Best and Worst WWE Championship Belt Designs of All Time
Even while Seth Rollins and Finn Balor laid their guts on the mat at SummerSlam in a match that left The Demon King with a torn labrum, much of the focus was on the design of the championship belt they fought over.
WWE unveiled the new Universal Championship that night, only to have the Twizzler-colored prize panned in the arena and online. Fans inside Barclays Center chanted snarky comments like "That looks ugly." Twitter had a field day with the belt.
Rollins was unhappy with the criticism. He tweeted, "More important than a title's appearance is what it represents for the men fighting over it. You really let me down tonight, Brooklyn."
The Architect is right about a championship's prestige overcoming its look, but the Universal Championship is still a flop visually. The execution failed. Raw's top title became the butt of jokes because it features one of the worst designs WWE has come up with.
The universal title looks like a toy compared to the Intercontinental Championship and the old "winged eagle" WWF Championship. Those belts are majestic, handsomely designed, fitting trophies for the gladiators who earn them.
WWE's best titles have had the right balance of showiness and elegance. They saluted both the over-the-top nature of pro wrestling yet felt like something that belonged in the sports world, too.
The Universal Championship didn't accomplish any of that. It joins the current tag team titles as some of WWE's biggest design stumbles.
However, WWE can always take comfort in the fact that nothing it has crafted comes close to Jeff Hardy's TNA World Heavyweight Championship in awfulness.
Tag Team Championship
The New Day's explosively colorful gear helps distract the eye from just how ugly the Tag Team Championship titles the group has held since last year's SummerSlam are.
Straying from the tradition of wrestling championships being gold, these belts born in 2002 feature a nondescript copper plate in its center. It's one fans have long roasted.
Hall of Famer Steve Austin is no fan of the belts, either, blasting the design on his podcast (h/t William Windsor of Wrestling Inc). Stone Cold said, "They look like two gigantic copper pennies that got run over by a railroad train and they put them on a piece of leather."
The new SmackDown tag titles copied the design but replaced the copper with silver and added a blue background. It's a much-improved look.
The belts The New Day now wear are too plain, too flat-looking and, as Austin pointed out, too penny-like.
Best: Intercontinental Championship
Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes have all worn the classic Intercontinental Championship. And the design was just as at home in the 1980s as it is in the 2010s.
As Nick Paglino of Wrestle Zone wrote, "Fact that this belt is still carried into the current era speaks volumes about its lasting design, simple yet striking."
The blue globe adds a blue pop to a traditional design. The white strap helps the belt stand out. The IC title is bold without being too loud.
The Miz has claimed he is currently on a never-ending IC title tour. The good news is that he won't ever have to change the design. Excellence never goes out of style.
Worst: WWE Universal Championship
The concept of the new WWE Universal Championship was clearly to keep the current title uniform while adding a splash of red to represent the Raw brand.
This belt, though, is a reminder that ideas don't always translate.
Jewels emblazon a screaming red belt. The leather looks like dried candy. The result is a garish, silly-looking prize.
You can blame the crowd reaction at its unveiling at SummerSlam on fans just being jerks, but while the timing of their chants were ill-advised, it's hard to argue with their assessment of the title's aesthetics. It's a jarring sight.
The universal title needs a more creative reboot in a hurry.
Best: World Heavyweight Championship
Nicknamed the Big Gold Belt, the World Heavyweight Championship traveled across promotions and decades.
It began as the National Wrestling Alliance's world title in 1986. In 1991, Ric Flair carried it on his shoulders when it became WCW's top title. Over a decade later, WWE welcomed the championship into its own world as its second world title.
The belt's longevity is a testament to its simple beauty.
Its size is apt for the larger-than-life wrestling world. Its gold face and clean design give it an air of prestige.
No one redesigned it, whether it was Flair or Chris Jericho, Big Van Vader or Daniel Bryan. There's a reason for that—you don't mess with perfection.
Worst: 'Spinner' WWE Championship and U.S. Championship
The championships that the warriors of the squared circle clash over shouldn't look like a prize one might get in a cereal box.
John Cena introduced two such titles to the WWE landscape. His "spinner" version of the United States Championship and the gaudy, cheap-looking version of the WWE Championship. Both featured a spinning centerpiece that made it hard to take the belts seriously.
Stephen Randle of Goliath called this rendition of the WWE title a "garish, bejewelled monstrosity."
Breaking away from tradition can work, but in both of these titles designed for Cena, WWE went too far toward toy territory.
Best: 'Smoking Skull' WWF Championship
Championship belts customized for a specific Superstar often miss the mark. Edge's "rated-R" title belt is a prime example.
But the title designed for Steve Austin in 1999 perfectly embodies Stone Cold's character and balanced looking badass and prestigious. The "smoking skull" version of the WWF Championship managed to pay homage to traditional titles, even with snakes and skulls all over it.
That's partly due to the designs not being too overbearing. They blended into the gold plates, while the red WWF logo popped.
Austin's championship should be the template for future wrestler-specific titles. It was the kind of title fans badly wanted replicas of, one that captured the spirit of the squared circle.
Worst: Divas Championship
When the spoils of victory look like something little girls stash in their box of dress-up clothes, you have failed to design a proper championship.
The Divas Championship held back WWE's women for years. It was a signal to the audience that those fighting for it weren't wrestlers but girly caricatures. It was the catalyst for jokes and sneers, a prize hard to buy into.
While men had globes and gold adorning their titles, WWE's women had a pink butterfly as their championship's centerpiece. The design would have been fine for a third-grader's journal, but not the ultimate accomplishment for a group of wrestlers.
Try to imagine The Fabulous Moolah or Aja Kong wearing this without laughing. It's tough.
WWE wisely did away with the belt this year, opting instead for the Women's Championship that Charlotte now clings tight to.
Best: 'Winged Eagle' WWF Championship
It's not just nostalgia talking; the "winged eagle" WWF Championship remains the best belt the company's wrestlers have ever worn.
It was splashy enough to get one's attention, thanks to the wings spread out on its center and the intricate designs within the gold plate. But it wasn't ostentatious and visually shrill like many of WWE's modern belts.
The black leather married perfectly with the gold. It balanced uniqueness with staying loyal with tradition.
Like the Intercontinental Championship, its longevity is a clear statement of its excellence. The title featured this same design from the late '80s until the Attitude Era.
If WWE decided to revive this and switch it out Dean Ambrose's current world title, fans would be abuzz about the belt. Ambrose certainly would look tremendous with it in his hands.