THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: The History & Popularity of Mattel’s WWE Toy Belts (with Historical Title Change Graphic)
Aug 19, 2015 - 3:20:45 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
It’s a question that’s been asked in wrestling for decades: does the belt make the man, or does the man make the belt? When it comes to Mattel’s WWE Elite action figure line, it’s almost always the belt making the man.
Collectors are often just as enthralled - if not more so - with the accessories that accompany a new Elite-style action figure. This is especially true of title belts, which feature glossy painted plates and snaps in the backs. Mattel’s belts are almost universally more popular than the lower quality WWE title belts that Jakks Pacific produced from 1996 to 2009.
Mattel was initially somewhat slow in releasing toy title belts for its WWE action figure line, which debuted in 2010. The first belts were special chase belts that were serial numbered to 1,000 and randomly packaged with figures in cases of basic WWE action figures. These belts didn’t resemble actual WWE title belts in anyway, and looked just like a big circular medallion that featured serial numbering and the accompanying wrestler’s name.
The first Mattel WWE title belts were packaged with basic and Flex Force figures. These belts featured dull, single-color plates on plastic straps. It wasn’t until the more expensive Legends and Defining Moments figures were introduced in mid-2011 that Mattel began including the highly detailed, glossy painted belts that collectors love today.
Since then Mattel has made more than 30 different title belts packaged with more than 80 different figures. Mattel has produced title belts of almost every WWE title past and present, from the classic Intercontinental Title to Zack Ryder’s Internet Title to the current WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
3B’s Toy Hive does a phenomenal job of cataloguing and photographing wrestling action figures and other toys. To see images of Mattel’s toy WWE belts, check out This Link.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWE’s top prize has undergone numerous cosmetic changes since it was first introduced in the 1960s, and Mattel has captured many of those looks. The earliest design of the belt available is based on the belt Hulk Hogan carried throughout most of his run from 1984 to 1988. This belt has only been included with Hogan’s Defining Moments figure, which was released earlier this year. This particular figure was very plentiful, but if you’re looking to get one, check your local retail stores soon. Many Walmart stores are selling these figures at discounted prices, and several readers have reported their local Target stores have begun pulling Hogan’s merchandise from their shelves.
The classic winged eagle WWF Title belt that was prominent for most of the 1990s has been included with figures of Andre the Giant, Bret Hart, Diesel and Randy Savage. Mattel made two Ultimate Warrior versions of this belt, one with a yellow strap (Legends Series 6) and another with a light blue strap (Target-exclusive Hall of Fame Series 1). A Ringside Collectibles exclusive Steve Austin figure came packaged with both the Attitude Era and Smoking Skull versions of the WWF Title. The early-2000s WWE Title (also called the Undisputed Title) was included with figures of Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar.
Multiple versions of the WWE Title spinner belt, both glossy and dull, have been packaged with figures of John Cena, CM Punk, Sheamus, The Miz, and Alberto Del Rio. An exclusive Rated R version of the spinner belt was included with a Ringside Collectibles exclusive version of Edge.
Mattel included the WWE Title belt that was awarded to the Rock in 2013 with four different figures: the Rock, John Cenaand two different Daniel Bryan figures (Elite 28 and Toys R Us Exclusive Best of Pay-Per-View Series 4). The revamped version, which features the newer WWE logo, was recently released with Brock Lesnar (Elite Series 37) and last month Mattel revealed photos of a Toys R Us exclusive Seth Rollins figure that will also come with the belt.
The Big Gold Belt
This belt is most often associated with Ric Flair or the Smackdown brand, depending on your age. Mattel has included this belt with at least nine different figures: Flair, Daniel Bryan, Kane, Dolph Ziggler (two different), Mark Henry, Sheamus, Big Show, and Alberto Del Rio. A spray-painted NWO version of the belt was packaged with the rare Kevin Nash figure in Elite Series 16.
As mentioned in a July PWTorch Collectibles Column, Mattel has made nearly 400 Elite-style figures, but only seven of those have been women. To go with those figures, Mattel has made belts of the Divas Championship (Kelly Kelly Elite 17 and Paige Elite 34), NXT Women’s Championship (Paige Elite 34), and WWE Women’s Championship (two different Trish Stratus figures).
The Intercontinental Title has also changed looks over the years, and Mattel has produces toy belts of many of those styles, from the classic 1980s and 1990s belt (Mr. Perfect Legends Series 3) all the way through the current white-strapped version (Christian, Wade Barrett, Curtis Axel, and Big E.). The U.S. Title belt has been included with figures of Miz, Bryan, Cesaro, and Dean Ambrose, and Mattel made a spinner version that was included with a Cena Defining Moments figure.
Other belts have included multiple versions of the WWE tag titles, the ECW World Title (WWE version), Cruiserweight Championship, European Championship, Hardcore Championship, Million Dollar Title, and Internet Championship.
Jakks was guilty of really overdoing it with title belts, at times seemingly packaging a belt with every figure. But Mattel has taken a more conservative approach, packaging both glossy and dull versions of belts with wrestlers who are most closely associated with them.
WWE has really cut back on the number of times a title changes hands (see the graphic included with this column). At least for now, the days of every semi main eventer getting a run with the Smackdown-specific title seem to be over.
Hopefully that will mean new belts for collectors of action figures. Older collectors have long been clamoring for a Bruno Sammartino-era WWWF Title belt, and the AWA World Title was one of the coolest looking belts of its time, especially in later years. Belts like these would certainly drive demand for whichever figures were sold with them.
PWTorch Collectibles specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
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