The WWE World Heavyweight Title: Does It Sell Tickets and Make Stars?
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This article may seem controversial to many fans. I myself have followed the WWE since Wrestlemania 13— and now at 23 years old —I have grown up with the product and have seen it evolve from edgy and exciting, to sometime boring but, an altogether more family and commercially orientated product. However, since MITB, I have been questioning the value of the WWE and World Heavyweight titles currently in the WWE.
My question is, how many people care about who is the champion? At a PPV, does the title match sell the show out, or do the competitors?
There are certain superstars are bigger than any title that the WWE can bestow on them for example The Undertaker, Triple H, John Cena and perhaps Randy Orton. The Undertaker and Triple H never need to be anywhere near a WWE or WHC title to sell tickets, their Wrestlemania match is a clear testament to that, as were the HBK vs. Undertaker matches. I wonder if there's a point where a wrestler becomes credible on their own virtues and if the titles have become meaningless.
Can a title cheapen a match, or is it irrelevant to the outcome? Cena vs. The Rock springs to mind, because I've read and heard a lot of negative criticism in regards to their WM28 match being for the WWE title.
The match alone, just like Hogan vs. The Rock a decade earlier, would be enough to sell tickets and PPV buys, without the need to include the title into the match. The Rock is certainly a wrestler who would sell out an arena without being featured in a title match.
The WWE title means that a separate rivalry, maybe Del Rio vs. Ziggler as an example, would be fought over a lesser title.
Del Rio as a title holder was a mistake in many ways. The Destiny gimmick wore out its welcome, and unfortunately he lacks a strong characteristic that define him.
However, HBK, Triple H, The Undertaker and John Cena, they have very clearly defined persona's and gimmicks that are very marketable.
Shawn Michaels, known also as Mr. Wrestlemania, will always deliver. His gimmick was based on his ability to perform and outperform his opponent.
Triple H has The Game and Cerebral Assassin, a niche that he's developed to come across as a ruthless competitor. The Ruthless Aggression era was developed around his gimmick, and whether he won or lost, there was the element to his style of attack that was calculating and remorseless.
The Deadman persona speaks volumes because it has defined 20 years of the WWE; it's been tested against Hogan, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H, HBK, Edge, Randy Orton and Cena and yet, it's still the strongest gimmick in wrestling. The Deadman facade is nothing to do with a win or loss record, nor titles, it's simply that he can withstand an inhuman amount of punishment, and his size and style have made his performances seem better than the rest at times.
And finally there is Cena's superman-esque portrayal of Hustle-Loyalty and Respect, love it or hate it, the formula sells and as proven in recent matches, it adds a lot of depth. Cena may be the modern day Hogan; overly patriotic, child friendly, a strong role model, but he wins clean probably 95 percent of the time, and the effort he puts into each match is fairly unparalleled across the roster.
In comparison, The Miz's awesome abilities are often questioned because he openly announces that he is awesome, and then loses.
Without a rock solid and unique gimmick, simple loses can undermine the credibility of a wrestler, because loses contradict a lot of gimmicks that are basically stating that each wrestler is better than the next. These tired and weak gimmicks hurt the championships.
There are quotes of how wrestlers were given lengthy title reigns in earlier era's, because they were good for business. When the WWE was at a low point between the NWO and Attitude Era collided, around WM14, HBK is acknowledged by many in the industry as having held the WWF title for eight months, and carrying the company through the hard times. Not necessarily single-handedly I agree, but the point is, that the company put the title on him because he would represent it better than anyone at the time, and that he could take on that burden.
With that in mind, the only superstars currently in a position to really personify the title as the single most prestigious prize in the business are John Cena, Randy Orton and CM Punk. As much as many of us want John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler, Del Rio and others to be given the mantle, I would question whether they are ready to take on the crown and really carry it. In that respect, the WWE titles are hard to place because they should show us who is the cream of the crop. Instead, partly due to short and meaningless reigns, and in part because of weak transitional champions such as Swagger and Del Rio, the titles prestige may be called into question, and the calibre of stars we expect to be champions can as well.
My suggestion, though it may not be popular, is to pack and develop the mid card, and have the U.S. and Intercontinental titles as a highlight, because by creating a buzz and strong feuds around those titles, the heavyweight championships will hopefully be perceived as being the pinnacle of the business. As unpopular as it may sound, having strong championship reigns with Cena and Orton will refocus the titles as the biggest prize. Prestigious championships have become a thing of the past, and it's a shame because there is too much of a blur between the mid card and the main eventers, and it weakens the entire WWE product. If the WWE and WHC are defended at every PPV they should only change hands at one of the big-four PPVs. Each title change should be a part of a feud, rather than a rotating number one contender, because we end up with too many short feuds and championship reigns that distract from what the titles should be, which is the ultimate goal. So rather than a disposable champion every month, with forgettable title reigns, give us something that we can take the time to appreciate, even if it means John Cena.
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