The Last Of The Real Championships
March 4, 2005 by Jacob Kuhn
Just recently I was reading about the upcoming match between NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett and his challenger, Diamond Dallas Page. Being totally aware that most of the information found on websites are rumors, I still found a bit of information that disturbed me. In this article, I found one of the main reasons that wrestling title belts don't mean as much as they used to.
Back in the Kayfabe era, the titles meant more because we let ourselves believe it. There was no Internet for spreading rumors. Insiders didn't leak out information or spoilers. Promoters would do everything they could to sell their product as the real thing. Even though many of us knew it was fixed, we were allowed to not let that influence our view of pro wrestling. Therefore, whenever a wrestler won or defended a title, it meant something. It meant something because we let ourselves think that the belt was actually decided in a wrestling match.
So, when I was scanning this article about TNA, I came across the alarming news that Dusty Rhodes (head booker of TNA) wants Diamond Dallas Page to win the NWA World Title. I wasn't too worried about that at first because I was under the impression that Jerry Jarrett was the one who made these decisions. Unfortunately, it seems like the choice is left to Rhodes, though.
Why does this bother me" Well, for the major reason, TNA is a credible alternative to the WWE. While I watch and enjoy WWE, I felt TNA was a better product because of the NWA affiliation. Regardless of what some people think, the NWA World Title is an extremely coveted belt. It always has been. The last thing pro-wrestling needs right now is for this belt to lose any of its prestige.
In the old days, there were three major promotions: WWWF, NWA and the AWA. WWWF and AWA were more territorial, while the NWA was a combination of many smaller promotions. In fact, the WWF was once a member of the NWA. The NWA World Title could change hands to any wrestler in the smaller promotions, and whomever was the World Champ would be required to wrestle throughout the smaller promotions.
Ric Flair, in his best selling book, stated why the NWA title meant more to him as a wrestler than the AWA or WWWF belts. The AWA and WWWF title changes were always decided by the promoter. One person made the choice. In the WWWF, it was Vince McMahon SR. And in AWA it was Verne Gagne. Therefore, the title changes were basically the opinion of one person and favorites could be played. This in fact happened many times when wrestlers were given titles not because they deserved them, but because the promoters liked them better.
The NWA title was decided by a council of six members. There would be members from different promotions on the board, and the promoters would have to argue their case as to why their wrestler deserves the belt. This was a double edged sword, however. Having the NWA Champion in your organization could increase ratings and house show gates. However, the champ would have to work more and wrestle a lot of his time in other promotions within the NWA.
These things created some problems with the title. Whenever the NWA Champion visited another area, the local promoter were happy to have the champ there, but were unhappy that their wrestlers would have to lose. Therefore, the belt was coveted even more because a wrestler who held it could go into any other NWA promotion and beat any wrestler they were put up against. If a promoter had the belt, it signified that there promotion was the dominant one in the National Wrestling Alliance.
In the 70's, it was Harley Race. Race was a fighting champion. More than that, he was a wrestler. Jim Crockett always made an argument for Ric Flair in the 80's. And Flair, to his credit, worked hard as a champion. He defended the belt sometimes more than there were days in the year. It was because of champions like these, that the NWA Title remained the most coveted belt.
I recently was told by someone that it didn't matter how long a wrestler held a belt. Since it is predetermined when they will win and lose, it's meaningless. I have to totally disagree. In the Kayfabe era, the wrestler was the top draw in their respective promotions. It was up to that wrestler to work hardest and sometimes even carry their promotions. Every day is another chance to prove you deserve it, or prove you should lose it.
Promotions nowadays say that wrestlers have heavier schedules, and that is why the belts change hands much more frequently than before. Truthfully though, wrestlers today do not wrestle anywhere near as many matches as their predecessors. So we have more frequent title changes and much less matches nowadays. This has tarnished the value of the championships.
The only belt which had avoided this was the NWA World Title. While WWE had wrestlers like Yokozuna and Diesel, the NWA had Chris Candido and Dan Severn. While WCW had their title in the hands of Booker T and David Arquette, with 18 title reigns in 2000 and NWA had three.
Now, it seems, that if Dusty Rhodes is given the option of deciding who the NWA Champion is, it's a shot to the belt. Dusty is the TNA booker, and shouldn't have say as to who the NWA championship is. The belt has been safe in the hands of Jeff Jarrett and A.J. Styles. For some of us old timers, this title still has a lot of meaning. The NWA council should be the one who decides the champ, not Dusty. Rhodes always did whatever he could to influence the NWA council that he was their rightful champion. If he is given too much control, then we may be seeing Dustin Rhodes as World Champion soon and see our last great belt lose all meaning.
by Jacob Kuhn ..
Matthew Geddes wrote:
Jacob, you make a great point. Without the title to aim for, what, truly, is the point " This is the reason I have absolutely no problem with Triple H holding the belt for months at a time, and why I hope he wins at Wrestlemania. It is also why, after severe reservations at first, that I am glad JBL has held the title so long. And yes, it is why I like the idea of Jeff Jarrett as champion for months on end. We all have our favourites; I would love Kane as Raw champ, RVD as Smackdown champ, and as pervese as it may sound, Scott Hall as TNA champ. But if the belts keep changing every week like they almost did in WCW's last days, they are meaningless. The only disagreement I have with you Jacob is that I would love to see Dustin Runnels rewarded for over a decade of entertaining us by winning the NWA title at least once. He ranks alongside guys like Rick Rude, William Regal, King Kong Bundy, Scott Hall and old schoolers like Gorilla Monsoon and Freddie Blassie as a great entertainer who deserves his place in history.
Jacob Kuhn (Original Author) wrote:
After reading the rebuttal, I felt I had to clarify myself. A reread of my column led to the impression that I thought Dustin Runnels would be a terrible NWA Champ. I want to apologize for that. It wasn't my intention to imply that. I actually think that Dustin does deserve a world title. He has worked his butt off and even humiliated himself for the betterment of this sport. What I meant in my column is that I believe that if Dustin only gets the belt because Dusty is the man calling the shots, it would be bad not only for the NWA, but for Dustin, as well. Everyone will always say he only got the belt because his dad was the head booker. If the NWA council decides Dustin should be World Champ, then it's an entirely different story.
Antonio M. Figueroa (Branchville, NJ) wrote:
After reading your story on the title situation in modern wrestling, I have to STRONGLY disagree with many of the points you made. First, (this goes not just to you, but to many wrestling fans) it infuriates me when I hear the terms "Raw Championship" and "Smackdown! Championship". I've never heard of any such title. What I have heard of are the World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE Championship. Second, I believe that the only title in wrestling with REAL prestige is the WWE Championship, and to me, that's the way it's been since 1963. The WWE title has been held by the greatest champions this business has ever seen, including Hollywood Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, and John "Bradshaw" Layfield. At one time, the NWA Championship was the most important belt, but such is obviously not the case today. Many of the mid-carders and jobbers in WWE are better than NWA's World Champion, so that says enough about their title. As far as I am concerned, the individual who holds the WWE Championship is #1, the World Champion is #2, and the NWA Champion is #5, after the Intercontinental and United States Champions come into play.
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