Tuesday, December 15, 2020

When the WLW TV Title Belt was worn as the NWA World Heavyweight Championship

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In a follow-up question regarding an upcoming review of my book Crown Jewel for the SLAM! Wrestling website, Jamie Hemmings (book editor for SlamWrestling.net) asked about a reference in the book to the old WLW TV title belt that NWA World Champion Dick Hutton occasionally wore as the world title belt during his championship reign 1957-1959.

"Greg [Mosojak] mentioned in his review that Dick Hutton wore the WLW TV title [belt]," Jamie wrote me. "I just wanted to check with you what WLW stood for? It's not a promotion I was familiar with."

For those reading this and not familiar with why an NWA World champion would be wearing a regional TV title belt as champion, I go into that in detail in the book. It's part of the story of the strange two- year period where the NWA had no title belt at all, which eventually led to the creation of the crown belt. That belt and its title history are the subject of the book.

WLW wasn’t a wrestling promotion. The initials were the call sign of a TV station in Columbus, OH that aired live wrestling in the early 1950s for Ohio promoter Al Haft.

Haft created the title in 1951 to be defended on his TV show and in his larger cities such as Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. The title was only around for about three years (1951-1954) but Haft kept the old belt in his office for years afterward. When Thesz kept possession of his NWA title belt after losing to Hutton in November of 1957 in Toronto, Hutton (and the NWA) were without a championship strap. Left to his own devices, Hutton borrowed the WLW TV belt from Haft just to have a title belt to carry to the ring with him. It isn’t clear if he asked for it or Haft suggested it. Regardless, it was a pretty sad situation of the barely 10-year old Alliance.

WLW-700 was the AM radio station in Columbus, and the first TV station there was WLW-C channel 3 in 1949 (later just WLWC, now WCMH.) Promoter Al Haft aired live wrestling from the WLW studios, and the WLW TV title was one of his main attractions, both on TV and at arenas.

Crown Jewel covers all of this and more in the fascinating story of the crown belt and the six NWA World Heavyweight Champions that wore it and defended it from 1959 to 1973. From Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, and Lou Thesz to Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk, Jr., and Harley Race - - some of the biggest names in the history of the sport held that belt. 

Crown Jewel is available now on Amazon.com. More information can be found in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Book Store.