Championship Chumps

In one of my first articles, I created a diagram of the title structure in that time (May 2013), compared to that of a decade ago. Forward on a year or so, and this hierarchical diagram is still very much relevant and appropriate. Nowadays, WWE’s product is severely diminished due to the way championships are distributed and champions are portrayed. Back in the day, a championship belt made the man – which was a perfect ingredient to add to a concocted formula of creating a top-flight star. Today however, due to the degradation of title belts (being overshadowed and thrown on anyone), the trend of a man making a title belt relevant is starting to occur.

Let’s revisit CM Punk’s 434-day title reign last year. This was brilliant, as having the belt change so rarely revived its prestigious aura. It generated more anticipation as to who would hold it next, and it also boosted Punk and his career in more ways than one. This was a prime example of having the championship belt make the man – or making the man greater than he initially was. Aside from that instance, it’s difficult to think of an example of where this has happened in more recent times. In this current feud with John Cena and Brock Lesnar, it’s almost as if their rivalry is overshadowing the grand prize. This match would do just fine without the title at stake, but with it involved, it’s becoming an afterthought – especially after Cena got his a** so drastically handed to him at SummerSlam. A title belt should always be the primary factor that makes a match exciting, and should not be overshadowed by the combatants or story itself. It’s hard to think that this could ever be the case these days, and that’s because WWE’s portrayal of championship belts have made them irrelevant, which shouldn’t have happened in the first place!

It’s not just the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that’s been affected either – it’s safe to say that all of WWE’s belts have diminished in prestige and value. WWE could do several things to make their championship belts become more relevant to solve problems like the one above:

  • Join the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Yes, this’ll probably cause an uproar to life-long fans due to each belt’s prestigious history, but it would help create that one secondary title WWE have so desperately needed. The US Title alone does nothing for its wearer, so joining it with the IC Title – which has also lost its worthy reputation – seems like the logical move. Merging the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship belts was a step in the right direction, as we now have one ultimate champion and there is no longer a dispute over who the real champion is. However, as mentioned above, there is still more work to be done to make this belt the grand prize it once was.
  • Make the jointed IC/US champion have an actual goal of becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and pursue it. This shouldn’t be a title that collects dust around the waist of the holder, but more a stepping stone towards the next big goal – just like how it once was. The Rock and Chris Jericho are two examples of many who have won the IC Championship and gone on to win the ‘big one’. Look at the recent holders of this championship belt now. Kofi Kingston, Bad News Barrett, The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Big E Langston are to name a few. Excluding BNB due to his unfortunate injuries, what have the rest achieved since their IC Championship reigns? Let’s hope Dolph Ziggler’s history repeats itself, allowing his current reign as champion to lead onto bigger things for his career. Doing this would also make the WWE World Heavyweight Championship seem that much more of a worthy possession, and so this would lead to more stars involving themselves in title-related story-lines.
  • Stop showing title matches in pre shows and less-than-mid-card matches! This seriously degrades the value of the title at stake, let alone match itself. How can we feel any respect for a championship/champion if they’re competing in matches that don’t even make any slots on live television? It’s like WWE are telling us where their priorities lie, having story-line-driven matches take up live slots over title matches.
  • Edge & Christian, The Hardys, and The Dudley Boyz had one of WWE’s most heated rivalries over the tag-team titles.

    Make each division more about the belt. The tag-team division is a very confusing one. Yes, you have your tag-team champions, but then you have teams consisting of two random Superstars put together competing for it. Tag-team title defences don’t come too often either, and should happen on a more frequent basis and be the focal point of tag-team rivalries. Establishing more concrete tag-teams would also make a difference, making the belts seem more of a serious prize that the roster strives to acquire. Hopefully the newly-crowned champions Goldust and Stardust can be the ignition of this process. Much of the same could be said with the Diva’s division, although AJ Lee and Paige are greatly aiding its resurrection.

