Monday's WWE Raw culled great drama from challengers seeking the company's midcard championships. It's a formula that needs to be revisited more regularly.
Paying proper attention to the United States and Intercontinental Championships can boost midcarders and add stellar matches to WWE TV.
Those truths only seem to be remembered every so often, when the spotlight shines on the champions and contenders of those titles after long stretches of inactivity.
Too often has the United States Championship sat decaying around Dean Ambrose's waist. The talented emerging star too rarely defended it, causing the title to lose some of its prestige and be a forgotten part of WWE. Monday's Raw went a far more exciting route—forcing Ambrose to survive to keep the belt in his possession.
After successfully defending the title in a Fatal 4-Way on Friday's SmackDown, Ambrose found himself in a ring with 19 other men, their eyes aimed at his championship. Triple H had booked a Battle Royal with the U.S. title on the line, punishing his rival and abusing his power as COO.
The result was a number of Superstars benefiting from the battle.
Ryback and Curtis Axel teamed up to last until the final five men standing. Dolph Ziggler showed tenacity as he avoided elimination while teetering on the apron. Sheamus returned to his warrior ways, powering his way to a win and his second reign as U.S. champ.
Even in defeat, Ambrose came out of the bout looking more gutsy, crafty and dangerous than he had during his entire reign.
The last few days have turned Ambrose's championship run into something far more exciting than it has been. Instead of being the butt of a running joke about not defending the title enough, fighting to keep it made him more of a star.
That's the purpose of the midcard belts.
It's a purpose that can't be achieved without foes or rivalries and allowing the championships to collect dust. WWE had been doing a far better job with the IC title. Big E has gotten several more opportunities to show his championship mettle, including a clash with Jack Swagger at Elimination Chamber and against Ziggler on Main Event in March.
Bad News Barrett dethroned Big E at Extreme Rules and took care of the powerhouse in their rematch on Monday's Raw.
Big E benefits from those losses, though. They occurred in the spotlight, came against a red-hot rival and led to a pair of compelling, physical matches.
Both bouts rank among Big E's best work to date. He was no victim here. He was a bear tangling with a tiger, matching Barrett's moves for the most part.
One can't have resume-enhancing matches like that when sitting on the sidelines.
That's where WWE has failed its midcard champs in recent years. Having a title should assure one of more screen time and additional chances to impress. Axel didn't have get enough of those and Ambrose broke the record for longest-reigning WWE U.S. champ by virtue with little resistance.
The other benefit is that several Superstars who aren't part of the marquee storylines get a crack at connecting with the crowd. On Monday's Raw alone, Sheamus, Ziggler, Big E, Barrett, Ryback, Axel and Ambrose all improved their stock thanks to fights surrounding the two midcard belts.
In the process, two hard-fought matches with high stakes improved the show.
A chase for the IC and U.S. titles inevitably results in action that is more compelling. Each combatant has a clear goal and victory carries more weight. For Barrett, he gets to punctuate a recent winning streak with a significant accomplishment.
WWE wisely decided to have him earn his crack at that championship by making his way through a three-round tournament.
Many of the matches of the last few weeks of Raw have come from that tourney. Normally, Ziggler vs. Barrett is an ordinary, banal contest. With the chance to eventually become the No. 1 contender on the line, the match had added emotion and forced fans to pay more attention.
This is a trend that needs to continue.
Barrett can't go weeks without putting his title on the line. Sheamus can't be forgotten when WWE composes the week's stories.
Have rivals hunt them down for those belts. Make them have to go through hell to remain champ. Add exciting matches to Raw, Main Event and SmackDown with the straps on the line.
The result will be Barrett and Sheamus having a stage on which to flourish, improved programming and the Superstars closing in on the titles getting a boost that they wouldn't get otherwise.
Alexander Rusev, Damien Sandow and Tyson Kidd await their opportunity, the gleam of gold in their eye.