Mostly associated with Nick Bockwinkel, this belt was also held by Verne Gagne, Otto Wanz, Jumbo Tsuruta, Rick Martel, and Stan Hansen.
(replica by Dave Millican)
Coined "The Inmate Belt" because it was made at Denver Penitentiary in 1973 by actual inmates incarcerated there. It's big, and gaudy and I love it, lol.
This belt replaced the belt Gagne had been using as champion in 1974 I believe, and was used until 1986 when Bockwinkel was awarded the title after Stan Hansen was stripped for no showing a title defense against Bockwinkel.
The reason a new belt had to be made for Bockwinkel was that Hansen had taken the Inmate to Japan with him. When Gagne threatened legal action against him to have the belt returned, Hansen ran it over with his pick up truck and mailed it back. The Inmate was replaced by a version incorporating old artwork from Gagnes original belt and new artwork. Many call this the Lawler belt, but it also goes by the Hennig belt or the Zybyszko belt depending on the leather cut and various different details.
You can tell in the picture of Hansen with the Inmate that he had already beaten it up some.
Aside from the fact that it was made by inmates, there are some other unique features on the belt. For one, the stacked plates. It was fairly new to have a plate, and then a "relief plate" attached over it at the time. Also, the belt closed with velcro rather than snaps.
One of my all time favorite designs. Bockwinkel was given the belt when it was returned to Gagne and he had it restored as best it could be, and he still takes it to fan conventions to this day. Supposedly he had a hole put in the strap and chains the belt to the table so no one will steal it.
I loved Stan Hansen. I thought he was the best big tough guy of the bunch back in the late 70's and through the 80's, with the exception of Bruiser Brody. The guy was great. But I never understood the way they booked him in the AWA. He won the title from Martel with a submission from a Boston Crab, which tainted the reign of Martel to most. Don't know why they needed the belt off Martel at the time, or why Hansen was chosen to do it.
This was his first run there since the 70's and no build up or nothing, he's your new champion. I don't think the fans knew what to make of him there. He'd come out with his bullrope and swinging the belt everywhere. These folks were used to the Gagnes, Martel and Bockwinkel. This guy was a brute. And stiff as hell even on TV, lol.
I loved watching it, but you could tell that crowd wasn't getting it. And then, just like that he bolts with the belt. Was really strange.
They couldn't have picked a better belt to replace the Inmate with, IMO. I have a replica of the belt they replaced it with, and it's one of the best Figs ever made. Cast plates that are 4MM thick. The strap sucks, but, that's par for the course with a Figs.
Thanks. Figures Inc. got it right with this one. They just released the new IC replica belt, and it's the same way, 4MM thick cast plates, and tremendous detail on the plates unlike the shallow stamped plates on the older Figs replics.
Again, from what I heard the strap still sucks, but several people do re-leathering now, so if the AWA or this new IC were re-leathered, even a belt expert would have to examine it to tell it wasn't made by Dave Millican.
Just being Hansen. I've just very recently heard Baba paid for Hansen's title run, so Hansen could bring the belt to Japan for some defenses on Baba's shows. I guess when Hansen no showed the defense against Bockwinkel in the states, that pissed Verne off and he wanted his belt back. Hansen felt like Verne was slighting Baba, by not allowing him to make the scheduled defenses in Japan. And, I think at that point in his career, Hansen was pretty loyal to Baba and liked him a lot. So I guess he figured, sure you can have your belt back, after I run it over, lol. Word is when Verne got it back, he was so disgusted he threw it in the trash. Bockwinkel went and got it, which is how he gained personal possession of it.
I don't blame him for that either, Hansen has said his checks in Japan were triple what he could make in the states at the time, and the Japanese fans loved him. For as timid as they seemed to be, the wrestling fans there loved the big, out of control Americans like Hansen and Brody. Running over the belt seemed a little excessive, but I guess Hansen was making the point that he knew where the money was and I don't need you or your belt.
Hansen probably had a chuckle at the AWA folding in 91.
Post by "The Show" Jordan Richards on Jan 28, 2013 11:01:37 GMT -5
The story goes that Hansen was in Denver to defend the title against Bockwinkel. When Verne told him he was going to drop the strap, Hansen called Baba. Baba told him not to drop the title because he had him booked for defenses in Japan, so Hansen bolted the arena. After Gagne threatened to sue, Hansen ran over the belt with his pick-up truck and Fed Ex'ed it back with muddy tire prints still on it. It's said that Hansen felt bad about the gesture later in life. BTW, that's the first time I have seen the pics of the attorney with the damaged title. All the jewels were popped out after Hansen ran over that thing! He turned it concave!!