Hello there, fellow fans in the nosebleeds, I'm back, and this time I'd like to share my thoughts on the "other" championships in the WWE that I think should play a far greater role in programing.
Two are in use, the United States Championship and the Intercontinental championship, and the third is the gone, but in my opinion much lamented, Cruiserweight Championship.
I'd like to look at their past history, comment on how they are being used today, and how I would use them in WWE going forward. I hope you enjoy and as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome!
Here we go!
Ok, so the IWC now knows my pick as best IC champion...or at least my favorite.
A Championship spanning North and South
With that having been said, let's talk a bit of history. The Intercontinental Championship traces its history back to 1979 when Pat Paterson unified his "North American Championship" (a short lived WWF title lasting from 1979 - 1981) with a "South American Heavyweight Championship" won in a (phantom) tournament in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
The aptly named Intercontinental Championship would go on to be held by quite a few luminaries, many of whom would go on to win Heavyweight Gold (wow, I sound just like Josh Mathews!) such as Chris Jericho, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Chris Jericho and even Triple H (even if he had one of the shortest reign in the title's history).
There are also many great mid carders such as Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, William Regal, Honky Tonk Man (longest reign) and Christian.
The IC title has had varying amounts of exposure in the past and is enjoying a resurgence in importance as of late.
Stepping stone to greatness
Much has been made as of late as to the IC Championship being a gateway to World Championship Gold and it is an argument that can be made. About half of the IC Champions (22 of 48 I believe) would at one time or another held Heavyweight gold. In reviewing some of the names who have held the belt, every other name on the list has gone on to Heavyweight gold.
While I am thrilled that WWE has chosen to spotlight the Intercontinental Championship more, how they're using it seems a little Schizophrenic to me. On the one hand, the way the IC strap is referenced, it would seem that those with the IC championship are on the fast track to greater accolades, i.e., Heavyweight Gold.
But the reality has been something a bit different. Recent holders include Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. while they've had their shots at the brass ring, neither have gone on to achieve gold.
Now not EVERY IC champ goes on to Heavyweight Gold, but one would think that with the emphasis being on that statistic, one would think Heavyweight Gold should be in the immediate future of the holder. I don't think this is or will be the case. I don't see Kofi or Dolph getting the Heavyweight strap anytime soon.
The de facto use of the IC seems to be as a reward for some of the better mid card wrestlers. The last wrestler to EVER see Heavyweight Gold who also held the IC strap was Rey Misterio back in June 2009.
The last few since Rey; Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison, Drew McIntyre and current champ, Koffi Kingston have all been teased with the Heavyweight Gold, but have not, and in my opinion will not get either Heavyweight Championship.
Pick a path and stick to it
I don't feel, if you are going to brag about how many former Intercontinental champions become world champions, should you then have said holders not capture the belt. Also, a stepping stone does denote that while prestigious, it is not as prestigious as a Heavyweight strap.
Even the name suggests this; Intercontinental - good. World - even better. Still, the Intercontinental Championship has been a good way for mid carders to stay in the spotlight.
History and numbers points to the idea that it has been used for both. This should change.
I believe that the Intercontinental Championship should be a legitimate stepping stone to World Heavyweight Gold. If for no other reason, the teacher in me looks at the names and see a logical progression - 'Intercontinental' speaks to the history of and significance of the Championship; North and South America. 'World' Heavyweight Championship speaks of, well, the world.
But beyond the Geographical syntax, the Intercontinental belt provides those wrestlers with the potential to be great champions some experience as a Champion. A way to learn the gravitas (or cowardice) that makes an entertaining champion.
I have never been a big fan of the Ultimate Warrior, but I think making him IC Champ was a good way to transition as the new standard bearer after Hulk Hogan (though we all saw how that turned out).
This idea of steppingstones brings us to the next Championship...
There have been some colorful characters to hold this Championship, including John Cena, JBL and MVP, and some classic greats such as Harley Race, Chris Benoit, Lex Luger, Ric Flair and Wahoo McDaniel. The story of the United States Championship is nearly as diverse and interesting as those who have worn it about their waist...
It should be called the 'Phoenix Championship'...
The story of the United States Championship spans not just decades but promotions and has even been brought back from the 'dead'.
The US Championship seen above begins its story back in 1975. It was introduced as the NWA United States Championship defended in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, a company run by Jim Crockett Jr. (with me so far?). As the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) was a collection of regional promotions, there was no one undisputed United States champion even though there was only one recognized World Champion (Terry Funk at the time).
Harley Race was the first United States Champion. In 1981, the last territory to recognize the regional championship went out of business, and the Championship became the primary Championship till 1986 when Crockett gained control of the World Heavyweight Championship and the US Championship became a secondary title. Confused yet?
In 1988 Ted Turner bought the NWA and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW). From there, of course, we have the Monday Night wars and Vince McMahon's victory in March of 2001. Under the "Invasion" story line, The championship was named the WCW United States Championship.
