Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Non-Main Event WWE Title Belts - What's The Point Anymore?

At the time of writing, there are six titles up for grabs in the WWE - the WWE Championship, United States Championship & Divas Championship on RAW; the World Heavyweight Championship & the Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown!; and the WWE Tag Team Championship that features across both brands. Of these six titles, it could be argued that four of them have lost all relevance in recent times - that'd be the four that aren't main event singles titles, shockingly.

This article will present the arguments for the four midcard titles being at the point of irrelevancy, and might even suggest a few ways of making them worthwhile again. Didn't take long for me to stumble into the realm of fantasy booking, did it?

The United States Championship

For those of you who don't remember, that's the guy who's currently holding the US Championship. Since beating Zack Ryder, the All-American American/Kurt Angle ripoff Jack Swagger has spent most of his time wrestling on SuperStars, which almost nobody watches. In the last few weeks he's moved to the tag team division, a fact we'll get to later, but the big picture is that he's been champion for over a month (he won the title on 16th January) and I cannot recall a single defence of the title other than the quickly put together Elimination Chamber match against Justin Gabriel, which he was always going to win.

After the boost the feud between Dolph Ziggler & Zack Ryder gave the prestige of the belt, it's been erased twice as quickly by taking the belt off of fan favourite Ryder and putting it on Swagger whilst the Woo Woo Woo Kid got beaten up by Kane every week. Swagger reeks of a transitional champion, holding the belt whilst Ryder was focused elsewhere only to lose the title back to him once Long Island Iced Z's new potential feud with Kane and/or Eve has ended, and this does nothing for either Swagger or the belt around his waist.

We can only hope that Swagger is given a small push in the coming weeks, possibly putting him up against someone like Kofi Kingston in a few pre-WrestleMania title matches before Ryder returns to the title picture and begins another long slog to take the US title off of a client of Vickie Guerrero.

The Intercontinental Championship

This one might be even more of a waste than the US title, because so much was promised by current champ Cody Rhodes, and not much has been delivered.

I've timed this article perfectly, because Cody Rhodes has just passed the 200 day mark as IC champ, and some of you may remember a few months back when he said he was going to return the title to its former glory. This went as far as bringing back the classic version of the title, and defending it for a bit, but in the last few months the belt has been defended even less than it's RAW equivalent. Oddly, the only man I can remember challenging for the belt since Booker T was the same man who challenged Swagger, the Capetown Werewolf himself, Justin Gabriel.

When Rhodes began his reign he promised to honour the great history of the Intercontinental title, but in recent months he seems more concerned with 'doing an Ultimate Warrior' and adding the World Heavyweight Championship to his collection. This seems like an attempt to establish him as a main event player, but with SmackDown having an abundance of top heels - Mark Henry, Wade Barrett and the recently turned Daniel Bryan as well as the just-returned Christian - it was always going to be hard to make him a real threat for the title.

Pleasingly, it looks like Rhodes may be getting back to restoring the reputation of his title, as he has recently entered into a feud with The Big Show, and will defend the IC title against him at WrestleMania. Regardless of who wins that match, the title needs to be defended more frequently afterwards, with possible opponents for Rhodes, should he still be champion, including the aforementioned Gabriel, former Legacy partner Ted DiBiase, who could do with a push, and maybe even his brother Dustin, better known as Goldust. This final scenario was one which appeared to be on the cards following Rhodes' feud with Booker T, but it never materialised, so it may be that it has been pushed back to a be used as an angle for a pay-per-view later in the year. Should The Big Show win, his possible challengers could include Hunico & Jinder Mahal, both of whom have been impressive recently, and deserve a chance at some gold.

If Cody Rhodes makes it to 300 days as champion without making the Intercontinental Championship matter again, it will be an error of judgement from WWE's booking team that could leave the title in a worse position that it was before his reign.

The WWE Tag Team Championship

This is probably the point where this turns into a rant.

Back when I first started watching wrestling at the turn of the millenium, WWE had an abundance of great tag teams - The New Age Outlaws, The Acolytes (later The APA), The Hardyz, The Dudleyz and Edge & Christian, not to mention the likes of Kaientai and Too Cool, who helped fill out the division. Over the years, though, the tag team division has become less and less important, and WWE now find themselves in a position where, since the suspension of Evan Bourne effectively ended Air Boom, they have one full-time tag team with regular television time on RAW and SmackDown! - the champions, Primo & Epico. The only other genuine tag teams in the division are The Uso's, who had a couple of matches against the champions before disappearing off of WWE programming, and Curt Hawkins & Tyler Reks, who are stuck on NXT.

Lately, WWE do appear to have been trying to improve the division, pairing Boure's former partner Kofi Kingston with resident headcase R-Truth and using Vickie Guerrero's clients Dolph Ziggler & Jack Swagger as a tag team (please call them Swaggler, WWE), but these pairings do not appear to be permanent arrangements - they may even just be thrown together for a WrestleMania triple threat title match - and so the problem is likely to continue.

There has been the suggestion that Tyson Kidd & Trent Barreta will pair up when Barreta returns from injury, and it looks as though they will feud with Hawkins & Reks on NXT, but for the tag team division to regain the prestige it had a decade ago WWE will need to give these true tag teams more exposure on RAW and/or SmackDown! and allow them to be viewed as credible challengers for the belts, as well as putting together more teams to add depth. There are plenty of superstars on the roster who are currently floating around without any real direction, and some of these could make for interesting pairings that could benefit the tag division. It is also wirth mentioning the fact the WWE have one of the greatest tag teams around in their developmental territory, FCW. Kassius Ohno |& Antonio Cesaro are probably better known to wrestling fans, particularly those who watch Ring of Honour, as Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, the Kings of Wrestling. Although WWE currently have no plans to use them as a team, it seems inevitable that they will at some point reform and take the division by storm.

