Saturday 21 March 2015

Decreasing Value in Triplicate

I've written before that I'm not generally in favour of former world champions winning mid-card championships. It's been a while since I explained my reasons for this though so it's probably worth covering them again briefly. Generally speaking I think it's a move that hurts the credibility of the champion in question and does nothing for either of the championships. The world championship should be a promotion's top prize. If a wrestler is happy to forget about trying to regain it in favour of challenging for another title it makes the world championship look less prestigious. It makes the wrestler look like they were in over the head at the top of the card, as though they're taking  step backwards to the easier opposition of the mid-card. Rather than elevating the non-world title it makes it look like something that guys do in between world title reigns, turning it into a stopgap rather than a legitimate prize.

American champ? Maybe.
American hero? Undoubtably.
The reason I mention this is that it's currently looking as though WWE may be planning to have John Cena and Daniel Bryan win non-world titles at WrestleMania. They are respectively the face of and most popular man in the company. The reasoning, according to the most prevalent of rumours, is that if Lesnar re-signs he can retain the world championship against Roman Reigns and house shows can be structured around US champion Cena and Intercontinental champion D-Bry.

If you just glance at the idea it makes sense. Lesnar can keep his world strap and the lesser belts can be given a boost by Bryan and Cena. But realistically that's not going to happen. The US and IC belts are going to carry the same lustre they have for years no matter who holds them. And, just to be clear, that lustre is practically non-existent. Bryan and Cena won't elevate the titles simply by winning them because they're the same titles that have been aimlessly thrust around the same bunch of stagnating, going nowhere mid-carders for year. The best part of a decade in fact. By the time they're beginning to make progress at making the titles mean more, if they manage it at all, the writing team will have some other grand scheme that involves the two of them being moved back into the world title's orbit. Because this sort of schizophrenic approach is how the writing team works.

This move would make it look like Cena and Bryan are doing exactly what I said above, taking a step back and killing time before a better opportunity to become world champion presents itself. To an extent this would make sense for Cena's character. He's been trounced by Lesnar several times now. But this wouldn't be how it's presented, because doing so would involve acknowledging that Cena isn't omnipotent.

This man is better than WWE's Intercontinental championship.
Meanwhile Bryan has never faced 'The Beast'. Surely it would be better for his character, and the world championship, if he left 'Mania with no gold and announced his intention to focus on earning a match with Lesnar and defeating him for the world title. That would make it clear the WWE championship is still the biggest prize in the company and give us a sure-fire hit in Lesnar v Bryan. It would also make a Bryan v Reigns title match an interesting proposition: Reigns would have won the Rumble and defeated Bryan before being halted by Lesnar, the man Bryan would have beaten for the gold.

The thing is, this entire line of thinking is unnecessary on WWE's part anyway. Nobody buys tickets to WWE house shows based on title defences, no matter what titles they are. It's the WWE brand and the number of main event performers announced that determines whether people go or not. John Cena (or whoever) defending the world title against Seth Rollins (or whoever) doesn't make a jot of difference because everyone knows the champion will leave with the championship if the match isn't televised.

Yeah, New Japan has been very successful introducing an Intercontinental championship of their own and having it held by former world champions. But New Japan is a very different company with a very different style to WWE. A far greater emphasis is placed on match quality than in WWE. Their title also benefits from not being booked as an afterthought for well over a decade. And WWE doesn't anyone like Shinsuke Nakamura to make synonymous with their championship. Cena will never be that good and Bryan doesn't have the tenure.

As much as I'd like to see him stick around and hold the title indefinitely this whole thing makes me hope, just a bit, that Lesnar decides on returning to the UFC. At least that would make the WWE title picture ever so slightly more likely to remain interesting in the traditionally dry post-'Mania period.

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