Fun fact: in the normal world, belts serve a vital role. They keep our pants pulled up, lest the world gain visage to our undergarments, or perhaps more embarrassingly, our genitals and/or bottoms. Nobody wants that! Well, almost nobody. I don’t know your life.
However, in the wrestling world, belts mean something significantly more. They don’t keep your pants up, but they serve as a signifier of success. A gold ornament that will mean several different things to several different people. Hope, status, necessity, or pure dopamine.
Also, unlike real belts, championship belts usually piss people off because they don’t look a certain way. How dare you wear a belt that not only doesn’t keep your pants above your waist, but also have it be visually unappealing to me? Who the hell do you think you are?!
The belt we are talking about today, however, means more and more as time passes on this planet, the AEW World Championship.
Immediately solidifying the legacy for the big gold was who presented it: none other than a retired, legendary Hitman by the name of Bret Hart. Greeting him was a man who would go on a chase for the belt for two years at this point in Hangman Adam Page – hopeful and filled with confidence that he would win months later at All Out and become the first champion.
He did not do this.
Instead he lost this title opportunity to industry veteran Chris Jericho, who would famously proceed to celebrate with a little bit of the bubbly.
The former Ayotollah of Rock-n-Rolla’s reign put a spotlight on newcomers and younger competitors, such as Jungle Boy. Adding further to the importance of the championship, was the stipulation that Cody Rhodes would impose upon himself, that if he could not gain the title at Full Gear 2019, he could never challenge for it again. He did not win. And true to his word, has not pursued it since.
As the world entered the new decade, Jericho would lose the belt at Revolution to Jon Moxley, an antihero babyface that felt so close to the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Moxley, to us, a champion we could all believe in.
What occurred next was something I feel only Jon Moxley could have pulled off. With control ripped from the world as Covid-19 ran roughshod over the globe, Jon Moxley carried this belt and made each feud, each bout, worth all the pain and struggle that went without the cheers and adulation of jam-packed crowds.
Things could have gone down horribly for the company at any moment, but Moxley kept eyes on the product as fans would see him defend against the likes of Lance Archer, Brian Cage, MJF, Darby Allin, the late Mr. Brodie Lee, and most memorably, Eddie Kingston.
Jon held this title during uncertain times in Daily’s Place, while the world lived in danger and fear. His dedication proved that we all have something to fight for, that happiness can be found in even the darkest of times if one simply remembers to turn on the light. That light to me gives this gold a shine that can never be smudged.
Having done his job, Moxley would lose the belt to a newly confident Kenny Omega, with the help of Don Callis, on the Winter is Coming episode of AEW Dynamite on December 2, 2020. What followed the closing of Moxley’s door was an opening of another door that started a chain of other doors opening.
While WWE would make like Panic at the Disco!, wondering if anyone had ever heard of closing the goddamn door, Omega found himself winning the Impact and TNA belts in Impact Wrestling from Rich Swann, while still holding the AAA Mega Championship that he has held since 2019 along with the AEW World Championship.
Each run so far had its own aspects in its relatively short history that made them mean so much more. Jericho’s building of young talent with the name value to bring in outside fans familiar with his ECW, WWE, and WCW work. Jon Moxley with the tenacity, vigour and ability to sell a story in front of a small crowd on national TV during an unsettling period in world history. And Kenny Omega, bringing about the expanding interweaving connectivity of the wrestling world outside of the conglomerate WWE.
However, in light of the occurrence that took place in the main event of Full Gear 2021, the next big, fresh moment came to solidify the importance of the belt. Culminating a story over two years in the making, the cowboy that first failed to taste the gold got a whole meal out of it. His path there was destined, written in the star since AEW’s inception, fed to us not by glaringly large loaves of bread, but rather small crumbs of it. This was his story all along. And who better to strip the title off of Omega than his former friend and stablemate?
The story of the belt itself tells its own story, the chipping away of the old guard. From legend of the business that expanded his portfolio in Chris Jericho, to a former star from the sports entertainment company in Jon Moxley, to a reject from WWE that proved there was a bigger world outside of Titan Towers in Kenny Omega, to finally a man who found himself in this new promotion. A seed planted to grow into a tree, an origin story to start its own legacy. All told with a golden belt and the desire to hold it.
What next monumental feat and story could be told in the next title reign? Only time will tell.