There are certain traditions that just stand the test of time. Some things just shouldn’t be allowed to change, other things need to. Title belts have always been a bit touchy for me, because looking over wrestling as a whole, some championships are just flat out atrocious, and others have a classy style and flare. Others are stylish and hip, and others still hold the test of time.
My favorite championship belt of all time has always been the retro (and current) WWE Intercontinental Championship. I don’t know why exactly, other than it sets itself apart from the rest. When it was used in concert with the Winged Eagle version of the WWE (then WWF) Championship, it was in my opinion the most classic pairing of championship belts around.
Having watched WCW and WWE primarily as a kid, and a bit of ECW mixed in… I can tell you I have spent a long time studying the evolution of these belts. The original ECW Championship was kind of ugly. It grew on me as time went on, but it was never anything that was striking to my eye. As a matter of fact, the only ECW Title that was worth a damn to me was the ECW Tag Team Titles, as again, they had the proper personality traits to them. When WWE relaunched ECW, it took me in a new way, as they made the plate for the new ECW Championship into a silver plated look. To me, it was always championship gold… not championship silver, but as I’ve always appreciated the look of silver to gold in most jewelry, I appreciated the attempt.
In the attitude era, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Smoking Skull championship belt was amazing, I loved the design and the feel of it, but it was for one man, and making a custom belt for everyone does not exactly breed smart money, nor good business. There needs to be something said for a belt that makes a brand. TNA did that when they overhauled their belts not too long ago, and I think they came out of it for the better overall (even if the X Division Championship needs to try again, in my opinion.).
For such a genuinely small factor into the big picture, the championship belt is a huge thing. The interchangable leather colors in the late 80′s and early 90′s by people like Goldust, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, The Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, and others made the concept of the designer belt an awesome thought, so for the purposes of this round table, I’m going to hit on three title points that I would like to see come back, and three I would like to remove as a whole, and because I enjoy leading with the bad, at least I want to in this case… I’m going to do just that.
Title Hazard #1: Creative Design Flaws
This was the problem I had with the overall concept of the ECW World Title. It was too busy. You knew what the belt was, sure, but it was red and blue, and barbwire printed in gold and it was supposed to look bloody and colorful and extreme, and while iconic… it was kind of atrocious. You also fall into the same pit when you look at some of the customized versions of other belts, such as the biggest fashion flop in title belt history (arguably)… the WWE Championship via John Cena. If it would have been left as John Cena’s customized belt… it would have worked for that short period of time, but holding on to the spinner belt for eight years and through multiple champions… my God… it was arguably the worst design ever. Don’t go down with a bad ship… sometimes we need time to adjust, other times… it’s just bad. Currently, the United States Championship (with the US Flag theme to it, introduced I believe at some point by John Bradshaw Layfield) and the TNA X Division Championship are examples of this holding on to bad designs thought process. However, I believe that the X Division is just a couple of tweaks away from actually being on to something.
Title Hazard #2 and #3: Generic Terminology and Oversaturation
I stated before, the Intercontinental Championship is my favorite design to a championship belt. However, when it was included with both the European, and at one time the United States Championship belts… my love of logic and geography began to override my concept of loving a belt.
Lance Storm was the first person I remember taking the United States Championship in WCW and turning it into a different regional belt. Storm was Canadian… why would he represent the United States? I loved that concept and truly how much heat it brought him from one of the original incarnations of Team Canada. The European belt was much the same way in WWE… Regional belts can be fun, but when you have the Intercontinental Championship there, a belt that by name crosses all continents, then we have everything covered, and the rest becomes semantics. Currently, we still have the United States Championship in WWE, we still have the former “Legends” championship, current Television Championship, on TNA… again… it’s just a matter of thinking things through, and I’ll address some of this in my good side of things.
Now, for the rest of the story. I’ve told you what I don’t like, both historically and currently. Pretty much, get rid of the US Title and merge it with the Intercontinental. Find a good design for your primary belt(s), and call it good. Keep it simple and streamlined. But now, these are my suggestions as to how the titles can make the product better.
Title Boost #1: Less is More
I said that there is something to be said for a company to keep things simple and streamlined, and I mean it. Representing the company should be a simple thing. The WWE should have it’s primary title, secondary title, and tag titles. After that, everything should be pretty much gimmick based, and what I mean by that is this.
Zack Ryder proclaimed himself the Internet Champion… years ago, Ted DiBiase was the Million Dollar Champion. In ECW, Taz was the FTW Champion… all of these were technically “non-sanctioned belts”. You wanna put your mid-card over and still have intrigue? Give some of your more popular people the ability to bring in a rotating section of championships… in essense, give everyone their own ability to have a title, without actually keeping that title. My thought is this, if you take something like a Television Championship, and MAKE it in a way that everyone gets their own styled belt to fight for in their own way, it would be that grass roots style, without having to make it watered down. Fade it in and out, and literally let people work with it for awhile, then drop it for long enough that people forget about it, until it gets handed to someone else to pop up for a bit. It’s a belt you don’t take too seriously, but it’s just enough flash to get the people you want to get attention to paid attention to. With one glaring exception.
Title Boost #2: Bring back the Hardcore Championship, and the 24/7 Rule.
The WWE is going more into a reality show as it is… could you imagine how many people would buy into the WWE Network with a channel devoted to the Hardcore Title? Live streaming access… whomever the champion is just gets their own reality show for a minute until someone beats them and takes the belt. It’s ratings gold in the Reality Era (by the way, I freaking want a got’damn royalty check for that shit, look back before Triple H started using it, I CALLED it that, because of the nod to the reality tv aspect of things… dayum man… stealin mah shit Trips! AGAIN!…)
Anyway, that aside, the Hardcore Title made midcard legends. Crash Holly was a bad man… Steve Blackman, Val Venis, Road Dogg, the list goes on… it’s just the kind of thing that would make us actually pay attention to the stupidity of the interludes they do sometimes.
