Disclaimer: an asterisk (*) indicates a bold faced lie.
If you can tell me what difference there is between the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship, kudos to you. If you can do it in less than ten words, excelsior. Looking at those strange, overindulgent hunks of gold and leather make me wonder exactly what they are supposed to be for, period.
Did you celebrate when CM Punk won the title from John Cena back in Chicago way back when? How about when Daniel Bryan pinned the Big Show? When Zack Ryder finally climbed the tower to achieve his first official championship, despite his custom made title carrying a lot more weight (no pun intended)? Let me make it perfectly clear: you can count on one hand how many titles in the big two companies of professional wrestling are worth even a fourth of a damn. Why, you may be asking? Because the titles are merely for show now.
As I’ve said in many of my previous pieces, I’m a storyteller. Whether telling the story of my musical journalist who might as well have been a spokesman for Trojan, or making kids smile with the misadventures of pseudo-philosopher Jeff (real name Andrew), I take into consideration the importance of symbolism and motif. “DiZ, you splendid sight of splendor, what are symbolism and motif?” you are no doubt asking. Well symbolism is, in plain terms, something that serves as a representation of something else. Examples include a wedding ring. That symbolizes marriage.
Take Cleveland. It represents failure.
And what about this fantastic, self-explanatory scene from a classic program:
Symbolism. And motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Don’t worry so much about motif, this is about symbolism. When it comes to the WWE, I hate two things more than anything: the draft concept and the belts. As a storyteller, you can’t have pointless elements unless it is used to a comedic effect. When it comes to both the draft and the belts, I’m not laughing. I’m not even cracking a grin.
I’m unimpressed, people. Having stories is great but when the object of your quest is stupid or horribly undefined, what’s the point? I’m already all over the place so let me put it into perspective and then I’ll go deeper into the meat.
Read the comments for Mr. Morris’ latest piece on, quote “Damien ‘effing’ Sandow” and he responds to my comment – where I politely suggest he let it go – by reminding me of my sheer hatred for actresses (and I use the terms loosely) Terri J. Vaughn and Tasha Smith. While I’m sure that these ladies are both fine people and capable of worthy performances* I can’t help but feel unjustified anger whenever they are on the screen. Maybe it is because they both seem to pull a Terrance Howard and portray themselves ten times out of nine, or maybe it’s because they both bask in the secondary role of wingwoman (wingman without the Y chromosome) to women who are infinitely their superior. As actresses, especially in this market, being typecast is commonplace but you never relish your role in being typecast. If you go into a company knowing you’re going to want to stay for a while, you never go in as a low-level intern and anticipate staying a low-level intern for years to come. If you work at Wal-Mart for ten years, then at the very least you need to aspire to a managerial status.
When I was a kid, I wanted the Intercontinental Belt. I wanted to wear it around my waist, go to school and exert dominance upon my international peers, claiming that I was better and America was number one because the champion of all continents was an American. To me that title meant something, more than just a heavy piece of metal with a fancy design on it. But the years have humbled me* and my patriotism has matured* and now I have an idea of what the belt would mean to me now. As irony would have it, it STILL represents that dominance in a way, but not in a smarmy “I’m better than you” but an inspiring “I’m better than you”.
I’m still tiptoeing around the issue: the belts don’t mean anything. There’s no difference between one belt or any other belt. Outside of a select few, putting the belt on someone does nothing but enhances their normal stance (faces are more heroic, heels are more dickheaded) and the surrounding nonsense is purely pomp and circumstance from everyone else.
I want to like this angle between CM Punk and Chris Jericho in the sense of the championship. I want to. But I can’t. Do I like the straight edge lifestyle of Punk being put on the chopping block? Yes. Does it do anything to distinguish either one of these highly talented athletes as the best wrestler in the world? No, not at all. If anything it does the unthinkable: puts it on the back burner and merely does the same thing I wanted to do in my earlier years. The belt is just a McGuffin used to push the story along.
There’s another word you may be unfamiliar with. McGuffin. In terms of a story, a McGuffin is a plot device that has no explanation but pushes the story along. Cite Pulp Fiction for example. That suitcase’s contents remained a mystery, and they remain a mystery to this day. Some say it was Mr. Wallace’s soul, some say money, some say a cornucopia of violent Russian pornographic magazines (I have some sick friends) but the fact was that no one in the film revealed what it was and no one watching knew what it was, but it pushed the film forward. And that meant it was important, right?
Not exactly. Getting it around was important, sure, but otherwise it was just a symbol (you’re catching the recurring motifs (you’re seeing how all the terms are coming together (sah da tay*))) of responsibility. At this point that’s what the titles are. They don’t really symbolize anything in and of themselves, and they should have the indoctrinating effect of the ring from Lord of the Rings or Pamela Anderson in Baywatch or, if you’re like me, Rosario Dawson if she had hardly anything on (and it is AWESOME to see that).