  • Back in the day, if a championship belt was involved, it was the ignition of a feud or rivalry. As mentioned earlier, the belt nowadays is thrown in as some sort of ‘bonus prize’, with it being overshadowed by the rivalry itself. WWE should ensure that story-lines involving complex plots, ‘edgy’ content, and extremely personal rivalries should exist outside title matches. This would allow for exciting title-less matches to occur, increasing the strength of the overall show/pay-per-view. You’re probably thinking, “Won’t we just be left with boring and meaningless title matches?” If WWE played their cards right, they could still generate intense rivalries that are all about the title belt, without making it so personal that it overshadows the treasure at hand.
  • Create a couple of other divisions so that all Superstars have a goal to strive for. At the moment, WWE have a lot of talent that are championship material, but are floating about aimlessly and are wasted on pointless story-lines or over-ambitious title matches that everyone knows they’re not going to win. If divisions such as the Hardcore and Cruiserweight divisions made a return, we’d have more Superstars with an achievable goal in hand, giving championship belts on the whole more recognition and value. It would also lead to some extremely entertaining segments – who didn’t like the 24/7 Hardcore Championship rule back in the day?!

    The Hardcore Championship could change hands anywhere at anytime.

  • The final (and most obvious) suggestion would be to have titles belts change less frequently. As explained earlier, having title changes occur so rarely would increase the belts’ value as a prized possession, making the WWE Universe become more anticipated as to who will hold each title next. It also does wonders for providing a boost in momentum for a built-up star.

These are just a handful of thoughts and ideas of how WWE could regain their titles’ prestigious value back. With these values restored, WWE can achieve the perfect combination of story-line and championship-driven content, ensuring that every match in a weekly show or PPV has some relevant meaning. This would lead to more interesting matches, keeping everyone watching more engaged.

What are your thoughts? Are you happy with the way things are going right now, or do you agree that WWE title belts have lost their aura due to their de-prioritisation? Let us know in the comment section, and please share!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

WWE condensed: The good, the bad, and the ugly…

An overview of the WWE’s current state. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and share!

The breakup of the ‘Prime Time Players’…

The good:

  • Titus O’Neil has finally been given the chance to spread his wings and show how great of a singles competitor he can be. He’s charismatic, a powerhouse in the ring, and has a great physique. He also makes for a great heel.

The bad:

  • Not that the WWE were doing much with it, but the breakup of PTP further weakens WWE’s current Tag-Team division.
  • Darren Young is talented, but it is uncertain whether he can go it alone. Without big Titus by his side, he’s going to have to do everything on his own, even fend for himself when he fails at a cheap pop by getting the city’s name wrong.

The ugly:

  • Darren Young’s face when he doesn’t appear on live television as often as he’d like to. Will he end up being another JTG?

Keeping ‘The Show-Off’ off the show…

The good:

  • Nothing. Maybe avoiding concussions, but that’s harsh…

The bad:

  • Dolph Ziggler is an exceptional talent. He’s athletic, a great seller, and can cut
    above-average promos. He’s collecting dust in the locker room and is being under-utilised. He’s here to show he world, but when the hell will WWE give him a push that lasts longer than a month?
  • Having Ziggler off live television allows for extremely pointless and boring matches to take place, consisting of the likes of Fandango, Santino Marella, and Zack Ryder. In a lengthy three-hour show, this is a recipe for disaster.

The ugly:

  • Just like the ‘YES!’ chants, the ‘WE WANT ZIGGLER’ chants are starting to creep into other segments, which can be viewed as disrespectful to the Superstars currently performing.

Swinging for the fences…

The good:

  • With incredible feats of strength, Antonio Cesaro has been one of the most exciting Superstars over the past couple of months.
  • He’s one of few Superstars who have broken the mould of using his foreign origin as a gimmick. Not only that, but he’s done the complete opposite – joined the ‘Real Americans’!

The bad:

  • Poor Jack Swagger can only watch in envy as Cesaro continues to shine. There have been hints of the ‘Real Americans’ splitting up, and this could not only spell a downfall for Swagger’s career, but for the Tag-Team division also.

The ugly:

  • If Cesaro branches out on his own, it would be a shame to leave Zeb Colter in his tracks. Zeb is a phenomenal talker, capable of drawing a lot of ‘heat’ while being entertaining at the same time.