Title Boost #3: Queer Eye For The Wrestling Guy…
I always said that it couldn’t have put the WWE out all that much to change the leather color. I could be wrong, but the Intercontinental Championship being perma-white annoys me… if you’re gonna go permacolored, it has to be black… but, personally, I think that while the current WWE Championship belt was a good idea, and it looked a hell of a lot better than the spinner belt, it still needs work, and in some ways I’m calling for a chance to go backwards into some form of the winged eagle look. Give it a good classic streamlined design, make it iconic, and allow for a little bit of self expression, which the current belt does thankfully, but… a little MORE wouldn’t kill anyone.
Bonus Title Boost: Put Money in the Bank back at Wrestlemania, and make the Intercontinental Championship have an “Option C” clause (I.E. The X Division Championship at Destination X) that is usable every year at Summerslam…
You want intrigue… put the IC strap up and unlike Money in the Bank, by the go home Raw (or even Smackdown if you REALLY wanted to throw a curveball) you hand over the Intercontinental Strap for a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, one on one, whomever that may be whenever that match is done. It’s not an instant cash in style, but you are going to take a two for one, no matter what. Lead the show with the title match, and end the show with a title match.. You put Money in the Bank back at Wrestlemania, so that you have one man with a briefcase who if he REALLY wanted to make things crazy could throw the “Biggest Party of the Summer” into freakin’ chaos… make this happen and I will promise you that Summerslam becomes bigger than Mania… some years at least…
Six-man tag matches have been around in wrestling much longer than people remember. Whether it be a faction like The Shield or The Fabulous Freebirds, or a combination of various wrestlers and tag teams such as Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors, six-man tag matches are a much bigger piece of the puzzle than the average fan would give credit for.
The idea of the Six-man championship has been done before. Most people remember the WCW Six-man Championship held by members of The York Foundation and The Freebirds. Some may even remember the World Class Championship Wresting days and seeing the Von Erich Family and The Freebirds battle it out in Texas for the Six-man Championship. Even one occasion saw David Von Erich team with Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy of The Freebirds to win the titles. No matter what, six-man wrestling is a significant part of wrestling history.
Fast forward to today. It seems three-man factions are making a comeback. Ever since the formation of The Shield and the dominance they’ve shown, WWE seems to be open to allowing more of these three-man factions to exist. We have 3MB. We have The Wyatt Family. We even have the newly reformed Evolution. So why not bring back the Six-man Championship and let some of these groups fight for it? Now would surely be a good time for it since these three-man groups do not appear to be going away anytime soon.
Personally, I would like to see the cruiserweight title return. Not only because I think we need another title in WWE, but because we have enough small guys that there should be a division for them to wrestle in and showcase what they originally got into the business for. It is a rarity that someone very small becomes a World Heavyweight Champion. In fact, I’d venture to say that if Rey Mysterio hadn’t have been so big in WCW that he would have never become a champion in WWE. I think the only reason he was given the belt was because of his tenure, and the fact that Eddie Guerrero had passed away and it was a way to pay homage.
WWE need Cruiser-weight’s. They need that explosive factor that gets the crowd going and cheering, etc. Most people today don’t understand that Lucha Libre is almost a lost art. Sure, you can find it in the heart of Mexico and on some border towns, but it has fallen in the last decade and part of the reason is because companies like WWE simply don’t understand the talent that they have in front of them. Even the Cruiser Weight divisions in Japan are slowly starting to die down. The days of men such as Thunder Jushin Liger are gone. If you ever wanted to see arguably the best high-flyer to ever get in the squared circle then I suggest going back and watching him in action.
When WCW were bought out and subsequently closed down, WWE found themselves in a bit of a tangle. They now had twice as many belts, twice as many wrestlers, and much like Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff, they had no idea how to utilize the talents. Men such as La Parka, Juventud, Super Crazy, Ultimo Dragon, Brian Pillman, and more, suddenly had no home. Would they be able to make it in WWE? Possibly, but not likely.
WWE didn’t realize what kind of talent they had on their hands. As far as they were concerned, anything that WCW had previously done had to have not been very good or else they wouldn’t have sold the company, right? Before the NWO ran rough-shed over the company the Cruiserweight division was something to behold, and damn was it good! The men (and women at times) that put their bodies on the line did so because of the love of not only American Wrestling, but of Lucha Libre.
You see, in the art of Lucha, you don’t beat your opponent solely with chairs, etc. It isn’t like a regular match where a rivalry has to be settled with Tables, Ladders, or Chairs. No, in Lucha Libre, you beat your opponent by outclassing them in the ring. You beat them by out shining them and making your opponent’s moves look weak by the power of your high flying capabilities. WWE didn’t realize this, and in the wake of a WCW takeover the Cruiserweight’s ended up being royally screwed.
In today’s market, however, WWE are slowly finding that not all fans want a ‘larger than life’ superstar to be a champion. We like our Daniel Bryan’s, and we like our Cesaro’s, and hell, we even like our Heath Slater’s and Drew McIntyre’s of the world. I want to see the Cruiserweight Title return, and with it, I want to see a Cruiserweight Division return. I want to see a Pay Per View on the WWE Network that showcases highflying acrobatics combined with martial arts and suicide dives. I want to see ladder matches that feature 450 splashes, hurricanrana’s from the top of ladders to the outside of the ring, and lord willing, I want to see a man dressed in a skeleton costume dancing around like a fool. I want to see the Cruiserweight’s!
Whether you agree with the Wrestling Corner or not, we’d love to hear what you, the fans of the business, have to say about the titles and what you would like to see, or no longer see, in a wrestling ring!