Grading Each Current WWE Champion Ahead of Clash of Champions 2019
With WWE Clash of Champions 2019 headed our way this Sunday, all eyes are on the Superstars currently holding all the belts.
Every champion on the main roster is set to defend their titles on the show and must prove they are still the top of the food chain in WWE.
However, just because someone holds a title doesn't mean they're truly top notch. Being a great champion takes more than just carrying a belt to the ring.
To have the total package as a great champion, a Superstar must impress with their matches, feuds, longevity, win-loss records and the overall storyline of their title reign.
Who among the current crop have proved themselves worthy of that honor and which champions are struggling with their responsibilities?
Let's take a look at all of the main roster champions and grade them with a performance evaluation.
24/7 Champion R-Truth
It's impossible to grade the reigns of the 24/7 Championship as individual runs, since they're all so short and silly. But when looking at the big picture, R-Truth has done more with the title than anybody could have imagined.
He turned this gimmick from something that was met with groans to one of the most entertaining aspects of WWE programming in 2019. Alongside Drake Maverick, they have been the two pillars of this title.
In terms of quantity, R-Truth is unmatched, with both the highest number of reigns and the longest combined days as champion.
He's also had some of the best storyline moments and title changes, ranging from winning the belt on an airplane to losing it to Fox Sports host Rob Stone.
There is no match quality to grade him on, but the feud with Maverick, the perpetual chase angle, the comedic gold of him referring to the belt as the 365 European TV Championship and other nonsense has made R-Truth one of the best champions WWE has had all year.
Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak
The head honcho on 205 Live is Drew Gulak, who is very much a big fish in a small pond.
As WWE gives little to no promotion to the brand and regularly puts the cruiserweight title on pre-shows, there isn't much value attributed to this championship to anyone who isn't an avid 205 Live viewer.
But while Gulak isn't so captivating that he's bringing in new fans, he's doing the best he can with what he has to work with.
He's been a rock-solid champion, defeating all challengers who come his way and adapting his style to fit every opponent to the point that he seems like he has the whole roster figured out.
In fact, Tony Nese—who lost the title to Gulak—spiraled out of control so much that he is now a heel again and acting as a subordinate to The University City Stretcher, who clearly proved himself superior, just as he said he would.
There isn't a single person on 205 Live who appears equipped to beat him any time soon, as he continues to prove himself the most dangerous man under 205 pounds in WWE.
Gulak is the best person for this part right now, and if anyone were to dethrone him, the title would mean less in their hands.
Women's Tag Team Champions Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
The Women's Tag Team Championship hasn't had much going for it, with WWE clearly not too invested in the titles.
Both prior champions didn't have stellar runs, so the bar has been set rather low for Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, who don't even have a team name yet.
But what they lack in purpose and direction, they make up for in spunk. They could have easily fizzled out as friends a long time ago when Bayley was feuding with the two, but they remain a strong unit.
It's too early in their reign to know what the overall value of this run will be, but at least the belts are being seen on a regular basis, which is more than could be said for when The IIconics were the holders.
The quality of Bliss and Cross' matches hasn't been amazing and their feuds have been non-existent, but they keep trucking along and seem dedicated to trying to get these belts over.
Raw Tag Team Champions Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins
Longtime WWE fans have seen this story many times in the past where two adversaries win the tag team titles while they're feuding over another championship and it never ends well.
The tag team division always takes a hit, as those belts stop being the priority while the focus is on the degrading partnership of the champions until they're unable to coexist and drop the titles.
Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins are not long for this world as champions and could very well lose the titles to Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode at Clash of Champions, even though the challengers are not an established team.
The Raw Tag Team Championship is only being used right now as one of many elements in a bigger storyline and there is no real investment in the credibility of those titles or the future of its lineage.
Two singles stars who luck into winning the tag titles out of brute force, rather than chemistry, and look past those belts on their shoulders while gawking at the Universal Championship are not the best representatives for this division.
The only positive they bring to the table is that they're featured players on Raw, so the titles aren't being completely pushed to the sidelines, even if this will ultimately prove to be meaningless and do more harm than good.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The New Day
The New Day have done this song and dance so many times that their title reigns blur together.
When they're champions, the belts mean more by being associated with them, as WWE can't help but to give them the spotlight, whereas lesser champions get lost in the shuffle all the time.
This particular run has not been stellar, as Big E and Xavier Woods have had to be the punching bags to put over Kofi Kingston's feud with Randy Orton, but once that is over, The New Day will get back on track.
Even if they don't turn things around and wind up dropping the belts to The Revival at Clash of Champions, it's only a matter of time before The New Day hold tag team gold again.
They're too entertaining and trustworthy as performers to not go to back to their well any time the tag team division needs a boost, so they'll pretty much always be at least a baseline of great champions.
Grade: B+ right now, but A+ for their overall reigns combined.
Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura
Much like his United States Championship reigns before, Shinsuke Nakamura has done relatively nothing with the Intercontinental Championship.
