When I grew up watching wrestling, there was a certain hierarchy of champions and championships. In the WWF, the IC champion was normally the best wrestler in the business (Steamboat, Hart, Hennig, etc) while the WWF champion was the biggest draw in the business like Hogan, Warrior etc… That was the WWF way of doing things, and it worked for the most part, keeping big drawing main events on top, but keeping the mid card filled with meaningful, and more to the point, good matches, giving the show a nice well rounded quality level. This model also was more in line with Vince’s sports entertainment mindset, as the ultra talented workhorses were given the secondary title, while his big comic book freakshow characters dominated the main event.
In the NWA/WCW they had a different hierarchy of championships, one more in line with their traditional sports set up. In the lower card, you had the television title. The perfect title to use to showcase an up and coming rookie who might still need some more seasoning before he moves up the rank, and also a good title for older stars who find themselves moving back down the card. Arn Anderson was a perfect television champion, because he was a career midcarder, but he was at the top of the midcard mountain. Only future main eventers who were ready to move on to the US and World title were able to best him. The US title was thus the final stepping stone to the World title, and the man who held it was the universally recognized number one contender to the world title. The US title division was always an exciting division to watch because it was here that you saw the guys who had arrived at the level where they could conceivably become future world champions in the not too distant future. Finally of course, there was the world title, the rarest and most prestigious belt in the wrestling galaxy. There was only one of these, and it was by god the most important and sought after prize any wrestler could ever hope to attain, and one that only a small elite handful would ever be able to.
This was the NWA/WCW model, and it was in my opinion, the best one. Everyone had something to be striving for. Even lower card “comedy” characters (not to be mistaken with the current squad of intentional aimless goofballs in WWE and TNA) had something to strive for. To get a hold of the TV championship was to get yourself that much closer to getting in contention for the US title, which if you could win that title, got you that much closer to contending for the be all end all of wrestling, the World Heavyweight Championship.
From this model you could watch a career progress from title to title, from cradle to grave so to speak. A wrestler debuts, starts out as a jobber, until he finally gets good enough to become a legit contender to the TV title, and then maybe he finally wins that title, and having proven himself there, eventually he finds himself moving on to the US title ranks. Then maybe he becomes world champion someday. But, probably not, as for most guys, just getting to the level to challenge for the world title is the highest they would ever get. In the latter case, you can then watch his career progress as said wrestler ages and he winds up gradually, match by match, back in the hunt with the new young bucks fighting once again for the TV title, and the hope, that he can get back into the main event bracket someday, before it’s too late.
Now let’s take a look at the modern WWE model. This is not the gradual elevation model of the NWA, or the best entertainer vs. best worker model of the early WWF. This is what I like to call the golden blender model or to be more frank, the clusterf***. To start with there are two world championships. So, the title that says that you are the best in the world at wrestling? It now just means that you are one of the two best in the world, and not really even that most of the time.
There are few things that reak of more absurdity than having two world titles in one promotion. It used to at least kind of make sense when you had two brands within that one promotion, but now, you do not. Smackdown is just basically the modern day version of WCW Saturday Night (from its Monday Night Wars incarnation) or Thunder. There’s a lot of good wrestling from time to time, but the main storylines and the big stars are all monopolized by Raw, which is the undisputed flagship once again. Regardless of who holds either of the two prop belts, John Cena (bless his holy boots) is the acknowledged “true champion of champions” and you will always be below him, no matter if you were to hold either of the two main titles for ten years straight.
Below the two world titles there is a meaningless mix of midcard titles. The IC title, carried over from the early WWF days, and the US title, carried over from the NWA/WCW, signifies that their holders is a character who WWE creative has nothing for at the time being but someone they might want to use for something in the future (provided they don’t fall asleep and forget said person still works for them), and so he is punished by having to lug the thing through airports and job to other wrestlers time and time again, none of whom will (hopefully) be burdened with the misfortune of having to hold either of the belts themselves.
For the guys who are below the level of holding the meaningless midcard titles, there is truly nothing to strive for. Your job is to be a comedy character and make us laugh at you, and laugh at wrestling. And even if you somehow, against all the obstacles of character and scripted comedy and jobbery put in front of you, manage to rise to the level of being eligible for these titles, the worst possible thing that could ever happen would be for you to actually win one of them, as that will send your career spiraling back down to the depths of 3MB and Santino.
I know this model is not likely to change anytime soon. But here is my simple proposition anyway. I want the WWE to adopt the NWA model, and incorporate the old WWF model as well. Now the idea of a ‘television champion’ in 2013 is a bit silly, so for the lower card title, I would simply elevate the NXT title to the main roster. The NXT champion would then fittingly be the guy who had the chance at becoming the next big breakout star. Bray Wyatt or Fandango would both make fine NXT champions right now. It would be a title for new comers and guys who find themselves at the bottom of the WWE barrel. It would also would give guys who burned out at the top or the mid card a chance to re-establish and rebuild themselves before hopefully moving back up the card. The IC title, which would be merged with the US title, would then take on both the aspects of the former US and IC titles.
This title should be in the hands of a guy who is just about, but not quite ready, (but really, really, really, really close) to holding the world title and carrying the company, and also someone who is regarded by his peers as one of the better wrestlers in the world at the time, although you could make obvious exceptions for guys depending on how over they are at the time. Dean Ambrose or Daniel Bryan would both make fine IC title holders right now.
Then, naturally, the most important part of this. Unify the damn world titles. One promotion, one champion, and one goal for everyone under the WWE umbrella. This title would be rarely defended on free TV, but always defended on every PPV, and the guy who held it would be the guy who WWE saw is the man who best represents their company in the role of champion. It can be Cena, it can be Punk, or it could be any number of guys, but they need to be protected to the hilt, and never allowed to lose, until the day comes when it’s time to make somebody else champion, and then give them the same treatment. I know my ramblings will make little to no difference, but as a fan of wrestling for a long time who has a lot invested in this silly crap, it’s nice to have a platform to vent, hopefully productively.