Katz Files: Do Belts Really Matter?

The Katz Files – Arnie Katz

Hail the Champs: Belts in Wrestling!

The Kingfish Arnie Katz discusses the value of championship belts in the wrestling show!

One of the matches promoted for SummerSlam this year is an inter-gender tag team contest. It pits Mickie James and Kofi Kingston against Santino Morella and Beth Phoenix. The special gimmick is that both James’ World Women’s Championship and Kofi Kingston’s Intercontinental Championship will be on the line.

This unprecedented match once again raises a question that wrestling fans are debated for decades: What is the value of a championship belt in professional wrestling?

How many times have you read, in the wrestling sheets and on the “hardcore web sites” that “belts don’t mean anything.” Some alleged journalists have repeated this like a mantra so often that it begins to sound like Common KNowledge.

People in the wrestling business know better. In fact, the casual dismissal of the importance of championship belts by “Internet wrestling journalists” is one oof the reason pro wrestlers often don’t respect the digital Fourth Estate.

The idea that belts mean nothing sounds logical – until you really think about it and explore its ramifications. The argument against the importance of belts goes like this;

1. If the outcome of every match is pre-determined, then no one actually “wins” a championship.

2. Therefore, the “champion” is whomever the promotion wants, not necessarily the best wrestler or even the best performer.

3. Since the belt cannot be won, it means nothing.

This line of argument may sound sensible, but it’s simply not accurate. Titles are hugely important to the fans, the promotions and the wrestlers.

Hoow can that be?

* Fans like titles, because they confer honor on favorites who hold them and give main event babyfaces a direction. Belts help fans guage the importance of a feud or a match.

* Promotions love belts, because they provide instant story support. When all other ideas fail, there’s always, “the battle for the belt!” Promotions use titles as a major, perhaps even the number one, promotional weapon in their arsenal.

* Wrestlers know that titles mean big matches – and big matches done well eventually translate into big money. Who is in the title chase and who isn’t is often an indicator of who is considered a star ion his prime and who’s either a rookie or an over-the-hill performer with some residual name value.

Titles, like anything else, can be miss-used and overworked. If the fans think the promotion doesn’t care about a title, they stop caring aboutit, too.

Right now, TNA has that problem with the X Division title. The title got lost in the hubbub of the build up to the Black Machismo-SoCal Val wedding and it slipped from its usual prominent position of TNA’s pay per view cards. They’re currently trying to bring it back, first with the World X-Cip and now, with better success, through Petey Williams.

WWE has had trouble maintain anything but its four male singles titles – World, WWE, Intercontinental and United States. Rhodes and DiBiase have pumped some life into the tag belts, but the Cruiserweight Championship appears to be gone, following the European and Hardcore titles into oblivion. By the same token, WWE has tried to beef up its women’s division by instituting a second belt so that there’ll be a reigning female champion on RAW and Smackdown

. Too many title changes in too short a period of time can render them meaningless. Fans stop caring, because the champion will change again before the latest kingpin gets used to toting the strap. That’s why WWE and TNA generally reverse the big title clashes for pay per view shows. If titles meant nothing to fans, they wouldn’t be such cash-generating attractions.

So when someone tells you that belts don’t mean anything, they may just be too damn “smart” for their own good.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the Internet’s favorite daily wrestling column. I hope you’ll be here, too.

–Arnie Katz
[email protected]
(8/14/08)