Death for the Championship came at the 2001 Survivor Series when Edge (US Champ) defeated Test (IC champ) to become the New Intercontinental Champion. The United States Championship was deactivated.
Stephanie McMahon, in 2003, reactivated the United States Championship for the Smackdown brand as the Counterpart to the Intercontinental Champion then defended on RAW. For a 'secondary' belt, it certainly has a long and interesting past. There have been many greats who would go on to gain gold and many midcard greats who would never quite reach Heavyweight Gold.
What of its present?
In many ways, the United States Championship follows a similar path to the Intercontinental Championship, as was the intention. There have been a few greats that have gone to Heavyweight Gold such as JBL, John Cena and most recently, the Miz. It has also been, in many ways, the mark of Midcard-dom as it has graced the waists of the likes of Shelton Benjamin, MVP, R Truth and Daniel Bryant (some of whom have also been IC Champ), all of whom have yet to get that push into the strata of the World Heavyweight. It seems to be more geared toward being a midcard honor of late, as the ones just mentioned have also been among the most recent holders.
I see the United States Championship serve in a similar fashion as my suggestion for the Intercontinental Championship - as a true stepping stone to the Heavyweight level.
Of course, if we really want to take my geography rational to the next level, the United States Championship could just as easily be used as a stepping stone to the Intercontinental Championship. Not to be unpatriotic but 'Intercontinental' does imply a greater level of prestige than that of a single country, even if it is the greatest on Earth.
Of course this would be in a perfect world. With the WWE hegemony split up into two main brands, Raw and Smackdown, it is likely that if any of these suggestions would reign, it would be as parallel to the Intercontinental Championship as a stepping stone to a Heavyweight title.
The fly in the ointment here in both these championships is that used as they are, these belts often gravitate toward the Lightweight, aka, Cruiserweight. The Heavyweight Championship is most often (and logically so) given to the heavyweights of the WWE (240 lbs plus).
If they are to be steppingstones to the Heavyweight title, they should be competed for by mostly, heavyweights. This would leave many mid card wrestlers, many of whom would be considered Cruiserweight (220 lbs max) out in the cold.
And this would be a shame, as some of the most exciting wrestlers would fit into this category, many of whom, due to a lack of interest at Titan Tower, are misused. To solve this, I fervently suggest the reactivation of...
Those who have read some of my previous articles (and indeed the previous slide) might have noticed that I feel some wrestlers in the WWE are being misused or not used at all.
I feel this is in part because the entire focus (or at least a great deal of the focus) is on the two Heavyweight Championships (World Heavyweight Championship and WWE Championship).
A truly 'World' title
'Light heavyweight" or "Cruiserweight" is someone weighing less than 220 pounds. Promotions from all over the world include now or have included a "Cruiserweight" division at one time. WCW, TNA, WWE, New Japan, All Japan, Promotions in Africa, Australia, Europe...all have had or have this title as part of their repertoire.
As for WWE's incarnation, it can trace its roots back to WCW who experimented with a Light Heavyweight Division. In 2001 during the 'Invasion' storyline post WWE purchase of WCW, it was called the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship and renamed the WWF(E) Cruiserweight Championship replacing the WWF(E) Light Heavyweight Championship.
WWE, in one of the worst moves it has ever made, had Hornswoggle hold the strap in 2008 and not long thereafter was retired.
And a little Rey will lead them...
Rey Mysterio had the most number of reigns with eight, and Gregory Helms held it the longest at any one time with a reign of 385 days.
Both these wrestlers are exactly why we need a Cruiserweight Championship vigorously pushed in the WWE. I love Rey Mysterio, but there's no way a guy his size belongs with a HEAVYweight belt around his waist. But with that being said, Rey has every skill of a champion. With a renewed Cruiserweight division and Championship, he can and not have it last a few minutes or be against a ridiculously large opponent such as Kane.
A Cruiserweight Championship allows for a whole other dimension of programming and character development in WWE.
Other talents that would make excellent CW Champions include Evan Bourne, Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes, Yoshi Tatsu, and Chavo Guerrero (so he can stop jobbing, a total waste of his talents). Those on this list I've just mentioned have no real business, in my opinion, competing for Heavyweight gold due to sheer size.
It's just ridiculous even for those like me who love underdogs. But they do have everything else. Why not exploit this exciting group of wrestlers and show some growth as a promotion? the IWC complains about "Superman" Cena, perhaps they'd enjoy "Spiderman" Evan Bourne. I think they would. I know I would.
I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the overlooked but in my opinion, awesomely exciting championships in the WWE.
While the Heavyweight titles get the glory, the Intercontinental, United States and Cruiserweight Championships can be just as exciting, add layers of depth and allow for a showcase of up and coming talents at multiple size classes.
As always, I invite the opinion of the IWC on this, 'til my next article...