How do you make championships matter in 2019?

Written by: Luke Waskowski

In response to the introduction of the 24/7 Championship, WWE Hall of Famer and now AEW commentator Jim Ross said it best when he tweeted, “Titles have never meant less in pro wrestling at least in my career than they do now.”

When a championship match takes place, there needs to be the excitement of it, the build and anticipation of it and the question of the unknown heading into it. Championship matches haven’t felt like that in WWE for a long time. 

With 11 championships now currently active on the WWE main roster, and the wild card rule in effect essentially making the brand split null and void. Now is the perfect chance for WWE to merge some titles and help gain back prestige to championships.

Bruno Sammartino
Photo: Mike Lano

From inaugural champion Buddy Rogers to Bruno Sammartino, who held the title for seven years (2,369 days) before losing it to Ivan Koloff on January 18, 1971. The long and illustrious list of names to have held the WWE Championship feature greats such as, Hulk Hogan, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, The Undertaker, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena.

Since its inception in 1963, the WWE Championship has been the centerpiece in all of WWE for 56 years and has made the careers of many of superstars.

Nowadays, due to a number factors the general concious amongst fans is that the WWE Champions just that doesn’t have the prestige it once had. 

Having long and meaningful reigns of championships again would be a huge step in not just building a superstar but the prestige of championships as well. Just as how Randy Savage worked his way up through the ranks and earned his opportunity to be WWE Champion. 

Randy “Macho Man” Savage
Photo courtesy of WWE

After being a fighting champion, and consistently defending his Intercontinental championship. Savage would become the WWE Champion at WrestleMania 4 after winning a WWE Championship tournament. He would go on to hold the championship for a year, before losing it to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 5.

Another example is CM Punk. Who went from working his way through the ranks of WWE and becoming one of the biggest names in the company as WWE Champion. 

After becoming WWE Champion for the second time at Survivor Series 2011, CM Punk would go on to have a record reign as Champion for 434 days. He would have memorable feuds and matches with the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan. Before eventually losing the title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble 2013. 

Over 434 days reign as champion, Punk took his career to the next level. With consistently great matches and fantastic promos, he was able to be a fighting champion and make people take him as a true and serious champion. 

CM Punk – Photo: Ed Webster

A modern day example of what a long, meaningful reign can do for someone and their career is AJ Styles. His 371 day reign as WWE Champion, not only cilitified him as a top tier superstar in WWE. But, it gave the championship some legitimacy again.

A step to rebuilding prestige for championships could be to from a ranking system. Which creates multiple challengers and quality competition for every championship. Brings back the value in earning a title shot. Plus, organically makes rivals amongst the challengers, adding intrigue and interest back into the matches happening on Raw and Smackdown. 

When a champion appears on TV, whether it’s in a tag team match featuring their rivals or in a sneak attack or match interference. There are many ways to have a champion play an important role on the show without losing a match. Especially when the loss doesn’t lead to anything going forward. Which only diminishes the champion and the championship. 

By saving title defenses for PPVs and an occasional special episode of a Raw or SmackDown. It adds more importance to championship matches and makes them a glowing feature on the WWE calendar.

Names such as, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, both who went on to have Hall of Fame careers and go down as two of the greatest professional wrestlers, never got to hold a world title in the WWE.

On today’s roster, there really isn’t anyone you could say that they would have a hall of fame career without winning the WWE Championship. However, in the past, many of the talent weren’t able to be capture the world title in the WWE. They were still able to make an everlasting impact on the business and leave their mark forever. 

Piper and Roberts being iconic without ever holding the world championship, shows how brilliant they really were. Both perfected their respective roles and were two of the best talkers we have ever seen. While both deserving of becoming the champion, they were able to get themselves to a rare level where the title wasn’t necessary for their success. A level that no one today has been able to reach since. 

Now with the Universal Championship introduced on RAW in 2016, when comparing the current state of the WWE Championship to the World Heavyweight Championship towards the end of its existence. There are some similarities that shouldn’t exist for what is considered by many as the main championship in WWE. 

With the WWE Championship being the main title on SmackDown. For three years, the World Heavyweight Championship would be the main title on Raw since it’s introduction in 2002. 

The titles would eventually switch during the 2005 draft when, then WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to RAW and then World Heaveyweight Champion Batista was drafted over to Smackdown. 

For the years following on co-branded pay-per-views, the World Heavyweight championship would often play second fiddle to the WWE Championship and occasionally even open the show.

