Things are looking good for the midcard as WWE enters 2013.
Wade Barrett is already looking strong as the newly crowned Intercontinental Champion. He knocked off Justin Gabriel and Kofi Kingston in quick succession en route to defeating Kingston with an impressive Bull Hammer to the face on Friday's SmackDown.
Funny thing is, that shot reminded me of another superstar who's been known for knocking people out with a forearm.
I speak, of course, of United States champion Antonio Cesaro, who's also been a character to watch in the ever-entertaining midcard. Cesaro has been on a tear since winning his championship at SummerSlam against Santino Marella.
Speaking as someone who's always advocated for more attention on the United States Championship, I have to say I love what The Swiss Superman's been doing as champion. I've enjoyed his reign, and the title seems more valuable every time Cesaro makes his way to the ring. Still, I think WWE should keep up what it's been doing, especially regarding the United States Championship.
For a long time, fans have been viewing the United States Championship as a step below the Intercontinental Championship. Many of them point back to the time when the WWE had one midcard championship instead of two. The Intercontinental Championship was considered the prize—it meant you were next in line to be the top guy.
I think we all know that's no longer the case.
I think the Intercontinental and United States Championships can be used in a similar way; however, to drive the point home that the WWE is invested in the United States Championship, a few steps have to be taken.
Who would you like to see win an International Elite Eight Tournament?
First, I think WWE should focus a little less on how more than a dozen Hall of Famers have been United States champion and instead talk more about these reigns.
Start comparing Cesaro's reign to the reigns of Eddie Guerrero, Bret Hart, Harley Race, MVP, JBL, etc. Talk about their reigns and then maybe have Cesaro acknowledge and belittle them en route to making his own reign greater by the day.
Another way to add value to the United States Championship is by holding a tournament that leads into WrestleMania. The United States Championship would look great on the waist of many superstars, and I think winning the tournament could go a long way.
By then, it would be time to start separating Cesaro from the belt.
Let's say for example that WWE has an International Elite Eight Tournament consisting of Ezekiel Jackson, Hunico, Christian, Michael McGillicutty, Jack Swagger, Curt Hawkins, William Regal and Tensai. These men were chosen because, as far as I can tell, Antonio hasn't defeated any of them, which adds more intrigue to this tournament. I also went with an international theme.
With matches like Hunico vs. Christian, Jack Swagger vs. Curt Hawkins, William Regal vs. Tensai and Ezekiel Jackson vs. McGillicutty (given time), I think the significance of the U.S. title would become clear.
Leading up to a big match at Mania—which I think Cesaro could pull out of any of these men—the tournament and match would draw a lot of eyes to the United States title.
This leads me to my final point regarding the red, white and blue championship.
It might be time to redesign the belt.
The World Heavyweight Championship is the only design older in the WWE than the United States Championship. The belt hasn't looked any different since Cena was spinning his own creation in 2004.
If WWE wants to make a statement and put the U.S. Championship right beside the Intercontinental Championship, a new belt would be a great way to go about it. Not that I don't like the current design—it's just a bit dated in my opinion.
The United States Championship can be a bigger piece of the WWE puzzle, but only if WWE can put forth the time, effort and creativity that it's been showing in recent weeks.
We harp on WWE Creative nonstop, but at the end of the day it is starting to deliver—as much as we don't want to admit it.
The company we criticize and joke about apparently planning "Twice In a Lifetime" (that joke is becoming staler than the thought of the match by the way) is the same company that could be working on CM Punk vs. Undertaker. I've seen a lot more people support this match than oppose it (being that it's also a rematch, and I don't even like the idea).
Anyway, this is all just a thought. I've heard it said that, because the U.S. Championship has roots in WCW like the World Heavyweight Championship, it will never be on the same level as the intercontinental belt. That's possible...but it's also possible it's wrong.
The WWE has the tools to do something great with the U.S. belt. They just have to be used.