Tuesday, July 16, 2019

NWA Title Art: The Red Velvet (Part 2)

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

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

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 two images in the Progression chart above show the two slightly different configurations of the red velvet belt, with and without the Jack Brisco nameplate. (Version 1)

NWA World Champion Jack Brisco
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. 

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 under 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 (as seen in PART ONE.)

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.)

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 PART THREE of NWA Title Art, we'll take a look at David Williams's detailed renditions of what the belt went through in the second version. The 1974-1976 period included dents in the globe and paint coming off the black side panels as Jack Brisco, Shohei "Giant" Baba, and Terry Funk defended it around the world.

PART ONE : Introduction & History of the Project
PART TWO: The Red Velvet
PART THREE: Black Leather and Dented Globe
PART FOUR: New Globe, Refurbished Plates
: The Final Version of a Classic