FTW Championship: Surprising History of an Outlaw Title

The secret behind the storied “outlaw” FTW Championship may surprise many, as it has an unexpected story to tell!

The legacy of ECW lives on with the FTW Championship.
The legacy of ECW lives on with the FTW Championship.

“Everybody knows that there’s no way a f*** from Pittsburgh can beat up a man from Brooklyn. So what I got right here, I am the world champion, and I have the proof. You can call it the Brooklyn Title or the F*** The World Belt!”

— Taz during the unveiling of the FTW Championship at ECW’s “It Ain’t Seinfeld.”

ECW Lives on With the FTW Championship

On May 14th, 1998, Taz introduced the ECW fanbase with what would be known as the FTW Championship (also referred to as the Brooklyn World Championship). It was created after months of frustration as then ECW World Champion Shane Douglas refused to give him a shot at the title. Injuries would also hinder Douglas from facing Taz at the time.

The letters FTW manifested that frustration, meaning: “F*** The World.”

This FTW Championship was a customized version of the ECW Television Championship, consisting of an orange strap instead of black, and stickers of Taz’s name covered all over the TV title labels.

The original FTW Championship belt used in ECW had an orange strap instead of black.
The original FTW Championship belt used in ECW. [Photo: wrestlingnewsworld.com]
According to Taz, the title was a way to symbolize the rebellious nature of the ECW fanbase, which accepted Taz as the top star of the promotion and wanted to see him as the world champion instead of the highly protected Douglas.

“[The] FTW Championship has always been renegade, anti-establishment, and unconventional,” wrote Taz in an October 2020 tweet. “That has never changed, and that will never change.”

Upon the title’s arrival in ECW, it was made clear that it was a championship that the management had not officially sanctioned. Instead, it was a prize legitimized by the fans.

A few months after the belt’s debut, it went through its first and only design change to date. To persuade Taz to team up with Rob Van Dam and Sabu against Shane Douglas and The Triple Threat, Bill Alfonso presented him with a new and original version of the title.

This new belt had a black strap and gold and orange-themed plates with the term “FTW’ right in the center. The belt also had the “TAZ” logo imprinted on it.

Taz with a slightly amended version of the FTW Championship in ECW. [Original photographer: George Tahinos (@georgetahinos / georgetahinos.smugmug.com)]
Taz with a slightly amended version of the FTW Championship in ECW. [Original photographer: George Tahinos (@georgetahinos / georgetahinos.smugmug.com)]

Defending the FTW Championship

During his first reign with the FTW Championship, Taz’s only defense came at ECW Heat Wave 1999, where he defeated Big Bam Bigelow via submission to retain the gold. This bout is regarded by many as one of the last great matches of Bigelow’s career.

On December 19th, 1998, Taz would go on to have his second defense, with the human suplex machine facing Sabu and Justin Credible in a three-way bout that saw Sabu coming out victorious.

In reality, the story is not as simple as it sounds.

By this point, Taz’s ECW World Championship match against Shane Douglas had been scheduled. However, before their confrontation, Taz was so sure about winning the world title that he felt he did not need the unrecognized belt anymore. Hence, he purposely pulled an unconscious Sabu over him and helped Sabu obtain the victory.

Speaking on The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD documentary, Taz revealed how the new champion was legitimately not pleased that the title plates had Taz’s name engraved. This led to Sabu covering the Taz logos with athletic tape and scrawling his name over them with permanent marker.

Sabu in ECW with his name taped over Taz's on the FTW Championship.
Sabu in ECW with his name taped over Taz’s on the FTW Championship.

Sabu’s time with the renegade FTW Championship did not last long. Feeling that the newly crowned ECW World Champion Taz had been ducking him, this led to their title unification bout on February 6th, 1999, which ended in a 30-minute time-limit draw.

Taz and Sabu would meet again at ECW Living Dangerously 1999, where Taz defeated Sabu in nineteen minutes, unifying the FTW Championship with the ECW World Title.

Unfortunately, this was the last time the FTW Championship appeared on an ECW show.

Tazz vs. Sabu in an ECW and FTW Championship Unification Match at Living Dangerously 1999.
Tazz vs. Sabu in an ECW and FTW Championship Unification Match at Living Dangerously 1999. [Photo: WWE.com]

An Outlaw Championship is Reborn in AEW

The FTW Championship was briefly seen in Xtreme Pro Wrestling in November 2002 when Chris Chetti declared himself the champion before losing the title to Danny Doring, who once again unified it with the promotion’s world title. However, these defenses are not considered a part of the title’s lineage.

The championship would then stay retired for almost two decades to follow. However, this changed on Night 2 of All Elite Wrestling’s Fyter Fest Dynamite special on July 2nd, 2020, where Taz brought the FTW Championship back and awarded it to his client Brian Cage.

The real reason for this was that the AEW World Champion Jon Moxley could not defend the title the week before against Cage as he was self-quarantining after his wife Renee Paquette had tested positive during the pandemic.

This mirrored the circumstances behind the title’s inception twenty-two years before, with Shane Douglas missing matches against Taz due to his absence from the ring from injury.

Brian Cage (alongside Taz) with the FTW Championship in AEW.
Brian Cage (alongside Taz) with the FTW Championship in AEW. [Photo: All Elite Wrestling]
PWInsider revealed that Taz owns the trademark to both the FTW Championship and its related logos, allowing him to do as he wishes with the design, thus allowing him to bring his ECW legacy to his new home in professional wrestling.

Brian Cage had multiple defenses across various AEW programming before dropping the FTW Championship to stablemate Ricky Starks at the July 2021 iteration of AEW Fyter Fest.

A year later, Starks lost the title to his Team Taz faction mate and Taz’s real-life son, HOOK, in what seems like the poetic home for the championship.

The FTW Championship has had an on and off again checkered history. Only time will tell what the future will be for this orange, gold, and black beauty held by some of the greatest in the game.

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Aarij Arifeen is a lifelong wrestling fan with a great interest in related literature. He is a moderator for r/AEWOfficial on Reddit, has had bylines on TheSportster.com, and resides in Karachi, Pakistan. He can be reached on Twitter at @itsAAA_Ridge.