Saturday, June 24, 2023

Wrestle Art: The NWA World Title Belt

The "Brisco Belt", the second version of the NWA World Title
"domed globe" belt used in 1974-1976.

Graphic art created by David Williams © 2019

By Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Art by David Williams

Back in late February of 2019, a computer artist named David Williams contacted me wanting to source some photos for a graphic art project he was envisioning. "I’ve been obsessed for several years with the thought of accurately rendering the classic NWA belt," he wrote me. "The problem is I want to make it as perfect to original as possible, or not bother."

Given my love and appreciation for that old belt, this certainly seemed like a worthwhile endeavor and I wanted to enthusiastically support Williams' project. The only thing David needed was some close-up hi-res photos of the belt, which I was happy to send him. Some of these photos I had taken myself, including the cover photo for the book "Ten Pounds of Gold" which showed close detail of the main plate, and others that showed the leather strap and details of the side plates.

With the help of some measurements Dave Millican made when he and I photographed the belt for the book back in 2008, Williams was able interpolate specific measurements for every element of the belt, all in perfect scale, in all of the title's iterations.

David Williams is a wrestling fan like the rest of us, growing up watching "Championship Wrestling from Florida," counting Jack Brisco and Buddy Colt among his favorites. Today he is a professional computer artist and career art director, as well as designer and publisher of the Ferrari Club of America’s Prancing Horse magazine. 

And let me tell you, this cat has mad skills.

Version 2A, end to end, every meticulous detail.
(David Williams)

After reviewing all the photos I sent him, he decided to attempt not only the original version, but a recreation of all four versions of the "domed globe" belt that were worn and defended by the great NWA champions of 1973-1986. The two images you see on this page are of the second version of the belt. It is always identifiable by several unique characteristics, primarily the white lettering on black background above the flags, the tight leather cut, and "NWA" letters that go straight across the globe (as opposed to the curved letters on later versions.)  You will also notice the "BRISCO" nameplate, which was on this version of the belt.

We collaborated on what should be included with regard to some of the details and in the end, David wound up with ten (10) different amazing images showing the progression of the belt from when it debuted in Houston, Texas on July 20, 1973 until it was retired in February of 1986. Each version features some change in the physical characteristics of the plates or the leather, even including the dents in the globes and the busted lacing around the edges of the leather strap.

I present here each of these 10 images, taking the opportunity to use David's amazing work to illustrate the evolution of the belt over the years, paired with information taken directly from the "Ten Pounds of Gold" book. You will see for yourself in some enlarged images the incredible detail of every single aspect of the belts, right down to the exact number of "beads" around the edge of the belt, the specific maps on the different globes, the lacing on the leather straps, the wrestlers on the plate, the fonts on the nameplates, and every other detail you can imagine. Just amazing work.

See all of David Williams incredibly detailed art after the jump!


The Red Velvet Belt, seen here with the "Jack Brisco" nameplate. (Version 1-B)
Graphic art created by David Williams © 2019

The very first version of the the "domed-globe" NWA World title belt was a leather strap encased in bright red velvet fabric. It was first introduced on July 20, 1973 in Houston, TX, when the previous belt was retired and this new belt was presented to then-reigning champion Harley Race. 

When first presented, it did not have a nameplate. (I've always thought it was a crime to have not had a nameplate for Harley Race, especially if they were going to have a nameplate for Brisco.) Jack Brisco defeated Race that night, and soon after a simple "trophy shop" nameplate was affixed with the name "Jack Brisco" in upper and lower case letters. 

The shape of the strap may look odd compared to the traditional cut of a wrestling belt's leather strap. But graphic artist David Williams was careful to reproduce the red-velvet strap as accurately as possible using several photos that showed the belt's clasping buckle and belt holes

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco
While beautiful in its own unique way, the red velvet didn't last long because the moisture created by perspiration and the belt often traveling in a bag with damp ring-wear caused the fabric to quickly deteriorate. When the belt was originally presented, it was housed in its own Halliburton-style suitcase. But that created just one more thing to haul around and it is thought that Brisco started traveling with the belt, at least to and from the hotel, in the bag with the rest of his gear. The red velvet fabric would apparently easily stain other fabrics, and there are stories of Brisco in the ring with lightly stained pink socks within his wrestling boots.

According to Jerry Brisco, Jack hated the red belt, likely because of issues like those described above. Sometime in 1974, the belt's red velvet fabric and the strap it covered were discarded and a new, black leather strap was cut for the beautiful gold plates.

Each of the four versions had their own unique characteristics while also sharing some characteristics to other versions. I'll detail them for the belts covered in the each specific installment of this series.

Characteristics that made Version 1 of the belt unique:
  • Original strap encased in red velvet.
  • "Jack Brisco" Nameplate

Characteristics common to Version 1 and Version 2 of the belt:
  • NWA letters on the globe straight across (curved on versions 3 and 4)
  • Names of countries in white lettering on black background. 
  • Black paint on side panels to either side of the globe. (Black onyx used for ver. 3 and 4.)



