Friday, August 11, 2017
Cheap Heat: Do Championships mean anything anymore??
When I was a kid, I was a big fan of championship betls. It was my dream to own a real belt one day. I tried to be an encyclopedia of pro wrestling history growing up and made it a point to learn the history of all my favorite wrestling championships. I remember how exciting it was when Jerry 'the King' Lawler finally won the AWA World Championship on May 9th, 1988. (I didn't google that, I legit remembered the date when Jerry Lawler won the World title because it was a huge deal to me at the time.)
I remember how excited I was when the Rock & Roll Express beat the Russians to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship from the Russians in Mid-Atlantic in 1985.
It was a big deal back then because not everybody won World Championships, hell not everybody won championships period. Granted they bounced around in Memphis quite a bit with the weekly Monday night show, but when I was a kid.....WWF Intercontinental Title changes were few and far between, NWA United States Champions were a pretty elite group. Even the NWA World Television title was mostly held by really solid workers. Back then to be a "former World Champion" was a huge deal because only a small handful of guys got to earn that distinction. I remember when they would say a "former World Champion" was coming to a territory it was a big deal and it narrowed down who they could have been referring to. What made me think about this was recently Wrestlecade has been teasing guests for this year's event and everyday they've been teasing "former World Champions" and I realized that group isn't so small or elite anymore. In the late 90's "Monday Night War" era....titles started bouncing around constantly.
There are TONS of guys from my childhood who were amazing workers who NEVER held the World Heavyweight Championship....Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Ted Dibiase, Arn Anderson, and the list goes on and on. Now days, if a guy is on the roster for more than a few months without being the champion fans complain they are being "buried". Jinder Mahal was getting squashed on RAW by Finn Balor and literally just a couple of weeks later he's the WWE World Champion on Smackdown. Look at the main event scene in WWE right now...Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, The Miz, Kevin Owens, and AJ Styles have all held the title. Where do they go from there? Once you pass the belt around this much anything they do outside the title picture seems like a step down and it hurts the fans perception of them. The US title and IC title have had their moments in recent years but for the most part they've just been passed around and defended on pre-shows to the point there's little to no prestige to be had from them compared to the days of guys like Mr. Perfect and Randy Savage as IC Champion or Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude as US Champion. The tag team division has come and gone in recent years with the titles often being held by thrown together teams for short periods of time.
Granted championships in wrestling have always been a "prop" albeit a useful one that feuds and storylines could build off for weeks and months, and sometimes years. However with all the "hot potato" action in more recent years and having so many different champions for short periods of time, has the importance and prestige of the wrestling championships been diminished? Is it really that impressive for someone to be a "former World Champion"? Does it mean much to be a "multiple time champion" these days? Is it fair that John Cena will end up breaking the record of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in an era where the comparison is really apples and oranges?? The answer in my opinion is...it's all in the booking. There have been guys who have been booked well that's brought some prestige back to the US and IC titles for short periods of time. There's independent companies that have made their title mean something based on how they book the championship and who they allow to hold it. Like everything in wrestling, it's another aspect that has evolved and changed and it's subjective whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. As a fan, I don't think it's something that can really be changed or fixed but I think things like the extended title reigns of CM Punk as WWE Champion and the New Day as WWE Tag Team Champions breaking Demolition's record will make them stand out in recent wrestling history more so than their counterparts but in the big scheme of things does that really even matter? Again, it's subjective but I know for me I miss the days where I was actually excited to see someone become the champion the way I was on May 9, 1988 when Jerry Lawler finally became AWA World Champion.
Kevin (Steen) Owens is my favorite wrestler these days but I couldn't begin to tell you what month he won the ROH World Title or even the month he won the WWE Universal Title, much less the day. But it's still super cool in my book that he got that opportunity when so many said he wouldn't...so there's still an element of accomplishment regardless of the sentiment of old school fans who long for the good old days......just remember, even back in the day Ronnie Garvin beat Ric Flair for the NWA World title so......there's that.
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