the cut: Ring of Honor World Title (original), All-Japan International Title (1/3 of the Triple Crown), WWF World Heavyweight Title 1982-1984, WWE Undisputed Championship Title, AAA Torneo Campeon de Campeanos Title
NWA World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
-Active from 1973-1986; 2002-2007; currently in use for NWA
This belt has been known by several names. It has been the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. It has been the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. It has been the illustrious “Ten Pounds Of Gold” carried by Ric Flair, Harley Race, and others. Most recently, Adam Pearce dubbed it “Sweet Charlotte.” Regardless of your opinion of what the NWA has become, this belt has so much significant history behind it that there’s no way it couldn’t make this list. The shape is unique to say the least, and it doesn’t look like anything you’d see on TNA, WWE, or even Ring of Honor. The belt is a throwback and a pleasant one. I’ve also had the opportunity to see and hold this belt in person, and it looks much, much better in person than any picture could hope to do justice.
TNA World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
-Active from 2007-2011
Once TNA broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance, they were tasked with coming up with their own title belts. The original TNA World Heavyweight Title was distinctive, and looked great. The large eagle on the main face plate brought back memories of WWE’s “Winged Eagle” title that is iconic, but stood apart. The belt has a fairly intricate design with a ton of engraving on the plates, and features a variety of emblems on the side plates. The belt was discontinued in 2011 for reasons that will never be clear to me. The current TNA World Heavyweight Title isn’t bad looking, just far more plain than this one. Sometimes plain is good, but I can’t help but feel that TNA moved backwards with the current version of the title.
AWA World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
Too pretty for the AWA
-Active from 1986-1991
I love this belt. It has a huge face plate and is simple yet elegant. Purely from a design perspective, this would make my top ten of any titles in wrestling, not just world titles. One of the things I consider when making these lists is whether or not the belt fits the champion that is supposed to be carrying it. Does this look like something that a world champion would carry? Absolutely. It’s huge. It’s pretty. It looks important. This belt was far too pretty for the AWA in their dying days, but was still held by several of the all time greats. Nick Bockwinkel, Curt Hennig, and Jerry Lawler all wore this belt proudly before the AWA closed their doors.
IWGP 3rd Generation World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
That damned Brock Lesnar
-Active from 2007-2008
This title is gorgeous and deserved a better ending. Who can we blame for the fact that this title barely lasted over a year in the world of professional wrestling? In the words of Jim Ross, it was “That damned Brock Lesnar.” Brock won the IWGP World Heavyweight Title and all was well. As things tend to do when Lesnar is involved, the business relationship soured and suddenly the IWGP Champion wasn’t going to be going back to Japan any time soon and he wasn’t going to return the belt. Brock maintained that he was owed money but the promotion places the blame squarely on Lesnar. Truth be told, it’s probably a little of column A and a little of column B. Regardless, it’s a shame. This belt is like the unrealized potential of WWE’s version of the ECW Championship. A nice, wide face plate with lots of detail and shiny gold makes this belt fit for a king.
NWA World Heavyweight Championshipsize=6>
-Active from 1959-1973
I had never laid eyes on this belt until I started researching this article and was immediately taken aback by it. Who knew that belts from sixty years ago could look this good? The side plates with their simple globes add a nice accent to the main plate, which strikes a near perfect balance between simplicity and ornamentation. The center of the belt depicts two wrestlers, which was what the NWA prided itself on. The title would be phased out for two more recognizable versions, but this one was something to see on its own.
CWA (Europe) World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
Europe’s premier title
-Active from ~1987-2000
For those unfamiliar with the CWA, they partnered with the AWA and other promotions around the world through the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. Based out of Austria and Germany, the CWA Championship would become Europe’s premiere title. Pinning down exact dates of usage for this title was difficult, so you got my best guess. Wanz dominated the title, however Road Warrior Hawk captured it for a short period in the 1990’s.
WWF World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
My personal favorite design.
-Active from 1986-1988
I loved this title so much that I was initially upset that it was replaced by the “Winged Eagle” design. This was the title worn by Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III, and remains my personal favorite design of the WWF World Heavyweight Title. The blue and gold design is a thing of beauty, and I like the incorporation of double flags on the side plating. It didn’t last long, so it may have been largely forgotten but I’ve tried to give it its due here.
WWF World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
-Active from 1988-1998
This is, with the possible exception of the “Spinner” belt, the most iconic design of the WWF Championship. Introduced on the card that saw Andre the Giant “win” the WWF championship from Hulk Hogan, the belt would pass through the hands of nearly every star of the 1990’s until the Attitude Era kicked in. Whether on a black, white, blue, or yellow strap, this belt likely invokes some nostalgia for most of you reading this. There’s been some talk among the IWC of bringing this title belt back since the Intercontinental title returned to the classic version. I don’t know if it’ll happen but it would make a lot of fans very happy if it did.
IWGP 4th Generation World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
The silver lining.
-Active from 2008-current
The silver lining to the short life span of the 3rd Generation title was the debut of this belt. There’s nothing not to love here. The traditional shape of the face plate always works; it just so happens that the plate is beautiful. There’s gold, silver, a bevy of jewels, and some of the best engraving in the business. What puts this belt over the top, though, are the side plates. The plates feature the names of former champions and the dates during which they were champion. It makes each champion immortal in their own way, and is a fantastic touch to the title. I’d love to see an American company incorporate this, but for now the market is cornered.
NWA/WCW/WWE World Heavyweight Titlesize=6>
Nothing else compares.
-Active from 1986-2001; 2002-current
Simply put, nothing else compares to this title. Not in wrestling, not in UFC, not in MMA at large, not in boxing. This is the title to carry. It has crossed over to the NBA, when the Detroit Pistons wore them after capturing an NBA Championship in 2004. Aaron Rodgers was presented with one after the Packers won the Superbowl in 2010. The reason is simple – this is the standard by which all other titles are judged, and rightfully so. The engraving is magnificent, and there’s no doubt that whoever carries this belt is a big deal, Vince Russo excluded. You’re free to disagree with anything else on this list. If you disagree with this, you’re wrong.
That’s my list. Love it? Hate it? Let me know. Leave your feedback, your own lists, and discuss the above list in the comment section below. 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..