So around 13 months ago, I wrote almost 2400 words on the issue of the brand extension. I listed some arguments both for and against, and one of those I picked up on that fell into the latter category was the issue of having two “World Champions”. My point at the time was that it causes confusion even when there are two separated brands, as casual fans are being told that two different wrestlers are the best in the world at that single moment. Having done away with the brand extension idea, having multiple World Championships borders ridiculous. Two people who could easily fight each other every week shouldn’t be able to call themselves “World Champion” – how can there be more than one? Surely they can just have a match and whoever wins is the World Champion. Well, it’s taken us over a year to get there, but we have finally reached that point.
It’s not really a surprise. Anybody who has even glanced at the product over this time could tell you that the WWE Championship is the top prize in the company, and while the World Heavyweight Championship is still classed as a top tier belt, it just isn’t treated the same way.
In fact, you could even say it took over from the Intercontinental Championship in a lot of ways. Look at the names who held it over the last 5 years: Edge, Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler. All of these names are top quality wrestlers when they want to be, and were capable of putting on great matches with each other, whilst never quite garnering the same attention the WWE Title did. Because of that, I would say the World Heavyweight Championship became the workhorse title.
It’s probably not a coincidence either that all of the names I just listed who were around the last time there was only one belt held the Intercontinental Championship. Even others – I’m looking at you Punk and Ziggler – held the Intercontinental Championship. But since, and even in some cases before (I’m looking at you again Punk), the move away from the brand extension it was almost used as a testing ground to see who got over. Those who succeeded moved on to the WWE Title picture. Again I have written about this before, using Punk and Bryan as examples.
I don’t object to using the WHC this way, it was always obvious that WWE favoured their own title, purely for that reason – it is, was and always has been theirs. The thing is though, when everything was battling for attention, some focus from the writers, screen time to connect with the fans, there were just too many belts. You had the WWE Title as the pinnacle, the WHC in what used to be the Intercontinental Championship’s role as the second championship, which in turn pushed the IC Belt down to the secondary mid-card role that used to be occupied by the US Title (and the European belt before it), leaving the US Title itself to be pushed down into the abyss. There were just too many titles at around the same prestige level for everybody to care about.
That to me is the main benefit of unifying the two “World” Championships. There will be better talent with bigger reputations at the upper mid-card level, because it will be more difficult for them to break through. That should lead to more of a focus on the mid-card belts again, because the names involved will be too big to ignore. And, hopefully, when somebody does break through WWE will have faith in them, and because of the potentially longer build it will be a bigger moment – actually creating more genuine stars in the long term. Let’s face it, if there was only ever the WWE Title, would we have had a heel Dolph Ziggler take on a face Kofi Kingston for one of the two (IC and US) thousands of times over the years? Probably not, because there would have been more names in contention to play with.
While I personally still yearn for the return of separated rosters challenging for different belts, that doesn’t look like happening any time soon, so I’m hopeful that this will be a change for the better.
You might have noticed that I’ve referred to the World Heavyweight Championship in the past tense a lot throughout this article, and that’s because I have no doubt that it will be the WWE Title that is kept. This makes me sad because the big gold belt is just about my favourite design in the company.
What do you think of the unification of the two titles? Aside from the fact that it’s John Cena vs Randy Orton again, do you think it’s a good thing? Do you wish we were still in the middle of the brand extension again too? What’s your favourite belt? Let us know by either commenting below, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, please make the most of all the social media buttons just below this, pretend you’re a little kid again, and this time round you’re allowed to push them all! Encouraged even!