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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Title Don't Make The Man
November 10, 2005 by Kevin Coles


I have been a keen reader of OWW for many months now but have never had an urge to write a column... until now!!! I have had this thought on titles for a while and it's time to get it off my chest before it suffocates me. It seems to me as though titles are being used to push talent rather than as a reward to deserving wrestlers! For me when you look back at a title lineage from a given era it should by in large be a reflection of who was on top at the time. It should show who was the most hated heel and who was the most popular, thus being a just reward and clearly cementing the deserving individuals places in history with a fitting tribute.

The trend to start using titles to push wrestlers started in 1999 with the eventual devaluing of the intercontinental title. I watched in horror as the title changed hands every few weeks between the likes of Goldust, Godfather, D-lo Brown, and Val Venis etc. Eventually this poor management of the title led to nobody caring or even remembering who the current champion was and ultimately the title became temporarily defunct. The golden era of the IC title produced great matches and great legacies which were created by having the right people as champion and for the right length of time. If Mr Perfect, Bret Hart, British Bulldog and Shawn Michaels exchanged the belt every other week and all ended up with 8 title reigns eventually nobody would of cared. When I look back at the lineage from when the likes of Chris Beniot, Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam were exchanging the IC title I can't help but feel it could of been something special. Had the same formula of a long title reign and eventually a well managed feud leading to a PPV title exchange been used then surely it would of produced some classic, unforgettable moments with greater fan reaction to the title changes.

Now don't get me wrong I'm all in favour of the odd short title reign here and there just to spice things up and keep the element of surprise there, but for a title to have true respect there needs to be stability. This is something the WWE has finally got right with the long title reigns of JBL, John Cena and Batista. I don't necessarily agree that they are deserving champions but I'll get to that in a moment. Probably the ratings war at the time had a lot to do with it but if you look at how The Rock was treated in terms of time as World Champion it is hardly surprising his relations with WWE management right now are reportedly rocky. He must be looking at the current situation and wondering why his longest title reign was 4 months and the rest were around the 1 to 2 month bracket. Steve Austin always had his deserved amount of long title runs, but for some reason as soon as The Rock was in the title picture everything changed. I read somewhere that it was due to WWE getting better ratings with Triple H as champion and The Rock chasing the gold. Surely that was good politicking on Triple H's part as if the storyline is right then it shouldn't make a difference whether you have a face or heel as champion.

The fact that we now have 2 champions instead of one again undermines the importance and history of the WWE championship in my view. So lets take a look at the current situation, we have good solid long title reigns but are they for the right men"... in my opinion the answer is NO!!!... Batista and John Cena are both popular guys but they were given the title too early and most importantly ahead of more deserving men. Watching WWE programming over the last few years, there are 2 men that are head and shoulders above anybody else in the company right now. Those 2 men are Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels. Both these men have classic matches with whoever they are put in the ring with and when they are put together the results are even more explosive. They are both entertaining on the mic, they are both larger than life characters that have the crowd in the palm of their hands every time they take centre stage and most of all they can back it up in the ring with amazing ability. Yet what is there reward for all their efforts"... a token short reign as champion for HBK on his return to action but since then plenty of title shots and big matches but no world title. Same story with Kurt Angle yet these are the 2 men that consistently keep it entertaining.

So with these facts in front of us we now have to ask the question Why"... I think the answer is simple, lack of creativity. They were scared that if they didn't put the titles on John Cena and Batista straight away their popularity may dwindle and didn't have the confidence that they could keep them popular without the belts. The fact is if they couldn't survive without the titles then they didn't deserve them in the first place. What it comes down to is that HBK and Kurt Angle don't need the titles to be good whereas John Cena and Batista do. Although it may make good business in the short term it will ultimately cost in the long term. Had HBK and Kurt been the main event at WrestleMania XXI for the World Championship as it deserved to be then long term WWE would have had a more meaningful championship which would of led to more interest in title matches as well as another great memory of a classic WrestleMania main event.

