After the 10lbs of Gold book came out, some people on the forums showed interest in a book about the Big Gold. Things didn’t work out, but as a community we put together a FAQ type deal about the belt. It seems to be the most recognizable belt in the history of wrestling, and there always seems to be questions about it.
During this time, another forum member (Teddy) 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 Charles 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 and 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 originally ordered the belt in late 1985/early 1986, on behalf of the NWA. The original concept artwork for the belt had the NWA letters featured prominently at the top. After hearing the quoted price, the NWA did chose not to purchase it. Nelson purchased it with no letters or logos and intended to use it for himself. Once Jim Crockett Jr. 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 can’t post it, the design did change drastically from start to finish.
(*The artwork picture was posted on the forum years back, but someone tried to bootleg it within weeks, so all of the pictures have been pulled)
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 cordovan strap in the early days, and a black strap in WCW. In the late 90′s, the person in charge of props for WCW, had the plates replated. This is why the belt went from looking 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 tank plated gold. 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:
The “Rick” was a typo, so it was only used briefly while a proper “Ric Flair” nameplate was made. Crumrine was sent back the “Rick Flair” nameplate and kept it. The “Ric Flair” nameplate is owned today by Dave Millican. I have no idea where the other nameplates ended up, but if they are original, they will have the Crumrine logo engraved on the back.
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 frequent business with Crumrine, as he had his own western buckle store on the side. He received a better price due to this frequent business. When people called Crumrine, regarding the price of having one made, they were frequently quoted $25,000+ as a way to deter them from purchasing one.
The jewels 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.
The Big Gold Belt in WCW
In 1999/2000 WCW had the original belt casted. Copies were made for Kevin Nash, DDP, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner and possibly 1 other person.
DDP had his personal copy, releathered by Dave Millican as seen above.
Jarrett wore his cast copy at Bash At The Beach 2000. That is the belt he lost to Hulk Hogan, that Hogan took home with him, and that Hogan claims is the original. (which it is not) Jeff would then lose the original Big Gold Belt, later that night to Booker T.
Where Is The Big Gold Belt Today?
In late 2000 while WCW champion, a few insiders have alleged that Scott Steiner swapped his cast copy out with the original. Many of us in the belt community believe this story is true and Steiner has the authentic Crumrine original at home, while WWE inherited his cast copy from the WCW buyout. This is one of those urban legends, that have many people curious. There has been many topics on the forum about it, which have included comparison pictures, insider information and other details about specific employees’ private belt collections. The only 100% way to know for sure, would to have someone check out the belts by hand, in person.
How Did We Learn So Much About It’s Origins?
As I mentioned earlier, most of this information came about when a forum member, started investigating having an exact copy made. Just about every belt maker has their own version of the belt. But Teddy wanted one, exactly like the original. 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 like the original today, would cost around $14,000 as it is all hand made. Unfortunately, after all the work Teddy did working with Crumrine, they have agreed to never replicate this belt again, in the traditional hand engraved style. To those interested in having a Big Gold belt as close to the original as possible, there is good news; An agreement was reached between all parties involved, and cast copies of the hand engraved belt are available for purchase through Dave Millican.
The Big Gold Belt in WWF
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 belt back. This was due to Flair and Bobby Heenan using the belt on WWF programming. WCW received the original Big Gold back after the lawsuit and Flair received his deposit back. In those days, the champion had to put a deposit on the belt for various reasons.
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 WWF tag team belt in place of the Big Gold. 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. Many people believe he is referring to the “Vegas” Big Gold belt, despite what many casual fans assume is the original Big Gold or original Domed Globe. 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 Big Gold Belt in WWE
After the WCW buyout, what many believe is a cast copy of the original belt, was used by WWE during the Invasion angle, leading up to the Undisputed Unification Championship. It is also believed the same belt was re-introduced by Eric Bischoff, and presented to Triple H as the “World Heavyweight Championship”, exclusive to the Raw brand. That belt was later replaced by a Big Gold belt featuring a WWE logo on the top.
The current Big Gold used on WWE 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.
If you are interested in more information about the Big Gold belt, join the forums and read the FAQ. There is a link to a huge thread dedicated to the belt!
Existing forum members can comment on the blog here.