In December 2013 we would see the end of two world titles in the WWE. When the World Heavyweight Championship would merge with the WWE Championship to form one sole champion at the TLC PPV. 

Up until then, a World Heavyweight championship match hadn’t main-evented a PPV since the Hell in a Cell PPV in October of 2010.

Currently, with the Universal Championship and wildcard rule in place, we see both the WWE and Universal champions appear on the same show most weeks. 

It leaves the audience to question, as to who is the top guy? What differentiates the two championships other than the colour of the belt? 

With some talent appearing on both shows and a brand split looking to be nearing an. The best thing going forward could be to merge the WWE and Unviersal championships and have one outright champion. 

With the amount of talent currently on the main roster and also coming through on NXT. Having one target for the roster to set their sights on, in effect strengthens and elevates the both the United States and Intercontinental championships, whilst building the prestige back up for main championships.

Honky Tonk Man – Photo courtesy of WWE

Which have been two championships that have been made to feel less important than they once were. Mainly due to the titles changing hands too often and the title holders losing after not long just winning the championships.

When the Intercontinental Championship was once taken as seriously as the WWE Championship. With many legends that has held the title over the years, one man is synominus with the Intercontinental Championship. 2019 WWE Hall of Famer, Honky Tonk Man. 

Holding the title for a record reign of 454 days, he would defend the title against the likes of Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. It still remains a record that may never be broken. 

Honky Tonk Man was able to make the Intercontiental Championship so important during his reign. So much so, that when he would eventually lose it to Ultimate Warrior, it would greatly elevate Warrior to another level in his career to where he could be the WWE Champion in the future.

Just when it was thriving and the strongest that we have seen in a long time, the tag team division on Smackdown took a huge hit due to the superstar shake up. 

With the Uso’s moving to Raw, Cesaro moving to Raw thus he and Sheamus being split up. As well as, the injury to Jeff Hardy putting an end to the Hardy Boyz tag team title run on Smackdown. Which would see Daniel Bryan and Rowan crowned the new tag team champions and the lead tag team of the division on the blue brand. 

Over on Raw, it previously was looked at as the weaker tag team division of the two. Based on most of the top tag teams being on Smackdown. Now with the Uso’s, Revial, AOP and Viking Raiders on the brand, the potential for a strong division is there. 

However, a merge of the Raw and Smackdown tag team championships would put an end to having a weaker division on one show as compared to the other show. It would make for great depth in the division, give fans the chance to see the best teams compete, and allow new tag teams to work their way up and  a chance impress against the best teams. 

On the women’s side of things, with less women on the main roster than men, a merge of Raw and SmackDown women’s championship would be a huge benefit to the entire division.

It instantly creates strong and competetive depth for singles competition. As well as, freeing up some of the talent for the women’s tag team division to help grow and gain legitimacy to the division. 

A women’s tag team division that’s been lacking depth, lacking in big names competing and occasionally have the reigning champions not defending the titles or even competing or featuring on shows and PPVs.

R Truth – Photo: Fox Sports

As referred to earlier, in similar fashion to the scramble at the beginning of an XFL game, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley introduced the 24/7 Championship the WWE this past April. 

Essentially a modern day version of the Hardcore Championship, the 24/7 championship can be won at any time, any place by any superstar across all brands or legends from the past. 

Superstars would rush down the ramp in attempt to be the first to gain possession of the title and become the first 24/7 champion. Titus O’Neal would ultimately be the one that would capture the title and become the inaugural 24/7 champion. Only to lose it in a matter of second to Robert Roode, who would also lose the championship later that same night to R-Truth. 

Mainly due to the design of belt itself, the introduction was met with a very poor reception from the live audience.

During the time of the Hardcore Championship’s existence social media wasn’t a thing. So, in the world we live in today where social media plays a huge part of society. Social Media is the best possible way to utilise the 24/7 championship. 

Pre-recorded segments and matches in various situations and locations can be released on all of WWE’s social media platforms throughout the week. It gives WWE the chance to promote and grow their social media presence. 

Seeing one superstar holding the title on Raw, then another holding the title on SmackDown and promoting on that to see what happened between shows you have to go on to WWE’s Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. It creates more traffic on social media and rewards the fans who do follow and keep up WWE posts on their different platforms on a regular basis. 

It also allows the superstars to have some creative freedom on their social media and do things they aren’t able to do on an episode of Raw or SmackDown.

Now is the perfect opportunity for WWE to cut down the amount of championships on the main roster. Making championship matches feel more important and bring back the prestige, legacy and the importantance of being a champion. 

*Featured image Courtesy of WWE