Champions worry about their waistline more than the average person, not only how to keep their abs ready to wrestle half-naked under the glare of arena lights, but also how to accessorise it. The inspiration for awarding championship belts came from the tradition of boxing. In 1810, King George III presented the first championship belt ever given to honour in-ring accomplishments. It was awarded to bare-knuckle boxer Tom Cribb.
The idea of taking a prize and symbol of a wrestling company and toying with it is controversial to some. Recently Jim Ross spoke about custom championships during his podcast. He believes they are not “appropriate” and are “gimmicky”. However, many custom championships have become iconic and beloved by fans.
Custom championships are an effective visual prop to signal a character change, or to emphasise a characteristic that the championship has woken in its holder. They can be used to honour a babyface’s accomplishments or to validate a heel’s narcissism. Or in the case of the Hardcore Championship, the belt was falling apart towards the end of its life, making two custom belts necessary.