Welcome to the debut of Mount Rushmores of Wrestling, a new series at AIPT that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top 4 of any given category. In today’s inaugural edition, we’re talking the greatest world championship belts of all time — not based on prestige or match quality, but purely aesthetically.
How a title belt looks can set the tone for a title reign, and love it or hate it, will go on to define a generation. Some generations have world titles that are looked back on fondly (each one on this list), while others are represented by world titles that draw scorn from most wrestling fans (the spinner belt). There have been plenty of great looking world titles over the years and promotions, but these are what we feel are the more beautiful belts in wrestling history.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship/WCW Championship/WWE World Heavyweight Championship (“Big Gold Belt”)
Patrick: I think there’s no more obvious place to kick off a discussion of the best looking world championship title belts in wrestling history than the Big Gold Belt. This design was introduced in 1986 by Jim Crockett Promotions of the NWA, for then-champion Ric Flair. Flair would become synonymous with the title over his multiple runs with it across NWA and WCW, but the best thing about this design — and a major reason why it’s the design that springs to mind upon the mere mention of “world heavyweight championship” for most wrestling fans — is that it looked great on just about anybody. Everybody from Flair to “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart to even later title wearers like CM Punk and Mark Henry looked like a true champion with this legendary title on their shoulders (even if that was all that made them feel like a champion — looking at you, Jack Swagger and Great Khali).
JJ: I can’t think of a better place to start this discussion than the Big Gold Belt. The belt’s longevity is a testament to its simple beauty and the larger-than-life presence that it has carried through NWA, WCW and WWE. The belt has been around for over 30 years now and hasn’t been the victim of a single redesign outside of WWE dropping the WCW branding.
You couldn’t be more on the money with your take on the belt’s ability to make anyone that holds it look like a real champion. That Ric Flair prestige is a very real thing and watching Mark Henry hoist it into the air for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget. That was a moment where the title certainly didn’t make the man, but it sure as hell helped fans take him seriously as a WWE Champion.
While I don’t have an issue with the current design of the Universal and WWE Championship, I think giving them some variety would make each championship feel much more prestigious, and bringing back the Big Gold Belt would be the perfect way to do it.
NXT United Kingdom Championship
JJ: When this championship was first unveiled in December of 2016, it was named the WWE United Kingdom Championship, and later in January of 2020 its name was officially changed to the NXT United Kingdom Championship to properly match the branding of NXT UK, the sister promotion of NXT.
So, this championship belt isn’t even four years old, it’s gone through a complete rebranding, and we don’t often see it on WWE programming. Yet despite that I hold the strong opinion that it’s the best looking title in WWE today and the best looking title professional wrestling period. I feel like it unfortunately flies under the radar because of NXT UK ranking near the bottom of the WWE programming totem pole, and that’s such a shame. Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne, and WALTER have all been incredible champions and the belt on their shoulders is one of the best that’s ever been produced by WWE.
Looking at the design you’re immediately struck by a sense of elegance. NXT UK is full of some of the stiffest workers I’ve seen in a ring, but a lot of them are still gentlemanly in a way, and this belt has a touch of that. I love the coat of arms that’s a nod to the United Kingdom’s royal coat of arms; the lion, horse, and crown jewels all give it a distinct UK feel and a feeling of royalty. The NXT logo is front and center standing out nice and clearly against a bright red background and the black and gold colors of NXT complete the rest of this absolutely gorgeous belt.
Patrick: The NXT United Kingdom Championship is, in my opinion, the perfect melding of WWE’s desire for every top title belt to have a similar look and feel while still featuring its own unique features that make it feel distinct from the other titles. The shape is clearly reminiscent of the WWE and Universal titles, but rather than a giant, diamond-studded corporate logo in the middle, the belt goes all-in with the UK-inspired design that gives it a certain class that’s missing from its sister titles across the pond.
It may be the youngest top title in all of WWE, but with two mammoth reigns under its belt (pun intended) and a big strong boy in its inaugural champion, the NXT United Kingdom Championship is already filled with prestige, and its look reflects that.
