Ask yourself this one question, name the top wrestlers in the WWE? It's a short list to be honest with you. When you talk about guys who realistically could headline a show like WrestleMania, the names are always the same: Triple H, The Undertaker, John Cena, Batista, and just a few short weeks go Shawn Michaels, and if you throw in 3 of the biggest names ever, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Steve Austin and you have essentially the 8 men who've headlined the biggest WrestleMania's ever. Sure men like Kevin Nash (Diesel in WWE), Bret Hart, Yokozuna, Ultimate Warrior, Andre The Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage and even Jericho have been in that final match, but the only men who have consistently been in the actual main event match have always been the same. First it was Hogan, then HBK took the reigns from him and did his part, Austin headlined 3 out of 4 years, then Triple H took control only to concede to John Cena. All of these men have something in common; they were built up over time.
Ever since 2005 rolled around and WrestleMania 21 was announced, there was this new gimmick match called Money In The Bank. The winner would receive a championship opportunity whenever he wanted until the next years WrestleMania. The inaugural 6 participants where a who's who of former champs, future champs and young stars. Kane, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Christian, Edge and Shelton Benjamin all competed. They risked it all and at the end, Edge was the last one standing.
Edge would then wait roughly 10 months until mid January to cash in his MITB (Money In The Bank for short) opportunity against John Cena. The thing as though that this was at a pay per view (or ppv) in which Cena just over came the odds of defeating 5 other men in a match known as the Elimination Chamber. Edge would defeat the battered champion and become the WWE World Champion for the first time in his career. He decreed that it was the dawning of a new era, the era of the "Rated R Superstar". The era lasted 3 weeks.
Edge won the belt, and while it may have been a cool 3 minutes to end the ppv, he didn't really make an impact the way he should have. See theirs a reason why men like Triple H, HBK, Undertaker and others are always at the top of the card, because they win World Championships by actually competing in full length matches where the out comes are so predictable. Since the MITB concept has started the winner of the opportunity, the holder of the MITB briefcase is 100% guaranteed to win the title upon cashing it in, even if it's his first time competing against that wrestler or for that title.
The average reign for a winner of the MITB is roughly 2 months; give or take a few days. And since the inception of the MITB only 3 times has the MITB winner defended his title in the main event of a ppv. There have been 9 other ppv's where the MITB winner was defending his title, but it was always in the mid card of the ppv.
But why is that important? Well because fans are becoming content with just new people winning major titles, and not caring about the how or why. People wrote long fair wells over the retirement of Shawn Michaels, and expressed how much they've enjoyed watching him over the years. But besides his obvious talent, the reason why people loved him, was because he wasn't just winning The WWE (then known as the WWF) World Championship on his first shot. I remember watching Bret Hart vs. Shawn Micheals wrestle for the WWE title almost three years before Michaels actually won it. He won two royal rumbles, lost in a WrestleMania match to Diesel, and suffered losses that today just don't seem to happen anymore. The end result? One of the best wrestlers of any generation.
Edge, C.M. Punk, Jack Swagger and whoever else wins the next MITB match will forever be mid card acts. Just because you win the World Heavyweight Championship a few times doensn't mean anything if you aren't the headlining act. Someone once told me Edge is a future main eventer, but in all honesty he's only main evented one WrestleMania, why is he a future main eventer? Is it because he won 9 "world titles"? If that's why you say he's a future main eventer, then come up with a new argument. Edge heading into 2004 was a can't miss prospect, he was poised to land on the level of wrestlers in the WWE that were held by a select few (Kurt Angle, HHH, HBK, The Undertaker). But all the momentum in the world couldn't make him a believable contender to any World Championship after he won his title the way he did.
C.M. Punk was basically given the short stick too when it came to that. He fought Batista to a double DQ and then fought JBL who was honestly 3 years to late for his prime. Punk then goes on to loose his title with out ever wrestling in the match.
MITB winners have a bad reputation of never reaching that top level of performer and it's honestly because these men aren't ready for it yet. You can't push someone before their ready. Fans now expect younger wrestlers to win World Titles because Rock and Lesnar were the "youngest" world champions in the history of the WWE. But what people don't realize is that Lesnar and Rock were not only exceptions, but they were almost crippling to have on a roster. It was almost impossible to book Rock or Lesnar in anything other then the main title feud. The best wrestlers are the ones who can work down the card and the main event. Rock when he won the title til his retirement did nothing but work titles at WrestleMania or the dream match (Hogan and Austin at 19).
Case in point, the last sub 28 year old to win a world title in the WWE was Randy Orton, and he held it for a month. It took him over 3 years to win another one. Why? Because the WWE pushed him to fast. The WWE needs to get away from this idea that MITB winners can just win the belt on flukes or by making the champion wrestle twice in a row. All that shows that these wrestlers are not up to snuff.
Just remember this stat, not once has a MITB winner ever pinned the champion with out it being a 2nd match in a row (Both of Edge's and Punk's 2nd), or outside inteference ( Punk's 1st, Swagger, RVD).
The best way to create a new mega star to rival that of a Batista, or a Cena or a HHH is to do it the old fashion way, EARN IT. Some people will question me when I state that Batista is a better draw then Edge, but anyone with half a clue wouldn't. Batista won his first World Title in the main event (the final match for those of you who still think a world title makes it a main event match) of WrestleMania 21. His biggest issue? He's not John Cena. Batista has show time in and time out that he can deliver good matches. Many people, including myself, expected Cena vs. Batista to go last at Mania. And most were happy with that idea.
The general formula for "creating" new stars via the MITB concept is over. It's a failed concept. The Royal Rumble has done more for individuals then the MITB ever could (HBK, Austin, Benoit, Warrior etc). The WWE needs to retire this gimmick, or switch who competes for it. Instead of having men like Taker, Orton, Batista, and the like win the Rumble every year, why not have them win the MITB match instead? These men don't need to worry about coming off strong or weak, for the simple fact that they are already established.
This would allow newer stars the chance to win the Rumble, which is almost instant credibility if you win that match. The WWE should take head to the fact that even though they keep giving new guys World Titles and pushing them so fast, that doesn't mean they should. First time World Champions should be something special for the fans to see, so we all know that it is special, for both the fans and the wrestlers. I'm sorry but Jack Swagger and C.M. Punk winning their first major title mere moments into the opening segment of a t.v. show, instead of in a long drawn out feud that culminates into a big money match is just prolonging the problem the WWE is wallowing in.
I want to thank all of you who read my debut column for The Bleacher Report. If you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also I have a radio show every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST at http://reallordsofevolution.proboards.com/index.cgi that I hope all of you check out. Be sure to listen to the recap of some older shows as well.