Canton’s Corner: A Look at WWE Championship History – October 8
By John Canton
Follow me on Twitter at @johnreport
Welcome to Canton’s Corner. This week instead of the usual comments about Raw & Smackdown (I covered both quite a bit thanks to the roster evaluation last week) or Impact (next week’s CC will look closer at TNA prior to Bound for Glory), we’ll be doing something a little bit different. A Facebook friend of mine named D. Dodge Silver has used the magic of pie charts to graphically show us how WWE has booked the WWE Title through the WrestleMania era over the last 30 years or so. I wanted to write about Raw, but why present theories for this “walkout” angle when it needs to play out a little more? I don’t like to write columns where I’m randomly guessing things. I’m anxiously awaiting Monday’s show to see where things go next. I figure let’s talk about something different here, so the subject of this edition of CC will be how WWE has booked the WWF/E title through the years.
Last Week’s Poll Results
The poll question was: How would you rate WWE in general on the 1-10 scale?
The result: 6 – 31%, 7 – 25%, 5 – 17%, 4 – 11%, 8 – 6% and then everything else got below 4%.
What can we conclude from this? There was 56% of the vote going to 6-7, which would mean most agree with me when I voted a 6.5 (voted a 7) for the current WWE product. I think 2011 has been better than 2010 and 2009, but not by a whole lot. What’s been especially great are the quality PPV main events for the most part. I also found it interesting that 21 people voted for 1 and that same number voted for 10. How does that happen? Hell if I know.
This Week’s Poll Question: Do you think Steve Austin will ever wrestle again?
This is a hot topic as we get closer to the end of the year and into WrestleMania season. CM Punk has said he would like to wrestle Austin at WrestleMania 28 in Miami. Austin himself has said that if he did wrestle he’d like it to be against CM Punk. He appears to be in great shape while still being able to generate a huge pop whenever he enters an arena. I wanted to make it a yes or no type question. What do you think?
I voted no. Unlike some people in the business who hang around too long, Austin has money and doesn’t need to get back into the ring again. I think he was comfortable with how he left. He’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame. While I’m sure he wonders if he can put on a good match in his mid 40s, I don’t see the need for him to do it.
Now it’s time to look at the five different eras that have happened since we were first introduced to WrestleMania. First, we’ll go with what Mr. Silver referred to as the Hogan Era. In the case of all the graphs below, if you click on the image it will expand in size. That’s what she…oh never mind.
It’s pretty crazy when you look at it like that. Over the course of 9+ years, Hogan had the title for what works out to be just under six years. That’s what you’d call dominance. Obviously if we looked at the era pre-Hogan you’d see long reigns before that too, but we’re only looking from the WrestleMania period. The majority of Savage’s reign came from the full year between WrestleMania 4 and WrestleMania 5 with his other run happening after WrestleMania 8 in 1992. Warrior’s reign almost lasted a year until Sargeant Slaughter beat him for the title at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Obviously, though, this period will be remembered for the Hulkster’s title reigns. No question about that.
We move on from the Hogan Era into what Mr. Silver is calling the Hart Era. Why? Because Bret Hart held the then-WWF Title more times than anybody else. Let’s have a closer look.
The mid-90s weren’t the best of times for the WWF. Hogan’s drawing power started to go away in his last couple of years, so they had to build new stars for the main event scene. Over this 4+ year period, Bret Hart had a few title runs and ended up holding it more often than anybody else. Diesel’s boring reign lasted just over a full year while the great Shawn Michaels didn’t hold it that long. Is there anybody else who thinks there’s something wrong with that picture? Vince loves the big guys, we know that. In case you’re wondering, the “vacant” slot refers to when Shawn Michaels gave up the title after “losing his smile” which led to Bret Hart winning it and then dropping it to Sid.
That era ended on November 9, 1997. What happened on that day? The Montreal Screwjob. What followed that was something most of us fondly remember as the Attitude Era. The audience that was there during the Hogan era came back for a more adult oriented product and it was a time when I would say World Wrestling Entertainment was at its absolute best.
The Attitude Era was the best of times for the WWF, but not necessarily because of how they booked their main title. It was the best because of the talent they had, the booking of the storylines and the quality matches up and down the card (although 1999 wasn’t great for matches). Still, there were so many great people that held the title during this time period like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Undertaker, The Rock (I loved the swerve at Survivor Series 1998), Mick Foley, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and even The Hulkster came back for a forgettable one month title reign. Look at those names, though. This truly was the greatest era in WWE history. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer and that injuries shortened the careers of some of these guys. Also who can forget that Vince McMahon also won the WWF Championship during period? I wish I could. He never lost it either. What a dominant champ…with no title defenses.
From there we’ll move onto the Post-Attitude Era, which came at a time when the Undisputed WWE Title ended after Brock Lesnar defeated The Rock to win it. The World Heavyweight Title was given to Triple H (who?) on Raw while Lesnar took the WWE Title to Smackdown for a few years.
