KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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The following article is based on a simple premise: In any title match, be it the WWE Title, the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, or the TNA World Title, there is always an extra component. Andre the Giant turning heel on Hulk Hogan wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if there were no title belts on the line. Madusa crossing the line to WCW wouldn’t have been so major a deal if she hadn’t had a title to dump in the trash. Titles matter.
Unfortunately, largely due to the roster split, WWE has a lot of titles that don’t mean an awful lot. Why? Because they’re new. Because they have no history, they have no prestige, and no big names have held the belt for any prolonged period of time.
Name for me the greatest WWE Champion of all time. A lot of people just disagreed with you. Some guy in the back even mentioned ol’ Vinnie Mac himself. Now name for me the greatest Cruiserweight Champion. That’s right. It’s Neville. The Cruiserweight Title goes back almost a year. The WWE Championship dated back to 1963.
So, with the recent introduction of a brand new Universal Title, won for the first time in a match horrendously beset by anti-UV Title chanting, let’s have a look at the belts themselves in order to answer the question: Why is Goldberg the UV champion?
Goldberg won the title in only his second match back, after taking it from Kevin Owens in a brutal squash. His reign thus far has almost entirely been off TV and he hasn’t bothered with a single house show. Did the BrockBerg match need the UV Title involved? Probably not. Would it be the likely main event without it? Probably not. So what can the other titles tell us about the UV Championship going into WrestleMania?
So, where to start? Well, let’s start with the tag team titles.
Tag Team Titles – Raw vs. Smackdown
Any title is made up of both history and recent history. When I talk about the Legion of Doom and the Steiner Brothers, I refer to history. When I refer to the record-breaking title reign of the New Day, I mean recent history. The key point is that the tag team titles have seen a whole lot of loving over the years.
Let’s now look at the Smackdown tag team titles. The titles were introduced in a strong storyline, with them being represented as not just titles but the grand finale of Heath Slater’s hunt for a job. A job he needed. A job he needed ‘cos he’s got kids. They were fought over in a major tournament. This is good stuff, developing the belts very positively. Rhyno & Slater eventually lost them after a short run to Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton. Both of these were big names fighting over something because it was something worth fighting for.
Unfortunately it was only a couple of weeks before the belts went to American Alpha. These are two tremendous wrestlers, with very little history or personal prestige. Briefly, they were elevated by the history of the belts, but that history was short and abrupt and, so too, was the push for American Alpha.
The Raw titles here have much greater history and, despite a strong start, the Smackdown Tag Team Titles have been given no love. It’s a clear win for Raw.
Womens Titles – Raw vs. Smackdown
The Women’s Title was brand new when it was won at WrestleMania and, though it has historically been held by names such as Trish Stratus and Mickie James, switching the name to the Raw Women’s Title put an end to that association.
Having Charlotte as the first champion was undoubtedly the right move given that she received a major push after her victory in a major WrestleMania match. Since then, the title has gone back and forth a little to display how closely competitive Charlotte and Sasha Banks were. Clearly the belt meant a lot to these two people, who were willing to fight in Hell in a Cell matches and Iron Man matches to win. We also saw a major heel winning matches clean. This is rare and thus a big deal.
On Smackdown, the title was initially won in September by Becky Lynch – a big name in women’s wrestling and a truly deserving champion. She held it for three months, but lost it to her first real challenger in Alexa Bliss. Since then, Alexa Bliss has held the title as a star in the making but not a star at current. The belt is elevated by her continuing reign and screen time, but time will tell whether Bliss’s name is a major one.
There was also the two week reign of Naomi to consider. It was a major surprise at the time because Naomi was the forgotten woman on Smackdown. Unfortunately, due to injury, she didn’t have it for long. Matches for the Smackdown Women’s Title have been okay rather than great and have largely been won using heel tactics. Alexa Bliss has done well with the title but has been unable to take it close to the heights that the Raw Women’s Title has reached.
Secondary Championships – U.S. vs. IC
There is nowhere else in which the power of championships is as visible as in comparing the U.S. title to the IC Title. The U.S. Title had a great run in recent years, with a long time undefeated Rusev holding the belt with big wins in good matches and then John Cena’s open challenge offering great development for the title.
Then the Kalisto thing happened, then the Roman Reigns thing, where he seemed like he didn’t really remember having the U.S. Title belt. Now Chris Jericho holds the title and it will be defended in a big draw match between Jericho and Kevin Owens. Owens made a big show of demanding that the U.S. Title be put on the line, and Jericho was like “Yeah, alright” because the belt meant so very little to him.
The belt will be elevated by the match but is in desperate need of it. Hopefully Owens will be the champion that the belt needs as he wasn’t for the UV Title.
The IC belt, however, is the exact opposite. Since the day after WrestleMania, when the belt was won by The Miz, the IC title’s prestige has been going up and up and up. The Miz has been able to call upon decades of history and also have great matches, winning by heel tactics and also being genuinely threatened. Even a short reign from Dolph Ziggler mattered because Ziggler was willing to put his whole career on the line for it. The storytelling was utterly tremendous.
The title is now with Dean Ambrose, another big draw name who was recently a strongly booked WWE Champion. He has been booked strong as the IC Champion, too. His match with Baron Corbin at WrestleMania could well be a sleeper hit and Corbin will be a good champion, opening up a lot of new potential competitive options.
It’s been an oddly symbiotic relationship between The Miz and the IC Championship. As his star has grown, so too has the title while at the same time the opposite is true. The two elevated each other to a major level. Right now, the IC Title has fallen into the background a little, but wrestling is cyclical so I doubt it will be too long before it receives a lot of attention again. Smackdown definitely wins this one.
The Universal Title
So where is the UV Title on the grand scale of championships? It’s low. It’s really low. Let’s consider why.
The UV Title dates all the way back to Summerslam 2016. A major star won it, but a major debuting star who has no WWE history yet. The major star then conceded the belt the next night due to injury and the title was thus won by a paper champion who was barely able to win a match without outside help, including the match in which he won the title.
Triple H handed Owens the title. Jericho then protected the title for Owens. The title, which is in dire need of a big boost of attention, received the absolute best that Kevin Owens could give it. Unfortunately, his booking was nothing short of pathetic. He meant less and less as the UV Champion and, as such, the UV Championship went from meaning very little to meaning even less.
Enter Goldberg; a huge name with a huge history and a huge feud coming up. In addition he is receiving quite possibly the biggest push in WWE history by repeatedly embarrassing the previously unstoppable monster that is Brock Lesnar. A name as big as Goldberg boosts the UV Title to an enormous degree in much the same way that just by having the U.S. Title, Cena made the belt mean so much.
Also important to this equation is Brock Lesnar; a legitimate mega-star and undoubtedly amongst the toughest men on the planet. He wants the UV Title and he seems likely to win it. When Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton decided that they wanted the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, it made the belts that much more important too. For a big star to desire the belt, a belt has to mean a lot.
So, Goldberg does not need the UV Title. Instead, the UV Title needs Goldberg. The UV Title needs Brock Lesnar. The UV Title needs to main event WrestleMania.
And that’s why Goldberg is the UV Champion.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: COLOHUE DOGMA: Good Raw-Smackdown trades in a post-WM33 draft, and who should stay in place