Friday, February 26, 2016

The WWE Title: An Afterthought?

Unsurprisingly, I discuss wrestling in a variety of places online.  My main ones are Facebook, Twitter, a couple old school style message boards, and of course here on South Atlanta Wrestling.

Often what I post here or elsewhere is inspired by a post read in one of those places.  Today's post was inspired by Bee Dot from WCMB.

The WWE Title itself has now become an afterthought.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Years ago, when you held the ittle, we knew about it, and you were THAT guy for possessing it.

It's almost like a prop now and HHH being the holder and having exactly zero defenses between RR and Mania doesn't add significance to the belt to me, at all.

Like most things I read online as it relates to pro-wrestling I agree with some of this statement and disagree with other aspects.  From a personally perspective the title absolutely still matters.  Beyond that, my position is that WWE has done a pretty good job keeping the title relevant.  There's are a couple of different things that need to be unpacked here though. 

I will start with agreeing with Bee Dot.  Triple H's title reign has not helped the title at all.  Assuming WWE gives Roman Reigns the strap at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, TX, you'll have a Triple H reign which goes three months with zero successful defenses, and only one match.  He most likely won't even wrestle between now and then.  For that matter, he has largely been omitted from TV altogether.  I do believe that will change soon enough with Fastlane out of the way.

The circumstances here are kind of unique in that all of this is just trying to get us from Point A to Point B.  It's not unheard of to have a transitional reign as it were, but his reign (much like the Sheamus cash-in) is simply a plot device to give us the best heel against the top face.  Now we know about how well that is actually going, but that's the theory.

In light of that it's almost unfair to look at Triple H's current reign through the same lens.  The conventional wisdom is that it ends at WrestleMania 32 no matter.  I can't hold a three month run from the Royal Rumble to Mania against the title's reputation too much.

The title is relevant and the first step towards greater relevance in this era was the unification of the WWE and the World Titles.  I always liked having both belts, but it is hard to have one company basically claim two top belts.  We all know that the WWE Title was the big prize anyway, but having another guy as World Champion diminished the WWE Title to a certain degree. 

When I read his question my immediate thought was Daniel Bryan's WWE World Title win at WrestleMania 30.  Although that whole feud dealt with the concepts of "best for business" and "face of the WWE" the main issue from a storyline standpoint and from the fans' standpoint was Daniel Bryan capturing that title.  The image of Bryan with both belts was quite honestly cathartic, and for a large portion of the fanbase iconic.

Even with Bryan's undeniable connection with the crowd I don't think you get there with a story that didn't include a WWE World Title that matters.  For that matter Daniel Bryan had already been "world champion" as he held Big Gold as World Champion.  That just didn't have the same juice as being WWE Champion though and that also helped the Bryan v The Authority angle along.  (For that matter, and I realized this after I initially published this you would have to look at CM Punk in the same manner.)  Unfortunately, the Daniel Bryan reign itself ended up being nothing special as bad booking and his physical condition undid it.

Two guys were used to make sure that the title still meant something and they were John Cena and Brock Lesnar.  Now I wasn't excited about John Cena getting the belt back, but considering the circumstances I do not blame WWE for that decision at all.  While Cena did minimize the value of the belt to a degree as he verbally assaulted Seth Rollins during their feud, he is clearly a guy who lends credibility to the title.

Brock Lesnar beating John Cena in unprecedented fashion and then defending the belt sparingly also helped the prestige of the title in my eyes.  Unlike the Triple H reign which just feels unnecessary at this point, I think Brock's reign with fewer appearances and defenses actually worked.  Why?  Well, for one Brock Lesnar at that time was still an excellent special attraction for WWE.  Secondly, it was a breath of fresh air after John Cena had dominated WWE programming for years on end.  Those two things together make me look at his reign as a net positive for the WWE Title.

The Money in the Bank gimmick is a controversial one with a lot of folks.  I tend to think it adds a level of unpredictability that I like, but I do see how some believe that it harms the title by allowing it to be won in such odd fashion.

Like the gimmick or not you cannot deny that the underlying aspect of Seth's title run was that holding the title made him The Man.  Now there were other issues with Seth's title run which actually kind of support Bee Dot's position.

One, John Cena specifically told Rollins at one point that he was The Man, no matter who the champion was.  The bigger issue and what Cena was referring to was Seth Rollins' completely and utter lack of in-ring credibility as WWE World Champion.  Cena was only referring to it in a storyline manner, but this was legitimately an issue and the face of the WWE saying it did not help matters.

It's not so much that people thought Seth Rollins needed to mow through all comers John Cena or Hulkamania style.  It was that Seth was pretty much booked as strongly as The Miz was during his WWE Title run.  Without J&J Security, The Authority, etc. Seth Rollins was never shown to be on the same level as the other legit stars.

This brings us pretty much up to now as the primary champion is Roman Reigns.  Roman's push has pretty much failed aside from TLC and that Philly Raw where he captured the title.  That said, the entire storyline focuses on a) how important the title is to Roman Reigns and b) how much controlling the title means to The Authority.

It is hard to say that the title matters as much as it did up through the Hogan, Hart, Michaels, Austin, Rock era.  I get that, but it still seems to me that WWE is doing as best they can to keep the title important, and in the center of the WWE Universe. 

Does it matter as much as it used to back in the day?  Maybe not, OK, probably not.  After pondering this for a while I still cannot refer to the WWE Title as an afterthought.