WWF Championship (“Winged Eagle”)
Patrick: The second world title belt I would offer as one of the greatest designs of all time is the so-called “Winged Eagle” belt that represented the WWF Championship from 1988 to 1998 (Between my two choices, can you tell I started watching wrestling in the ‘90s?). This design was introduced by Hulk Hogan in 1988 and went on to be the top prize for the latter half of the Golden Era and all of the New Generation Era, and it kicked off the Attitude Era. The design is classy, distinct from its counterpart in the Big Gold Belt, and has become synonymous with some of the greatest world champions of all time, from Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage to Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Introduced by Hulk Hogan and retired by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, it’s hard to find a world title that enjoyed a more important run in any company. It was so iconic that even though the belt was retired in 1998, its successor, the “Big Eagle”, is basically an upgraded version of it, meaning this design lived on in spirit until the WWF Championship and WCW Championship were unified into the Undisputed Championship in 2002. And even while the Big Eagle overtook the Winged Eagle as the company’s top prize, Big Eagle stuck around, albeit in smashed, duct-taped form as the Hardcore Championship until it was retired in 2002.
JJ: WWE title belt design peaked with this belt. And yes, I realized I just sang the praises of the NXT UK Championship, but that’s a different brand. We haven’t seen a better belt for the main roster before or since the Winged Eagle made its appearance on Hulk Hogan’s beefy shoulder and later bid fans farewell in the hands of the Texas Rattlesnake.
This version of the WWE title was the top prize in the company during what is probably its most important time period and saw so many memorable moments: color changing straps to match Ultimate Warrior’s outfits, smashed to pieces with a hammer by Mr. Perfect, the exit of Hulkamania from WWE, and the dawning of the Attitude Era. Is there a championship that’s more storied than that? I doubt it.
In addition to all the incredible matches and wacky moments in wrestling history that this belt was a part of, it also just straight up looked incredible. The classic globe design remained front and center, combining the small amount of blue with the eagle’s spread wings around it drew your eyes to the dead center of the belt every time you looked at it.
AEW World Championship
JJ: The first time I saw the AEW World Championship was when Bret “The Hitman” Hart unveiled it at Double or Nothing in 2019, and the first thing I thought of was the Big Gold Belt. If you’re going to draw inspiration from anywhere for your company’s first World Championship, I can’t think of a better place to look than that.
This title is BIG. Like, really, really big. It looks like it must weigh a solid 15 pounds easy, maybe even more than that. I’ve seen plenty of complaints about the size, but that’s a big part of what I like about it. The biggest prize in AEW looks like you need to be a big, strong, tough son of a b*tch to carry it around your waist and that’s exactly what a champion should be.
The central and side plates dominate the belt. The black leather combined with the silver and gold plates looks awesome, but it almost doesn’t matter what color the strap is because of how little free space is left around the plating. When the black leather does peek out though, it does a nice job of accentuating the glittering plates that it’s surrounding. The combination of silver and gold layered plates is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen look so good on another championship. This belt is absolutely gorgeous and is exactly what the top prize in a wrestling company should look like.
I realize this may be a controversial pick to some and I welcome your arguments (see you in the comments section jabronis).
Patrick: Yeah, this might be a hot take given how new the title and even the company itself is, but I’ll allow it. “Pretty Platinum”, as current champ Jon Moxley calls it, manages to feel like both a throwback and like nothing we’ve ever seen before in a world championship belt. It’s enormous and in-your-face, but still feels classy. The AEW logo is prominent and you can’t miss it, but it isn’t so big that it doesn’t literally make up the entire main plate.
In terms of pure aesthetics, this is probably my favorite current world championship belt out there. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship has got to be a close second, but the AEW World Championship blows the top belts of Raw, SmackDown and NXT out of the water. AEW’s titles are hit and miss (World and Tag Team titles: excellent; Women’s and TNT titles: not so much), but the top prize in the company is absolutely beautiful.
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