Friday, October 22, 2010

WRESTLING BLOG: The Case to Save the WWE U.S. Title

A few months ago, WWE finally consolidated the Unified Tag Team Championships into one belt and dubbed the belt the WWE Tag Team Championship(s).

When they did so, they had to retire one of the other belts, and they chose to maintain the lineage of the SmackDown tag titles that dated back to 2002. This came at the expense of the Raw version of the World Tag Team Titles, whose lineage predated the 1980s and featured legendary teams like the Hart Foundation, Legion of Doom, Dudley Boyz, Nasty Boys and the Midnight Rockers.

Less than a month later, WWE decided to unify the Women's and Diva's titles due to a lack of actual competition needed to maintain both belts. This time around, the Women's Championship, the oldest active title in WWE with one of the longest lineages, was deactivated in order to preserve the Diva's title and its "Butterfly belt," which at that point had less than 10 reigns (Michelle McCool's victory would be the 10th).

This collapse of historical WWE lineages has been an absolute crime, as it removes the singularity and prestige that came with the belts.

I understand that WWE wants to market to kids and kids aren't going to be WWE history buffs, but as fans get older, part of what keeps them in is that they see parallels in what is happening. Two teams or individuals feuding over the same piece of gold you once watched your childhood idols fight over is what brings back nostalgia and all the old "mark out" emotions that make wrestling great.

As the women's belts were being unified, it was rumored on multiple sites that WWE may be planning to do the same to their World titles and secondary titles. That brought up an issue that I would hope the company is thinking about if this rumor is indeed true: Why get rid of the United States Championship?

First of all, I don't claim to know either unification will happen, but after seeing Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, the current US and Intercontinental champs, respectively, set up a match at this Sunday's PPV, I feel pretty confident it will happen.

While I do like the idea of the World titles being unified (so long as the Big Gold Belt represents the title over the spinner belt), I am not a proponent of the secondary titles being reconsolidated. It would make far more sense to have one on each show so that there is a belt to feud over while the World title is on the other show.

But if the unifications both must happen in WWE's mind, then I implore them to retain the US title over the IC belt. While most IWC comments I saw favor saving the IC strap, let me explain why the US title is the stronger option:

The United States title has a far more unique history that appeals to the young and old fans alike, which could be a good way to grow the young base while not alienating their parents. The title dates back to 1975, four years older than the IC title, and has crossed three companies (the NWA, WCW and WWE).
At the same time, the belt can be seen as fresh, as the current incarnation dates back to the early 2000s, which seems to be WWE's target range lately. And it is that target range that brings me to my second point: The belt is United States-based.

The international market is expanding, but they are largely respectful of any titleholder in the company. It is here in the USA where interest in the product needs all the help it can get.

By using the US title, WWE could market the champion a lot easier because the belt is national. It could also be used to get international heels over, dubbing it the "Scotland" or "Canadian" championship.

The only potential downside of this belt is that it would leave Chris Benoit and a lot of non-WWE guys listed in the lineage, and as the company tries to break from that moment in history, that could be a hindrance.

Outside of that though, the move to keep the US strap over the IC belt seems far more sound as WWE moves forward.

These are my thoughts, but what are yours? Feel free to comment on which belt should remain if the US/IC unification goes down.

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