Setting the value of today’s WWE titles

Watching wrestling these days, I can’t help but think about how much has changed throughout the decades I’ve been watching this crap.  I’m amazed and aggravated at just how over Ryback is, considering he is the verbatim second-coming of Bill Goldberg, but somehow worse because he has an even more limited arsenal of moves, speaks too much during matches, and has the annoying habit of bobbing his head to his own music.

I’m also concerned for the WWE in regards to just how many shows they have now.  Off the top of my head, they have RAW on Mondays, Smackdown on Fridays, and I believe they have shows on Wednesdays occasionally and also a Saturday morning program.  I don’t know if they have any reality television shows at the moment, but they have developed a fairly prominent YouTube channel, which now puts the onus on WWE performers and personnel to provide content for, while they’re not being pressured to engage the “universe” with their seemingly mandatory Twitter accounts.  The level of saturation they’re reaching at this point is enough to kill WCW twice over at this point, and I know the WWE is very adaptable and a smart-operating company, but it still heeds an orange-level warning as far as I’m concerned.

But anyway what this post is about is in regards to the seemingly excessive number of titles that are circulating throughout the WWE at this point.  And I guess this would be useful for an older fan hoping to pick up watching wrestling today, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure nobody reading this would fit that criteria, but it seemed like a good idea to write at the time.  But what I’ll basically be doing is taking today’s current array of WWE championship belts and achievements, and appropriately providing an equivalent from an older generation, to help provide perspective for today’s viewers.

#1: WWE Championship = WWF World Heavyweight Champion

Don’t let the presence of two “top-tier” championship belts fool you.  This is the one and only true top-tier belt in the WWE right now.  It’s the only belt that genuinely means the top of the company, and it’s no more indicative than the guys that have held the belt compared to the guys who have held the Big Gold Belt: CM Punk, John Cena, Alberto del Rio versus Big Show, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Mark Henry.

It’s the belt that originated from the WWF’s original World Heavyweight Championship, and has the timeline that dates back to the WWF and only the WWF.  It is the one true belt that represents the company, and the WWE doesn’t even try to hide the obvious nature of its importance over the Big Gold Belt, which is kind of an analogy in itself:

WWE (Champion) > World (Champion).

#2: Money in the Bank Briefcase = WWF Intercontinental Championship

That’s right, the second most prestigious honor in the WWE right now isn’t even a belt.  It’s a briefcase.  Basically, the wrestler that wins the Money in the Bank briefcase from the Money in the Bank ladder match is guaranteed “a championship match of his choosing at any time.”  It’s an idea that was architected by Chris Jericho that has become a mainstay since its inception a while ago, and has basically become the WWE’s get out of jail free card, for whenever a top-tier champion storyline goes sour and they need a quick escape from it.  It’s led to some interesting title changes, and has served additionally to be the “shake things up” variable.

The reason it’s the WWF Intercontinental Championship is because it was once said that the WWF World Championship was reserved for the “best guy,” regardless of his actual wrestling talent, and that the WWF Intercontinental Championship was reserved for the “best wrestler.”  The fact that Dolph Ziggler has it now, and the history of previous Money in the Bank winners pretty clearly indicates that only those with pretty good wrestling talent actually get this honors.

#3: World Heavyweight Championship (Big Gold Belt) = WCW United States Championship

Not only is it not even close to being a complementary first-tier honor, it’s not even second.  It’s clearly third in the hierarchy of WWE honors at this rate, and it’s not really even its fault.  Simply put, as long as it is represented by the Big Gold Belt, there is absolutely zero chance of the World Heavyweight Championship rising to be anything more than #2 in the WWE’s hierarchy.  The Big Gold Belt is the penultimate symbol of WCW, and as long as Vincent K. McMahon is in control of the WWE, there is no way in hell that anything representative of WCW will grow above his own WWE child.  It’s almost like the Big Gold Belt is kept around as the Big Gold Belt just to serve as a reminder of how second class WCW was compared to the reigning WWE.

