Column: Championship Belts – Is The Prestige Gone?

by Will Benson on 19th July 2008

Hey everyone, this is my first column for a wrestling site. I hope you enjoy this column and those to come.

Championships have been a big part of professional wrestling for a very long time. It has meant a lot to a superstar to hold any type of title. Championships are some of the most recognized things in professional wrestling. They have a distinct legacy in the business. It seems that now days, their really is no prestige in the championships as their once was. I have a big problem with that. 

The WWE Championship, World Championship, and ECW Championship are a huge part of the WWE today. It is involved in the biggest feuds and is defended on a regular basis, always on a pay-per-view. This is not what I have a problem with. I am talking about the titles that helped propel stars into contention for those titles. Im talking about the Intercontinental and United States Championships.

Remember all the great feuds that the Intercontinental Championship has brought us. Tito Santana and Greg Valentine was classic. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage gave us quite possibly not only the greatest Wrestlemania match ever, but one of the all-time great matches. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) had a series of great matches that included the birth of the Ladder Match. Roddy Piper and Bret Hart put on a spectacle at Wrestlemania VIII. Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith stole the show at Summerslam 1992. I still remember Shawn Michaels defeating Jeff Jarrett at In Your House 2 1995 as being one of the most exciting matches I had ever seen when I was a little kid.

Look at all the title reigns that have helped put superstars over the top. Randy Savage was one of the first that took an Intercontinental title reign and turn it into something bigger and better. That was a consistent route that young and upcoming superstars followed.

One of the most unforgettable moments in WWE history was when the Ultimate Warrior stepped in for an “injured” Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, at Summerslam and defeated the Honky Tonk Man. After that he went on to have a classic feud with “Ravishing” Rick Rude. This was quite possibly the turning point in his career. Bret Hart’s Intercontinental title reign helped pushed him over the top to a World Championship. The feud between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty helped propel Michaels into the star he is today. The Rock and Steve Austin had one of the most famous feuds in WWE history. Their wars over the Intercontinental championships helped set up a historic rivalry that carried WWE during their war with WCW. Later, after Stone Cold moved on to bigger things, The Rock then got involved with another legend in the businesses by the name of Hunter Hearst Helmsley better known as Triple H.

Look and see what this title has done to the careers of all these superstars. It has even helped Edge, Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Christian Cage transform into two top stars in the wrestling business.

This title is no longer used to help along young superstars break through onto the scene. It seems like it isn’t even involved any more. It is hardly ever defended. I don’t think it has been involved in a true feud since almost 7 years. Yeah it has been that bad. Their really isn’t true competition for it anymore. People don’t want a shot at the Intercontinental title anymore. The people that have the belt don’t even seem to care. Here lately the only thing the Intercontinental Champion does is job to the World Title competitors.

I would like to see them have the top stars still competing for the title. Why not have the I.C. title change hands a few times in the Chris Jericho/HBK feud or the JBL/Cena feuds? Why not, it’s not like they are battling for the World title. I just think it will add more juice and excitement to the matches. It just seems like WWE thinks it will make the stars lesser in fans eyes. I don’t understand it.

I will admit it is looking like they are starting to turn the corner on the Intercontinental title with Kofi Kingston as the champion already defending the title twice in the past 3 weeks, hopefully WWE keeps it up.

Even if Raw doesn’t want to make their top stars feel like they aren’t World Title contenders, they have plenty of young talent that could try and establish using the I.C. title. Charlie Haas is a great athlete and wrestler, he just doesn’t get over with fans, this could help him. Chuck Palumbo and Matt Striker are stuck with nothing for them since the draft. This could help give them a role on Raw. A Santino Marrella title feud would work better now as a heel. If they have big plans for Lance Cade, why not give him a go at the title instead of sticking him in the middle of the Chris Jericho-Shawn Michaels feud that he doesn’t seem to belong in. Hardcore Holly is also another veteran in the business with nothing else going on. William Regal could be involved in as well coming off of his suspension. The I.C.title would be a great route to go for a Ted DiBiase Jr. or a Cody Rhodes down the line. If the rumors of a Deuce gimmick change are true, this would be a great way to get him over with the Raw fans.

I thought the I.C. title was in shambles, what in the world are they doing with the United States title.

It was the NWA/WCW equivalent to what the I.C. title was for the WWE back in the 80’s and 90’s by making stars out of Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, Dustin Rhodes, Vader, Eddie Guerrero, Dallas Page, Chris Benoit, Scott Steiner, and Booker T.

I was excited when WWE announced they were bringing back the title because I was a huge fan of the belt in WCW. I wasn’t very optimistic though considering how they were using the I.C. title. I must admit it surprised me. The US title was a major turning point in the career of Eddie Guerrero after he revived the belt after defeating Chris Benoit at Vengeance 2003. I was a little surprised to see the strap on The Big Show but was glad they put it on a World Title contender and didn’t worry about what it would do to his reputation.

 I loved the way it jump started the career of John Cena and brought in Carlito. It may be one of the best title feuds featuring the US title since it has been on Smackdown. It helped establish Cena and Carlito. They even made the attempt with Orlando Jordan , which didn’t quite work out but was still glad they had him as champion. They then started disappointing me with them giving the belt with Booker T and Chris Benoit for long periods of time.

I loved the title reigns of Bobby Lashley, Finlay, Mr. Kennedy, and especially MVP. They were finally using the belt to bring up the rising stars. The MVP reign, although long was disappointing. I like MVP and think he is an exceptional talent but most of his reign, he did nothing besides job the Kane, Undertaker, and Batista. He hardly ever defended the title, except for the Matt Hardy feud.

Currently, their doesn’t look like there are any good plans for the title now that it has been moved to ECW. All Matt Hardy has been doing is wrestling in non-title matches and in tag team matches. At the Great American Bash, Hardy is facing Shelton Benjamin. Hopefully Benjamin gets the nod and we get to see him in some good feuds. Like I mentioned about the I.C. title on Raw, there are plenty of Smackdown and ECW guys with nothing going on. Carlito had a good run as champion when he first debuted on Smackdown. Jeff Hardy is very over with the fans and would like to see him in a top I.C. title feud. Mr. Kennedy and MVP don’t really have much going on and are rumored to enter into a feud; I think the US title could add some more intrigue to it. It could help establish the younger guys like Ricky Ortiz, Braden Walker, Evan Bourne, Mike Knox, Armando Estrada, and Elijah Burke get over with the fans on ECW. They could also help it take younger stars like Vladimir Kozlov, DH Smith, Shelton Benjamin, Domino, Brian Kendrick, and Kenny Dykstra get over the top and really get some fan support.

The tag team titles aren’t even worth mentioning anymore because their isn’t even a tag team division to really speak of in the WWE.

WWE hires these creative writers to try and come up with a stupid backstage incident to have an explanation for a feud and they have all these stars sitting backstage not doing anything, and WWE tells them they don’t have anything for them. Why can’t a feud be something as simple as one wrestler has a title and the other wrestler wants the title?

So have the titles lost prestige? Absolutely and it is a big problem in WWE today.

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