When did title reigns become storyline material?

hi scott,

everyone's favourite_loser here, and i've got a question i personally can't remember ever being addressed anywhere

wwe.com has an article about when bruno lost the wwwf title to ivan koloff, and it made me think back to something i'd actually been thinking about recently. back in the day, did promoters just give titles to people and then run with it for as long as they figured it would work?  more to the point, when exactly did it become common practice to book title reigns as finite things, in the sense of "your reign will start on this date and end on/around this date"? obviously vince sr didn't say "bruno, you're gonna start in '63 and end in '72" contrast that with the closest modern day equivalent: punk's reign.  it was a long reign, but from the moment punk got the title, he knew when he was going to lose it (and to who)

i know you had reigns that were never meant to last long and were instead done to pop a territory (tommy rich, kerry von erich) or to proverbially transition to someone else in the long term (koloff to make way for pedro, stasiak to make way for bruno part 2), but is it safe to say that it didn't really become a practice until all eyes were on the product on a national level (so, sometime during the 80's, mid to late)?

Vince Sr. was in fact very well known for plotting out title reigns well in advance and sticking to them.  In fact, Billy Graham's run was set in stone from the beginning, even though he was selling out as champion all over the place.  Not to mention the NWA, where the title changes had to be voted well in advance and agreed by multiple promoters.   Really, it was only into the Russo era where hotshotted title reigns and flying by the seat of their pants began.

Intentionally lame material to see what talent can make of it?

Can you think of someone besides Bryan whose reputation was built so heavily on his workrate and in-ring performance that ended up breaking out as a bona fide star on the strength of his character/mic work/charisma to the degree Bryan has? Punk's always been known for his mic work. Angle's goofy character was part of who he was from the beginning. Eddie's "lie cheat steal" character helped him ascend to new heights in 2004 but that was always part of who he was, too. Bret didn't really ascend to any new heights with his amazing 1997 heel character even if it was a personal breakout for him in terms of depth of character. Austin was obviously a great in-ring worker who went into the stratosphere based off an amazing character/individual charisma but we'd already seen tremendous charisma and character from him in his "Stunning" and "Superstar" iterations in WCW and ECW, albeit in much different fashion than "Stone Cold."
 
Maybe I'm not familiar enough with Danielson's ROH work and I'm way off base here, but either way, help me out.

I think Bryan's pretty unique in that regard.  To a degree I'd also say Mick Foley because he was known for amazingly crazy in-ring performance but didn't really break out past goofy midcarder until the WWF run, but at the same time he was still showing some impressive personality in WCW.  But the way Bryan has taken the simple "Yes" thing and turned it into an ongoing war with the fans is nothing short of spectacular.