I recently did a review on this channel of
the Fandu Belts big gold, as I hope to use it in some videos coming up, focussed on wrestling
games from the late 90s and early 2000s – but I haven’t really done that many videos about
wrestling so far and I suppose I should probably touch upon why the Big Gold is such a big
deal. Now as I mentioned in my previous video, there
have been multiple variations on the belt, from the WCW and NWA days through to the WWF
Invasion – and then also the life of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship… although
there were a number of different versions of that belt. But for this video I’m going
to focus on the original Crumrine designed belt – because while many belts have multiple
versions over their lifespan, the original Big Gold had one version which was in use
on TV for nearly 20 years. The original Big Gold belt wasn’t actually
made by a championship belt maker at all – it was made by a Silversmith that was famed mostly
for its rodeo style belt buckles. In fact, one look at some of Crumrine’s designs and
you can see elements of the Big Gold that carried through to their other works.
The belt was originally commissioned in 1985 as a replacement for the famous NWA ‘domed
globe’ belt that had been in use since the early 70s. The NWA being the National Wrestling
Alliance, which was a collective of many wrestling organisations – with WCW at one point being
its flagship. Although, no logo was included on the original design, as the price was so
high that it was to change ownership somewhat – and if the fabled $35,000 price tag was
to be believed then that wouldn’t surprise me. And seeing as the security deposit on
the belt for each Champion was supposedly $25,000 it’s probably true.
NWA Champion Ric Flair debuted the belt in February 1986 at a CWF event called Battle
of the Belts II. This belt was two-tone silver and gold with rubies and diamonds on a leather
strap – but with no backing. As Crumrine wasn’t really a belt maker, they were more focused
on the plates rather than the leatherwork – but the leather is itself wasn’t actually
black as most people think. It was actually a burgundy colour with white stitching, but
with a mixture of sweat, baby oil and, probably alcohol as well, the leather was soon looking
completely black. In the late 80s, WCW was properly formed as
its own entity and was really the only NWA company with National TV coverage. So at this
point the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship
were essentially the same thing, using the same belt – in fact the title of “WCW Champion”
wasn’t even really used until 1991. However, there was about to be a problem.
Ric Flair technically lost the NWA title at a WCW and New Japan crossover event – but
WCW didn’t recognise Flair as losing the WCW title and so kept possession of the big
gold belt. So you then had an NWA Champion, that didn’t really have a belt to show for
it, and a WCW Champion that was using the belt that had also been used for NWA. This
led to a rematch at the first Super Brawl to “re-unify” the two titles even though
it was still only one belt. But within a couple months, Flair up and left WCW to head for
WWF. Thing is – he still had the belt because even though WCW could strip him of the title,
at Super Brawl, he’d just ensured that he was still NWA Champion, and the NWA used the
Big Gold – therefore Flair kept hold of it. And due to some falling out with WCW regarding
security deposits, they weren’t getting it back any time soon.
So, without a champion or a title belt; WCW were forced to crown a new champion, in Lex
Luger, just using something that was just hastily cobbled together as they needed something
to put on TV. Although this was later replaced with a new WCW title, which made no mistakes
about having a belt with no logos – every single plate had a WCW logo on it.
Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan appears on WWF television holding the (now) NWA Championship, although
not calling it that. The Brain was first to showcase it as Ric Flair wasn’t fully signed
onto WWF yet. NWA immediately issued a cease and desist order and a month later stripped
Ric Flair of the NWA Championship title – but they still didn’t get the belt back. All
NWA Champions at the time were required to pay a $25,000 security deposit for the belt
– but after falling out with WCW and then leaving abruptly, Flair never got this security
deposit back – so refused to return the belt – and in the meantime, felt he might as well
carry on wearing it, even on WWF TV. In September of that year, Flair debuted on
WWF with the Big Gold belt in hand, proclaiming himself as the “real World Champion” as
an antagonistic storyline with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. He even appeared in promotional
material with the belt and with the strapline “real world champion”.
