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In one of my first articles, I created a diagram of the title structure in that time (May 2013), compared to that of a decade ago. Forward on a year or so, and this hierarchical diagram is still very much relevant and appropriate. Nowadays, WWE's product is severely diminished due to the way championships are distributed and champions are portrayed. Back in the day, a championship belt made the man - which was a perfect ingredient to add to a concocted formula of creating a top-flight star. Today however, due to the degradation of title belts (being overshadowed and thrown on anyone), the trend of a man making a title belt relevant is starting to occur.
Let's revisit CM Punk's 434-day title reign last year. This was brilliant, as having the belt change so rarely revived its prestigious aura. It generated more anticipation as to who would hold it next, and it also boosted Punk and his career in more ways than one.This was a prime example of having the championship belt make the man - or making the man greater than he initially was. Aside from that instance, it's difficult to think of an example of where this has happened in more recent times. In this current feud with John Cena and Brock Lesnar, it's almost as if their rivalry is overshadowing the grand prize. This match would do just fine without the title at stake, but with it involved, it's becoming an afterthought - especially after Cena got his a** so drastically handed to him at SummerSlam. A title belt should always be the primary factor that makes a match exciting, and should not be overshadowed by the combatants or story itself. It's hard to think that this could ever be the case these days, and that's because WWE's portrayal of championship belts have made them irrelevant, which shouldn't have happened in the first place!
It's not just the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that's been affected either - it's safe to say that all of WWE's belts have diminished in prestige and value. WWE could do several things to make their championship belts become more relevant to solve problems like the one above:
Join the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Yes, this'll probably cause an uproar to life-long fans due to each belt's prestigious history, but it would help create that one secondary title WWE have so desperately needed. The US Title alone does nothing for its wearer, so joining it with the IC Title - which has also lost its worthy reputation - seems like the logical move. Merging the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship belts was a step in the right direction, as we now have one ultimate champion and there is no longer a dispute over who the real champion is. However, as mentioned above, there is still more work to be done to make this belt the grand prize it once was.
Make the jointed IC/US champion have an actual goal of becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and pursue it. This shouldn't be a title that collects dust around the waist of the holder, but more a stepping stone towards the next big goal - just like how it once was. The Rock and Chris Jericho are two examples of many who have won the IC Championship and gone on to win the 'big one'. Look at the recent holders of this championship belt now. Kofi Kingston, Bad News Barrett, The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Big E Langston are to name a few. Excluding BNB due to his unfortunate injuries, what have the rest achieved since their IC Championship reigns? Let's hope Dolph Ziggler's history repeats itself, allowing his current reign as champion to lead onto bigger things for his career. Doing this would also make the WWE World Heavyweight Championship seem that much more of a worthy possession, and so this would lead to more stars involving themselves in title-related story-lines.
Stop showing title matches in pre shows and less-than-mid-card matches! This seriously degrades the value of the title at stake, let alone match itself. How can we feel any respect for a championship/champion if they're competing in matches that don't even make any slots on live television? It's like WWE are telling us where their priorities lie, having story-line-driven matches take up live slots over title matches.
Make each division more about the belt. The tag-team division is a very confusing one. Yes, you have your tag-team champions, but then you have teams consisting of two random Superstars put together competing for it. Tag-team title defences don't come too often either, and should happen on a more frequent basis and be the focal point of tag-team rivalries. Establishing more concrete tag-teams would also make a difference, making the belts seem more of a serious prize that the roster strives to acquire. Hopefully the newly-crowned champions Goldust and Stardust can be the ignition of this process. Much of the same could be said with the Diva's division, although AJ Lee and Paige are greatly aiding its resurrection.
Back in the day, if a championship belt was involved, it was the ignition of a feud or rivalry. As mentioned earlier, the belt nowadays is thrown in as some sort of 'bonus prize', with it being overshadowed by the rivalry itself. WWE should ensure that story-lines involving complex plots, 'edgy' content, and extremely personal rivalries should exist outside title matches. This would allow for exciting title-less matches to occur, increasing the strength of the overall show/pay-per-view. You're probably thinking, "Won't we just be left with boring and meaningless title matches?" If WWE played their cards right, they could still generate intense rivalries that are all about the title belt, without making it so personal that it overshadows the treasure at hand.
Create a couple of other divisions so that all Superstars have a goal to strive for. At the moment, WWE have a lot of talent that are championship material, but are floating about aimlessly and are wasted on pointless story-lines or over-ambitious title matches that everyone knows they're not going to win. If divisions such as the Hardcore and Cruiserweight divisions made a return, we'd have more Superstars with an achievable goal in hand, giving championship belts on the whole more recognition and value. It would also lead to some extremely entertaining segments - who didn't like the 24/7 Hardcore Championship rule back in the day?!
The final (and most obvious) suggestion would be to have titles belts change less frequently. As explained earlier, having title changes occur so rarely would increase the belts' value as a prized possession, making the WWE Universe become more anticipated as to who will hold each title next. It also does wonders for providing a boost in momentum for a built-up star.
These are just a handful of thoughts and ideas of how WWE could regain their titles' prestigious value back. With these values restored, WWE can achieve the perfect combination of story-line and championship-driven content, ensuring that every match in a weekly show or PPV has some relevant meaning. This would lead to more interesting matches, keeping everyone watching more engaged.
What are your thoughts? Are you happy with the way things are going right now, or do you agree that WWE title belts have lost their aura due to their de-prioritisation? Let us know in the comment section, and please share!
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