WWE Needs To Respect It's Undercard
April 13, 2005 by Jack Malone
In my first column, I went over what WWE needs to do to improve its PPVs. In this one, I thought I'd take things a little further and examine one of the main problems with WWE in general. In my opinion, this is possibly the biggest factor in WWE's ratings loss. You should be able to figure it out, judging by the name of the column. The problem is that although WWE knows how to build a main event, it has no idea how to utilise its undercard.
OK, not all of WWE's PPV main events are built to great effect. In fact, some are quite poorly done; but it's in this area that WWE makes the effort. The truth is, new main eventers have to come from somewhere. They can't just appear at the top of the card and expect to be over with the fans, it's best to build their characters up through the ranks to gain them some support. The way to do this is through the midcard; these are the secondary title divisions - the Intercontinental and United States titles.Whereas once, these belts use to carry as much meaning as their respective world titles, now they are treated as mere afterthoughts. As for the remainder of titles, well WWE puts in no effort at all. In this column, I will examine each title division and it's uses, then shed some light on what kind of work needs to be done to add some prestige to these all but meaningless accessories.
There was once a time when long and meaningful feuds were built around this title. In fact, some of the great feuds and matches from the past were based around this title e.g.HBK/Ramon, Rock/Austin, Jericho/Benoit etc.The title was used as the final stepping stone to propel fresh talent into the main event. Nowadays, it carries no such purpose. It is used for only two reasons:
1 - for a guy who has been forced out of the main event and has nothing to do (e.g. Jericho)
2 - for a guy who is talented yet WWE has no plans for in the main event scene (e.g. Christian)
What WWE needs to do is start treating this belt as seriously as they once did. They need to build feuds around it, adding some real value to the title and in turn helping these new talents to showcase their story developing skills. Shelton Benjamin has amazing potential, but his reign has no been given a sufficient amount of effort. His feuds with Christian, Maven and Snitzky were granted relatively no build-up and neither man was given enough promo time. Benjamin has become nothing more than a mere transition champ. WWE needs to start making the same effort to build towards PPV matches over this belt that they do with the world title.
United States Title:
Just like the Intercontinental belt, WWE clearly has no long term plans for this title either. Cena recently held the title on and off for an entire year, but how many meaningful feuds did he really have" His best was with Booker T, which became a somewhat uninteresting best of five series contest. The mistake WWE made here was that they failed to keep the rivalry heated throughout and focussed solely on the match-ups. By the time Cena eventually regained the belt, some fans had lost interest. After this, once again, the belt was used for all the wrong reasons. The belt was used to elevate the newcomer Carlito as a major player. Yet all this really did was make the belt lose credibility; it was ridiculous to see a rookie come straight in and win this coveted belt on his debut. Now, Jordan is the champ and once again, WWE has no plans for him. This title change was used to further the main event rivarly, evident by the fact Jordan hasn't even put his belt on the line nearly a month after winning it. In short, this title is being tossed around between rookies aimlessly, at the hope of making their image a bit more appealing. It was used to elevate Cena well, but his feuds were nowhere near the standard of those given to the great champs of the past.
World Tag Titles:
I know what you're thinking and before you ask - yes, they do still exist. The thing I don't get is why. I mean, they're called the tag titles, right" Isn't this supposed to symbolize the best TAG TEAM on the roster" At the moment, that is NOT what it does. It's simply something for midcarders to do while they don't have an angle. The whole division is made up of makeshift tag teams. The only solid team on the RAW roster is La Resistance, who act as the transition champs every time WWE is stuck for makeshift midcarders. Yet seeing Batista obliterate them is an absolute kick in the teeth (or more precisely, flag up the ass) of everything tag team wrestling once stood for. Look at the teams we are given: Christian/Tomko, Rhyno/Tajiri, Regal/Eugene, Regal/Tajiri, Richards/Venis and now Dean/Maven. It's just non-stop. Remember when teams used to have a similar look, a similar moveset and a team NAME" It's just sheer laziness to see Hurricane and Rosey announced as "Hurricane and Rosey", rather than the far more appropriate "Superheroes". I seriously think WWE should consider dropping these belts altogether unless they are planning a drastic turnaround.
