Maximizing the Credibility of the WWE Belts
by, 07-11-2013 at 12:46 PM (4414 Views)
First off, I will give credit to WWE for being the best wrestling promotion for the last 40+ years. WWWF was the top territory, WWF was supreme over WCW and WWE officially has no real competition in the present day. However, despite their dominance over the competing promotions, the one thing they continue to struggle at is making their titles relevant. Ever since the Monday night wars, the WWE started adding titles, merging titles, eliminating belts and bringing back retired belts. I am not going to dissect the European, Hardcore or Lightweight belts that are all now extinct. Likewise, I am not going to blog about the WCW and ECW titles that were only brought into the WWE temporarily and are now extinct as well. Instead, this blog will dissect the current titles in the WWE and provide my opinion as to what can be done to maximize their importance. Let me explain…
Historically, the World Title, IC Title, Women’s Title and Tag Titles have all been prestigious championships held by the all time greats and future hall of famers. The formula for these belts was very simple. The women’s title and tag titles are self explanatory. The IC title was for the best workers and usually a stepping stone for the World Title. The World Title (now known as the WWE Title) was for the guys that drew the money. This formula made sense and it worked. Today’s product still consists of the 4 historical titles (WWE, IC, Tag and Women’s which is now the Divas) along with the US title and World Title. One may suggest that the problem is there are too many titles. I highly disagree. The problem is there is no true pecking order for these titles. Despite all of the things WCW screwed up, they had a great pecking order for their belts. The cruiserweight title was for the luchadors, the TV title was for the up and comers, the US title was for the mid card wrestlers and the World Title was for the main event guys. When WCW was in its prime, you had all of these great titles that the bookers were able to create entertaining angles around them. Almost everyone on the roster had a spot on the card and a title they were gunning for. The best thing about WCW’s title structure was it made sense and was very easy to understand.
Unfortunately, WWE’s title picture is very scattered and convoluted. Many fans wonder if the WWE title is more prestigious or on par with the WHC title? Others wonder, what holds more value, the IC title or the US title? To most fans, they have no clue and I put myself in that category as well. However, after taking a deeper look, I think I may have discovered somewhat of a formula/pecking order to the 4 singles titles. Ultimately, this is how the pecking order of these belts look:
WWE Title: This is the most structured of the belts as it is reserved for main event talent only. Main event talent means the ones that draw money and fill the seats which are Cena, Punk, the part timers or whatever one or two guys WWE decides to temporarily promote from the “second tier” and give a temporary push to. To better explain myself, Mark Henry and Ryback would be “second tier” guys that recently were/are being given a temporary push.
World Title: Any “second tier” wrestler along with any one or two wrestlers from the mid-card that WWE gives a trial run to see if they can hack it in the “second tier” scene. I define second tier wrestlers as guys that get a great reaction from the crowd but are not necessarily the top draws (i.e. Sheamus). Examples of current wrestlers that I would define as being promoted from the mid-card to see if they can hack it in the “second tier” scene would be Ziggler and Swagger.
IC Title: Anyone in the mid-card and anyone who has been demoted from the “second tier.” Current wrestlers that I define as guys who have been demoted from the second tier scene would be Miz and Mysterio. Mid-card wrestlers defined should be self explanatory.
US Title: No real formula whatsoever other than it excludes main event talent and most “second tier” talent.
Now that I have described each division, I will give my opinion as to what I believe needs to happen in order to add credibility to each belt/division:
The WWE title has the most structure of the 4 singles belts. It is the primary belt and only the top draws compete for it. The only problem I have with the WWE title is the way it changes hands to a new wrestler. WWE no longer gambles on taking a chance with a new guy to become champion. The days of Hogan putting over Warrior, Bret putting over Shawn and HBK putting over Austin are long behind us. Instead, a “never before” champion wins his first WWE title virtually 99% of the time by cashing in the MITB briefcase. Sure the briefcase creates excitement, but in the long run it ultimately hurts the wrestler. For example, Miz and ADR never really got over as WWE champion after they cashed in. ADR has been demoted to the WHC scene and Miz has been demoted all the way down to the IC title picture. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe Miz and ADR could not hack it in the WWE title scene because they never got that big signature win. On the other hand, Cena has had more signature wins than just about anybody in the history of the business. Most recently he had a signature win over the Rock at mania. Likewise, nobody will ever forget the signature win Punk had over Cena at MITB 2011. Wrestling fans have short memories but they remember the great moments and historical victories. Maybe I am just too old school, but I think the signature win is still vital in today’s modern product. Until a main event talent does a clean job to a second tier guy, I think it will be almost impossible to permanently promote that second tier guy into the main event talent pool.
