WWE Needs A New Championship Approach For The Brand Split – By Hank McAllen

Hello friends. It’s been a while since we’ve last gotten together on the site, and I couldn’t have picked a worse time to take an unexpected hiatus. What a whirlwind of activity has occurred since I’ve been away. We’ve had a brand split announced, A.J. Styles turned heel, all three SHIELD members held the heavyweight championship on the same night, Roman Reigns got suspended, the 32 members of the Cruiserweight classic were announced, and finally a possible match of the year candidate was announced on NXT with Shinsuke Nakamura taking on Finn Balor. Whew, what a couple of months boys and girls. I’ve told Mr. Canton, that’s the last time I’m taking any time away from the business.

What I’d like to share today though is my concern about what I’ve seen the last couple of weeks on RAW. Now, let me start by saying when I heard of the brand split I wasn’t overly thrilled right away. One of my major concerns about a split is the lack of quality matches we may see. For example, due to the last brand split, we never got to see Shawn Michaels take on Eddie Guerrero. What a crying shame that was. Could you imagine what a feud between those two would have brought us? I felt that there was plenty of programming time to still keep one roster and keep things fresh. Now we have to worry about the likes of a bunch of 40 something’s (Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane, etc.) still being somewhat relevant because each show needs to fill roster spots, when frankly all three should be retiring. So much for the “New Generation Era”.

It was only after I did a mock draft with a friend that I became VERY concerned with a possible brand split. This is because after going through 10 rounds of a draft (including some heavy hitters from the NXT roster), I noticed the rosters weren’t that deep at all. Again, we were only drafting singles wrestlers, but to be honest it was a rather underwhelming feeling when round 11 we were struggling as to who either of us wanted. What has compounded my worries is the talk of each brand having its own champion. Personally, I thought it would be best to have the IC belt be the RAW championship and the US strap be the title for Smackdown. This would give more substance to both belts and it would allow the heavyweight champ to cross over both shows.

Tully Magnum

However, my BIGGEST concern over the brand split is who will be holding the various titles on each show. The past two weeks on RAW I saw the current Intercontinental Champion, The Miz, come out to a rounding chorus of nothing. All you heard was his music. No applause, no boos (the guy is supposed to be a heel), no people standing, nothing! Look at the video if you have a chance.  Then to compound things, last Monday on RAW, who is Miz’s surprise challenger for the IC Title? Kane! Are you kidding me? Things aren’t that much better in Rusev land either. The WWE’s United States Champion kicked off this week’s 4th of July edition of RAW and pretty much got an initial boo from the crowd that lasted about 3 seconds. Then, as he’s in the ring, he got The Miz treatment, a crowd sitting down, not reacting to him and seemed to be disinterested. To make things worse for the US Champ was his opponent, Titus O’Neil. Nice guy, does a lot of charity work, also got mistreated by Vince, but a viable US champion contender? Nah. Let’s be honest, the one thing that makes both Rusev and The Miz interesting at all when they enter the ring are their valets.

Over the past several years the WWE has taken the approach of having a belt “make” of “put over” a talent. To me, it’s a horrible way of doing things. You want your titles to have a sense of validity to them. The list of names that have held either the IC or US Titles is a who’s who in wrestling. Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat, Tully Blanchard, Magnum T.A. and the list goes on and on. It was a reward for these wrestlers for all of the hard work they’ve done combined with great matches and great in ring ability that put them in the position of holding these prestigious belts.

Bryan Cena

Now, I am not saying that either The Miz or Rusev don’t work hard or haven’t paid their dues, but they just aren’t the caliber of performer or big name that should be holding either championship, especially if WWE is going to be counting on them to help drive up ratings with a leaner roster on each show. As it currently stands, A.J. Styles, Bray Wyatt, Brock Lesnar, Cesaro, Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are currently not wearing any WWE gold around their waste. All are much more worthy of holding either of these belts than the current title holders. I kept Seth Rollins off the list since he is chasing Ambrose for the Heavyweight Championship. WWE saw how the US Title became VERY relevant again in the eyes of the fans when John Cena was holding his weekly open challenge. While I am not a fan of Cena, I thought it was a smart move for the company when they put the US strap on Cena and the IC belt on Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 31. Having the face of the company, Cena and the company’s most popular wrestler, Bryan, holding these belts added prestige and relevance to the titles again.

Since Cena dropped the US title and Bryan the IC strap, we’ve seen that these belts are once again getting the afterthought treatment. Since Cena’s 147 day reign ended on August 23, 2015, the past 11 months have seen 7 title changes including that ridiculous 13 day three reign swap between Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto. Meanwhile, as far as the IC belt is concerned, after Bryan vacated the belt due to injury in May of 2015, we’ve seen a less than stellar run from Ryback, a nice feud with Owens and Ambrose that involved 3 title changes, a ridiculous 1 day run for Zach Ryder and now this less than memorable reign for The Miz.

As WWE moves forward with its “New Era” and split rosters, they would do themselves a huge favor by taking their old approach of the wrestler making the belt and not what they are currently doing with both of these championships. This is now the 5th time The Miz has been the IC champ and there is still no emotional investment in him, or Rusev for that matter, by the fans. WWE needs to have the “universe” care about their champions one way or the other. Let’s hope that the likes of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt amongst others will be wearing these legendary pieces of gold around their waists in the coming months for nice long extended feud reigns.