by Craig Higham - May 26, 2014
We now have a new Intercontinental Champion in Wade Barrett, and a new US Champion in Sheamus, and with every new champion of either mid card title comes the hope that this time, the WWE creative will give us mid card champions and division we can care about. But most of us WWE fans are taking this current enthusiasm by the WWE creative over these mid-card titles with a grain of salt….why because it seems with every title change there is hope that these titles can be important again, only for us to be disappointed again, as the mid card champions are left behind when it comes to feuds and stories by the WWE creative.
Growing up watching the WWE in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, I grew up with great battles and feuds over the WWE Intercontinental Title. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Rickie The Dragon Steamboat, The Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude and Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon. The passion, battles and blood spilt by each of these competitors over this title made the title important, and a great accomplishment when finally won. But if I sit back and think what has been memorable feud over the Intercontinental title in the last 10 years, then I struggle, with the best I can come up with was the Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio in 2009 and the very lacklustre Cody Rhodes vs. The Big Show feud leading up to Wrestlemania 28 in 2012.. And there lies the core issue as to why this title has lost its way.
When we look at the US title (and as the majority of my wrestling viewing relates to WWE, I will look at the history of the US title since 2001), the battles between Booker T and John Cena (best of 5 series) or the battle between Booker T and Chris Beniot (best of seven series) or the feud between MVP and Matt Hardy ensured this title was looked upon (like the Intercontinental title) as a stepping stone to a major Championship. But since the MVP/Matt Hardy feud, the title has seemed like an afterthought, as shown during Dean Ambrose reign where he failed to defend the title for long periods of time, in fact he would only defend his title a total of 8 times in his 351 days, and average of once every 44 days.
The Intercontinental title made The Honky Tonk Man a major player for over 12 months in 1987/88., No disrespect to The Honky Tonk Man, but he was never going to hold the WWE title, but during his 400+ day reign he fought and beat the likes of Rickie Steamboat, Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake the Snake Roberts, and Brutus the barber Beefcake. These victories made the moment The Ultimate Warrior beat him at Summer Slam in 1988 a massive deal, and solidified The Ultimate Warrior as the new big thing in the WWE. Compare that to Zac Ryder at the end of 2011. Riding high on momentum gained by his internet show, he would defeat Dolph Ziggler for the title, only to then become lost and made to look weak during the Kane and John Cena feud, a situation 3 years later he has not recovered from. So here we have similar level WWE superstars, one, The Honky Tonk Man made to look strong after a title win and go on to be arguably the “greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time”, and the other Zac Ryder, made to look very weak, and not worthy of holding an important title in the WWE.
When the US or Intercontinental title is won by a 52 year old Bret Hart, or comedy acts such as Zac Ryder or Santino Marella, then it shows the loss of respect, history and importance of the titles shown by those in the creative side of the WWE. We also get other situations like poor Kofi Kingston who has been used quite frequently as a transitional champion to move the title in another direction. Since 2008 he has won either the Intercontinental or US championships 7 times, with an average reign of 2 months, losing to the first challenger after defeating the former champion in the tradition ‘rematch’. This also diminishes the importance of the title, as beating Kofi Kingston is deemed an easy step to holding a mid-card title.
Since winning the US title, Sheamus has now a challenger in Cesaro, while Wade Barrett has a new number contender in Rob Van Dam. But it is what happens after Payback that will go a long way to determining where the WWE creative are with these mid-card titles. Are these going to be one off matches at Payback?, or will the feuds last a couple of months, or are Wade Barrett or Sheamus going to join Kofi Kingston and be a transitional Champion?
With the combining of the 2 major Championships to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, then I feel the mid-card titles are again an important stepping stone for WWE talent to determine if they are ready for advancement to the main event tier. I feel each title should become brand specific,(Intercontinental title on RAW, and US title on Smackdown for example) and at least once a month defended on its respective show, as well as at least every second pay per view. The WWE creative need to put in the time and commitment to the feuds and storylines that go with these titles, similar to the time and effort they currently reserved for the likes of John Cena, The Shield and Evolution. Having the fans care not only who has the title, but also who is chasing the title makes it significant when the title is won or lost.
Hooroo and see you next week.
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