Hopefully the seeds of a brighter future for the tag division that are currently being planted are nurtured properly, as a strong tag team division would benefit the company as a whole, and may even help the company find their next superstar.

The Divas Championship

Like the tag team division, the divas division has been a bit of a joke in recent times, but it too appears to be at the beginning of a revival, with long time Divas champ Beth Phoenix recently facing the biggest challenge of her reign when she faced off with Tamina Snuka at Elimination Chamber. Up to that point she had been steamrollering the rest of the division, whether that be former champion and roll-up specialist Kelly Kelly or WWE's resident #Hoeski Eve. Until Tamina's emergence as a serious title contender Phoenix's only real threat would arguably have come in the shape of her own best friend and Pin Up Strong partner Natalya, who herself has had her credibility damaged by repeated losses to Tamina and a flatulence gimmick that has turned her into something of a comedy character. Oh, and she's also lost clean to rookie Aksana inside ten seconds, which doesn't exactly make her look strong.

Regardless, the future could certainly be bright for the divas division. With Phoenix, Tamina and a refocused Natalya, not to mention Kharma, who is due to return soon and may even compete against Phoenix at WrestleMania, and Layla, who is also due to return in the near future, there is a strong core of very talented in ring performers to work around. Add to that Eve, who continues to improve and is taking to her new heel role well, and AJ, whose high octane style has not been seen in the divas division since Lita's departure, as well as the likes of Kaitlyn and Maxine, who are progressing well whilst appearing on WWE's NXT as well as in FCW, and you have the foundations of a very good division.

When the likes of Sofia Cortez (Ivelisse from Tough Enough), Raquel Diaz (Shaul Guerrero, daughter of Vickie & Eddie) and my personal favourite, the quite wonderful Paige (formely Britani Knight) are promoted from FCW to the main roster, the division could well turn out to be stronger than at any time before, including the glory days of Trish, Lita, Molly Holly, Mickie James et al.

Plenty of reasons for fans of high quality women's wrestling to be optimistic, then. Let's hope WWE realise the potential they have on their books, and don't just keep on giving up Kelly Kelly & Alicia Fox against the Bella Twins every week.

The Other Way

There is still one scenario that could play out which would change the future of these championships, or at least the US and IC titles - the end of the brand split.

In recent months we have seen RAW become RAW SuperShow, with superstars from both brands appearing on Monday nights, as well as the occasional live Super SmackDown!, feulling speculation that the brand split could soon be coming to an end. This rumour has gained momentum in the last few weeks, ever since John Laurinaitis (the Executive Vice-President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Monday Night RAW, for those who don't know) and Teddy 'tag team match' Long began a rivalry which looks like culminating in a WrestleMania match to decide which one of the two GM's takes over control of both RAW and SmackDown! on a permanent basis, and should this happen there could be a major shakeup of the WWE titles.

With the end of the brand split, we would presumably require a title unification match between the WWE champ and the World Heavyweight champ, but it is also likely that the US title and Intercontinental title would need to be unified, presumably with the IC strap remaining due to its greater history.

 Should this happen, and it seems like a strong possibility considering the direction the Long/Laurinaitis feud is going, it may be the case that some of the talent on the fringes of the main event scene at present - such as Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes and Zack Ryder - are moved to the unified IC/US title picture, which could help take the title back to the levels of significance it had during the days when it was a stepping stone to the top title, and was being contested by the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit.

In Conclusion

So, whilst all four belts are currently in the doldrums, they are certainly not beyond saving, should WWE decide to bother. I, for one, hope they do decide to try and improve their allround product, rather than continuing to rely on the main event singles titles, and particularly John Cena & CM Punk, to carry the weight of the entire company.

With every title being strongly contested by talented competitors on a regular basis, WWE can ensure that they have a product which maintains a consistent high quality over an entire show, and they may find they win back disillusioned fans of tag team and/or womens wrestling who have turned to the likes of TNA and ROH to get their fix.

WWE have the talent on their roster to justify six titles, but until they show the desire to utilise this talent properly there will always be legions of hardcore fans yearning for the Attitude Era, and there will always be the threat that ROH and TNA will find and perfect their niche and put Vince McMahon's company under the kind of pressure they were under from WCW during the Monday Night Wars. And frankly, if WWE can't see the value of a strong overall product they deserve to find their position at the top of the mountain under threat.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Hello. You are the only person reading this. And you're probably me.

Whatever, I wanted a place to occasionally ramble on about wrestling, so here it is. I don't claim to be a great writer, nor do I claim to be an expert on the pro wrestling industry - I'm just another fan who will probably end up writing about the usual topics - why are TNA so shit when they have so much potential? why are WWE trying to sabotage their own company? How good is Dolph Ziggler? Why do John Cena's opponents still get hit by the 'Five Moves of Doom'? Why can't Nonspecific Promotion X see that they'd be much better off doing Fantasy Booking Scenario D? - but hopefully it'll still end up as something worth reading.

Not that anyone will, of course. But if you have, then I thank you. Or rather I thank whatever bizarre chain of events caused you to end up here, because you sure as shit didn't intend to come here when you started poking about online, did you? Still, well done for avoiding porn. Have some inane wrestling based bullshit as a reward...