#BNB…

The good:

  • After John Cena, this segment seems to be WWE’s predominant Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. Either way, it’s doing its job, being entertaining and/or drawing heat for one Wade Barrett.
  • Regardless of Barrett’s reasons for not being in the ring, the #BNB segment is at least keeping him somewhat relevant.

The bad:

  • Barrett needs to be in the ring. He is a top performer, and actually presents a threat to his opposition. He is worthy enough to form a believable rivalry with a number of top-flight baby-faces. Of course, it is unclear as to whether he is healthy enough to compete or not.

The ugly:

  • His husky voice when he utters the words “WELL I’M AFRAID I’VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS…”, although this just adds to the beauty of the segment.

Sierra, Hotel, Indigo, Echo, Lima, Delta…REIGNS.

The good:

  • We are getting an insight into the depths of each member’s character.
  • They are being pushed, and in the right way.
  • They are putting on incredible matches on an almost weekly basis.

The bad:

  • While Roman Reigns seems like the man of the moment, he is being pushed far too much. We’re forgetting who the real ‘leader’ of the group is, and small things such as having Reigns stand in the middle of The Shield when confronting The Wyatt Family can get frustrating.
  • Seth Rollins – arguably the best performer within the group – is being overshadowed by Reigns and Ambrose’s ongoing rivalry.
  • With the ongoing story-line of The Shield cooperating as an incohesive unit, the United States Championship belt is becoming even more irrelevant around the waist of Dean Ambrose.

The ugly:

  • It’s been suggested that Reigns could become the next face of the company in the future. This could be done well, providing WWE do not brand him as the next heir to Cena’s Superman throne, which can be seen being done already.

The ‘best’ takes his ball and goes home…

The good:

  • CM Punk will get his well-deserved rest.
  • His departure will allow for more Superstars to fill top-spots in story-lines and matches.

The bad:

  • His selfish act has impacted other Superstars such as Sheamus, who was set to have a match with Daniel Bryan at this year’s WrestleMania XXX. Bryan is now set to square off against ‘The Game’ Triple H, leaving Sheamus in a rather pointless match with ‘Captain Charisma’, Christian. Hey, at least Christian’s getting one more match.
  • Fans are distorting segments with ‘CM PUNK’ chants, being ignorant to the pure fact that Punk himself cost these paying fans the chance to see him. It’s not WWE who got rid of him, remember that.

The ugly:

  • The crowd’s reaction if and when CM Punk returns. They may go crazy, or they may be hostile and boo him rotten.

The ‘YES!’ movement…

The good:

  • His rise to stardom is guaranteeing a quality match every show. He’s put the ‘W’ back in WWE – we’re seeing actual WRESTLING!
  • The fans’ interruptive ‘YES!’ chants have simmered down during other segments because they’re getting what they want.
  • The typical mould for a main event player has been broken – Daniel Bryan has proven that the system can be beat.

The bad:

  • Not everyone loves Daniel Bryan. It feels as if WWE have succumbed to the pressure of making him close every show.
  • While Daniel Bryan is one of the all-time greats as an in-ring technician, his character is actually quite stale. His push has obviously led to more promos, which can get boring and bland.
  • The ‘YES!’ chant is an easy and fun chant, which encourage fans who don’t necessarily love Daniel Bryan to join in and jump on the bandwagon.

The ugly:

  • His beard.

Top-end players…

The good:

  • Cena’s out of the title-run, and has a one-on-one match with Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania – which is a huge boost for the Wyatt leader’s already flourishing career.
  • Undertaker and Lesnar go head-to-head at WrestleMania, a match that should prove to be exciting to those who think otherwise.

The bad:

  • Every WWE fan is wondering when ‘The Deadman’s’ last WrestleMania will be, and if it’s this one, many will be disappointed that he didn’t go out against a someone more fitting.
  • The ‘eater of souls’, Bray Wyatt is in the limelight against John Cena at ‘Mania. It’s a shame that Eric Rowan and Luke Harper don’t have more of a role, although they’ll probably play some part in the match one way or another.

