The Booking Sheet

How often is the answer to a question in professional
wrestling as simple as just saying ‘Lance Storm’?
Last week, I wrote more than a few words about the
Intercontinental title and it’s, shall we say, horrendously atrocious booking
done by those who probably have combined IQs equal to a severely retarded walrus.

But that PALES in comparison to the gleeful destruction of
the once-proud United States Championship. And this week, we’re going to look
at where it belongs on the midcard, and how the title can be rehabilitated….hopefully.
The US championship pretty much became the sullen 13 year
old that came with the marriage when the WWE swallowed up WCW whole. While the
IC title was a creation of Vince’s and therefore a blessing from the Gods, the
US title was a crappy reminder of life in Hell. In the list of the top 10
wrestlers who have held the belt for the most number of days, Dean Ambrose comes
in at #8, ahead of Nikita Koloff. I would wager to guess that at least 2-300 of
those days came about because he forgot the belt at home and no one really
noticed anyway.
Of course, right now, Sheamus is currently using the belt to
prop up some loose drainpipes after winning it in a Battle Royale (the
culmination of all great wrestling feuds); first things first, we need to get
that thing off of him.
Lance Storm.
See, the one thing that the US title has going for it is
that it can be used to tap into the jingoism that the WWE is so effective at
coercing from the audience. You can count on the crowd chanting ‘USA’ pretty
much on cue whenever presented with one of the following:
-A flag
-A soldier
-A firefighter or police officer (this last is less true in
Missouri these days)
-An opponent who glanced at the US flag sideways
-Curtis Axel (gotta chant SOMETHING when we’re bored. See
also: Divas, The)
So, get the crowd invested in their own pseudo-patriotism by
having a foreigner degenerate the belt in front of them. Of course, the last
guy to do that was our answer: Lance Storm, the one and only Canadian
heavyweight champion in WCW history. Unless, of course, you count what John
Cena did to the belt as degenerating it; if you do, you are correct, but we’re
going with Storm’s renaming of the belt for our purposes. The angle drew heat,
put the spotlight on the belt, and made it a bigger deal when…sigh….Hugh G.
Rection won it from him and rechristened it the United States Championship.
I hate it when my point falls apart because of a Vince Russo
dick joke.
Alright, so Storm is out. To be fair, my expert sources
claim he’s retired anyway, so we need another guy. Perhaps another foreigner,
one who can use the belt as a way to gain even more heat, a way to build on
some sort of Anti-USA fervor….

NOW? (Not Xavier Woods)
It’s amusing to me that this type of booking needs to even
be discussed. There has never been a more perfect way to both rebuild a title
and to keep building a character.
Rusev, love him or hate him, has been booked extremely well
to this point, especially for someone who will in all likelihood be jobbing to
Cena soon. There is almost literally no reason that he shouldn’t have won the title
from Sheamus by now, rechristened it the Russian Federation Championship, and
pissed all over it while singing a Russian translation of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
One of the keys to this booking, especially in rehabbing the
United States title, is to wash the stink off the belt that has been associated
with its less than frequent title defenses. So, I’m going to suggest a
two-pronged approach to this whole idea.
#1 – Rusev wins the belt in convincing fashion, and 2.
Let’s face the facts here – Rusev isn’t sniffing the World
title anytime soon if anyone up in Stanford has any brains. He shouldn’t be
near the inevitable Cena burial either. What we need is to establish a
hierarchy of titles in the WWE, with the World and IC belts being defended very
rarely on TV, and the US title being the modern equal of the fabled Television
belt. That’s pretty much the only way this whole thing can work, if each belt
has different levels of importance in the pecking order of the Fed.
So, Rusev wins the belt. And he should defend it. On Raw. On
Smackdown. On Main Event if you want. Hell, invent a show called ‘Rusev defends
the US title’ and have him defend it there. The point is that Rusev should be
dominating and crushing everything in his path for the next, say, year or so.
And after each match, he should gloat to beat the band. He
should point out how he has dominated the United States in match after match.
Lana can invent more medals to give him, rename the belt a la Mr. Storm as stated
above, and just in general be a dick. It always works, especially if you don’t
shoot him too far beyond what he can handle.
The enduring part of the whole storyline is that Rusev has
to defend that belt all the time to drive home the point that a Russian is
holding an American title because…..
We’re not exactly fond of people pointing out our
shortcomings down South of the border.
I was sort of embarrassed, for any number of reasons, about
the Swagger/Colter stuff over the last year; but the thing that BUGGED the s---
out of me was the complete willingness of the crowd to chant ‘We the People’
after Colter was saying the most racist crap on the mic he could to incite as
much of a reaction as he could. Yes, the crowd knew who the heels were
supposed to be, but getting a crowd to chant along like a bunch of monkeys isn’t
exactly rocket science.
But here’s what truly disturbed me about the whole thing;
Swagger’s face turn didn’t involve ANY TYPE OF TURN. He just started saying
racist/jingoistic s--- about a BAD foreigner, and the crowd all of a sudden
loves the guy, and Colter’s just lovable old Zeb who was kicked in the head by
the bad guy and isn’t it swell that he’s back to support Jack and his quest to
beat up said bad guy? It spoke terribly, at least to me, about how we have no
self-awareness as a culture of people as to when we’re being played, that we’re
willing to root for anyone who waves the right flag and boo the guy who waves
the wrong one regardless of the substance of their character. It’s not a great
reflection of the United States, if you think about it.
On the other hand….

But when there’s a dollar to be made, exploit the hell out
of it. It’s the REAL American way. And exploiting American patriotism is so
easy, our government does it on a regular basis and not only gets away with it,
it’s one of the few things they occasionally get praised for. (Occasionally.
Most of the time, we hate the bums so much, we just re-elect them.)
And we walk right into it, every time. As stated above,
Lance Storm, not exactly the strongest promo in the world, had quite the thing
going in re-christening every title he won in WCW as a Canadian belt. Imagine
what Lana could do with the US title on her arm and the mic in her hand.
It would be a thing of beauty.
The fact is, Rusev’s character was made for this belt, and
this time. It will allow you to build up a babyface using the ‘Merica aspect of
that character if they choose, or they can just use Rusev as a machine to draw
the heat. Either way, it actually uses the United States title as something
that is, stunningly, relevant; a feat which it has been struggling to accomplish for quite some time now.
And that would be something to salute.
Rick Poehling

@MrSoze on Twitter