|Is this belt near retirement?
Cena v Orton may be one of the most played out matches on the roster but this match still manages to be of interest. On a basic level the two men have never clashed in a TLC setting, so there's something fresh there. There's obviously the far more noteworthy title versus title aspect too. While WWE have so far refrained from referring to this as a unification match (going out of their way to avoid that specific word) it's hard to see it as anything else. It's hard to see one man leaving the pay-per-view with both titles and defending them separately, although the option of the belts being switched (Orton taking the WHC and Cena becoming WWE champ) remains an option. A depressing one too.
I’m currently leaning towards one man having both belts. It's tough to imagine Orton defeating Cena cleanly especially as he wasn't even allowed an unsullied win over Daniel Bryan in their recent feud. That his Survivor Series match with Big Show ended with a musical cue distraction didn't make 'The Viper' look especially strong either. Basically the last few months have made it clear that even he is not on Cena’s level.
While it's easy to imagine Cena defeating Orton, because Cena beats everyone, that result seems too obvious. Would WWE announce a title versus title match involving Cena just like that and then have him win, also just like that? The match itself has come completely out of nowhere after years of doggedly sticking to the two world straps system. Whacking both titles on Cena on a B-show with only a month's build seems too easy. A bout of this importance could net WWE a decent buy rate if handled correctly. Rushing it seems entirely the current house style but isn't, ahem, what's best for business.
The TLC stipulation-slash-gimmick is an interesting one. Obviously it's been chosen because the title match will be going on last at a show of the same name as opposed to there being a genuine necessity to use it. It brings with it both freedoms and restrictions. The writing team can pile as much interference and other assorted nonsense into the match as they like without booking themselves into a corner. The gimmick is designed with that in mind, and this is a rare occasion when getting more bodies into the ring would probably improve the match quality considerably. But this also would also work against WWE: they have to book a decisive finish or come up with what will almost certainly be one of the wackiest finishes in company history.
A title unification feels like it should take place on a big show like WrestleMania or SummerSlam. That it’s not indicates to me that WWE wants its world title scene cleared up by 'Mania XXX next year (assuming this isn’t the start of a longer story which culminates with the real unification at ‘mania, which I doubt). Being the thirtieth instalment of their biggest annual show I think it's entirely possible the decision's been made to have the WWE championship in a clear position of prominence.
Personally I'm happy about the likelihood of WWE decluttering the world title picture. I've been saying for years that unifying the belts would make the remaining one, and by extension the man that holds it, mean more. I'd hoped that Cena getting the world title would lead to it but I hadn't thought it actually would. WWE seemed comfortable with the established setup.
|Lovely ring gear, no?
Longer term the move raises questions about future storylines and the secondary titles. For starters this could be the beginning of what ultimately turns out to be a Cena heel turn. Survivor Series and RAW showed his first interactions with The Authority as The Authority and he seemed on decent enough terms with them. It's not hard to see him being selected as the new 'Face of WWE' because in reality he's had that spot for years. If WWE does get rid of one world belt (and it's still not definite that they will remember) it could see a swift return to prominence of the Intercontinental championship. It's notable that that championship has recently been given to Big E Langston, a man who's said to have the archetypal WWE headliner physique and the not insignificant backstage support of John Cena. If the IC strap suddenly returns to being the company's undisputed number two and star-making title it should, in theory, raise Langston's profile by association. Not only that but it would be done in a pretty smooth manner.
It's possible there are plans for a rerun of the Ultimate Warrior-Hulk Hogan WrestleMania VI plot. Intercontinental champ Big E could win the Royal Rumble and go on to challenge for the WWE championship at 'Mania. Obviously that could work next year, but personally I think it's a bit soon. The Intercontinental title is currently as good as meaningless. Rebuilding its prestige over the next year with good matches and extended programmes between wrestlers that matter, which would demonstrate that guys care about it as something worth winning, would make it a bigger deal when the man that holds it goes for the world title. There's no reason that can't be Big E. 'Mania VI worked fine (storyline-wise at any rate) and Warrior had lost and regained the gold during the previous year.
The other possibility is that WWE intend to unify the Intercontinental belt and the WWE belt at WrestleMania XXX. Which would still give us Cena v Langston. That's a match I can see WWE wanting to do at a WrestleMania. The championships would just add to it. Is it a match I want to see? No. But I can imagine it’s one WWE are saving for a special occasion.