The ugly:

  • Orton and Batista’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at ‘Mania spells trouble. ‘The Viper’ is undeniably a gifted performer, but his character has grown stale and nobody cares for him anymore. Along comes big Dave in his shining armour, only to be boo’d out of every arena. WWE have now turned ‘The Animal’ from face to heel, which should allow him to absorb the jeers more gracefully. However, we now have a heel vs heel title match, and the only cheers generated from this match will come from the joyous feeling of each combatant being torn apart. WWE cannot simply close WrestleMania XXX with a match of these characteristics. Then again, it’s wrong to close the show with a match that isn’t for the grand prize on the grandest stage of them all. Unless they turn Orton face and hope for the best…

Some extra points…

  • ‘The Usos’ need to keep doing what they’re doing. It’s a shame we’ve already seen them vs. ‘The New Age Outlaws’, a match that could have been a spectacle at WrestleMania XXX for the WWE Tag-Team Championships.
  • Despite his match interruptions and  backstage yelling, The Miz still hasn’t been relevant on television at the slightest. It’s still hard to believe that he headlined WrestleMania XXVII against John Cena and retained the title.
  • It’s quite frustrating to see ‘The Brotherhood’ – Cody Rhodes and Goldust – on pre-shows and not even competing for gold anymore. They were on fire just a couple of months ago, and should be well within the mix of the hunt for the Tag-Team Championship belts.
  • The Diva’s division needs some help, and fast. AJ Lee needs to drop another pipe-bomb!

To conclude…

Overall, it is clear that WWE have a bit of work to do leading up to WrestleMania XXX. Whilst they’ve got some things right, they need to spend the remaining weeks tidying up their story-lines and prioritising their talent accordingly.

Once again, whether you agree or disagree on some if not all of these views, leave a comment, share, and follow if you haven’t already done so!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended. 

Mid-carder for life?

Cody Rhodes & Kofi Kingston - will they ever be given a push?It’s tough to define the term ‘mid-carder’ in the modern world of professional wrestling. Historically, mid-carders are second-tier performers who wrestle in the middle of programmes, usually competing for the secondary title of the company. Mid-carders often tend to eventually secure a spot in the top-flight division, and end up creating a legacy of their own that cements itself in the history of the business.

Take The Rock and Chris Jericho for example. Both were destined for glory when entering the WWE (WWF at the time), as Rock was a third-generation wrestler and Y2J came into the organisation as an already-established star from the WCW. Both went on to become Intercontinental Champion – the ultimate prize for mid-carders – which then sky-rocketed their careers into the top tier, leading to them both becoming WWE Champions. But as the years of the industry’s existence have increased, so too have the number of ‘smart marks’ (wrestling fans who are aware of how the industry works and what occurs behind the scenes), meaning the term ‘mid-carder’ is being seen in a whole new light.

As previously stated, mid-carders were seen as promising Superstars who would one day climb the ladder to greatness and belong in the upper-echelon of the current roster. Nowadays, it’s a completely different story. Mid-carders are simply seen as ‘gap-fillers’, and are even used to ‘job’ to a current upper-tier Superstar just to promote them further for their upcoming match in the next pay-per-view. The athletic and talented Kofi Kingston, and third-generation Superstar Cody Rhodes, are just a couple of examples. However, their lack of success can be attributed to a number of factors.

The decline of the World Heavyweight Championship would be an ideal place to start. This prestigious belt (once the title of titles of the WCW) has been held by some of the greatest competitors to have ever stepped foot in the squared circle. Possessors of this title include Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Undertaker, The Rock, and many more established names that have graced the business. When the WWE acquired WCW, the belt’s degree of reputation and importance was gracefully maintained, if not heightened. Deserved names were given the belt, and so there were two ultimate prized possessions that the roster would strive to achieve.

Dolph Ziggler becomes World Heavyweight Champion after cashing-in his 'Money in the Bank' briefcase.

Dolph Ziggler cashes-in for the gold – but is he quite ‘the man’?