This was more of a transitional phase that covered less than three years of time where the WWE Title was exclusive to the Smackdown brand. Considering he was only on the main roster for about two years, Brock Lesnar’s reign was impressive although everybody expected him to be the most dominant force in WWE through the 2000s. That didn’t happen of course. Because of that, Eddie Guerrero got a pretty good run with the title while JBL had a ridiculously long run that took a lot of people by surprise, including me. After winning it in the summer of 2004, he dropped it at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 to a guy you may have heard named John Cena.
Lastly, we have the era that we can probably refer to as the Cena Era because nobody’s been more dominant in the WWE Title picture than the Fighting Fruity Pebble himself, John Cena. After he won the WWE Title, he got “miraculously” got drafted to Raw and it’s pretty much been there ever since. This is current enough that it has included Alberto Del Rio’s reigns as well.
This covers over six years of time. Cena’s title reigns have lasted almost three full years in that time period. Orton held the title for over a year while Triple H held it for nearly a year. Keep in mind both of those guys have held the World Title a lot as well. What also stands out to me is the fact that there are 12 different names on there. The belt’s been passed around a lot although there have been some years where they didn’t book a lot of title runs too. It’s interesting to see how they’ve changed that philosophy in the last six years. For example in 2011 there have been a lot of short title reigns while in 2010 there were longer ones. What did RVD’s title reign teach us? Don’t get arrested for drug possession while you’re holding the WWE Title. Bad idea.
It was cool to look back all the WWE title reigns over the course of the last 27 years. Once again thanks to D. Dodge Silver for the pie charts. Feel free to share them.
Random Clip of the Week
We just had the Hell in a Cell PPV last week. Whenever I see that cage I think of the first Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. One of my five favorite matches ever. The video is the second of three parts to the match and it’s the part where the match kicks into high gear. It’s a five star match from October 1997 that every true wrestling fan needs to see.
Love the call by Vince McMahon when Kane shows up: “THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!” This was the last PPV where Vince was an announcer too. Historic for that reason as well.
So Kane sets people on fire after he took off his mask years ago, but it was a safe working environment then. Undertaker would crucify people on a giant cross in the middle of the ring, but that was a safe working environment at the time. Or how about the time when Bubba Ray Dudley used to get turned on by putting divas and Mae Young through tables? Clearly, it was a safe working environment then as well. This time last year, a group known as Nexus were making it an unsafe working environment for everyone. The ring announcer even got chocked the fuck out by a neck tie, but it’s all good because it was still considered a safe working environment. Of course, we can’t forget that time when Stone Cold was run over by a car by Rikishi. That was without a doubt a safe working environment to be in. After all, he did it for the Rock. He did it for the people. Or remember when Triple H had intercourse with a corpse named Katie Vick? Ok, that doesn’t really have anything to do with a safe working environment but it’s still pretty messed up, especially if you work at a funeral home & were witness to such a thing. There are countless more examples of WWE being a “safe” working environment over the years, but when two mid-card wrestlers act like thugs and you have an angry black man causing people to suffer from apparent anal bleedings, then that my friends constitutes as a perfect example of an unsafe working environment. If you can’t tell I am being sarcastic by now then clearly you need to read a copy of “Sarcasm For Dummies” as soon as possible.
I won’t hide my feelings or pretend to be optimistic on this one. This storyline is painfully awful. Why is it so bad? Because like most WWE storylines, it is once again insulting my intelligence, which I like to think I have. I am more than just a pretty face you know. I also remember past WWE programming as much as WWE doesn’t want us to. I can’t help it. I’m a long time viewer and this is my bropera (that is my made up word for male soap opera in case I lost you on that one) so naturally, when I see a stupid storyline unfold, it is very hard for me to melo out and not vent my frustration. First off, who in the hell could seriously look at a guy like Miz and be afraid of him? I don’t mean to sound disrespectful but the guy does not have a tough guy face to him. The only thing that could possibly make this storyline any better is if it were revealed that Shane O’Mac was the guy sabotaging Triple H’s new role as the COO. It would make sense considering he did not get the company but the son-in-law did. Not going to happen but I really like this idea. It would make the storyline go from shitty to not as shitty. I can’t take credit for it as it was posted by Waqas Akhtar on Facebook. It is yet another prime example of fans having better ideas than the creative department.
It’s a shameful thing really, but like all storylines, we must give it time. I just wish they would stop treating the fans like we are idiots who can’t remember or analyze what is presented to us on a weekly basic. Or maybe I’ve just had too many limes. Too many limes!
Until next week, sit back, relax and if you are working in an unsafe working environment, walk out… cause that’s what wrestling is all about.
Steve “The Melo Man” Melo
I’ll be back on Tuesday for the Raw Deal and next week’s Canton’s Corner will likely be a preview of TNA’s Bound for Glory PPV event, which is their version of WrestleMania. There are some good things about it as well as some things that make me groan, so we’ll look at all of those things a week from now. I’m also working on a bigger project for later in October.
Have a great weekend.
Visit my 10+ year column archive at the Wrestling Oratory right HERE.