Titles are about as easy of a concept as there is in wrestling. Someone has a gold (or silver, because that needed to be a thing) belt and another wrestler wants to take it from them. It could be for a personal grudge, honor, money or just prestige, but there are all kinds of ways to spin a title into a big story. Throw in a screwy finish, a rematch, trading the title or whatever and a title represents the most basic yet effective storytelling device as you can find in wrestling. That is in theory at least, as like so many other things in modern wrestling, things have changed again in a bad way.
One of the many problems in modern wrestling is that there are too many titles running around. Monday Night Raw currently has five champions (not counting the joke 24/7 Title and the Women’s Tag Team Champions), SmackDown has five champions (again not counting the Women’s Tag Team Champions), NXT has a ridiculous eight champions (maybe nine if the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions count) and NXT UK has six champions. It isn’t just a WWE problem as Ring of Honor has eight (not counting the upcoming Women’s Champion), Impact has seven and AEW has six (not counting the NWA/Diamond Ring).
In short, that is a crazy amount of titles and while I understand why they exist, it is rather insane to have a show that gets an hour a week having eight people with titles, or even anywhere close to that. At this point, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown, with its crazy number of champions, are doing about as well as anyone else. That’s a problem, but it isn’t as much of a problem as the other title issue, which was on display during this week’s Monday Night Raw.
There was a title change during this week’s television show, as the New Day became eleven time Tag Team Champions. While they held titles under the Freebird Rule when Big E. was around, no other team in WWE history has won more Tag Team Titles. That is quite the milestone as WWE has had Tag Team Titles for over forty years. It is something worth mentioning, but that wasn’t quite what happened.
When New Day won the titles, the record was not mentioned and New Day’s title win was treated as rather unimportant. Instead, commentary focused on the momentum that New Day had going into WrestleMania. Not that they were going to be at WrestleMania, but that they had momentum going into a single show where they will be defending against a first time ever tag team, which would be announced immediately after they beat the Hurt Business to win the titles.
What kind of sense does that make? We are now to the point where just winning a title isn’t enough anymore. No, now it is all about being ready for WrestleMania, where their title match will likely be little more than an eight minute filler match designed to make Omos look like a star. This is another part of a problem that WWE (and other wrestling promotions) have had for a long time now and it is only going to be causing more problems going forward.
When I was growing up, WWE had three male championships (plus whatever the various women’s titles were doing) and the King’s Crown, which wasn’t exactly the most important thing in the world. A title change was nothing short of an event and it felt like the beginning of a new era. Even the Tag Team Titles changing hands felt like such a big deal and that is exactly what it is supposed to be. You would only see a handful of title changes over the course of a year and it was rare enough for them to take place on television. Wherever they went down though, the change itself was what mattered.
Now yes, things have changed in the world of wrestling with the advent of long form weekly television shows. You cannot have five or so title changes a year when you have two or three hours of television a week, plus a three (or more) hour pay per view every month. At some point you have to expand things, but at least it felt like being the champion was what mattered most, which is what mattered more than anything else.
Somewhere along the lines though, that idea was completely dropped and now what matters is getting to go to WrestleMania. Winning titles still means a little something, but if you listen to WWE commentary, the wrestlers should be much happier about having a ticket to WrestleMania rather than having a shiny belt that is going to mean something throughout a lot more of time throughout the year than just that one weekend.
It isn’t just in the title picture either. You may remember from three years ago when John Cena wanted to face Undertaker at WrestleMania 34. Undertaker refused to answer so Cena was not sure if he had a path to WrestleMania. Cena refused to do something like being Braun Strowman’s mystery partner or entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (because Stephanie McMahon SCREAMED at him about it being disrespectful because she and Andre had been friends and…..yeah it still doesn’t make sense) because he needed a path to WrestleMania.
In other words, it wasn’t about having a certain match or a story, but just getting to WrestleMania, where CENA (or New Day in this case) would only have that one path to the show. This is one of those things where it only makes sense in WWE’s mind because there are about as many options as you could have to make it to WrestleMania. The last three (one night) WrestleManias featured 71, 86 and 90 wrestlers over 13, 14 and 16 matches (not counting managers or cameos from backstage, which would have probably let us crack 100 people in 2018).
That averages out to about 82 wrestlers over 14 matches, but we are supposed to believe that one of the most successful tag teams ever (or one of the biggest names in wrestling history) needed momentum going into WrestleMania more than they needed a championship, which someone will hold even after WrestleMania is over? That’s the logic we are trying to go with these days?
This is a great example of the WWE logic at its finest (or weakest): it is all about being on WrestleMania rather than anything else going on. WrestleMania is going to be taking place over the course of two nights, meaning that we have three hundred and sixty three nights left over the course of the year. Those titles are going to be around for the rest of the year but two nights of the year are all that matter. WrestleMania 3 was one of two pay per views in 1987 and I’m not sure if it got this much attention by comparison. You also didn’t have people panicking over the idea of getting one of the 38 spots over 12 matches.
At the end of the day, WWE has a lot of things going on and they are excellent at making money, but there are things that do not make a lot of sense. Pushing the idea that titles are worthless in comparison to getting on WrestleMania (where you do not even see all of the titles defended every year) makes WrestleMania feel huge but it doesn’t do much for the rest of the roster or the rest of the year. WWE has done a great job of making WrestleMania feel important, but they have a lot more titles than they do WrestleManias and they might want to treat them a bit more like gold than bronze.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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