WWE unified its world championship belts back on December 15, 2013. It was on that night that WWE champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight champion John Cena in a TLC match to bring the titles together. Since then, the company has recognized one champion who carries both belts.
And while many fans felt that the time had come for championship unification, many others likely found it curious that WWE would suddenly feel the need for such an epic move with very little buildup. But the question is this: What sort of effect has unifying the championships had on the company?
Cena challenging Orton to title unification came as somewhat of a surprise to the WWE faithful. And while the spot was well received by the live crowd, many questions began to rise.
Why make the change now? Why move forward with unifying the belts after the system WWE had in place for so long seemed to be working? The easy answer for many fans laid in the fact that two champions equaled one unclear direction for the company.
Depending on who held which championship, either the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship could have been considered the top belt. When Orton held the WWE title, he was presented as the new face of WWE and endorsed as such by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
When Cena won the World Heavyweight Championship, much of the focus on Orton as the company's supposed new top star shifted dramatically. When Cena is healthy and in the locker room, he is always the company's first priority on TV and pay-per-view.
Essentially, the championship's level of importance was determined by the man wearing it. And oftentimes, that man was charged with getting the belt over versus using it to get him over.
After all, it is the champion's responsibility to wear the belt as though he's earned it. From the way he carries himself in the ring to the way he conducts himself during outside interviews, the champion must project a level of importance and respect that best represents the company.
So when WWE moved the pieces into place by putting the belts on Orton and Cena, title unification likely became a logical step to take.
The company had two men who fit the role of champion very well, and bringing the titles together meant that the man holding them would be even stronger than before. The championships would mean more together than they did apart, so unification probably seemed like the right move.
But the overall effect that move has had on the company is perhaps not right at all.
The issue is that by removing one championship from the equation, WWE has also removed one spot that could potentially have gone to a new face on the main event scene. That man would have been on his way to stardom, working hard to succeed and doing all the right things.
But perhaps this Superstar was not considered big enough just yet to hold the WWE Championship, which has been thought of in recent years as the company's top title. And right now there are several who fit that description perfectly.
Cesaro, Bad News Barrett, Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins are just four names that potentially could have had great title runs in WWE. While each man is perhaps not quite ready for the top spot on Raw as WWE champion, the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown would have been a very viable second option.
But as it stands now, all four men are left to pursue the unified title. And with Cena currently wearing the belts as well as Orton, Roman Reigns and eventually Daniel Bryan all in the mix, then there is perhaps little room for anyone else.
Of course, a great selling point for the company when it comes to featuring one champion is the fact that a title match is now that much more significant. Instead of shows featuring a two-part main event, there is now only one match that takes center stage.
Each title defense means a little bit more than before, as the entire company basically revolves around it. That sense of importance was not present when two titles existed.
But has WWE's main event scene improved since combining the championships? Does the WWE World Heavyweight Championship mean that much more to fans than the WWE title did? Or are fans simply going through the motions until the moment that the company decides to split the belts up once again?
And which is the better novelty: two championships or just one?
It could very well be that WWE has created a bit of a mess with the championship. When the company featured two titles, each one was presented as important and necessary to the main event scene. Fans were asked to accept two championships and two champions. They were asked to care, and they did just that.
But when the titles were unified, all of that had to be forgotten. Fans were suddenly asked to accept one championship and one champion. Any opportunities that existed for rising Superstars were gone, and the playing field of potential titleholders was now drastically reduced.
And that begs the question: Has WWE painted itself into a corner? Did two championships become so important to fans that now it's expected that the two-title system will return? And was the World Heavyweight Championship expected to be used on a new prospect in lieu of the WWE Championship?
For as many fans who complain about the unified championship, there are just as many who support it. In the end, the overall impact the belts have in WWE is up for debate. And it's a debate that will likely continue despite what the company does with its two top championships from this point on.