The worst fears of many old school wrestling fans were confirmed at WrestleMania 28 when the WWE title match was relegated to the co-main event. Worse still was the World Heavyweight title, which ended in just 18 seconds.
Since WrestleMania, the WWE title has been defended twice, yet both matches concluded without pinfall or submission. While Sheamus, the World Heavyweight champion, has interacted with several on air talents, he has failed to address that he has a rematch with his WrestleMania opponent at the next PPV.
The championship is deemed less important than the other events going on in the WWE universe. This is all but confirmed by the fact that the two biggest matches at WrestleMania had no title implications at all.
However, all wrestlers want to be the champion beyond all else. It needs to be their drive and ambition to be known as the very best. Otherwise the facade of a sporting competition disappears and the WWE essentially becomes a dramatized ballet.
Here are six ways that the WWE could regenerate that prestige in their champion.
When WWE chairman Vince McMahon split the brands into two distinct entities, it made perfect.
At that time, Brock Lesnar ruled the roost on SmackDown while Triple H was the dominating force on Raw. This created two distinct divisions and plenty of gossip over who would win when both men met in the middle of the squared circle.
Those types of questions no longer exist in the WWE.
Most champions have fought one another on several occasions and have been members of both brands. The most talented members of the SmackDown roster are on Raw every week and it is not uncommon to see several Raw members bolster the dwindling SmackDown lineup.
There is no need for two champions.
One champion would create a vocal point for the entire roster to set their sights on. The champion could truly claim that they are the best in the company. The group of challengers also doubles, so there will be more competition and therefore more value to having a title shot.
Overall, the position of champion becomes far more important.
One of the biggest issues within the WWE is the lack of continuity from one feud to another.
A wrestler will have match after match with one or two wrestlers and then move on to another feud with someone else. The history developed from the last feud is ignored or forgotten and just a few weeks later the two old rivals are tagging together.
Multiple challengers for the belt could solve this problem. Personalities would have to interact with the general wrestling population on a more consistent basis. This would mean rivalries and alliances could be created organically as competitors search for an elusive shot at the title.
This would make interesting television while adding a great deal of prestige back to the position of being champion.
Imagine a situation where two great rivals put their differences aside just so they can remove someone who is blocking their path to a title shot, only to immediately turn on one another when the obstacle is removed.
Or imagine a scenario where two baby faces have to square off because a precious title shot is on the line.
Instead of the title being an element in the feud, becoming the champion is the glue that holds the WWE universe together.
Although it may seem obvious why someone would want to be known as the best, it is actually a much deeper question.
Some people desire to be best as a need to prove it to themselves or to someone else. Others want to use it to gain power, money or women. Others are even more ambitious, looking to create dynasties that change the landscape of the wrestling world forever.
Whatever the reason, that desire has been lost from the WWE universe.
Alberto Del Rio spent much of 2011 declaring that it was his destiny to win the title but it never went any deeper than that. CM Punk and Chris Jericho wanted to prove that they were the best in the world but it is only now that the reasons why are being examined.
Restoring the reason behind the desire will automatically re-establish the prestige of bring champion.
Probably the most obvious solution to restoring some prestige back into the WWE champion would be a simple redesign to make the belt look more respectable.
The argument for the current belt is that it looks modern and sells well as merchandise. However, the title should be there to remind the fans of the history behind the belt so it retains the importance it had when other important personalities held the same strap.
The current WWE title only reminds people of John Cena. As good as Cena is, his single legacy cannot hold up to the combined might of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and all the other greats who have come and gone.
If nothing else, if an indicator that change is needed just look at the Green Bay Packer Super Bowl team. Aaron Rogers is given the big gold strap with history and prestige, which is a good indication where the design should head in the future.
Championship matches are some of the most predictable on television.
There is no way Mark Henry is going to capture the championship from CM Punk if Punk is actually feuding with Chris Jericho.
This is down to two forces.
One is that the WWE makes a great deal of its money from PPV, therefore it is their desire for fans to purchase those events. One of best ways of enticing people to pay for PPV is to offer the chance of a title change.
The second reason is that fans can read into the future by studying the moves that WWE officials have made. If you are bringing in a new heel who is going to be a championship contender then it is fairly obvious that the face champion is going to retain their belt.
All this has to stop.
Championship matches should never happen on Raw or SmackDown. There is no need to have the title on the line to produce a great match. Often the matches are better when the title is not involved. However, beating the champion does give you reason to call for championship opportunity.
When a title match does occur, then it should be a real controversy. There should be questions: Can the champion hold onto the gold against the dominant challenger? Or will outside forces interfere, bringing genuine excitement into every title match.
A real return to the kayfabe ideal.
Once a clear challenger has emerged, then the matches need to have all the pageantry they deserve.
The match announced clearly needs to build the atmosphere. The competitors need to take their time to make their entrances and absorb the crowd's excitement. As the bell rings, a hush of anticipation should come across the crowd, which explodes into noise as the first significant blow is dealt. It should finish with a final explosive reaction as the winner is finally revealed.
When was the last time a crowd was like this for a WWE or World Heavyweight title match?
Possibly Punk vs. Cena at Money In The Bank or maybe Undertaker vs. Edge at WrestleMania 24, where the streak was also on the line? Whenever it was, it was too long ago.
The future needs title fights to be glowing features of the WWE calendar which are memorable for months afterward.
That way, the prestige of being champion will not only return, it will increase as the years go by.