However, as the years have rolled on, the belt’s relevancy has decreased, and so the second-tier – the main habitat for mid-carders – has also become the nesting ground for Superstars competing for the World Heavyweight Championship. This has made current mid-carder wrestlers even more unlikely to excel, meaning that any progression of one day becoming ‘the man’ is at best limited. The belt’s aura has also diminished, as it is carelessly thrown around from Superstar to Superstar. In the past, title reigns lasted for quite some time, which made the belt appear to be a worthy prize to possess and so too made the holder of the belt the current alpha-male.

Speaking of belts being thrown on Superstars, the ‘Money in the Bank’ briefcase should not be a forgotten factor. With the exception of Edge, most wrestlers who have won the WWE/World Heavyweight Championship by ‘cashing-in’ haven’t exactly had an awe-inspiring or memorable reign as champion. Think about Dolph Ziggler’s first reign, as well as the title runs of Jack Swagger, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and most recently, Alberto Del Rio. These rising stars were given the ball to run with, but they never quite made it to the finish line at the time. They all held the belt, but were they ever branded and marketed as top-flight competitors?

Currently, Ziggler holds the belt for the second time in his career, whilst jobbing to anyone he encounters on an almost weekly basis. Is this an indication that despite what belt is thrown on a deserved Superstar belonging to this echelon, they’ll never quite make it to John Cena’s or CM Punk’s level? Do new and future Superstars have to acquire traits or do something at the extreme end of the scale – such as possessing Ryback’s pure size or cutting a highly controversial promo like CM Punk – just to fit into the main-event mould, despite already being exceptionally talented both in the ring and on the microphone?

Another factor to consider would be the demise of tag-teams and the removal of the Hardcore division. Like the Intercontinental division, the Tag-Team and Hardcore divisions showcased matches that people were equally as excited for as the main event. These matches produced some memorable and creative content to say the least, such as the TLC match at WrestleMania 17. But what’s important here is not just the content of the matches, but the Superstars that these matches produced. Edge and Jeff Hardy, both one-half of established tag-teams, were participants of the match just mentioned, whom went on to lead successful careers as single competitors, acquiring both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships. It could be said that the decline/removal of these divisions mean there are less opportunities for mid-carders to showcase what they have to perform in the upper-tier.

Past and present hierarchical title/division structure

Has the difference in title/division structure impacted the output of flourishing stars?

Let’s face it, the Tag-Team Championships have lost their relevancy, and no-one really cares as to who the next tag-team champions will be. The lack of pure tag-teams have lead to an influx of mid-carders floating around and ending up in pointless tag-teams, such as Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. This heightens the chances of mid-carders such as these forever remaining in this category of wrestlers. On the subject of today’s meaningless titles, let’s not even dare delve into the subject of the United States Championship, a title that really doesn’t do the holder any justice in establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Take Antonio Cesaro in this instance. What has his reign as US Champion really done for him? He’s a great all-round competitor in the ring, but it seems as though he has been stuck in square one – he never went back to it from a heightened position. Let’s hope current US Champion Dean Ambrose can restore some dignity and prestige to the title belt (which, by the way, he defeated Kofi Kingston for).

All in all, it is clear to see that the landscape of the WWE today has dramatically changed in structure compared to the early 2000s and beyond, which has both directly and indirectly affected the outlook of mid-card wrestlers. WWE have many options to help stabilise the mid-card group, which would lead to the term ‘mid-card’ being perceived as a positive place to be once again. The options include making the Tag-Team division relevant yet again (which would, in-turn, lead to a further influx of noticeable mid-carders who are worthy for a push in the upper-echelon), pushing the Superstar who holds the World Heavyweight Championship as much as the holder of the WWE Championship – letting pure mid-carders shine in the second-tier again – and just generally giving mid-card performers more opportunities to be pushed (both with and without title belts), rather than focusing all storyline attention on the higher cluster of Superstars.

Do you agree with these views? Have your say by commenting below!

Please note that these images are each owned by their respective owners, I do not own any of them. No copyright infringement is intended.