Wrestling is a weird kind of sport (and yes it’s a sport) as it’s the only one where wins and losses aren’t what matter most. You can have wrestlers go from losing all the time to right back in title contention in the blink of an eye or vice versa without that much trouble. One thing that caught my attention from the AEW press conferences was a statement that wins and losses will matter in their company, which is something that WWE certainly could use a lesson in over the last few weeks. It’s been a major problem of late and something that is causing a lot of trouble.
For reasons that I’m not clear on, WWE has decided that a lot of its champions should be treated as poorly as possible on the way to WrestleMania 35. When it comes to just plain losses, the Revival has lost twice since winning the Raw Tag Team Titles, Daniel Bryan has been pinned three times in recent weeks (once by Mustafa Ali, twice by Kofi Kingston and once by Kevin Owens) and Asuka was pinned by Mandy Rose.
That’s not the end of it either as some champions are just being treated poorly. Finn Balor has gone move for move with a guy from 205 Live, Ronda Rousey has thrown down her title, R-Truth missed three weeks after winning the US Title, the Usos are nowhere to be seen and Brock Lesnar practically doesn’t exist. At the moment, the top main roster champions are Bayley and Sasha Banks, who have been champions all of a week and a half so far.
Titles are the status symbol of wrestling. You walk around with the big gold belt (a word that is apparently safe in WWE these days) and it makes it clear that you’re the best at one thing or another. The title means that you’re the top star around but that thing is only going to take you so far. At some point you have to come off as the most dominant wrestler around or the title isn’t going to mean anything. We’re firmly near that point now with most titles, and given that WrestleMania 35 is five weeks away, it couldn’t come at a much worse time.
Down goes the champ:
I’m not sure when WWE made the switch to this “the titles are just props” mindset but it’s not something that is going to help them. Of course the titles are props (albeit props that you earn by being someone the company is betting on to make them money, which kind of defeats the definition of a prop) but that’s not the kind of mindset you want to instill in your fans. Wrestling fans are supposed to buy into the story you’re telling. If you’re trying to convince people that the Revival is the best team in the world, it might be better to not have them lose so much.
With February in the books, the Revival has a record of four wins and four losses this year with two straight losses since winning the Raw Tag Team Titles. Those two losses have come against a pair of rookies, one of whom hates each other and the other of whom aren’t regularly partners. But it’s cool, because they beat Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins (last win as a team: August 2008) and Kalisto and Gran Metalik (last win as a team: April 2018) and had one really good match.
You could go through examples like this with almost all of the current champions and it’s a booking decision that isn’t working. With so many champions losing all the time, it’s creating an atmosphere where not only do they not matter on their own, but it stops mattering when someone beats them. Looking back at the Revival, assuming they don’t wrestle on this week’s Monday Night Raw and retain at Fastlane, they’ll have a combined record of five wins and four losses on television this year. Somehow, they’re the best tag team on Monday Night Raw right now and have the big (silver) belts to prove it.
The biggest problem continues to be what happens to the title’s value when the champions lose all the time. The status of the titles continues to go down further and further, which is something that can be repaired, albeit with some time being put in. Really, the easiest way to have these champions look better is to have them win their matches and look like the best around. Then when you build someone up over the course of some matches, it feels like two people who are going to have an interesting and compelling match for the title.
Hey look they lost again:
If you need an example of the rapid fire version of something like this, look no further than Kofi Kingston. After being a career midcarder who has never actually had a one on one World Title match and is seen as a comedy character, Kingston won a string of matches and was suddenly a top level challenger for the WWE Championship. Not bad for someone who has spent a year plus throwing pancakes into the crowd.
Even if you factor out him pinning Bryan, wins over Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles (a simple switch can get you there) in an hour long stretch are more than enough to get Kingston to the same place he’s in now. Then you can have him pin Bryan in a tag match (where Bryan can save some face since a tag loss isn’t entirely on him) to really solidify him as someone who can move up to the title scene and you’re off to the races.
But no, the solution instead is to have Bryan (who had recently been pinned by Ali) lose to Kingston twice and make him look that vulnerable, followed by a loss to Owens. Whoever beats Bryan is going to come off like someone who beat a pretty weak champion. Where does that leave you? A weak Bryan and a weak new champion, which doesn’t help anyone in the slightest.
As usual, it comes off as a problem of the WWE having almost no idea how to set up a story other than this one way. Look back at the better championship reigns over the years. How many times do you think Steve Austin lost as WWF Champion? The Rock? Bret Hart? Hulk Hogan didn’t get pinned until he had been in the WWF for over six years. Yet now we have how many champions being pinned how many times in the span of a few weeks? In February alone, you have the Revival (two), Bryan (three), Asuka (one) for a total of six televised pinfall losses.
How in the world have we reached this point? That’s really the best WWE can come up with for their champions as a way to set up a title match or even a feud? When the champions are losing time after time, not only does it become predictable (tell me you didn’t think the Revival was losing to Ricochet and Black this week after losing to Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano the week before) but their wins don’t mean as much either. It generates a reaction of “oh now they win” and that’s not the kind of thing that is going to help anyone whatsoever. Well except for the people who come up with these ideas, as lame as they really are.
I really don’t understand this mentality of having your champions lose match after match and then expecting the fans to buy into whatever you want them to go with next. It hasn’t worked in the past and it’s not working now. WWE knows better than this and should be able to fix it (especially given the amount of talent they have on their rosters, such as Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, who could have taken the losses instead of the champs), but until then the best title they can win is Badly Written Wrestling Television.
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 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.
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