The WHC is a complete cluster. It is promoted as being equal to the WWE title; however, the wrestlers I categorized earlier in the blog as “main event talent” never wrestle for it. The WHC is clearly a second tier title. Some have suggested that the WHC is the modern version of the IC title. I disagree as former WHC’s such as Big Show, Mark Henry and Kahli do not fit the pedigree of a “workhorse champion” that former IC champs such as Bret Hart, HBK and Mr. Perfect once did. Personally, I feel the WHC should be the final stepping stone for the WWE title. That being said, the older, veteran talent such as Big Show, Kane, Mysterio and Christian should not be in the WHC picture. Think about it, when Goldberg was champion in WCW, you did not see Hogan, Sting and Nash competing for the US title. The WWE should follow this formula and not have their 40+ year old, future hall of famers competing for a second tier championship. These guys either need to be in the WWE title picture or putting over younger talent; however, they should not be World Heavyweight Champion or be feuding against the World Heavyweight Champion. The WHC division should be for guys who are one step away from jumping into that elite main event picture, i.e. Ryback and Sheamus.
In regards to the IC and US title, a few things need to change. First, WWE needs to differentiate the two. I would prefer to see the IC title designated for the younger veterans that have not quite made it to the second tier yet. This would include the likes of Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Kofi Kingston, etc. Meanwhile, the US title will be for wrestlers new to the WWE or ones that are not as established as the veteran wrestlers in the IC division. Examples of US title division guys would feature Fandango, Tyson Kidd and Sin Cara. Second, the US and IC champions cannot keep losing non title matches. Why did Jericho defeat Axel clean on Raw? Why did Barrett lose 90% of his matches during his IC run? Why did Cesaro lose 95% of his matches during his US run? When this happens, the wrestler loses credibility. As a result, the belt loses credibility. The US champion and IC champion should not be putting anyone over until it is time to drop the belt. I am okay with the “second tier” talent going over on other mid-card talent but not the US or IC champions. Just think about it, how often did Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart do jobs during their IC title reigns in the early 90’s. Oh wait, never, that is why they are remembered for being great IC champions. Third, second tier talent cannot keep dropping down into the mid-card and getting title shots. Look at it from this standpoint: Wednesday Night Main Event will probably feature a match such as Justin Gabriel vs. Sin Cara that nobody will care about. However, if there was more structure in each division, the fans might actually care who wins this match knowing that the winner will put himself one step closer to a US title shot vs. Dean Ambrose. Unfortunately, that is not how WWE works and instead, they will randomly book somebody like Miz or Christian to face Ambrose for the US title instead. Because guys like Miz, Christian, Kane and Mysterio are constantly overlapping from the second tier division down to the mid-card, it not only kills the mid-card but it absolutely destroys the lower card guys. Because the second tier wrestlers are constantly dropping down to the mid-card to compete for the US and IC titles, you know the lower card guys like Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel and JTG will never be in a relevant match. Even if one of those lower card guys wins ten matches in a row, the next US title shot will randomly go to somebody like Big Show instead. This type of booking is what is KILLING WWE’s lower mid-card.
In summary, I believe the biggest problem is there a lack of structure in each division and too much overlap between the divisions. Whether it be the WWE, WHC, IC or US division, I would prefer to keep the wrestler in that respected division until it is time for him to receive a push and be promoted to the next division. Anyways, there is my breakdown of the titles and solution of how to maximize their credibility.