In 1975, while Jack Brisco was still champion, the NWA did away with the red velvet-wrapped lather strap and had the plates installed on a new black leather strap (Version 2), which gave the belt a more traditional look. The shape of the strap was cut closely to follow the shape of the main plate on the belt. The side plates with the flags were arranged differently. A different nameplate showed up on the belt as well, this time with the champion's last name in all caps - - "BRISCO." (Version 2-A)

When Terry Funk defeated Jack Brisco for the NWA World Heavyweight title on December of 1975, the "BRISCO" name plate was removed of course (Version 2-B), but no replacement nameplate for Terry Funk ever appeared on the plate. In fact, no champion following Brisco ever had their name on a nameplate on the belt. The reasons for that remain lost to time.

The rough and tumble Terry Funk treated the belt in a rough and tumble way throughout his 14-month reign, and during that time the round globe on the center of the main plate was badly dented (Version 2-C), and paint began to come off the black panels on either side of the globe (Version 2-D). By the end of Funk's reign, most of the black paint on those side panels was gone. (Late edit: Mark James reminded me that the original dents in the globe actually took place when Brisco had the belt. He's right, as you can you see them in interview footage of Funk after his Miami Beach victory over Brisco, something I had noted before on the Domed Globe website, but failed to correlate here. Regardless, that globe was obviously hollow and relatively fragile.)

Each of the four versions of the belt had their own unique characteristics while also sharing some characteristics to other versions.

Characteristics that made Version 2 of the belt unique:
  • "BRISCO" name plate until Jack Brisco lost the title to Terry Funk 
  • Flag configuration on side plates: Mexico, Australia, Canada, Japan

Characteristics common to Version 2 and Version 3 of the belt:
  • Black leather strap cut close to the shape of the center plate. 
  • Cream color backing


David Williams's spot-on artistic depiction of the new globe on Version 3 of the belt in 1977.
CLICK HERE for a larger detailed image in a new browser window.

By the time Harley Race defeated Terry Funk for the NWA World Championship on February 6, 1977 in Toronto, the belt had been completely refurbished. The base of the center plate appeared to be the same, but several key features had been replaced. All of the plates had been repainted. The plates, however, were mounted on the same black leather strap that had replaced the red velvet strap in 1974.

This refurbished belt would be the third version of four of the domed-globe belt.

Version 3 of the Domed-Globe belt, featuring a new globe design, alternate color lettering for the flags, and more.

In video of Race putting the belt on after the victory over Terry Funk, the belt looked magnificent, almost brand new. The only sign of wear was on the back of the leather strap. As Race holds the belt over his head moments after the victory, you can see the creme colored backing loose and coming apart. It isn't clear why they wouldn't have gone ahead and had new leather cut for these newly painted and refurbished plates, but that was yet to come.

There were several noticeable changes this time around.  The color of lettering over the flags on the side plates as well as over the U.S. flag on the main plate was now black on a white background. It was the opposite on the first two versions of the belt. The globe was also new, with a slightly different map outline. The most noticeable difference though was the large red "NWA" letters were now curved on the globe rather than straight across. (See David Williams's incredible detail of the globe in a large image that will open in a new window.)

The flag side plates were also arranged in a different order, making it the third different configuration of the flags for the third belt. This time they were (L-R) Mexico, Canada, Australia, Japan.

The final significant change was the installation of black onyx panels to either side of the globe. These areas had previously been painted black, but the paint continued to flake off the gold plate. The black onyx was somewhat reflective when new, and you can see it sparkle as Race straps it on in Toronto.


The fourth and final version of the original 1973-1986 NWA World Championship belt, the "Ten Pounds of Gold." The final version featured new leather with a slightly different cut around the center plate
and a fourth and final different flag configuration.

Not long after Harley Race defeated Terry Funk for the title in Toronto in February of 1977, the refurbished and repainted plates were attached to a brand new cut of leather. This new leather strap had a different style of lacing and was cut slightly different, the main change being that the cut of the leather did not follow the shape of the main plate as closely as the old leather did, which tightly hugged the upper edge of the main plate.

Pretty soon, however, the plates began to show the same wear and tear as the earlier version of the belt did. The globe was badly dented again, and paint began flaking off the plates in different areas. Most noticeably, some of the segments of ornamental "beads" around the edge of the main plate began to break off as well.

The look of the belt in its last years: dented globe (again), missing beads, missing paint, missing eyelets.

Let's face it, after several years of observation, it was clear that this type of construction for a ring used title belt just didn't make much sense. Those bead-sections were each attached individually with 4-6 beads to a section. And many of them were getting broken off the belt.

In addition, some of the faux eyelets and snaps broke away from the belt, too. By the time Jim Crockett had the new "Big Gold" belt made in 1986, the old Ten Pounds of Gold was in pretty rough shape.

An illustration of the shape the belt was in at the end, with the busted lacing and missing paint.


Artist David Williams has done an incredible job of recreating every version of the belt, with sub-versions illustrating the damage to the belt in later years.

The following chart shows the progression of the belt from its original configuration in 1973 to it's final look in 1986.

The final progression chart.

The book "Ten Pounds of Gold" that I authored with Dave Millican lays out in great detail all four versions of the NWA "domed-globe" belt. (There is a chart summarizing those versions in pp. 70-71 of the book.)

My thanks to computer artist extraordinaire David Williams for the amazing work he did on all the different versions of the famous domed-globe belt.