My biggest gripe about the WWE is how their secondary titles, both the Intercontinental and U.S. Championships, have been treated over the last few years by the company. At one point or another, both of these titles were prestigious; they centered around compelling storylines along with superstars who were capable of great storytelling. Some superstars parlayed these championships into world titles, becoming household names, while others were able to establish their legacies as they became multiple champions on different occasions.
Like anything else, both championships have seen better days. The WWE's treatment of these once glorious titles has left a bitter taste in the mouths of old school fans who remember epic encounters like the WrestleMania III classic Savage vs. Steamboat for the Intercontinental Title or the Starrcade 85 classic "I Quit" steel cage match between Magnum T.A. and Tully Blanchard for the U.S. Championship.
Recent title changes signify a step in a more positive direction for both championships, giving fans hope. Dean Ambrose, a hot young commodity who has established himself as a member of The Shield, became U.S. Champion, defeating Kofi Kingston along the way. Meanwhile, Curtis Axel, grandson of the legendary Larry "The Axe" Henning and son of the legendary "Mr. Perfect", Curt Henning, shocked the world by winning the Intercontinental Championship, defeating former champions, The Miz and Wade Barrett, in a Triple Threat match at Payback. Both moves were a stroke of genius.
By giving fresh new faces the opportunity to hold these championships, clearly the WWE recognizes their value and how they can once again be used as measuring sticks for future talent. Both Axel and Ambrose are hot, young, dynamic and more important, absolutely hungry. This is how it should be when it comes to talent and opportunities.
Axel, as a third-generation star, although more than willing to carry on the Henning tradition of success, is eager to prove that he is more than worthy to do so. Given enough time, Axel can succeed while at the same time being part of the Intercontinental title's resurgence.
Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose, anxious to prove he is everything people say he is, the breakout star of The Shield, can do wonders for the U.S. Championship given the chance. He is exactly what the championship needs in order to become relevant again.
Both stars need lengthy title runs, worthy challengers, and perhaps a major rivalry or two in order to define their respective championship reigns. Given the level of talent in the WWE right now, from veterans like Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Christian and Kane to up-and-comers like Fandango, Big E Langston, and Damien Sandow, there's more than enough challengers ready to pursue the gold.
However the WWE ultimately handles the Intercontinental and U.S. Championships, I will, for now anyway, keep my fingers crossed and maintain a wait-and-see attitude. Maybe the best is yet to come after all.