Now this all brings me to Taboo Tuesday which was my inspiration for writing this column. It was clear that the majority of fans in attendance wanted to see either Kurt Angle or Shawn Michaels end Cena's title reign. The reaction was good, it made it entertaining which just shows the benefit of having a long title reign. The fact that we have the wrong champion is why the reactions were in the wrong direction. Had it been a situation where John Cena was up against 2 established legends who were dominating the title picture then surely the fans would of been behind him to get his first World title. They could of built it up nicely into next years WrestleMania when a Cena title win over HBK would of given him and us a moment to remember rather than the disaster of a match against JBL we had this year. So I will carry on watching and hoping they at least give one of them a token championship reign as a long run seems out of the question. Especially HBK, is his 4 World titles a just reward for his efforts over the years..." considering Triple H's 10 I think the answer is no.

Well it's finally off my chest, man that feels good. I'll leave you with this, to quote the great Ric Flair on the cabana a few weeks back "It's the man that makes the title not the title that makes the man"... I just hope Vinny Mac was listening to him. Feel free to criticise me or tell me I'm on some sort of power trip as I do tend to rant a bit. I look forward to and welcome any feedback.

by Kevin Coles ..


Zach Goldman wrote:
I agree with you 95%. John Cena and Batista are ego-maniacal bastards who don't even realize how bad there damn title reigns are. At least Batista is injured so he will get stripped of the title. But I think that Kane should have one the title at Taboo Tuesday.
Jeffrey Long wrote:
I personally think that the days of long title reins are over. They tend to have the champions get stale and the fans start turning on them. Back in the day when I started watching wrestling in the early 80's a long title rein was possible because there were only a few pay per views per year, not one a month. The storylines could drag on for a whole year. What kept the feud going was never seeing a lot of main event matches every week. I used to watch "Superstars of Wrestling" every Saturday morning and I hardly ever saw a "big" match. Every wrestler always faced the weekly jobbers. They only time they really got in the ring was at house shows and maybe a "Saturday Night's Main Event". The shows like "Superstars" and "Challenge" always had the interviews and the wrestlers getting ambushed in order to start another feud. This is how they were able to keep the feuds going through the course of a year and keep the titles on the champions. I remember when Hulk Hogan was champion he was rarely on TV, except for interviews and the occasional SNME title defense. He could keep the title for a whole year and only feud with maybe four wrestlers. That would be impossible today with the 12 ppv a year and Raw on weekly. I know I feel that long title reins get stale. I wanted Batista and Cena to win the titles, but now I would like to see them drop the titles.
Adam Veltri wrote:
Good article about titles not making the man and also good response by Jeffery Long as you both make good points. Cena and Batista were probably not ready for the titles as you correctly pointed out and it was only done because the two were the most popular in the company and could therefore draw the most money for them. On aside, Orlando Jordon's recent U.S. title reign is also evidence of titles not making the man. However, as one of the responses indicated, the period of lengthy title reigns have passed. Now champions should not be losing the titles every few weeks like during the Monday night wars with WCW. With 12 ppvs and the champions being on tv every week, they start to lose the allure of the fans if being kept "the man" so long. Cena in particular seems to be losing support, since when he won the title. These guys can't get all the blame as the bad writing is definitely a major factor as well. I would like to add another facet to this topic and that is the lack of main eventers due to the brand extension. I know the brand extension was suppose to make new stars and it has certainly done that in Cena, Batista, Orton etc., but it also really thinned out the long standing main eventers. The long standing guys not getting pushed correctly is another reason as well, but that is another article all together. The brand extension cut the main event scene in half and the losses of Austin and the Rock hurt more than they will ever admit. When the long standing guys like Jericho, Booker T, RVD, and Kane are not booked correctly, the WWE had no choice but to book new main eventers in Cena and Batista so that there will some more depth. Look at the current main eventers on RAW and Friday Night Smackdown! right now with all the current injuries and the recent passing of Eddie Guerrero. Batista is now banged up along with Edge and supposidly Kane("). Undertaker is basically a part timer leaving Smackdown with only JBL and Randy Orton as their two current main eventers. The less opponents for a World Champion also makes the reign of Champion look week. Booker and Benot should be on that level with them while guys like Kennedy and Holly should be feuding over the U.S. title. RAW is not much better with only Cena, Angle, HBK and Triple as your real true maineventers. The loss of Edge hurts along with Show and Kane doing the tag team thing. To add substance to the titles, it may be time to unite the titles as well as end the brand extension. The ratings for Friday nights are not doing better than when it was on Thursdays, they are not even equal.
Rohit Ramnath wrote:
Firstly, using titles to push wrestlers is a good move by the WWE because the titles now have a decent lineage and so anyone holding them has prestige. Think about it this way, if you won the ATP championships, wouldn't you immediately be respected by all the tennis fans out there" Why" Because people have seen a lot of ATP matches and they are contended by many of tennis' best players. Similarly, if you can trace the World Heavyweight Title back to Lou Thesz or Harley Race, and you have someone like Cena winning it and keeping it for a year or so, it gives legitimacy to Cena. Have another title reign and it gives legitimacy to the title. So titles don't represent the "best" wrestler or else Benoit and Lashley would feud for it on Smackdown while Angle and Michaels would be battling on RAW. The titles represent the most popular wrestlers or the ones deserving of a push or the title.

