I’ll admit it, it’s been bothering me. For years I was able to rattle off the history of every WWF title belt starting from the early 1980′s. Things began to be more difficult in the Attitude Era, due to a combination of more championships being introduced and “Crash TV”, which changed the title like a hot potato. It was this Era that I believe was the start of the downfall of the Title Belts’ meaning in the eyes of the fans. My goal of this article is to give some easy steps that will build back the prestige of the WWE championships and help to bring back interest to programs that revolve around the titles.
The WWE took a big step in 2002 when they unified the three minor titles — the Hardcore belt, European title, and the Intercontinental championship. At the time, this just left the WWE Title and Intercontinental title as the two major single belts in the company. This lasted for about a week as on September 2, 2002 Eric Bischoff pulled the “Big Gold Belt” and presented it to Triple H. This was in response to Brock Lesnar “exclusively signing” with Smackdown and leaving RAW without the WWE Championship. Triple H would go on to unify the World Title with the Intercontinental title by beating Kane in the conclusion of the infamous Katie Vick angle. The summer of 2003 would see the return of the IC title and the WWE debut of the United States title to give each brand (remember the brand split?) a primary and secondary title belt.
But I’m not writing this as a history lesson, and a lot has changed in the last ten years. For starters the brand extension exists in name only, and it’s barely even mentioned. This leads me to my first suggestion. Unification. It’s something that WWE has done before and I believe it needs to happen again. The unification of the WWE and World titles would give “One Man” on top. Likewise, combining the US and IC titles would give the midcard and upper midcard a single focus. The Intercontinental Champion was, technically, the number one contender to the WWF champion and the same could be said in WCW/NWA with the US title to the WCW/NWA champion.
I have documented my love for tag team wrestling and how I would bring back the status of that division HERE. Along with my unification strategy I would also reintroduce the Cruiserweight Title. This would give WWE five titles with the WWE, Intercontinental, Tag Team, Divas, and Cruiserweight. The key for me with reintroducing the title, is to have higher card guys go after the belt. Rey Mysterio is the obvious example but there are guys like Dolph Ziggler and even Daniel Bryan that fit the bill of being under 215 pounds. The WWE roster page has 10 guys with listed weights under 215 pounds and 1, Heath Slater, is 216 which is easy enough to reduce. There are a lot of possibilities to help guys like Tyson Kidd and Trent Baretta move up the card by having close, competitive championship matches with guys like Rey and Dolph.
Now that I have unified some of the belts, reintroduced the Cruiserweight title, I move to my third step in bringing back the title’s worth and that is: Pay Per View only title defenses. We see title matches for all the belts way too much for most of the defenses to have any meaning. On one event, Wrestlemania, I have all five titles defended. The other 11 Pay Per View events are headlined by matches that are a combination of title defenses and do not always include the WWE title. Some events have gimmicks like the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, that don’t need the WWE title defended on the shows to draw interest. A quick example of what my annual schedule would look like is:
January: The Royal Rumble match with the winner facing the WWE Champion at Wrestlemania. The only title match I have on the show is for the Intercontinental championship.
February: The Elimination Chamber match with the winner facing the Intercontinental Champion at Wrestlemania. I would have the Cruiserweight and Diva titles defended on this show.
March: I’m calling this Wrestlemania month even though it is sometimes in early April, as when it is early April there is not March PPV. As mentioned, all titles on the line at Mania!
April: This show is headlined by an Intercontinental Title defense. Since this show kicks off the WWE’s “new year” I also have a number one contender match for the WWE title on this show, possibly a multiple man match.
May: The Cruiserweight title is on top of this show and I also have a Divas title defense on this Pay Per View
June: The WWE title is defended on this show against the winner of the April PPV number one contender match.
July: I return the King Of The Ring to July and have the winner of the tournament get a shot at the WWE Title at Summerslam, just as when Brock won the tournament in 2012. The only title match I have on this show is for the Tag Team belts.
August: Summerslam for me pits the WWE Champion against the winner of the King Of The Ring tournament.
September: This show is headlined by the Intercontinental title.
October: I still have this show as the Hell In The Cell pay per view but only one HITC match on the show and not for any title. Some years I would do the number one contender for the WWE Title inside the Cell and some years I would do the top contender match in September. If there is a non title feud that can be blown off in the Cell, I make that the top match instead of a contender match. I have the Tag, Diva, and Cruiserweight titles all defended on this show.
November: The WWE title is defended at Survivor Series with the remainder of the matches on the card traditional Survivor Series elimination matches.
December: The only title match that I have on this show is for the Tag Team Titles and it is a TLC match, at the title of the pay per view indicates.
As I said, the above is by no means a detailed rundown of every monthly show but merely an outline of how I spread out the title matches. Under card feuds will have to become very important with the reduction of title matches on the pay per views, which should give more meaning in the eyes of the fans to more of the wrestlers. Also, I acknowledge that this would not be etched in stone and flexibility to need to occur in the event of injuries and suspensions. The key is that each title is defended four times on Pay Per View each year. The WWE title is never to be defended on television, in my opinion, and the other four titles can have the odd television defense to build interest in various programs and angles.
Another byproduct of these limited defenses is longer title reigns. WWE has done an excellent job, thus far, of keeping CM Punk’s promise that the WWE title will not be a hot potatoe but I am going to need a run of at least 18 months or 2 years before it will stand out to me. The other title belts are still in “hot potato” mode which is part of the reason I can’t get into any of the belts. Cody Rhodes had a decent reign by current standards from August 2011 to April 2012 but this year alone we have had 3 separate champions and it’s only June! Maryse was just in the news as Beth Phoenix came close to breaking her record as the longest run of any Divas champion and it’s only 216 days.
So just to summarize, it’s pretty simple. Limiting the number of titles can increase the level of talent that competes for each belt, such as Dolph going for the Cruiserweight title or Randy Orton going for the Intercontinental Championship. Taking the WWE title defenses off free TV and limiting the number of annual defenses of all the titles will give those matches more of a special feel, making those matches more important. In addition, less title defenses should result in longer title reigns which will make a title change a must see event. Yes, I am aware that this is merely a pipe dream on my part but the fact that IT IS so easy makes it very realistic to implement, in my opinion. I don’t expect this to ever happen but, as someone who wants to care about the title belts again, I wish it would.
Agree? Disagree? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org