I don’t think I can properly talk about this so long as I don’t go into each tier of championship. For the WWE, you have the top tier (WWE, World Heavyweight), you have the secondary tier (United States, Intercontinental), the divisional/brand exclusive tier (Divas, Tag) and the discontinued tier (European, Hardcore, Light Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, etc.) and you may be surprised to find out* that the discontinued tier was the best defined championship branding.
Take the WWE Championship. Winner is supposed to be the best in the company I take it. He is at the top of the ladder, the summit, the mountain top, they are the best of the best of the best and they defend that title against only those who climb the mountain in an effort to actually challenge them. You know, back when being a number one contender meant something? You don’t remember those days? Well Pepperidge Farm does*, and dammit, so do I*! It really makes no sense to have challengers with no clear indication of number one contender status challenge the champion! I’m not talking about the Money in the Bank matches or the Royal Rumble, those are solid. Those are good. I’m talking about arbitrary six-man battle royals the week before a PPV to determine something as significant as the challenger to the top belt in your damn business!
Like I said, I WANT to like the belt’s role in the Punk/Jericho storyline*, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just there so Jericho will be more of a dickhead should he win it and Punk will be more of a hero if he retains. The bottle of Jack and wasted cans of beer are more important to me, and not just because I think the company wasted some quality libations.
But alas, the belt means nothing when it isn’t the focus. I’m going to harp on Daniel Bryan because with his title reign and his subsequent battle to reclaim it, the belt is the focus. When he first one the belt, he was elated. Slowly it began to turn his persona more and more evil, as he was constantly trying to keep the belt and you KNEW he was trying to keep the belt. Him screaming “YES!” was a testament to this desire and still is. He kissed the belt versus getting kissed by AJ, another small fact (I notice the small things). When he lost it, he dropped the girl (who suddenly got very VERY attractive) and began his reign as the new anti-hero: Yes! Man*. Yes! Man flies through the ring with his index fingers high and demolishes his opponents with his powerful attack renamed from martial arts: the Yes! Lock*. And with this powerful lock and tremendous determination he climbs the lonely mountain to reach the object of his desire, his precious World Heavyweight Championship*!
So no, the belt itself means little, but the person makes it worth something. Fact is this: if CM Punk loses that belt next Sunday, he will STILL call himself the best wrestler in the world. If Jericho loses, he will STILL call himself the best in the world at what he does (he’s no Wolverine…*) but when Daniel Bryan lost his belt, he said he would do whatever he had to do to become, once again, the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP! YES! YES! YES! YES!
Okay, I think that’s a nice entry point into what I’m trying to get at. We can look at the secondary championships too, but for the love of all that is good and holy, what in the blue hell does that even mean? Secondary? I think it’s a nice term* but again, what does it mean? The two secondary titles in the WWE are the United States Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. As we all know, Santino Marella possesses the former, the Big Show possesses the latter. In a round about way, both of these reigns are significant, just for different reasons.
Take the Italian Stallion Marella (I would use my nickname for him but ethnic slurs are discouraged). Aside from being his fourth title reign, Santino’s character is supposed to be Italian, as stereotypical as you can make him without giving him overalls and incompetent royalty. I say that Marella’s holding the title was significant because he, along with Sheamus and Kingston, are among some non-Americans who have held the title as of late. Does this mean anything for the belt? Not unless you fear communism.
Then you have the Intercontinental Title, and again, the belt isn’t the significant part of this current reign so much as the person holding it. Paul Wright: the Big Show. Latest Grand Slam Champion. Why is this big? Not only because only a select few have been Grand Slam Champions, but because only a handful can be Grand Slam Champions in the WWE at this point, and the list may shock you*.
There are twelve people who have reached this goal: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Jeff Hardy, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Christian and the Big Show. The five that can get it now are: The Undertaker, William Regal, Goldust, Mark Henry and R-Truth. Go ahead and see if I missed an asterisk, I’m completely right. You have to have held the top title, a secondary title, the tag title and a tertiary title, and it made sense to me why the Big Show cried when he won the title at Wrestlemania. On one hand, he finally won solo at Wrestlemania. On another, he became a Grand Slam Champion. There were only six more that could do it before he accomplished the feat.
But being a Grand Slam Champion in and of itself carries no real value. To be frank, Chris Jericho is the only Grand Slam Champion who might be considered the Supreme Grand Slam Champion because he’s held every title necessary and applicable.