Why he won the title in the first place still seems a mystery. If the answer is as simple as WWE needing to get the belt off Finn Balor so he could take a vacation to get married and Nakamura's name was picked out of a hat, it would make sense with the way he's been booked as inconsequential.
Not until Sami Zayn became his mouthpiece did Nakamura really do anything and this may even be the final stretch of his run, as The Miz could win the title at Clash of Champions to tie Chris Jericho's ninth reign.
That is a much bigger story that is overshadowing The Artist's do-nothing run that has consisted of no impressive matches or feuds fans could sink their teeth into.
United States Champion AJ Styles
AJ Styles has the United States Championship not because he is having a great run with the title, but because that is being used as a prop to make him seem like a bigger threat to the Universal Championship.
With the United States title, The Phenomenal One defaults to an important part of the roster without having to be directly fighting for the top title. He's essentially No. 2 on the brand, which is what he's been arguing recently in regards to Clash of Champions and how he should be the rightful contender to face Seth Rollins.
This reign is tough to grade, as it's equal parts useless and serving a purpose.
Beating Ricochet and turning heel helped get Styles back on track, but his status as United States champion has taken a backseat to being the leader of The O.C. If he were to lose this title and still wreak havoc on Raw, it's likely his spot on the card wouldn't change at all.
Until he stops being the third wheel in the feud between Rollins and Strowman, it will be hard to assess his performance as champion beyond an average score.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley
After going nowhere for a long while, even as a tag team champion, Bayley turned her career around twice during this title reign.
The first shift was with her Money in the Bank victory and winning the title to begin with after cashing in on Charlotte Flair. Most recently, new life was breathed into Bayley with her heel turn that has been a long time coming.
With a chair in her hand and Sasha Banks by her side once more, Bayley looks stronger now than she has since arguably her NXT Championship reign, with new purpose and passion that makes it intriguing to see where she'll go from here.
If she retains at Clash of Champions, she'll get an even higher grade for overcoming a big obstacle in Flair fighting for the title in her hometown of Charlotte. If she loses, she's still had probably her best title reign so far on the main roster.
Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch went through a roller coaster over the past year, trading the SmackDown Women's Championship for what would ultimately turn into a dual title reign with both that and the Raw Women's Championship, only to lose the blue brand's belt soon after.
She's held onto the Raw title since WrestleMania, though, and stayed strong as a major focal point of the entire company, elevating the division in the process.
As far as feuds, though, The Man has been shortchanged. Her story with Lacey Evans was stretched far too long, while her program against Natalya was rushed.
This unbalanced approach to her booking has made her run unmemorable outside of the fact that it's simply happening. It's doubtful anyone will look back in 10 years and remember any noteworthy matches beyond her peak of winning the title from Ronda Rousey.
But Lynch has made history multiple times and may continue to break ground after Clash of Champions, so even if she hasn't been in the best feuds, her win-loss record is mostly untarnished and she has made a major impact on WWE as a whole with this reign.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston
There may be no better champion in 2019 than Kofi Kingston, who has held the WWE Championship since his historic win at WrestleMania.
Kingston's push at the beginning of the year was the sort of random magic that WWE can never fabricate and it led to one of the best moments in WrestleMania history—if not WWE history—to see him finally ascend the throne after over a decade of scratching and clawing to get to the top.
Since beating Daniel Bryan for the title, Kingston has defeated every tough challenger who came his way. This included former world champions AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler, the much bigger monster Samoa Joe and more.
He's hit a snag with Randy Orton, but the storyline of struggling to overcome the person who held him down the most and prevented him from achieving this goal years ago is captivating and a worthy trade-off to just another victory.
As shown by his trip to Ghana and the warm reception from the WWE Universe these past months, Kingston has become an inspiration to many fans all over the world and set a great example of a quality champion who has fun matches and hasn't become tiresome to watch even five months later.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins
Ignoring the hiccup of dropping the Universal Championship to Brock Lesnar just to win it back again, Seth Rollins has been a rather dominant leader of the Raw roster in 2019.
By no means has he reached the heights of mega stars before him like John Cena, The Rock, Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan, but he's established himself as one of WWE's go-to main event players.
A noteworthy victory for him as champion was that, according to his WWE Chronicle special before SummerSlam, sales of the Universal Championship belt went up after he beat Lesnar.
Having The Beast Slayer on Raw every week with the title saw an increase in support for that belt in general, which is as good of an endorsement as one can get.
The feud with Baron Corbin had good moments, but was dragged out past its expiration date. His relationship with Lynch also made for some interesting twists and turns that weren't fully capitalized on, but there is still potential to revisit that in the future.
If he is given more to work with, Rollins can likely have a stronger second run with this title than his first this year, as he's obviously dedicated enough to give it his all.
Whether he's the best person for the job right now remains to be seen, but he's already raised the title to a better position than when he got it.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.