There has been a lot of hue and cry among the WWE Universe lately because Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the current WWE champion.
While Rock's impact on ratings and his connection to live crowds can't be denied, critics of the decision to put the belt on "The People's Champion" complain that it undermines the title to have a part-time champion.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that those critics are mistaken. For WWE, Rock and other part-time champions are a good thing.
Having the champion on TV just about every week is a relatively recent occurrence. In the 1960s, 70s, 80s and the first half of the 90s, the champ was seldom on television. It was the advent of Monday Night Raw and live television that caused WWE to put its titleholder on TV every week.
Those of you old enough to remember past champions like Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Hulk Hogan probably remember that it was a big deal to see the champion on TV. If the champ did appear, it was usually to promote an upcoming match.
Seldom did the titleholder wrestle on free TV. It made the belt, and the man who held it, seem like a big deal. Because they were treated as something special when they held the belt, these old-time champions remain legendary in the eyes of the WWE Universe.
Now, the WWE champion is merely another wrestler on the roster, just elevated to a higher level than the rest of the crew. Already, Rock has proven to be a bigger ratings draw than CM Punk was during his 434 days as champion.
One of the primary reasons for this disparity is that Rock is a special attraction. It's a big deal to see him on free TV. During his reign, Punk was on Raw just about every week, and appeared on SmackDown on numerous occasions as well. Fans quickly lose interest in seeing the same thing every week.
Having a part-time champion opens the doors to several possibilities.
If the WWE champion is only required to appear on television once or twice a month, his appearances are going to seem more special to the fans. If properly promoted, these appearances could be almost like pay-per-view events, spiking ratings and drawing more casual fans to those particular broadcasts.
If the champ only had to work a part-time schedule, WWE might be able to convince some of their biggest stars of the past to come back for a short run as champion, further elevating the ratings.
Having Rock as champ has elevated ratings. That trend is likely to continue on the road to WrestleMania.
Think about some of the other possibilities. Would the Undertaker show up more than once a year if he had a chance to win the title, hold it for two or three months, and only have to wrestle two or three times over that span?
The same scenario could be applied to Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar and other legendary names from the past.
Keeping the champion off of TV most weeks would allow the titleholders to stay healthier and have longer careers. How much longer would Austin, Michaels, Kurt Angle and Edge have lasted if they weren't wrestling in matches on free TV every week?
Every one of them had his career cut short by injury, and had long spans of time during their active careers when they were recovering from injury. An argument could be made that Edge would still be an active wrestler if he hadn't suffered so much wear and tear on his body during his career.
Having a part-time champion might even help the ratings for those shows that don't feature the titleholder. How many fans are tired of John Cena's act? By the sounds emanating from the live crowds when he appears, at least half.
Would some of those fans be less fed up with Cena if they only saw him perform on special occasions? WWE would also be virtually guaranteed to see a ratings spike when the champ was scheduled to appear.
Having a part-time champ would also allow WWE to focus more attention on its secondary titles. Currently, a large portion of every show is dedicated to promos and matches featuring the champion. Add in the recaps of those segments, and you're looking at at least a third of most shows.
If WWE used that time to promote the Intercontinental champion, Divas titleholder, US champ and tag team champions, those wrestlers would become more significant in the eyes of the WWE Universe.
The secondary titles would be elevated by being featured more, and the top titles would seem more special when they were featured. Having a part-time champion holding the WWE (and maybe even World Heavyweight) championship would elevate every belt.
Having part-time performers in the top spots might also have a positive effect on PPV buy rates. Currently, some PPV broadcasts seem very much like a somewhat high-profile episode of Raw.
Why pay to see the champ on a PPV when you can see him every week on free TV? More casual fans would purchase PPVs if they needed to in order to see the champion perform.
Critics of the part-time champion model often cite relevance as one of the major problems. They argue that having a part-time champion causes fans to feel less connected to the titleholder, and thus less likely to care about the product.
Does Rock feel irrelevant? Ratings would suggest otherwise. Further, the WWE has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the social-media revolution.
John Cena has over 14 million Facebook fans and more than 3 million Twitter followers. Rock has more than 4 million Twitter followers and more than 8 million Facebook fans. Part-time champs could stay connected to the WWE Universe via Twitter, Facebook, Tout and other social media.
Heavy barbell curls do not help you breathe. #EliminationChamber #tryandkeepup2/17/2013, 8:51:48 PM
Imagine if CM Punk hadn't appeared on live television every week. He could still have forwarded his feud with Rock via Twitter. In fact, Punk has taken some shots at Rock via the social media.
Stars could create YouTube channels, or broadcast promos on the already-existing WWE channel. Then, even if the champ were only on TV once or twice a month, he would still be connected to the fanbase on a daily basis.
Part-time champions are a good thing for the WWE. Having a part-time champ makes it feel special when he's on TV. It cuts down on fan boredom, lengthens careers and allows for up-and-coming stars to get more TV time.
Part-time champions provide for spikes on free TV when they do appear, and make PPVs seem like something special. Giving the WWE title to a part-time performer like Rock shouldn't be an aberration. It should be the beginning of a trend.
Think part-time champions are a bad idea? Have some suggestions for other stars who could hold the belt on a part-time basis? Want to argue your own point of view? Speak your mind in the comments section below.
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