Saturday, November 5, 2011

WWE Titles: Do They Even Mean Anything Anymore?

Remember back in the 1980s/1990s? When Hulk Hogan dominated the WWE Championship scene? Pretty much every single PPV involved Hulk Hogan either winning the WWE Title, retaining the WWE Title, or winning the WWE Title. After Hulk Hogan won the WWE Title in 1984, he held onto it until 1988. Hogan had two other long title reigns: 364 days between Wresltemania 5 and 6, and 248 days between Wrestlemania 7 and Survivor Series 1991. Even in the mid-1990s Kevin Nash, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels had Title reigns of 200+ days. Nash's was almost a year long.

Of course things were different back in the 80s and 90s. Wrestling was perceived differently and storylines were much simpler. People wanted to see the top babyface on top of the promotion. Nowadays, certain fans cringe at the idea of John Cena having an extended title reign. It's part of the reason fans turned on John Cena in 2006 and 2007. Between the years of 2005 and 2007 Cena had three different title reigns of the following lengths: 280 days, 133 days, and 380 days. And the only reason Cena lost the WWE Title during his third reign is because he tore his pectoral muscle. I'm actually surprised Super Cena didn't magically heal that injury. The problem with faces being on top for extended periods of time nowadays is that having them win all the time becomes stagnant and the same. Plus the heels looks weak. Dominant heels have been missing from the WWE the last couple years, which is why Mark Henry has been such a breath of fresh air.

Now while extended Title reigns aren't a necessity, the amount of Title changes that have taken place in the WWE in recent years is quite disturbing. 13 Title changes in the last 20 months. 32 in the last 5 years. That's an average of a title change every 2 months. Compare that to the early 1990s, when where there were 8 Title changes between Wrestlemania 6 and 9. WWE Title changes seemed a lot bigger back then, and the fewer amount of reigns were a big part of the reason for it. It probably was the reason the fans never turned on Hulk Hogan when he regained the WWE Title after long absences from the Title picture.

In this day in age in the WWE, it seems like the Title is nothing more than a prop to carry around. Hell, the Title has changed hands 6 times in the last three months, including twice in the last month alone. Alberto del Rio had a 5 week Title reign, Rey Mysterio has a 90 minute Title reign. Then at the end of that 90 minute Title reign there were 2 WWE Champions at the end of the show. And of course we can't forget the World Title, which has had 7 different reigns this year alone. Hopefully Mark Henry has a bit longer reign to establish some credibility to the World Title, which will then make whoever wins it off of him a big star and the Title change a big deal.

And lets not even get into the secondary titles known as the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Those have pretty much become non-existent. Until Cody Rhodes brought back the old school Intercontinental Title, I probably couldn't even have told you who the IC Champion was. it was that non-existent. Dolph Ziggler has had the United States Title for a while now, but it's not even like it is there half the time. Back in the day, being the IC Champ in the WWE or the US Champion in WCW often meant you were one of the best, sometimes the second best worker in the Company. Now? It means you either get pinned in a Tag Title match on PPV, or get pinned in non-title matches like Cody at Vengeance or Dolph on RAW against Zack Ryder. I'm not even going to get into the Tag Team Titles.

And of course, the booking of certain Champions has been highly questionable in recent years. Rey Mysterio and Jack Swagger were both booked terribly during their first reigns. Rey constantly lost matches as did Swagger. And this week on RAW, Alberto del Rio lost clean to Big Show. If you read my review of RAW, you know that pissed me off tremendously. How are people suppose to believe them as a credible Champion if they are losing non-Title matches cleanly? It's a joke. Who cares about Big Show's mystique? He can take a loss.

So what am I getting at with all of this? The WWE has done a poor job of booking their Champions over the last few years. The constant Title changes as well as questionable booking of champions pretty much just makes the title belts look like props at times. Aside from John Cena, nobody really gets a strong Title reign anymore. The Miz had a long reign, but look at his PPV matches:

TLC: Won a Tables Match against Randy Orton after Alex Riley interfered
Royal Rumble: Beat Randy Orton after interference from C.M. Punk/Nexus
Elimination Chamber: Beat Jerry Lawler
Wrestlemania: Beat John Cena after a restart and interference from The Rock

Sure The Miz can talk some heat back onto him, but it is tough to take him seriously as a fan if he can't beat anyone without help. Up until the current reign of Mark Henry, heels were basically booked as wimps as Champions. They rarely if ever won a match clean, and of course they could never beat John Cena clean one-on-one. Heels have taken a turn for the worse in booking over the last few years. Hopefully that's something Mark Henry can correct with a long World Title reign.

The one thing I want to make clear here is that, face or heel, the WWE needs to bring credibility back to their Championships. Extended title reigns have become a thing of the past, but they need to become a thing of the present. Not only extended Title reigns, but Champions need to be booked strongly too. You can't have Cody Rhodes lose a match on a PPV, then a match on RAW and expect fans to take him as Intercontinental Champion seriously. The WWE feels that having the top Titles on faces brings in more money and ratings, but having a strong heel could do the exact same thing. Adult males get sick of seeing John Cena on top because he always wins. Did the WWE ever think that if Cena lost a couple times to a credible, dominant heel THEN won the WWE Title that some fans might actually like him. I'm a firm believer that long run, their is more money in a face chasing a heel champion than random heels chasing a face champion.

The WWE is facing an important period of time ahead. The Rock is going to be on TV more frequently in the coming weeks and months, which means they will have more viewers tuning in. With Rock/Cena more than likely not being for the WWE Title, it's an opportunity for two other workers to wrestle for that Title and make the match seem like a big deal. Imagine if Alberto del Rio held onto the WWE Title until Wrestlemania. If he was facing an underdog face, it could make that face an instant star. Same goes with Mark Henry. The WWE needs to show the viewers tuning in during the next few months that their Championships are more than prop belts. They need to establish a meaning to each Title and make fans give a damn about their Champions.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me on Twitter @JCWonka

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