I was watching a UFC event the other week—stay with me, I'm still solidly a "pro-wrestling guy"—and I had a sudden thought: why do champions in other combat sports seem to have more of a dominant feel than champions in the WWE?
Yes, professional wrestling is a storyline-based spectator sport. The champions are only as good as their booking. And the championships have only as much credibility as the champions bearing them. But the championships and the champions have another problem—they do not feel as special as they should.
The Divas division is in tatters. The tag team championships have been flung from team to team, without actual feuds taking place. The US Championship has been a victim of erratic booking. The Intercontinental Championship, while showing signs of revival, has had problems with timing—being shifted right when the current champion seems to be starting to gain some momentum.
Other than the Divas Championship, which would require divine intervention to be "saved," the other undercard and midcard championships can be revitalised by booking alone. Unfortunately, the main championships have another problem.
There are two "world championships" in the WWE—the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship. While having two world champions is useful as there are two main TV shows (formerly brands) in WWE programming, there is an obvious flaw.
The fact that there is another championship reduces the value of both titles. No one—except John Cena, who has neither championship around his waist at the moment, but that is another story—can legitimately claim to be the undisputed top superstar of the company when he is the champion because there is another person with an equal claim to the throne.
What would you prefer?
Most of the time, it does not make that big of a difference. Even though both championships and their champions may appear on either show, there is a relative hierarchy that says the WWE Champion is the top dog on Raw and the World Heavyweight Champion is the alpha on SmackDown. Since both shows have different authority figures who are (usually) the final say in matters pertaining to their brands, the titles are defended at their discretion.
On PPV events, there is a slight problem. Since both championships are usually defended on the same card, one of them ends up playing second fiddle to the other. While either championship could be dominant during the "Brand Extension," in recent times, the WWE Championship has clearly become the bigger prize. The World Heavyweight Championship, which has fallen from favor, has been pushed down the card and is now a shadow of its former self.
There are three solutions to the problem of having two world championships for the same roster.
Firstly, the championships can be unified into a single undisputed championship. Since the WWE roster is nowhere as strong as it was during the brand wars, there might not need to be two different world championships. However, unification would be an unlikely move for the WWE for many reasons—and merchandising is not the least of them.
Secondly, WWE can go back to the brand split, making the two championships exclusive to two different rosters. Unfortunately, the WWE does not have as much quality talent as it had in the past. While this may be an option as more developmental superstars from FCW and NXT begin to get integrated into the main pool, it will take time for the current crop of midcard superstars to elevate themselves to the uppercard. It doesn't help that the midcard is currently plagued by some very random booking, with anyone gaining any momentum losing it almost instantly.
Can PPVs work with only one world title defended?
The third option is to reduce the incidence of simultaneous defenses of both world championships on PPV cards. How? By alternating the PPV events in which both championships are defended. Obviously, some specials would have to have both championships defended, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the rule for every show.
WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of the WWE and should have both the championships defended on its card, as should SummerSlam, which is booked as "the biggest event of the summer."
Also, the Night of Champions PPV should live up to its name and have all the titles defended on it. Similarly, since the champions will be sitting out of the iconic match, the Royal Rumble PPV should see the titles defended.
Also, the Elimination Chamber event which happens between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania should see both championships defended—although it would be better if only one took place inside the chamber, the other being a standard match. A second chamber match could be used to determine the No. 1 contender for whichever championship the Royal Rumble winner decides not to pursue.
What about the other events?
One big PPV I did not mention above is Survivor Series, a classic show and member of the "Big Four." The Survivor Series is best known for its iconic elimination match—actually, it's best known for the "Screwjob," but everyone has reconciled since 1997, so let's get over it—which has itself become less important due to random booking.
It would breathe new life into the event if one of the champions would be a fixture of the elimination match and be exempted from defending his championship.
The other pay-per-view events should have only one championship defended. I understand that some fans might be critical of such a move, but I don't imagine anybody would really miss seeing Sheamus defend against Alberto Del Rio on back-to-back PPVs.
If there is only one title defended, the creative team can put their entire efforts on making that one a quality affair.
Then, there is always room for a swerve. Even if a champion is not booked for a PPV, he can still be a part of the show. He may be made the special referee in a match—either to decide the No. 1 contender to his title or even referee the title match for the other championship.
He may be used as a guest commentator for the show and he may still be the victim of a Money in the Bank cash-in when he least expects it.
Imagine a champion who is forced to referee the defense of another championship. He makes a controversial call to end the match. The losing competitor gets angry and takes out his frustration on the referee.
Now, this can lead to a Money in the Bank briefcase holder making a sudden appearance. Or it can set up a feud for the next pay-per-view, where the losing contender says, "He screwed me out of my championship, so I'm going to take his instead."
The WWE currently has a calendar of 13 PPV events. If the number of pay-per-views with simultaneous defenses were reduced to seven and the remaining six were split between the two world championships, it wouldn't dramatically reduce the total number of defenses of each title. Those would still be defended 10 times on PPV, but it would create three whole months of added time for building up quality feuds for each championship.
As an added bonus, it would help increase the focus on the midcard championships when either one of the world championships is not being defended on PPV. The creative team can then use their efforts to improve the quality of the midcard feuds and build younger talent instead of trying too hard to make Sheamus vs. Del Rio part four happen—I wonder if Del Rio will lock the Big Show outside Hell in the Cell and take his place...
What do you think?
Should there be less or more world title defenses?
How many PPV events should there be?
Please leave your comments on the article and other opinions below.