But back to the topic at hand. A secondary title, in my view, and my view is gospel*, is one that represents the top of that particular belt’s wording. The United States Champion should be the best in the United States. The Intercontinental should be the best amongst all continents. Both of those notions are negated when the WWE Championship represents the best in the company, which is based in the United States, and the World Heavyweight Championship encompasses the world, which continents are a part of. It’s comparing the president to the vice president. Kids aspire to be the President of the United States. NOBODY, I repeat NO-EFFING-BODY aspires to be the Vice President of the United States. Not a single person. Not one. It is merely a foothold to reach the level of president. Walter Mondale did NOT jump for joy and say, “Yay, I’m going to be vice president!” George H.W. Bush did not say, “I’m the vice president, hooray!” Joe Biden did not say… much of anything. Really, he hasn’t.
And before you mention Julia Louis-Dreyfus remember this: you don’t see the president ONCE in that show, okay? Effectively, in that world, she IS the president*.
Of course you have the tag titles – and whatever the (expletive) iteration they’re in now – and those titles go to a tag team. For what it’s worth, I respect that there is a sense of direction with these guys. Sadly that direction is based on circumstance. See, you can’t have one man with the tag team title belts. You can’t. I’m sure Mick Foley could have pulled it off at one point (him or DOOM, but Viktor Vaughn might have fondled AJ a little too much) but no one can. By default you automatically have a rationale for tag team champs, but the whole number one contender thing I mentioned before is screwy, at best. I’m still struggling to understand exactly where this invisible listing comes from. At least with TNA they do a “RECOUNT!” chant.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering why I’m focusing on the WWE and not smacking my (expletive) on the crying, abused face of Dixie Carter, it’s because TNA is so mediocre and asinine that they aren’t worthy of my time. With that being said, Part 3 focuses on TNA’s championships.
Finally we come to the defunct championships, the tertiary gold bars that went between stupid and oddly entertaining. Let’s begin with my favorite* one, that one that I still feel like Christian made: the European Championship. Maybe back during the Attitude era, when the world made sense*, this was a big title to have. Not because of the title, however, but because of who had held it. Owen Hart (RIP), Shane McMahon (could’ve been great), William Regal (the best Grand Slam with no name you’ve never known), amongst others, but RVD did with it what should have been done from the very start: he merged it with the Intercontinental Championship. In this PC society it would be wrong of me to indicate how weird it is for the smallest and arguably only non-continent to have a belt while other continents are left without one, but this is a PC society and I don’t want to do that*. Honest*. I don’t want to do it at all*.
Again, and this is just for the sake of posterity: I think Christian made that title. I didn’t pay any real attention to who had the titles back when he first went out on his own as a singles competitor, but the man went on TV with that damn belt and had a crew of interns singing that he was the champion of Europe. I throw my hands up here, that’s true champion behavior. And his choir of interns singing his then entrance music was beyond dope. Hell, even his being a crybaby was great*.
We also have the Hardcore Championship. Okay, I put my hands up here: this title was great. A lot of people don’t like the Hardcore title because it put spectacle over skill, and the 24/7 rule wasn’t really to a lot of people’s liking, but guess what: that (expletive) was entertaining. Anyone could have the title and the concept of a number one contender was rendered pointless because it could be gained or lost at the drop of a dime, anywhere, at any time, by anyone. For my FPS fans, it was true King of the Hill. True King of the Hill. Everybody loves true King of the Hill. That and a good shotgun to obliterate your online enemies.
For the sake of time, let’s speed through the last ones. Cruiserweight and Light Heavyweight. Same difference, stupid name on the latter, glad they’re gone, still mad that the weight cap on it was 215-220 pounds and the heaviest champion was 260, but what’s done is done. The Women’s and Divas titles are exclusively for women, good job, get a decent roster and it’ll mean something. Technically it means little now because the second a man won the title of Miss Wrestlemania all logic went down the drain, no matter how entertaining the guy appeared to be. Question: who is the Divas champion right now? See, you don’t know, because it doesn’t matter. Or, as Elaine Stritch so beautifully puts it:
I guess I’ve spelled out something of a point that the biggest issues with the belts are lack of a purpose and no secure rationale behind the number one contenders. That’s a problem all around. You can’t do that in boxing. You have to work your way up the ranks and then you can challenge the guy in charge. You couldn’t do that in Afro Samurai, that awesome anime where Samuel L. Jackson portrayed both the protagonist and his sidekick. To challenge the person with the Number 1 Headband (a lot of holes present with Afro’s father being this guy) you had to have the Number 2 Headband (there are even more headbands than these but again, a LOT of holes present).
You couldn’t do this in Cleveland*. Well, maybe you could.
I say all this to say that WWE titles are pointless. Very pointless. They serve no goal, just shiny belts that can’t even hold up their pants (when they wear them). I understand and appreciate the joys of the story, but you have no reason to include the belt when it won’t serve a purpose. Look at the recent John Cena/The Rock battle. The belt had no place in it, and the match was all the better without it. Until then, the only belt without a proper stipulation is the World Heavyweight Title, and that’s because of Daniel Bryan. Maybe he’s a Martian though. That would complicate things*.