The wrestling business has seen major transformation in regards to the prestige of specific championships. The once coveted Intercontinental championships has seen its value diminish over the years because there simply appears to be an abundance of wrestling championships in the organization. In the early days the Intercontinental title was one notch below the WWE Championship and was often the title held by the best in-ring competitor. The Intercontinental championship was also a catalyst for most superstars to move to the next level and become the World Champion (Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels to name a few). I did not follow the history of the United States Championship in WCW but I do believe it did have the same reputation as the Intercontinental title. These titles essentially were a reward for the workhorses and the men you could rely on to have a great matches.
Since WWE swallowed up its major competition WCW, the WWE was able to promote their two shows as two separate promotions. On RAW you’d have one major title, the secondary title, tag title and either the Women’s/Crusierweight titles. Smackdown was home to the United States Championship and RAW has the Intercontinental title. After their respective revivals, both titles began to lose their appeal. Additionally, even the World Heavyweight title began to lose its major appeal and essentially took the place as the second-tier title.
That leaves us to present day, where many have complained about the futility of these two titles. The title holders are often being defeated in non-title matches by uppercard talents and the titles rarely have a match on any major pay-per-views. Therefore what point do they have other than access baggage (in the literal sense). I still feel they have a place in wrestling today, however given their poor treatment and the frustrating ways the champions are booked my argument is weak. In wrestling you will always have guys who are just mid-card talents. These guys excel at their craft but will never be a mega-money draw. I think that for their abilities and skills a title is a sufficient way to reward them for their contribution to the wrestling card and so I feel the titles should remain.
I would enact a few changes for these titles given that their worth is different in today’s era of wrestling.
- The title should be on the line in every match the champion competes in. There is no appeal in non-title matches and I think fans tune out when they hear “non-title match”. As has been evident by the two recent title matches, a title victory can still get a substantial “pop” which creates excitement.
- Much like WWE.com’s “Power Ranking” system, I think there should be a visible record of wins/losses and some sort of point system that indicates who are the Number One contenders for the respective titles. This would place greater worth and value for each match. The more matches you win the higher you climb to becoming the number one contender. If you lose, you fall down the ladder. I think this could get fans more invested because each match has certain weight to it. A point system could be beneficial such as rewarding wrestlers for winning by submission or punishing superstars who get disqualified or counted out. I also think voting on “Match of the Night” and rewarding the superstars in that match could add some excitement, plus this would add some value to the WWE App. Similar to the video game system, once you have a certain amount of EXP points you can then challenge for the title of your choice.
- The battles for climbing up and down the “Power Ranking” system could potentially birth additional feuds as Superstars can impact your standing and hopefully the desire to be champion creates a sense of personal animosity. The overall hope is a new sense of emotional investment in mid-card talents and the mid-card titles.
As I reviewed my points, I felt as though I was booking for WCW/TNA. Its refreshing, new and appears good on paper but could it be executed in the way I’m imagining it? The “Power Ranking” and a point system does have a few too many details that could go over the heads of fans because now you’ve added something that they have to go research instead of it being a clear part of the show. For example, the Money in the Bank Match was very straightforward: “grab the briefcase, cash in the contract at any time.”
As a fan, I’d hate to see these nostalgic titles just go away but I do agree their appeal is fading. Wrestling fans will grow tired of a new concept quickly and so any creative approach to reinventing these titles may simply be prolonging their inevitable demise. Perhaps next year at Wrestlemania XXX, they will have the two champions face off to unify and retire both titles, a final send-off on the grandest stage.