Hi Scott hope you’re well. A few topics have been on my mind recently and I thought I’d throw them your way to maybe get your and your bloggers’ take.
1. Half-hearted self-fulfillingly doomed-to-fail first title runs. A lot has been made in recent years of how guys like Swagger and Sheamus and Del Rio etc win the title before they’re ready, are booked weakly and then lose them again soon after. ‘Weak’ first title reigns plague and hamper these up-and-comers in the modern WWE, or so the consensus IWC view seems to be. But I’m not convinced this is an entirely new trend. Heel first-time champs have been booked with lame initial reigns at least since I started watching with HHH’s elevation to the main event level. HHH took the title from Austin by beating Mick in a triple threat, then quickly lost it in a 6-way match. Wasn’t Angle’s first title won via an errant Rikishi superkick? And then he spent a month running away from the Undertaker. Jericho had a (very) strong double win over Austin and the Rock but was quickly playing second fiddle to Stephanie. Jumping to a bit later Edge’s first win was a cheap-as-they-come (though novel at the time) briefcase cash-in over Cena, lost back a few weeks later. There are exceptions for monster heels both then (Brock) and now (Henry), but the trend of heels having a weak/flukey/short initial runs is consistent enough I’d say. And once they have the cache of ‘former champ’ then they are allowed stronger reigns. So given that do you think we’re too quick to panic over the short shrift given to the first runs that Swagger and co have been getting? I can see whether Swagger or Bryan or whoever is ready for a title being an issue, but the crappy undermining booking of the first reigns seems par for the course to me. Just to be clear, I don’t doubt that there is a problem with diminishing the value of the titles – I just don’t think these poor first reigns are too much of a new disgrace, maybe just more noticeable as there have been more new champs than in the days with there being two belts and twice as many.
Well, traditionally in WWE, heel champions have been transitional to the next big babyface champion. It’s actually pretty rare for a Yokozuna-style monster heel to get the belt and then spend a while getting chased by the babyfaces. Mark Henry got 3 months and that’s been the exception for a while now. I think it’s more just their usual short-term planning problems that leads to things like Del Rio getting chopped off at the knees rather than any grand plan for how heel champions are booked.
2. MITB and Elimination Chamber are the biggest causes of the devalued titles. As much fun as these concepts are, I think they have done more to hurt the prestige of the titles than all the mid-card too-early wins mentioned above (though the two phenomena are linked of course). Because the chamber matches prior to Mania and especially the briefcase cash-in make it way too easy to just shift the belts around without any storyline build-up. The belts have value when guys are fighting over them in a compelling feud. The Cena – Punk feud is an obvious recent example of this. But these concepts allow the belt to be moved around from one guy to the next with no feud at all, or maybe even worse just switched to whichever feud ‘needs’ them with little-to-no transition. For example a couple of years ago the Edge – Jericho match at Mania needed to be for the title. So they just switched it from whoever had it before (I don’t even remember) to the already-ongoing Edge-Jericho program via the Chamber match. There was no sense of it being a meaningful moment in any way, no feud between the existing champ the new one – just a lazy rearranging of all the pieces ready for Mania.
The pre-WM chamber is definitely becoming an issue, especially like this year where there was no reason to even have the matches aside from “It’s February, time for the Chamber”. Like why did CM Punk need to defend the title? That being said, you picked the worst example possible, because Jericho winning the title was an INCREDIBLY meaningful moment – Shawn Michaels screwed over Undertaker to finally force him into accepting Shawn’s challenge for Wrestlemania! But yeah, the Magic Briefcase booking can get pretty tiresome. The silliest example is of course this past year, where Daniel Bryan was treated like a job guy for months and then had to be rehabilitated once he won the belt. Yeah, it worked, but for every Bryan there’s a Jack Swagger where it DOESN’T work.
3. Rather different tack this one, but with my native land having the dubious honour of hosting the Olympics this year, how about fake wrestling as an Olympic sport? I’ve argued this mainly out of contrariness to the mocking of wrestling by fans of real sports, but really how is the USA sending their best two guys out there to wrestle a match in front of a panel of informed judges, with points for technique, choreography, complexity, acrobatics and even storytelling so different from them sending two ice dancers to do a routine, or gymnasts or synchronised swimmers… or whoever does that stupid twirly ribbon thing? I guess my point isn’t really that fake wrestling should be an Olympic sport, but that those other judged performance ‘sports’ shouldn’t be – but you can’t have it both ways as far as I can see… just an idea…
I’ve been an advocate of exactly this idea for many years. I believe Paul Heyman had lobbied for it in the past as well, but I could be misremembering. But yes, it’s a fabulous idea that’s the next logical extension of wrestling’s destruction of kayfabe.