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#SGQ (8/25/16): The Candy Championships



This week, WWE revealed new championship belts as part of this New Era's brand split. Reactions to the new designs were, as always, pretty divided, and for good reason. Before we get into them one by one, let's sum it up: the good news is that yeah, they're pretty colorful. The bad news is, well, they're just color swaps. We'll get to that later.

Let's begin with the much-maligned first new championship, the WWE Universal title:


In theory, the belt doesn't look bad. The red leather strap looks dignified, complementing the gold and jewel-encrusted plating well. The swoosh at the bottom of the W is also turned black so that it doesn't get drowned in the red. For a palette swap, it's not a bad design.

Unfortunately, in real life, the belt looks like this:


In reality, it looks a little paler and brighter than the render above, and the gold is a little duller. Instead of a rich, red velvet-like texture to the leather, it looks more like candy—or, as Smark Henry columnist Maro Rimorin put it, tocino—and the candification of the championship makes it look like a cheap plastic replica. Maybe it's just the lighting, but the texture isn't really doing it any favors.

Here's a better close-up of the title:


We can't do much about it if they want to stick with this design, but maybe there's something that can be done about the texture and the kind of leather they go with. At this point, however, we're not sure if we want the WWE Championship to be turned blue to match this and the new SmackDown championships.

Perhaps the best way to solve the issue of color-matched branding for both titles was to just really run with only coloring the center plate, like so:


We wouldn't mind that as it would have been a more tasteful way of making the championships look obviously brand-specific.

Speaking of, here's the SmackDown Women's Championship:


Blue-on-white looks really, really good, and for some reason, it looks even better than red-on-white. Is it because it's cooler on the eyes? Perhaps. Also, it's the partial coloring in action, and it shows why you probably shouldn't make the whole thing too gaudy.

Here it is in real life:


For some reason, it suffers from the same texture problems the Universal Championship belt has, but it's minimized by having the rest of the strap be a respectable white.

The big winner of the palette swap contest, however, are the new SmackDown Tag Team Championships:


Look at that. They're already better than the old SmackDown-exclusive WWE Tag Team Championships.

The main problem with the new WWE Tag Team Championship designs when they were first debuted was that although the center plate's design looks really, really badass, the bronze/brass used drowned it out, made the belts look like pennies and, therefore, third-rate. Making the SmackDown tag titles silver-plated is a terrific take on the original design, even if it opens it up to jokes like these:


And the belts seem to have won out having the best colored strap, as the leather is a rich, deep blue that translates a lot better than the red on the Universal title and the blue on the Women's title. The centurion design also looks even more pronounced thanks to the silver plating, bringing out the original intention of the design better:


The embossed design on the leather straps between the center plate and the side plates, as well as the top and bottom borders, are a home run, too. It isn't even a feature on the original tag titles, which only have the laurel design at the top and bottom:

Bronze is a novel idea for a championship belt, really, but it just doesn't realistically translate well in a sport full of gold and silver. You're really just automatically conditioned to believe that they're not on the same level.

That said, the bigger problem with all these new designs is that they're not... really... new... designs. The current WWE Championship design was novel when it was first revealed, a welcome change from the ridiculous spinner belt, but to assign it to each division is ridiculous. 

One of the beautiful things about the original brand split is that each championship lent its unique design to the overall separate identity of the brand. You know, RAW was where the top stars played, and SmackDown was the scrappy, hungry home of the underdogs? When you saw the Big Gold Belt or the old round Intercontinental Championship, you knew it was strictly RAW (or SmackDown, depending on what era you're thinking of); when you look at the old Undisputed Championship and the United States Championship, you knew it was all SmackDown.

With these new titles, it's easier to distinguish which title belongs where, but only because the design has been so simplified. At this point, the only holdovers from the old era of title designs are the United States and Intercontinental Championships, and by default they already look the best because of how different they are. To homogenize them further by converting them to the current design principle would be to really give off the impression that WWE is being lazy and reaching for the lowest-hanging fruit. Worse, they make it look like RAW and SmackDown Live is all the same show, just with different colors. (And you already know by now that that's not even true.)

They've still got an opportunity for doing something out of the box with the upcoming Cruiserweight Championship. We don't care if it's going to be purple (after the Cruiserweight Classic's color scheme), we just don't want it to be another class ring. There's still time to change this, WWE.

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