Big Gold Belt
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The Big Gold Belt is a historic professional wrestling championship belt that has represented multiple world championships throughout its history. It was originally designed in 1985 by silversmith Charles Crumrine and commissioned by Jim Crockett Promotions for NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair. The belt has three large gold plates and was the first championship belt to feature a name plate onto which the champion's name was etched. The original belt design was known for being unbranded as it only read "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion" and bore no initials or trademark of its owning promotion. In 2003, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) added its logo to the design for copyright purposes. Following the belt's introduction in WWE, the distinctive name plate feature of the Big Gold Belt was swiftly incorporated into the belt designs of other WWE championships.
- 1 History
- 2 See also
- 3 References
- 4 External links
The NWA World Heavyweight Championship
The Big Gold Belt was first introduced in 1985 to replace the original NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) that had been used since 1973, historically known as the "domed globe." Jim Crockett Jr. of Jim Crockett Promotions commissioned Charles Crumrine, a silversmith in Reno, Nevada that specialized in western belt buckles, to produce it. The belt debuted on February 14, 1986 at a Championship Wrestling From Florida card called Battle Of The Belts II where NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair defended the title against Barry Windham. The name plate on the belt carried the misspelling "Rick Flair" but the mistake was soon corrected.
In 1988, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased by media mogul and TBS founder Ted Turner. He established it as World Championship Wrestling (WCW) under partnership with the National Wrestling Alliance and continued promoting the NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair.
The WCW World Heavyweight Championship
In January 1991, WCW officially recognized Ric Flair as their world champion in conjunction with the NWA's recognition. During this time, the Big Gold Belt represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well as the newly established WCW World Heavyweight Championship. An exception to this arose in the spring of 1991. On March 21, 1991, Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Flair at the WCW/New Japan Supershow. Following this match, the NWA recognized Fujinami as their new champion. However, WCW did not recognize this title change. While Flair would defeat Fujinami at SuperBrawl on May 19, 1991, to reunify the NWA and WCW titles, during Fujinami's approximately two-month reign as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Flair retained possession of the belt and it only represented the WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
The "Real" World Champion
In July 1991, Flair and WCW parted ways while Flair was still champion. The Big Gold Belt left with Flair due to a dispute with WCW Vice President Jim Herd in which Herd refused to return Flair's $25,000 deposit, a deposit per regulations that was required of reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champions and was to be returned after the conclusion of their reigns. WCW was forced to strip Flair of their recognition of world champion and introduced a new belt design to continue to represent the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The NWA followed suit and also stripped Flair of their recognition of world champion.
Flair soon signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and exhibited the Big Gold Belt there, proclaiming himself the "real World's Champion." Flair stated on the 2008 DVD release of Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection that the $25,000 he initially deposited with additional interest totalling $38,000 was never paid back to him, and as a result, Flair kept the Big Gold Belt until a settlement was finally reached with WCW. With its return to WCW, the Big Gold Belt represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once again, while the new WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt design that had been commissioned after Flair's departure also continued to be used.
The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship
In September 1993, WCW formally seceded from the NWA and with that the promotional rights to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship were returned to the National Wrestling Alliance. With the Big Gold Belt remaining property of WCW, World Championship Wrestling established the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, the world championship of a supposed subsidiary of World Championship Wrestling called "WCW International."
The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship was represented by the Big Gold Belt until June 1994 when it was unified with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Following this, the Big Gold Belt represented the WCW World Heavyweight Championship once again and remained within WCW for the next seven years.
The Undisputed WWF Championship
In March 2001, after the long and bitter rivalry of the Monday Night Wars, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. bought out WCW. The Big Gold Belt became property of the WWF and continued to represent the WCW Championship within the promotion during the period of the WCW/ECW "Invasion." After the conclusion of Invasion at the 2001 Survivor Series, the WCW Championship being held by The Rock became unbranded (and known simply as the "World Championship") for the month that followed as the WCW name was phased out. The title was unified with the WWF Championship at Vengeance 2001. Chris Jericho became the final World Heavyweight Champion and the subsequent Undisputed champion in WWF and professional wrestling.
Following the unification of the WCW/World Heavyweight Championship and WWF Championship, the Big Gold Belt and the WWF Championship belt were collectively used to represent the Undisputed Championship. The WWF continued to view these belts as representing separate titles  under the single Undisputed banner, with the Big Gold belt representing the "World Heavyweight Championship" and the WWF belt representing the WWF championship. After Jericho was defeated by Triple H at WrestleMania X8, the two titles were merged into a single WWE Undisputed Championship with Triple H being the first to hold the new title belt on April 1, 2002.
The World Heavyweight Championship
By 2002, the WWF had been divided in what became known as the Brand Extension and the promotion along with its parent company were renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The roster was divided into two franchises or "WWE brands", split between Raw and SmackDown. The Undisputed Champion appeared on both shows and defended against challengers from both brands. After SummerSlam, Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar announced that he had signed an exclusive contract with SmackDown, ignoring the claim to the title's number-one contendership by Raw's Triple H. Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff said that the Undisputed Title was thus very much disputed, and he awarded the World Heavyweight Championship, in the form of the Big Gold Belt, to Triple H. A WWE logo was added to the belt, for copyright purposes, in March 2003.
On June 30, 2005, the World Heavyweight Championship was moved to the SmackDown brand when then-champion Batista was drafted to the program. It remained a part of SmackDown until exactly three years later, when then-champion Edge, a SmackDown wrestler, was defeated by Raw wrestler CM Punk. For a period of seventy days in early 2009, the title went back and forth between the Raw and SmackDown brands due to Edge entering the Raw Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out and winning the match, Raw superstar John Cena defeating Edge at WrestleMania XXV to take the belt, and Edge regaining the title at Backlash. Since that day (April 26, 2009), the World Heavyweight Championship has been part of SmackDown. (It should be noted that another Raw-contracted wrestler, Jack Swagger, won the title in that interim period. However he, along with Edge who did this in 2007, was able to join the SmackDown brand due to his cashing in of the Money in the Bank contract that was in his possession.) During the week of August 29, 2011, it was announced that all WWE programming would feature the entire roster. Due to this, the World Title, along with every other championship in WWE, was now defended on any show against any wrestler. On December 15, 2013, at the WWE Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay-per-view, the title was unified with the WWE Championship when WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Champion John Cena, and was officially retired.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Since December 15, 2013, the Big Gold Belt has been used in conjunction with the standard WWE Championship belt to represent what is now known as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. However, much like how Chris Jericho carried both physical belts as Undisputed WWF Champion, the title history for the World Heavyweight Championship is retired as this lineage follows that of WWE's original World Title.
- The History of the World Heavyweight Championship, WWE Home Video, 2009
- WCW World Champion - Chris Jericho at WWE.com
- "WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-titles.com. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- Clayton, Corey (2007-09-06). "World Heavyweight Championship turns five years old". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-12-23.