While the legal disputes between WCW, NWA and WWF were ongoing, WWF would occasionally
blur out the Big Gold belt or even replace it altogether with a modified version of a
tag title belt, whilst still blurring it out on TV – presumably more so you wouldn’t
see the WWF logos on it. When the belt was eventually returned to the NWA, a copycat
version was created for Ric Flair to use at WWF, often referred to as the “Vegas Big
Gold”, but this version wasn’t used on TV for very long as Flair soon became the
WWF Champion and then stated that that belt was actually the only one worth having.
Instead of the Big Gold making an immediate return to WCW, the NWA actually allowed ‘New
Japan’ to hold a tournament to see who would be crowned as the new NWA Champion and so
receive the Big Gold. Masahiro Chono defeated Rick rude for the title, although Rick Rude
ends up with the belt down the line and brings it back to WCW – until late 1993 when WCW
leaves the sanctioning body of the NWA, meaning Rick Rude is stripped of the title. In the
legal matters, the belt however, remains property of WCW.
So, now WCW have both a ‘WCW Championship’ belt and the former ‘NWA Championship’
belt – but they’re not allowed to call it that anymore. And so, they create the fictitious
“WCW International Board of Directors” that supposedly recognises the title as the
“International World Heavyweight Championship”, or sometimes just the “World Heavyweight
Championship” and even sometimes it’s just referred to it as “the belt”.
But obviously it couldn’t go on for too long having two title belts in the WCW, so
at ‘Clash of the Champions’ Ric Flair – now back in WCW and also WCW Champion beats
Sting, the International Champion to unify the belts and then after that, the WCW belt
goes bye bye and the Big Gold becomes the solo WCW World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
The same, original belt is then used for the majority of the lifespan of WCW. When Hollywood
Hogan wins the belt and spray paints it with the NWO logo, they still used the same belt.
And then when Lex Luger won it back for WCW, the paint was just wiped off and so on and
so on. It’s when we get to the latter stages of
WCW’s life that thing’s get a little bit more complicated. Around 1999 / 2000 – a number
of cast copies of the belt were made. Some of these were all-gold versions of the belt,
some were two-tone. Partly the reason for these being created was to be used as props
in the ‘Ready to Rumble’ movie – which used an exaggerated version of WCW as part
of it’s plotline. This led to the disaster that was the David
Arquette title reign, but the less said about that the better.
These cast copies would crop up quite a few times. Most famously at ‘Bash at the Beach’
2000 when Jeff Jarrett wore an all-gold copy of the belt out the ring for his match with
Hulk Hogan. He then lay down in the ring and Hogan left with the belt. Only for Vince Russo
to come out and bad mouth Hogan, calling him a politician and the real belt would actually
be defended later that night between Jarrett and Booker T.
There are loads of conflicting stories from that night as to whether it was a work or
a shoot (or even a bit of both)- but bottom line was that Hogan sued Vince Russo for defamation
of character and left WCW – leaving the real Big Gold behind.
In the latter days of WCW, Scott Steiner preferred to leave the real Big Gold at home and use
one of the cast copies on the road and on TV – this is the belt that was contested for,
as WCW bit the dust and was carried forward into the WWF invasion – until Chris Jericho
eventually unified the WCW and WWF titles, effectively killing of the WCW belt altogether
and starting a new-line of “undisputed Champions”. Where the real Big Gold ended up after Scott
Steiner? It’s hard to tell. Technically it was property of WWF but these days it’s
in private hands – and there is also biography of the belt’s history – although this seems
to be limited to the US so I can’t get my hands on it.
The belt itself is probably the most iconic design of any wrestling belt ever – and if
you include the WWE versions of it, it was used on TV for nearly 30 years – more than
half of that being the original belt, and that wasn’t even made a belt-maker.
So that’s the history of the big gold. It may have been disrespected a little in its
later life but it remains one of the greatest – if not the greatest belt in wrestling. And
I’m glad to have m y own version on my shoulder. But until next time guys, I’ll see you later.