Secondly, John Cena and Batista are both very entertaining in the ring. Batista has the power but not the sloppiness of the Big Show and Cena has charisma and character. It's a refreshing change to see fun people winning the titles for once and not Triple H with his "I'm the best and you can never beat me" or "The Wrestling God" JBL. Hence, your article makes little or no sense. I'm sorry for being blunt but take it as constructive criticism. I'm no writing veteran but you are well on your way to being a great writer.
Richard wrote:
Kevin, Vinny Mac seems to disagree with you. In his view, the title does make the man as evident in the long reigns of Cena and Batista. They would have faded faster than oat-bran were it not for them becoming WWE and World Champion respectively. Rohit Ramnath was completely wrong in his assertion of your article. As readily seen, he is the "what's good now" type of fan rather than having any long range vision. But so goes the modern wrestling fan.

I have already said that making Cena and Batista champion at this early stage of their careers was a mistake. And the mistake continues to be compounded by keeping them champions under false pretenses. They were pushed much too soon in my opinion and it shows. Right now SMACKDOWN has been decimated with the loss of Eddie Guerrero, key injuries and Booker T and Chris Benoit being relegated to Mid-card status. WWE is going to have to make some major moves to shore up SMACKDOWN! Let's see if Vinny Mac can get it done. If Vinny Mac's history is any guide, good luck on that proposition.............
Mitch Lathen wrote: Learn your auxiliary verb! It's "have," not "of." Sorry, just a HUGE pet peeve. And there were actually 14 scheduled PPV's in 2005, not 12:

1. New Year's Revolution 2. Royal Rumble 3. No Way Out 4. Wrestlemania 5. Backlash 6. Judgment Day 7. One Night Stand 8. Vengeance 9. Great American Bash 10. Summerslam 11. Unforgiven 12. No Mercy 13. Survivor Series 14. Armageddon

And apparently, a 15th is going to be added in 2006 (perhaps the return of Bad Blood). So the problem of frequent shows is even worse than you thought. Another problem was the somewhat pervasive sense that there HAD to be some kind of a title change at each PPV. Of the 13 PPV's in 2004, only 4 (Royal Rumble {where title changes have been historically rare}, Backlash, Bad Blood, and oddly enough Survivor Series) didn't have switches.

I do appreciate the attempts to bring stability to the titles but I agree with the author that the selections were somewhat flash-in-the-pan. The only thing that's got Batista the least bit over right now is his entrance, and that'll eventually get stale with everybody. While putting the belt on Cena was a no-brainer, even Jerry Lawler can see he's held it long enough. There have been audible "Cena sucks" chants for weeks.

Well, I've made my points and ranted long enough. Keep up the good work.
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