WWE Tag Team Titles:
The SmackDown! titles are slightly better. Well I say that, but look at the current champs" Not only are they both fringe main eventers but they are feuding with EACH OTHER" The tag team champs should be feuding with other tag teams over the tag team championships. I mean we have the Bashams, the Dudleys and up until a while ago we had potential in Reigns/Jindrak (who WWE needlessly split up). Yet WWE sees fit to pit
the champions against each other. Speaking of needless splits, how about Kidman and London" These guys had potential to be the next Hardy Boyz, but WWE thought that splitting them for a short term feud would make more sense. So, we were left with Durpree and Suzuki. Yet another makeshift team. Why do they even bother" Look back at the TLC era. Back then, WWE had three strong tag teams locked in a feud that was built as well as the main events. Plus, there were more teams to fall back on.
Nowadays, WWE struggles to find even two for a week long feud. With such a huge roster of talent, you'd think WWE could do better.
Oh dear. What on earth has gone wrong here" Up until about one year ago, this was a very well booked part of the show. We saw some great feuds between the likes of Trish, Victoria, Molly Holly, Gail Kim and Jazz. But after that, it was as if WWE stopped trying. Firstly, they turned the gold gimmick of psycho Victoria into a laughing stock, just to drag in some cheap pops from the fans. Then they saw fit to remove three of the talented divas to bring in heaps of new eye candy. This left us with four divas who could wrestle. Four! That is not a division, especially when you've seen most of its potential feuds one hundred times before. Look what the division has become in recent months. First, we were treated to the millionth edition of Lita vs Trish. Yes, they put on a great match, but there are only so many more times people will tune in to see the same match.
Leading up to WrestleMania, WWE was so stuck for an opponent for Trish that they went with the first of their newly signed talent (or in this case, lack of talent) Christy Hemme. The match turned out awful, as expected and as a result, Trish is still the women's champion. It is quickly becoming stale, as she is becoming the La Resistance of the women's division - that is, champ while nobody else can be. Yet some weeks, WWE goes one better. They don't even bother to include the women's title on the Raw program,
but instead allow us the viewing pleasure of a limbo contest or a pillow fight.Are they purely forgetting that this is still a wrestling show" The vast majority of fans tune in to see wrestling for that reason. Don't get me wrong, a little T and A is ok now and then; but when it means sacrificing the employment of wrestling talent, it's a waste. At the end of the day, there's only so many times people will tune in to see Christy Hemme strutting about, but people could be hooked to see what happened next in a psychological feud between Victoria and Jazz.
This division carries the most wasted potential of all. London, Kidman, Akio, Moore etc. are some of the best high-flying talents in the business"Yet how much does WWE respect and utilise this talent" Barely at all. You see, a lot of the time the cruiserweights are just fed to the lumbering hosses. Yet sometimes, WWE actually bothers to give us a
cruiserweight title match on SmackDown, but still don't manage to treat it seriously. During one of Funaki's defenses, Carlito's petition took centre stage. This really shows how much WWE cares for it's smaller guys. Ok, London has the belt now, but I see two huge flaws with the way he won it:
1 - He didn't win it after an intense feud. Once again, it just switched hands from nowhere. Why should the fans care who holds the belt when it really means nothing to them" Kidman should have taken the belt from Funaki, then London should have returned from injury to feud with his former best friend. Sadly, WWE didn't see this potential and instead, they thought a quick and easy change on SmackDown! would keep the fans happy.
2 - WWE, for some bizarre reason, decided to hold the battle royal on SmackDown! just a few days before WrestleMania. So why not just have held it at WrestleMania" They had enough time and casual fans will always mark out to see a battle royal. Plus, it could have added some real prestige to the title, after last year's shambles known as the cruiserweight open.
Even the cruiserweight matches themselves are not allowed to reach their full potential, because WWE insists on them keeping the matches grounded.Ok, I'm not saying the division should become a spotfest, but some of these guys have some incredible Arial ability. One of WCW's main selling points was its cruiserweight division, which really realised this potential. If WWE could do the same, then maybe they could draw back some of the old crowd...
To sum up the column, WWE needs to focus a lot more on its midcard. At present, it is nothing more than an afterthought to keep long term fans happy and a doormat for main eventers. When you look back to the Attitude era and compare that to the programming now, you will notice just how much more memorable the midcard was back then. Main eventers keep the fans happy, but its the undercard that can bring back the lost ratings.
by Jack Malone --- [View Jack Malone's Column Index]..
