As noted, the Tallahassee Police Department announced on Wednesday that the stolen AEW World Title belt had been recovered. It was said that a citizen found the belt on the side of the road and then turned it in to police HQ. AEW World Champion Chris Jericho had the belt allegedly stolen from him while eating dinner at a Longhorn Steakhouse on Sunday, just hours after he defeated Adam Page in the AEW All Out main event to become the inaugural champion. It was revealed on Wednesday that the title belt went missing at 5:30pm, but it took almost two hours for Jericho to report it stolen. The belt was valued at $29,100 and insured.
Jeffrey Burlew of The Tallahassee Democrat, who broke several details of the story on Wednesday, has a new article that reveals who found the title belt on the side of the road - 41 year old Frank Price of Tallahassee, who just happened to be celebrating his birthday on Sunday as well.
Frank, who works as the assistant director of the Florida Natural Areas Inventory at Florida State University and does not follow pro wrestling, was driving home with his wife Katie after a day of scalloping with friends in nearby Port St. Joe Bay. Frank joked that the belt was a present of sorts that he never asked for, or wanted.
"It's pretty comical," Price said to Burlew. "It's like the start for a great screenplay. This story could have gone in so many other funny directions. There are so many funny twists to it."
Frank and his wife were driving down Highway 20 on the edge of town when he spotted what appeared to be a velvet bag in the middle of a turning lane near Capital Circle Southwest. Frank said the bag was scuffed up and while they didn't look inside until they got home, he could tell there was something heavy in it. They finally opened the bag when they got home and Frank couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"I think I said something like, 'Whoa, it's a huge wrestling belt, check this thing out!' " Frank said. "I never would have guessed that if I had a lifetime of guesses."
Frank's wife then did a Google search on the belt and thought that it seemed to match the AEW World Title belt. They found knockoffs on eBay and couldn't believe that they had the real belt. This was before the internet was filled with stories on the stolen belt and how Jericho lost it. Frank and his wife figured the belt belonged to a kid or some other wrestling fan, guessing it was a replica or part of a costume, so they listed it under the Lost & Found section on the Craigslist Tallahassee forum. Their ad read like this:
"I found a pro wrestling championship belt on hwy 20 Sunday afternoon. Contact me with details and you can come get it."
Frank also texted photos of the belt to his brother and a friend. He started receiving replies to the Craigslist ad on Tuesday night, with some linking him to the Tallahassee Democrat article on the theft and the situation with Jericho. Price didn't see any of those replies until Wednesday morning and that's when he realized what they were in possession of. Frank called the Tallahassee Police Department on Wednesday morning and they told him to bring it in. He handed the belt over to an investigator in the lobby of police HQ, and answered a few questions about how he found it.
While at the police station, Frank ran into Mike Vaughn, owner of Mike's Limousine service, which had given Jericho the ride to Longhorn from the airport on Sunday after he returned from Chicago. Vaughn was planning to file an insurance claim for the missing belt, and was pleased it had been found. Vaughn was so relieved that he gave Frank a $200 reward.
TPD detectives called Frank later that day and said they needed to see him again to take a sworn statement. They were said to be slightly suspicious about the reward, and wondered if Price had called Vaughn to arrange their meeting at police HQ. Price assured the detective that the meeting was a coincidence and the reward was unplanned. Price has emails, text messages, receipts, witnesses and GPS date from his cellphone that backs his story up, and proves he was nowhere near the Million Air strip or Longhorn when the belt went missing. Police have not said if Price is under investigation for the theft, but he said he wouldn't be surprised if he was.
"I was joking that there would be investigators following me around," Price said. "I figure the best approach is to just tell the truth and have fun with the whole thing."
Price said he doesn't know how the belt ended up in the road, but he doubts it was ever stolen in the first place.
"I think what happened is they just set it on the trunk of the limo and it just fell off," he said. "The only other possibility is that it was part of a pro wrestling plot setup. They need all the publicity they can get."
As noted on Wednesday, no arrests have been made in the theft case and police are asking anyone with information to call them at (850) 891-4200 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS.
For those who missed it, Jericho posted this video on Wednesday of the belt back in his possession:
BREAKING NEWS! @AEWrestling champion #ChrisJericho recovers the #AEW title belt HIMSELF, in less than 24 hours!! Awaits much deserved THANK YOU from the entire AEW fan base & roster... #LeChampion #ALittleBitOfTheBubbly pic.twitter.com/6IsuiuCfIv— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) September 5, 2019