WWE: Assessing the Prestige of the World Heavyweight Championship
Historically, the World Heavyweight Championship is one of the most prestigious belts in all of professional wrestling. It is deeply rooted in the NWA, WCW and WWE. For generations, it has been worn by the top stars of pro wrestling. Era-defining wrestlers like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and John Cena have all earned the title of World Heavyweight Champion.
For some time now, the World Heavyweight Championship has been portrayed as second best to the WWE Championship.
When the World Heavyweight Championship was the top title of Raw, it was arguably the most sought after title in the WWE. However, it's prestige began to wane when it was moved to SmackDown.
As the top title of the "B" show, the World Heavyweight Championship is generally carried by superstars that don't have quite as much star power as those in the WWE Championship scene. That said, the WWE Championship usually comes off as the most important title because there are more top stars gunning for it.
The booking of the championship has also played a big role in its devaluation. For two consecutive years, the World Heavyweight Championship match has opened WrestleMania. While that is an important spot on the card, it is far from the main event slot the title should command.
Nine times out of 10, the World Heavyweight Championship match precedes the WWE Championship match at a pay-per-view. By giving the WWE Championship match a more important spot on the card on a regular basis, the WWE has abandoned all subtlety about which title they see as more important.
Would you say the World Heavyweight Championship is still a prestigious title?
There is a silver lining in the competition over the belt, though. When Mark Henry was champion, he was the most dominant force in all the WWE. Thus, there was a case to be made for the World Heavyweight Championship being the top title.
Sheamus' reign has been similar, but to a lesser extent. He won the title from Daniel Bryan in an 18-second match at WrestleMania. Yes, that match was a disgrace to the title, but it made Sheamus look like an incredibly strong champion. His decisive wins over Bryan in their best of three falls match at Extreme Rules and in the fatal four-way at Over the Limit have further solidified him as a legitimate champion.
The World Heavyweight Championship is still beneath the WWE Championship. While its background makes it deserving of better treatment, at least it is still placed in a position of some importance and it the focal point of some entertaining feuds.
Simply because of its background and significance to the wrestling industry, the World Heavyweight Championship will always have an air of importance to it. The big, gold belt will always retain some delegate of prestige.
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