So as a result, the World Heavyweight Championship is a lot like the old WCW United States Championship; it bounced around to some fairly talented guys, some more so than others, but was not nearly as exclusive to the truly great talents as the World Championship was.

#4: WWE Tag Team Championship = Two WCW Television Championships

As much as it pains me to say it, but tag team wrestling is dead.  I know it still exists somewhat in TNA Wrestling, but nobody gives a flying fuck about TNA Wrestling so they don’t really count, but if you look at the current WWE roster, off the top of my head, I can only identify two actual tag teams: the Usos, and the Colons. And it’s not so much that they’re tag teams as much as they’re both sets of brothers or cousins, and they look and are built similarly.

Nowadays, tag matches are clumps of individual wrestlers in matches against each other with tag team rules in place.  But the days of Demolition, the Rockers, Hart Foundation, Rhythm and Blues, Bushwackers, Strike Force, Power & Glory, the Road Warriors and even the Orient Express are all gone, and they’ll probably never come back.  Putting two fairly over wrestlers together and giving them a makeshift name like “Team Hell No” makes a tag team not.

The Tag Team Championship isn’t really a collective singular championship as much as it is an excuse to give two over wrestlers belts to individually hold for television purposes.  It’s no more apparent now than it is with the wildly-over Daniel Bryan, and the always dependable and respectable Kane.  Currently in the singles ranks, there’s no room in the storylines for each to have a belt, but as a “team,” each can carry a belt, and work the comedic relief portions of the shows.

Alternatively, the Tag Team Championship is also used more than any other championship as a transitional plot device; either given to a heel team, and/or two guys that simply seem like “they could use a bone,” but with the obvious intent that a short reign is in order for when a more appealing storyline is concocted to where they would ultimately lose the belts to an actual deserving storyline.

So since it’s established that the current Tag Team Championship is purely a superficial and cosmetic championship for two guys to be able to hold championship belts for cameras, it’s the equivalent of the two WCW Television Championship belts: the belt that was typically given to wrestlers who managed to unexpectedly get over, be it through hard work, clever gimmick, or for transitional purposes, and the TV Championship was the bone they were tossed to reward them for their efforts.  But it really never amounts to anything long-term.

#5: United States / Intercontinental Championships = Two WWF European Championships

Considering the word “intercontinental” means “within the continent,” to which the WWE is based out of the United States in North America, it’s barely more encompassing than the United States championship, but for all intents and purposes, it’s essentially two belts that are representative of the United States.  And in today’s hierarchy, they’re two belts that are about as pretty much as unimportant as they possibly come.  Look no further than the two guys holding the belts – Antonio Cesaro and Kofi Kingston.  Kofi’s talented and athletic, but it’s still a far cry from the days when the IC belt was given to the best wrestlers.

And since they’re unimportant titles, they’re both roughly the equivalent of the WWF European Championship, which was the WWF’s attempt to globalize somewhat, and have a separate belt that was supposed to be prominently for international events, namely events held in England.  Eventually, it just became another low-tier title for low-tier talent (X-Pac, Crash Holly, Test, Spike Dudley), and even was denigrated further when it was continuously held by X-Pac, abandoned like trash by Shane McMahon, and later found by a rummaging Mideon.

In an ironic coincidence of appropriateness, if the European Championship was an attempt to globalize, the two United States-representative belts are doing a pretty good job of doing such, if you look at their recent histories: Cesaro (Swiss), Santino Marella (Italy), Kofi (Ghana), Sheamus (Ireland), Ezekiel Jackson (Guyana), Wade Barrett (English).

With this explanation of today’s WWE titles and honors, it would make watching today’s wrestling a little bit easier, to understand why certain storylines are given so much more weight than others are, and why certain titles that used to be all prestigious, just aren’t so much today.

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