WWE: Return to glory [Part III]
by, 08-13-2011 at 11:45 AM (3891 Views)
If you haven’t read part one or two of this mini-series, you can find them here:
PART I and PART II.
--- WWE: Return to glory [Part III] ---
Tunnel vision doesn't build titles - or PPVs
Believe it or not, I didn't know who the Intercontinental Champion was until last night. Now, that may be in part because last night's Smackdown was the first episode of the show I have watched in nearly ten years, but I also would have had difficulty telling you who the US Champion was had I not been following Dolph Ziggler's progress closely for the past two years.
I bring these points up because I have come to realize neither of these belts have much of a following. What I mean by that is neither belt seems to have more than one person chasing its champion at a time. Look at Ziggler. Who has been challenging him for his belt? Maybe Alex Riley? Even he hasn't actually come forward and challenged Ziggler for the belt. If he did, we'd have a match at Summerslam already on deck. But, no. Instead, Riley has been too busy getting digs in on Vickie. So, no official challenger for Ziggler going into Summerslam, unless I'm missing something.
But wait, there's more!
Now, I can't speak entirely on behalf of the IC title, as I'm unfamiliar with the Smackdown landscape, but from what I saw last night there doesn't seem to be much of a difference here. Yes, Cody Rhodes and Jackson seem to now have unfinished business, but did anyone see that coming? The whole situation came out of the blue, as far as I can tell. And if you're really going to bother having the belt change hands, why bother do it on free television when just three days later you could have had people pay to see it at Summerslam?
That being said, it's not like there has been any obvious build up (a la Sheamus/Mark Henry). As far as I could tell, it wasn't like there was any bad blood between Rhodes and Jackson up until that point. No vignette, no backstory by the announcing team. Nothing. Which leaves me to conclude that these programs are being established on the fly, and that's not a good sign. Do you know who the last company to swing things together like that was? World Championship Wrestling - right near the bitter end. Not exactly good company to be in, if you ask me.
I'm not saying the WWE is doomed, obviously, just that they're mishandling their talent. If I had to summarize my thoughts about the state of the WWE roster, my initial thought would be that there is way too much dead weight. In other words, characters going nowhere - treading water, remaining stagnant. But before I get into that, let me finish tackling the problem with the current title picture:
TAKE YOUR PICK. None of these Superstars have a match going into Summerslam. Not one. Not even a feud worth mentioning, expect perhaps R-Truth with John Morrison, whom you may notice I have left off this list as it has become alarmingly clear that he may be on his way out of the company.
The real travesty, however, is that half (if not all) of the stars I just listed could easily be attributed to either the IC or US title scene. Doing so would actually kill two birds with one stone:
1. You instantly can begin booking up your PPV card with meaningful matches. Put your US/IC champions up against actual contenders. Have the others fight among themselves, jockeying for position as the next number one contender, perhaps even build into some minor feuds in the interim, etc.
2. The competitive nature created around the belt scene increases the value of the belts themselves, suddenly making them relevant again.
Honestly, the fact that the WWE has managed to overlook such an easy, no-brainer decision should flabbergast each and every one of you. If it doesn't, enroll yourself into your local community college's creative writing 101 class and brush up on your plot building techniques. And if you work for the WWE and happen to stumble upon this, you might as well just skip that step and just give me a call and let a real writer come in and fix your train wreck.
The real problem, I suspect, is that the WWE creative department has blinded themselves with the golden nugget they've had fall directly into their lap: CM Punk. His revelation has been huge over the past month. One could make the argument that WWE has already botched its delivery, and I wouldn't necessarily protest to such an accusation, but for what it is it has been the hottest thing to hit the wrestling community since the late 90s. But, at the moment, it's also the only thing hitting in the WWE, and in this instance it's not the performers' fault.
Summerslam is actually a perfect example of what the WWE is doing wrong. While I'll admit this is the first PPV in a good long while that I can recall where the WWE has completely failed to put together a card, the fact that Summerslam - one of the company's supposed "big four" pay-per-views - is riding into the weekend with only four relevant matches officially booked is a complete and utter disgrace. Why? Because everyone is so wrapped up in the salvage effort for Punk/Cena/HHH that they haven't bothered to put any work in on anyone else.
Now, it's possible that this is all part of a larger swerve where the talent or even Vince eventually confronts HHH about spending more time worrying about his role in the WWE Championship scene than the state of the rest of the company, but I wouldn't consider such a possibility a good bet to place (nor would I even think such a lackluster angle be worthy of setting up). So, that leaves me scratching my head as to why Summerslam is getting the cold shoulder - especially considering how easily it could have been avoided.
Not only could the IC and US belts have benefited greatly from the increased attention a little inter-competition would have afforded them, but it would have helped make the product of a whole - as well as the upcoming PPV - better. If only the WWE brass wasn't so caught in their own tunnel vision.
Cole needs to go
This has already gotten far longer than I had anticipated, so I'm going to keep this last point brief. Michael Cole's character needs to go - and I say this as someone who has appreciated some of the things he has done over the last few months. At the end of the day, however, he's ruining the broadcasts he is a part of and here's why:
A pro-heel commentator cannot be your play-by-play man. It simply doesn't work. They can interject here and there, and spice up the show. But you cannot allow him full reign over everything that happens. It ruins the experience and viewers suddenly find their attention drawn away from the match itself and to their hatred of Cole's constant nagging. That is the opposite of what a play-by-play man is supposed to do, and that is why Jim Ross is so good at what he does. Ross doesn't detract or distract viewers from the match - he enhances it. And that's something Cole isn't capable of doing in his current character's capacity.
I will leave it at this, though. Cole's character does play a vital role in helping up-and-coming heels get over. His persona seems to be at its best helping Smackdown heels build heat with the audience. But allowing him to be full-time play-by-play as opposed to sticking to color commentary just isn't going to work. The catch-22, I guess, is figuring out who to swap him with. Booker T? I suppose we're doomed to having to pick our poison.
@Theiconsting - You aren't getting it. I'm not trashing on the belt; the WWE has let it become trash. That's the problem. Personally, the World Heavyweight Championship is my favorite belt (based on looks alone) currently used in the WWE. It's easily the most prestigious and impressive-looking, and therefore should, in my opinion, be the most coveted. But it really doesn't serve a purpose anymore. In WCW, it was the equivalent to the WWE Championship. But now? Now it's just a marketing tool to drive crowds through the gates to see their awful Smackdown product. "Ooo, the World Heavyweight Champion will be there." Totally bogus.
The belt doesn't have a point, in large part because its role is already currently filled by the WWE Championship. The same problem exists between the US Championship and Intercontinental Championship. My last blog explained all that. Until the WWE begins to define their differences, none of them really truly matter.
@Krakzor - As you'll see in this entry, I expand on how I think WWE could easily begin to make the lesser belts (US/IC) more relevant without relying on the star power of their current big name draws. I will say that elevating the belt's prestige by having its champion mix it up with a John Cena/CM Punk or Christian/Randy Orton isn't a terrible idea. But once you open that box, you have to be ready to begin pushing that mid-card star more towards main event status. Because, honestly, why would he/she want to continue bothering with the belt he/she already has when it has been proven something like the WWE Championship is now an obtainable commodity for him/her. In the current configuration (where the IC/US belts are used as mid-card markers) such a course of action doesn't make much sense.
However, should the WWE ever decide to go the route I suggested and begin to make their belts serve an actual purchase other than to put a few of their mid-carders over, then what you're suggesting is totally relevant. Good post.