The Atari Championship Belt|
(But the Championship of What... Exactly?)
As many of you know, I do a lot in the world of entertainment (poorly) but the effort is there. I was a professional touring bass player for years. Also, I have been a movie maker, comedian, writer, actor, reality tv person, TV Ghost hunter, radio broadcaster, but what most people seem the most passionate about is my professional wrestling career. I never was close to being in the WWE, but my unique look, gaggle of Funkettes, and funny promos earned me some notoriety in the Southeast and Midwest. In April of 2021, me and my tag team partner Big Luke Walker went to Chicago for a private screening of our new horror/ comedy movie "The Hike." My partner took me to get a couple of beefs at Mickey's and I was ambushed. A couple of wrestling fans/friends of Big Luke's surprised me with this amazing gift:
But............ what the Hell is that?
The couple told me that this came from an "Atari World Championship" in 1986 in Chicago. The winner received $50,000 and this championship belt. The couple said they got a good deal on it, and gave it to me because they new I loved Atari. This was friggin' righteous and humbling, and I totally loved the gift... but my Spidey sense went off immediately. I didn't really care, this belt is cool as hell and the gesture was wonderful. But after owning it for 7 weeks or so, my curiosity about what it really is piqued again.
If you are unfamiliar, I was gifted a Professional Wrestling belt before that turned out to be quite profitable. At that point, it was Hulk Hogan's only missing Championship belt. The story of how I got that is pretty interesting and you can read about that here.
So, examining this thing again weeks later, here are the several things that strike me as odd about this belt:
*1986 - This was when Nintendo was really killing it in the home video game market, and Atari was asleep at the wheel; focusing a lot of their attention on computers. The Tramiels thought video games were dead. While the arcade division at Atari was doing just fine at this point, this seemed like an odd year to have a competition for $50,000 when the company was changing its focus after the video game crash of 1983.
*The Atari logo part on the belt seems almost hand painted and not laser cut. It does match the flyer for the '81 Chicago Championships, but it is a little off. If you look at the logo, the bottom of the "A" touches the blue stripe while the bottom of the "I" is off of that line by a about centimeter.
*The Asteroids graphic on the side plate is for the Atari 2600 version of the game and its off by around 270 degrees.
*Another side plate features custom art from Atariboy around the year 2003-2004. Its for Bob DeCrescenzo's famous homebrew Pac Man Collection, only for the Atari 7800, a system which was tepidly released in 1986.
*Alien Brigade is on a side plate. While I LOVE the Alien Brigade game, its cover and I'm glad its on the belt, it's for the Atari 7800 and the title was not released until 1990.
*Pro Wrestling Title Belts were not really made en masse for non wrestling sports in the 80s. You can win a Championship belt for almost anything these days: Hot Dog Eating contests, Video Game Tournaments, Fantasy Football League victories, etc... but back in the 80's this was really unheard of.
*It's in immaculate condition.
*I have found no beltmaker logos, trademarks, copyrights or insignias on the belt itself.
After doing some online research, I found out that there was a $50,000 Atari "World Championship" Tournament in Chicago that was an unmitigated disaster. It focused only on Centipede, featured on a side plate, but it was held 5 years earlier in 1981. It makes sense to me that this belt is probably not a legit prize for a major competition. But what is weird is that it seems like a complete conjuring, but for what purpose? Was it the product of someone's imagination? They thought it sounded plausible that it could of happened... so they made it in hopes to sell it to old people like us? Was it purely art? Was there a smaller tournament, like a local get together in a bar or arcade that this was based on? Did some guy beat three of his friends at Warlords and Kaboom in his mom's basement in 1986 and create this to haze his buddies 35 years later? It's like creating a fake Roller Derby championship for a team that never existed... WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE?
There is no mention of an 1986 Chicago Atari championship tournament anywhere online... but the origin of this trophy... or rather the reason behind its existence baffles me. In my best Robert Stack voice: "Can you help us solve this Unsolved Mystery?" If you know the story behind this thing, email me here and help a poor old man sleep at night. It seems like I have another mystery belt on my hands.