What is it about a belt? Every time you turn on a pro wrestling program or go to a show, there is always a man or woman parading around with a big leather belt with gold plates attached. It seems awfully strange. Why not a trophy or a ribbon? A championship belt doesn’t exactly hold your pants up, and the buckle isn’t very fashionable, yet so many wrestling promotion place emphasis on the championship belts. Fans also hold them in high regard. Go to a friend’s house and you may find one on display on a nearby shelf. Go to a live show and you will see fans decked out in their collection of replica championships. What is it that is so important, and why do so many fans take them so seriously?
There are certain fans who take championships so seriously that it is annoying. I used to be able to recite stats on who had the championship belts, who they beat, when, and even the length of time the title match lasted. Not anymore. After a while you just lose track, or move on with your life. Yet there are still fans out there that hold the championship belts in such high esteem and value their prestige as if they were really important.
Prop is the best term used to describe a championship belt. The problem so many have with that term is that it becomes like any other prop in a movie or play, thus devaluing what it should really mean. Those fans do take the titles too seriously, but they also have a point. The happy medium, however, is lost on many.
Look at a wrestling promotion from a character standpoint. Characters have their reasons for coming to an organization. For Kane, it was to get revenge on his brother. Yet he moved past that and eventually wanted to be a champion. Most wrestlers come in with some goal in mind, but in the end, all of the characters want to be the champion. A title is only three seconds away from saying that you are better than the entire roster. It means more money, more spotlight. Yes we need to remember the belt is a prop, but it is a very important prop. It is not a painting on a wall in a minute scene, but the ultimate goal of what the heroes and villains are racing to capture.
There is a scene in the 1996 film, The Rock, in which Nicholas Cage’s character is speaking with Sean Connery. Cage says to Connery that he will do his best. Connery responds by saying that losers always whine about their best, but winners go home and bleep the prom queen. In a wrestling promotion, the championship belt is the prom queen to the men. She is the prettiest girl in school and all the guys are wooing her and doing everything they can for a date. They even fight over the right to her hand. She becomes an object of affection more than a person. She may stay with you for a long time, maybe a short time. This year she spent some time with the cool guy with tattoos (CM Punk), currently she is with the rich guy’s kid (Alberto Del Rio), but you know that her true love, and the one she will always come back to, is the all-star quarterback (John Cena). Guys have this idea that when a girl is with a number of guys in a short time, she is damaged goods. That is very similar to how wrestling fans feel when a title belt is passed from one guy to the next in a short period of time. Recent months have seen Cena, Del Rio, and Punk all hold the title and raise complaints about the value of the title being diminished. Imagine what fans thought of WCW’s prom queens back in 2000.
Yes the belt is a prop, but it is not just any other prop. It is one of the most important props a wrestling promotion can use. It is not essential, but once incorporated, it becomes the prize at the top of the mountain that the entire roster is trying to win. The common mistake is that the viewer often forgets that the story being told in front of them is complete made up, thus the importance is also fictional. Inside the story, the championship belt is a work of art, a thing of beauty. Outside the story, it is a wired looking strap with some funky stuff glued on. It seems that when belt marks often find themselves getting worked into the story and cannot separate themselves, despite knowing that the story itself is not real. However, those who could really care less about the belts can sometimes lose sight of the story and fail to comprehend the importance that it has within the story.
A belt is a belt is a belt. However, we give meaning to certain objects based on their context. In wrestling, we give belts a certain meaning, but we must not forget that there has to be a balance found between story and reality in order to appreciate the importance, yet also not take it too seriously. There is a dialogue exchange in the film No Country for Old men in which the villain is talking to a gas station attendant about a coin, which the villain holds in high regard. The last chunk of their dialogue sums up a championship belt very well.
Anton Chigurh: “You stand to win everything. Call it.”
Gas Station Proprietor: “Alright. Heads then.”
[Chigurh removes his hand, revealing the coin is indeed heads]
Anton Chigurh: “Well done.”
[the gas station proprietor nervously takes the quarter with the small pile of change he’s apparently won while Chigurh starts out]
Anton Chigurh: “Don’t put it in your pocket, sir. Don’t put it in your pocket. It’s your lucky quarter.”
Gas Station Proprietor: “Where do you want me to put it?”
Anton Chigurh: “Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it’ll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.”