Joseph Huber wrote:
Great column. I agree with a lot of your points here. Intercontinental Title and U.S. Title are almost never defended anymore, even on PPV's. The tag titles on RAW have become meaningless, because the tag team division is weak, thrown-together teams. Women's title has become nothing since the loss of Gail Kim & Molly Holly. Now we have Divas who can't wrestle, or act, to save their lives. Feuds with a goal (to attain or retain the titles) are what make titles important.
Usually I avoid columns that seem negative, but this one I feel falls under constructive criticism. It shows you care and are not just bashing for the fun of it. I feel the tag titles on Smackdown! are more important than any other title (other then WWE & World titles) because they are defended on a semi-constant basis. Even the women's title had some respectability because it is always being defended and fought for, unfortunately all that good work went to waste when Gail Kim & Molly Holly were let go. I feel the Intercontinental & U.S. titles have been made less important because they are NEVER defended except when they change hands. I think they might be headed back in the right direction with the Intercontinental title with the recent Benjamin/Jericho feud. Now the U.S. title needs someone who can defend it and bring it back up a notch (like Eddie Guerrero or Rey Mysterio).
I'm thinking with the weakness of the tag team division on RAW that they should drop the title and maybe make the tag titles an inter-brand thing (with each brand trying to get it at all opportunities). The Cruiserweights - I always loved Mysterio as champ but after that I feel they are weak in the character department. I love their abilities inside the ring and in the air, but they all need to step it up as far as characterization goes
Ummmm, you got some good points there, but Shelton Benjamin is a great IC champion. He hans't lost it in like 6 months and he won it off Jericho, someone who has held the championship numerous times. Though i do see your point with Christian and Jericho, i also think Benjamin being the IC champion has brought out what IC title is really about. The United States sucks completely and if it is the US title, only americans should have it (Im Canadian, so i would not feel right holding a title which isn't even representing my country ala Carlito). The tag titles have fallen alot down hill La Resistance is not used to great, but you say the Rhyno/Tajiri, and Regal/Tajiri arent cool cause they dont have names. Of coarse they don't because they have basically all have been used. But the tag champs are cool right now and thats what matters. I dont like the smackdown titles that much but i though Kenzo and Dupree where a really unique team. The women's title should be got rid of and the women should either be a damzel in distress diva or wrestle the male wrestlers cause regular woman matches bore that hell out of me. The Cruiserweight title should be thought out more and i think a very good logical fued would be London vs. Akio. Give Akio that exra heel push, and the fans could really hate him. Plus if he had the title alot more interest. But those are just my views on the situation.
Will Cooper wrote:
First off this is one of the best columns I have ever had the pleasure of reading on OWW. And - more to the point - I agree with you entirely on almost everything you have said!
It was only a few years ago when the intercontinental title was for me every bit as good as the (then) WWF Federation title. The feud you mentioned between Jericho and Benoit was one of the most memorable feuds in recent years, and I remember it to be much more gripping than what they were doing with the Federation Title at the time.
The United States championship has never managed to grip me, it just seems to have revolved almost entirely around John Cena for the best part of it's existence, you are right in saying the WWE has no real plans for it now, and I don't see why they didn't just bring back the European title anyway.
The Tag Team titles have - I feel - really suffered from the split between SD! and RAW. There aren't enough bona fide tag teams to go around to make convincing storylines so they do just seem to steal wrestlers that arent doing very much, pair them off and make them champions.
It is true too that the Women's Title has given way to soft porn and any woman with any degree of talent in any field other than whoring herself is immediately cut.
I also strongly, STRONGLY agree with your views on the Cruiserweight Title, Paul London is one of my favourite wrestlers in the business at the moment, and if they built up some decent feuds between him and Chavo Guerrero, Billy Kidman, etc., this title could get very exciting.
One point which you haven't touched upon is the retiring of the hardcore title and the release of almost every hardcore style wrestler on the roster. I think this was one of the biggest mistakes the WWE has made in recent years, although I don't advise them bringing it back unless they bring back a large chunk of hardcore wrestlers in the process (Steve Blackman anyone").
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