Saturday 21 September 2013

2013's Seventh Champion

As part of the ongoing Daniel Bryan v Triple H saga the WWE championship has been vacated. This is not something I’d expected to happen (which I'm sure certain parties in WWE consider makes it an instant success). I'd thought Randy Orton would enjoy a lengthy title reign before losing the belt to Bryan or a transitional champion. Surely 'The Face of WWE' should have had the title for as long as possible?

The WWE title being vacated doesn't bother me like the ROH title vacation earlier this year did. The companies operate very differently and portray their championships accordingly. Ring of Honor, as a promotion that promotes good sportsmanship and wrestling as an athletic contest, needs to ensure their top title is always seen as the most cherished prize to its wrestlers. They’ve traditionally done this by conserving title changes for special occasions and ensuring only the best men hold it, although they've not consistently managed that for a while before the vacation, I admit.

WWE uses its title to signify who's a headliner and who's someone we should believe can win. It's an important part of WWE but it's not always at the centre of the top plots. The history of the title is, in many ways, more important than its current status. Being able to rattle off the name of greats to have held it during modern title matches is what matters, especially where John Bradshaw Layfield is concerned.
Is this a sight we'll see again?
There are several ways we could see the story advance. A singles match could be announced to determine a new champion. Randy Orton could prove to ‘The Game’ as Mrs McMahon-Leveque that he’s worthy of being their figurehead by punting a few skulls. He made a good start showing that he’s still got his mean streak when he (storyline) injured The Miz on RAW.

Daniel Bryan would almost certainly be the other man in this scenario. His inclusion doesn’t need to contradict Triple H’s stated feelings on him. The COO could have his hand forced by the roster threatening to walk out if Bryan’s not given a fair shot. Trips could even decide to put Bryan in the match of his own volition, trotting out the “it’s best for business” line before screwing him and getting the belt back on Orton.

However a Bryan v Orton match was brought about it would be a disappointment given the situation. Why vacate the title in the middle of their feud only to have them face off again with the championship vacated?

Personally I like the idea of a tournament being held for the title. WWE’s not the kind of company that would book a sixteen man tournament for its top prize, although they have the roster depth to give us a good one. An eight man tournament would be ideal for several weeks of television.

Battleground could work nicely as a starting point in this scenario as it would allow four matches featuring big names to have some meaning on the card. Bryan could be pitted against corporate stooge Big Show. Orton could be put against someone at the Zack Ryder level, allegedly to give someone lower down the ranks a chance but really to give Orty an easy first round. The expected CM Punk v Ryback bout could even be incorporated into the tournament, with whoever lost costing whoever won their second round match to keep that programme separate and away from the title.

This isn’t a path WWE are likely to take though. They’re not a company keen on tournaments or stories that revolve around wins and losses. As good as this would be for stretching out easy to follow stories for a few weeks it’s simply not something WWE are likely to have an interest in.

A four man tournament seems a little likelier. They could get that out of the way in one night and involve Bryan, Orton, Big Show and one other person whom they deem fit to give a crack at headlining. That would also allow them to present that Bryan v Orton match that we can probably expect to decide a new champion.

The final option that occurs to me is omitting Bryan entirely and giving ‘The Viper’ an easy ride to regaining the gold. That would take us back to the situation of a few weeks ago, thus being pointless, but that’s not something likely to stop WWE. This idea has one interesting possible scenario: Orton being put in a match with Big Show to decide a new champ and ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ refusing to lay down and battering Orton, forcing him to overcome ‘The Giant’. Or at least taking a beating before Trips and-or Steph ordered Show to “take it easy” on Orty.

The championship being vacated presents WWE with some interesting booking options. I’m interested to see what they go with because it will not only tie into the Orton v Bryan programme and Bryan’s push but also because they’ve been going out of their way since SummerSlam to give us match results that don’t fit with their usual approach to the progression of main event feuds. We may be seeing a different format emerging. That’s something WWE should have experimented with years ago.

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