The following is a FREE article, written for the latest issue of Calling Spots. Issue seven of our fanzine is our Championship Edition, where we celebrate great professional wrestling champions and championships, from all over the world and spanning every era. With that in mind, resident journalist Chris Pilkington’s latest article explores….
THE BEST WAY TO CARRY A CHAMPIONSHIP BELT
You’ve toiled for years. You’ve trained day in, day out, paid your dues and against all odds you’ve made it to the dance. You worked even harder, intent on proving yourself worthy of your spot and slowly but surely worked your way up the card. One day, the boss pulled you to one side and told you what you’d been longing to hear since the day you first started running the ropes. You’re finally winning a championship. Now comes the hard part. It’s time to make the hardest decision of your wrestling life. It’s time to decide how you’re going to wear your belt.
Laugh all you like, mock if you will, but the way you carry your newly acquired status symbol says a lot about the wrestler you are. Take one of the most decorated champions of all time, The Immortal Hulk Hogan. During his red and yellow Hulkamania days, most of the pictures of Hogan with the WWE championship show the title belt nestled safely around his slightly too orange waist. Whether it was a promo picture or a picture of him on his way to the ring, the prayer saying, vitamin taking Hulkster made sure to put the belt into title belt.
Fast forward to WCW and the edgier black and white NWO era Hulk Hogan and you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of him ever having the belt around his waist. This Hollywood version of Hulk Hogan was much more likely to parade the title around on his slightly too orange shoulder and it suited the cocky, rebellious character that he had become.
So the way you hold your belt really is important. It tells the fans in an instant what kind of champion you are. Wrestlers generally fall into two camps though. There are those that respect the tradition and value of the title and wear it accordingly as a belt and there are those who blaze their own trail by throwing it over their shoulder, dragging it, wearing it around their necks, down their pants or any other such way you can think of.
But which is best?
During 2013’s WWE Pay Per View Night of Champions, the company ran several polls to determine the greatest champions of all time. Whilst some of the results were slightly suspect (Booker T: greatest world heavyweight champion of all time?) this was the largest scale polling of this type in recent memory.
As such, when comparing the best ways to carry a championship belt, surely a poll like that would be a great place to start. Remember, these were voted for by the people, and anybody who disputes the validity of the poll should ask themselves whether WWE would really fix the vote to have two wrestlers win whilst not under a WWE contract.
So just how did these great champions decide to carry their belts to the ring?
The greatest WWE champion of all time was determined to be the already mentioned Hulk Hogan. As stated above, Hogan chose to carry the belt either over his shoulder or around his waist depending on his mood. However, the poll focuses on Hogan’s WWE career, a time period dominated by the red and yellow Hulk Hogan who carried the title around his waist more often than not.
The greatest World heavyweight champion of all time, I guess we have to go with Booker T, would wear the belt on occasion but was very much an over the shoulder type guy. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, it very much suited the street smart character that Booker portrayed throughout his WCW career and the majority of his WWE career. Secondly, it’s much easier to do a Spinaroonie without a belt on! Booker did wear the belt more during his stint as King Booker, but I think we have to mark this down as a win for the shoulder brigade.
Next up, Chris Jericho was named the greatest intercontinental champion of all time. Like Booker, Jericho has flip flopped from time to time but more often than not carried the IC title around his waist. Jericho has been such a decorated champion that there have been times he physically hasn’t been able to wear titles around his waist, such as his time as undisputed champion where he would carry both the WWE and WCW title at the same time. Or the time he was undisputed tag team champion with Edge. Or the time when he co-held the IC belt with Chyna and couldn’t take it out of her huge hands. For the most part though, Jericho was an around the waist man, even during the most brash and cocky periods of his career.
Former WCW and current TNA star Sting was declared the greatest United States champion of all time. Whether underneath the mysterious black and white face paint he would become most known for or as the more happy go lucky Stinger of earlier years, Sting was more often that not seen with his championship belts either over his shoulder or raised high into the air. It was a look that just suited his character to a tee. Would somebody who hung around at the beach/in the rafters all day really be bothered with actually wearing a title?
Shawn Michaels and Triple H of DX were awarded the dubious honour of being the best tag team champions of all time, despite the fact that both men achieved far greater and wider reaching success as singles stars. Oh well, who am I to argue with the voters? The most memorable images of both men with singles titles would probably be around the waist. As a tag team though, Hunter and Shawn are more remembered for the iconic pause of Shawn down on one knee with the belt over his shoulder, as Triple H stands behind, title raised aloft.
Perhaps the least questionable winner was Trish Stratus who was voted the greatest Divas champ of all time. It was remarkably rare to see Trish with the title around her waist, being most remembered for holding the title skywards in one arm. Trish, along with a really strong core group of female wrestlers such as Molly Holly, Ivory and Victoria really helped raise the profile of what would become the Divas division in WWE and the sight of her holding that old school WWE Womens title aloft is an enduring image for sure
So there we have it. If you really want to go down as one of the greatest of all time, perhaps it’s wise to hold your belt rather than wear it. This system isn’t perfect of course; some incredibly important champions such as Ric Flair, Steve Austin, The Rock, Bret Hart and Bruno Sammartino have been discounted, but I think even with the inclusion of names such as those the results would still be very much the same
Another thing we don’t take fully into account is the fact that as the mood of the times changes, so does the preferred method. As such, a lot of the more recent names follow the more current trend of carrying the belt, whilst forty and more years ago the majority would favour wearing the belt.
This trend may change again, and a similar list conducted in ten or twenty years time may yield a completely different set of results. As it stands though, it’s clear you can wear your title belt anywhere you like…just so long as it’s not around your waist.