WWE's Championship Titles vs. Fan Scrutiny

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2013

photo by wwe.com
photo by wwe.com

WWE’s championship titles are the cornerstones of the company.  In terms of the value they hold to the Superstars who wear them and the overall value we as fans place on them, the fact is that at any given moment, the belts are easily the company’s most important focus.  

But how well does the concept of the modern day champion in WWE hold up under serious fan scrutiny?

“The belts are just trophies, they don’t mean anything.”

I have heard that very line so many times from fans that at this point I have grown used to it. It’s a valid point, because at the end of the day pro wrestling is just  work.

The interviews, the spots, are all set up ahead of time. The matches have predetermined outcomes and for the most part, one situation leads to another in dramatic fashion due to the fact that it is all part of a bigger storyline.  

We are all very aware of this and understand how it works.

So, we know that pro wrestling is a business and not a legitimately competitive sport. Doesn’t that mean the championships themselves are just a work as well? The answer is yes, they are just props, created solely for the purpose of selling the program on TV and to sell tickets to the event itself. This makes sense and for many fans this is where the conversation ends.

But then there is the other side of the argument, the one that the majority of fans tend to fall on.

“That guy needs a main event shot, he’s earned it.  He deserves to be champion.” Sound familiar? 

That line has likely been repeated as much as the earlier one and this is where the subject gets a little confusing. After all, if the belts are indeed just props, then why do we care so much when certain WWE Superstars either have or do not have championship gold?

John Cena is the face of WWE, the standard bearer of the company.  And because of that, we expect him to be WWE champion. Some fans may hate the idea and perhaps even dread it when Cena is pursuing the title, but as long as he is Vince McMahon’s guy, then John will always be in the title picture.

John’s critics are quite frankly sick of seeing him as WWE champion.

They believe his time is over, that his character is too stale to warrant constantly being on top of the company. For these fans, the further away John Cena is from the WWE Championship, the better.

But again, the fact is that we expect Cena to wear the gold. The bottom line is its good business for WWE’s top draw to be the top titleholder. It’s not required, but when the opportunity presents itself for John to be the champ, then that is exactly what happens.

So since we understand that and since some of us feel that the belts don’t really mean anything, then why do we get so bent out of shape when John goes over for the title?

Dolph Ziggler was a WWE Superstar who was always just on the cusp of hitting the big time. His matches were consistently viewed by many fans as being the best on the card and he was certainly a guy who had worked extremely hard to attain a higher level. 

And every time he came within an eyelash of winning the World Heavyweight Championship, Dolph came up short.

Fans who supported Ziggler and praised him for his efforts in the ring wanted to see him reach the top. They wanted to see him succeed because he had earned it.  

They believed he deserved it.

So again, understanding that championships are a work, why did we get so upset when Dolph Ziggler could not go over for the world title?

Of course, this is only the WWE and world championships that we’re talking about here. Think of how disappointed fans have been with WWE’s mishandling of the intercontinental and United States titles.  

Both of these belts at one time were historically always heavily featured, in high profile matches that were the backbone of the card.

Now however, either champion is lucky to get a quality win on TV. And sometimes they are not even featured on pay-per-view, as Wade Barrett and The Miz worked for the Intercontinental Championship on the WrestleMania 29 pre-show, but U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro was not booked at all.

What about the WWE Tag Team Titles?  

Until Team Hell No, the tag belts had little to no spotlight and it was not surprising to watch a week’s worth of WWE programming and not even see the tag team belts defended at all.

What about the Divas championship?  Perhaps I should say what Divas championship?

But the question remains. If title belts mean nothing, then why do we care?  Why do we care what happens to them, who has them, or how often they are defended?  

The answer is because we are supposed to.

Despite how much we know and how smart we are about what goes on behind the scenes of WWE or any other pro wrestling promotion, the truth is that a lot of what we feel and care about is fed to us. We don’t want to admit that, however, because perhaps it could be seen as an admission of gullibility.

But there is a reason why crowds pop for the babyfaces and boo the heels. There is a reason why when we see a Superstar do the right thing that we tend to react so positively and that reaction grows exponentially when a conniving heel gets his comeuppance.

Pro wrestling works.  

No matter how much we may know or how much we may complain about the product, the simple truth is that when WWE is firing on all cylinders that we are sucked into the program and we truly care about what we’re seeing.

And that goes for the company’s championship titles.

For me, the title belts will always be important. They may only be trophies but they are trophies that can reward Superstars for their work and dedication, just as they can be used to make a statement of a worker’s position in the company. Storylines are written and real drama can evolve from these championships and that is why they are such vital cornerstones of WWE.