Art Vandelay's Pro Wrestling Ground History of the NWA/WCW/WWE Big Gold Belt WHC

Edited: 4/29/11 3:33 PM
Posts: 7911
Someone was asking me about this belt today which made me think to post this.

After the "10lbs of Gold" book came out a few years back, some people on my site showed interest in a book about the Big Gold. Things didn't work out, but we put together a FAQ type deal about the belt.

At the same time, another guy on my board was trying to track down the maker of the original and have a new one made.

The maker of the original Big Gold belt was Charles Crumrine. Crumrine makes rodeo belt buckles and has had a shop in Nevada for decades. Unfortunately, Charles passed away, but an employee (Alice) who worked with him back then is still there and was a huge help in gathering a lot of previously unknown information on the belt.

I'll try to post some of the more interesting items about the belt.

The original Big Gold was used throughout NWA/WCW until mid/late 2000. It was referred to as the "big gold belt" in a few promos by Ric Flair, and I believe one of the old TBS announcers referred to it that. Thus, many fans and collectors still refer to it as "the big gold" to this day.

Nelson Royal ordered it in late 1985/early 1986 on behalf of the NWA, thus the original concept artwork for the belt had the NWA letters featured prominently at the top, but they didn't want to pay for it, so Nelson got it with no letters/logos and was going to use it for himself. Once Jim Crocket saw the completed belt, he loved it and bought it from Nelson. I was lucky enough to hold the actual sketches and artwork for the original belt and although I was told I can't post it, the design did change from start to finish.

The belt was hand engraved by 3 people, Charles Crumrine, Victor Ortiz and Jeanne Lashelle (Charles' daughter). The original plates were releathered several times which is why it had a brown strap in the early days, and a black strap towards the end. In the late 90's, the WCW prop guy had the plates replated which is why it went from dual plated and shiny, to that dull, all orange look. The plates are solid sterling silver, which are hand engraved. Elements such as the rope border, wrestlers, crown, stone holders and letters are soldered on. The letters are not a font, but hand made letters done by Crumrine. You will not find this as a standard font anywhere. The sterling silver plates had areas masked off before it was gold plated via tank. After gold plating, the masking agent was removed to reveal the silver underneath. This is what gives it the 2-tone look.

The belt was ordered with these removable nameplates:

Rick Flair
Dusty Rhodes
Ronnie Garvin

The "Rick" was a typo so it was only used shortly while a proper "Ric Flair" nameplate was made. Crumrine got back the "Rick Flair" plate and kept it. The "Ric Flair" nameplate is owned today by Dave Millican. No idea on where the other nameplates ended up.

Many books and articles quote the cost of the belt around $28,000. This is false. Nelson paid around $12,000+ for it. Nelson did a ton of business with Crumrine as he had his own western buckle store on the side. When people called regarding the price of having one made, they were frequently quoted $25,000+ as a way to deter them from getting one.

The stones in the belt were cubic zirconium and fake rubies. In Ric Flair's book, he mentioned how some wrestlers popped out these stones and tried selling them, thinking they were real. Because of this, the holes in the stone holders had to be drilled deeper and larger stones were placed in the belt every time.

In 1999/2000 WCW had the original belt casted. Copies were made for Kevin Nash, DDP, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner and 1-2 others supposedly.

Jarrett wore his cast copy at BATB 2000. That is the belt he lost to Hogan, that Hogan took home with him, and that Hogan claims is the original. (which it is not)

In late 2000 while champion, Steiner apparently swapped his cast copy out with the original. Many of us believe Steiner has the authentic Crumrine at home, while WWE inherited his cast copy from the buyout.

Just about every beltmaker has their own version of the belt. Crumrine never copyrighted/trademarked the design, although elements of the belt such as the wrestlers and floral design are standard features in all Crumrine buckles. To get one made like the original would be around $14,000 and it is all hand made.

The current one on TV is made by Joe Marshall (J-Mar) using a 3d engraving machine which gives the depth only seen on cast belts. You can get one of these for around $8,500 w/WWE logo or a cast copy for $4,000. 

Edited: 4/29/11 3:24 PM
Posts: 7912
The Vegas Big Gold
Another belt sometimes confused with the original, is referred to the "Vegas" Big Gold. It was introduced by Ric Flair doing a promo in a casino referring to himself as the "real world's champion". This belt was used on WWF programming while WCW sued Ric Flair to get the original back, after Flair and Heenan used the belt on WWF programming. WCW got back the original Big Gold after the lawsuit and Flair got his deposit back. WWF had the Vegas Big Gold created by Reggie Parks, during this legal battle. For a few weeks while this new belt was being made, Flair used an old tag belt a few times in place of the BG. In Ric Flair's book, he mentioned giving Triple H a belt, saying he wished he could have dropped it to him a decade ago. We believe he is referring to the Vegas Big Gold belt, despite what many fans assume is the original Big Gold or original Domed Globe, neither of which Flair owns. Part of the WCW lawsuit settlement was that WWF could not use a similar looking belt either which is why the Vegas Big Gold did not last long.

The Ready to Rumble Belt
A silver version similar to the Big Gold belt was featured in the movie "Ready to Rumble". 2 of these custom belts were made by Joe Marshall (J-Mar) to be used for the movie. 

4/29/11 3:35 PM
Posts: 7913
PrinceZordar - What about the US title around 1986-1989, that Magnum, Nikita, and Luger had?

That belt was always one of my favorites, I just liked the way it looked. I saw an awesome replica at a wrestling convention, but I don't remember the price.

We call that the 10lbs of Silver. I should have mine shortly, ordered it 2 years ago. Dave Millican owns the original, ring used one. Price of a new replica is around $1,600.
4/29/11 4:13 PM
Posts: 10339
Very interesting, thanks
4/29/11 6:29 PM
Posts: 10732
Don't have time to read it now but looks very interesting. ttt for later.
4/30/11 12:36 AM
Posts: 889
 Great thread. Thanks for the info.
5/1/11 2:47 PM
Posts: 17667
very cool read.
5/1/11 4:10 PM
Posts: 264
Great info... Thanks Phone Post
5/1/11 6:26 PM
Posts: 25242
lol so Steiner took the real one?
5/1/11 11:04 PM
Posts: 5870
5/2/11 11:31 PM
Posts: 19007
TTT, I remember some of this, thanks for posting! Phone Post