With the wrestling world still speculating on how WWE will handle the July brand split/extension, much of the discussion has been about how the championships should be structured in this new era — most importantly, what should be the biggest prize in the game. With that plan sorted, let’s move onto the other titles and the draft itself.
There’s A Role For A Unified Secondary Championship
The natural assumption is that if you had a floating WWE Champion, plus brand specific champions, there would no longer be a role for a secondary championship. And it’s certainly true that WWE really shouldn’t really need more than three male singles titles. However, both WWE and TNA have found success with using the mid-card title as a reason for the best wrestlers to have great matches without having to invest any effort in crafting compelling storylines.
I’m personally not a fan of this approach because such random match generation tends to quickly blow through pairings that, if properly developed with meaningful storylines, would draw more money. Additionally, as we saw with John Cena’s US Title Open Challenge, if the champion is a veteran, it blows through matches between them and rising stars that should be saved for when they would mean more.
However, if WWE did want to keep an excuse for having a good 20-minute match on each show, they could do worse than unifying the two existing secondary titles into a WWE Television title that is defended on both shows. The champion could come out for a mid-card match with one of the promotion’s better workers, do a lengthy match that fills an entire segment with high-quality action, and then leave ready for their next defence.
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Having done something similar in TNA as the X-Division Champion, we already know that AJ Styles would be perfect for the role.
The Tag Team Titles and Women’s Championships Should Be Brand Exclusive
The broad consensus is that the women’s roster isn’t deep enough to support brand-specific titles which has led many to conclude that the champion should compete on both shows. My reason for disagreeing can be summed up in four words: the tag team titles.
At the start of 2015, the tag titles and the Divas championship were held in similarly low esteem. Both division’s title matches were treated as excuses for bathroom breaks by fans uninterested in what was being presented. Neither division was given enough time to develop meaningful storylines, let alone stars, and both rosters were filled with too many performers that had been booked into oblivion. Each title picture was dominated by rematches due to there being too few championship-level performers.
The current high level of interest in the women’s championship obscures the fact that the tag belts actually experienced a mini-revival several months before the ‘Divas Revolution’. The feud between The Usos and The Brass Ring Club was well-received, and The New Day eventually became one of the more popular acts in the promotion after turning heel. Alas, despite New Day’s charisma, they’ve been treading water since their feud with The Dudley Boyz — largely due to a lack of fresh match-ups, although the overemphasis on silly comedy hasn’t helped.
The key evidence for how devalued the titles have become is that for all the discussion about the future of the women’s championship, there has been hardly any interest in what becomes of the tag titles.
Both women’s wrestling and tag team wrestling operate best within WWE as special attractions that deviate from the norm of singles male competition.
While the potential of both titles to draw money has been undermined in the past by the promotion failing to invest sufficient time and resources in developing deep rosters and properly promoting their matches, there is still significant interest in both women’s and tag team wrestling. The brand split provides an opportunity to continue the good work the WWE has already done with the women, and provide the tag division with a similar opportunity for revival.
I propose that you have a separate ‘special roster’ draft that determines which brand secures the women’s championship and which roster secures the tag team championship. Each would come with a clearly defined roster list. By doing this, you are giving each writing team total ownership over a ‘special’ division that they can build as one of their brand’s key distinguishing features. Considering that each brand will only have one exclusive male singles title, these championships would automatically become the secondary title, which should result in their division contributing at least one key match or segment to each episode. Best of all, by not splitting the divisions you are ensuring that each roster can be deep enough to provide fresh matchups for the champions.
Obviously whichever brand gets the tag titles would need to do more work with the division due to the state of disrepair it has fallen into. The key to reviving the tag team titles is getting comedy acts such as Vaudevillians and Social Outcasts away from title contention, and replenishing the roster with teams that can be taken credibly. While NXT has produced American Alpha — the perfect champions to build a credible tag team division –, they’ve noticeably failed to produce any other marketable teams. Even the champions’ longstanding rivals The Revival may struggle on the main roster due to their rather bland gimmick.
All is not lost however. Back in 2002, Paul Heyman showed that you can rebuild interest in the tag team titles remarkably quickly with his new World tag team titles quickly becoming a highlight of Smackdown. There are already a surprisingly high number of excellent tag teams within WWE, the problem is that other than the highly comedic New Day and Enzo & Cass teams, they don’t compete for the tag team titles.
If American Alpha were brought in as champions with The Revival following as gatekepers, and mainstays such as Eric Rowan and Luke Harper, The Club, The Usos and Lucha Dragons refocused on fighting for the championship, you would suddenly have a shockingly strong foundation to rebuild the tag team division. And that’s before the WWE raids other promotions, particularly Ring of Honor, to add more high-quality tag teams.
How To Organise The Talent Draft
As explained in the first part of this column, the draft would be on July 11th to ensure enough time to promote the inaugural matches for the RAW and Smackdown titles. But to keep the draft exclusive to RAW would be a terrible mistake, reinforcing the very perception of Smackdown’s irrelevance that the WWE is trying to disprove.
The draft must somehow be spread across both RAW and Smackdown of that week. The best way to do this would be to save Smackdown for key announcements outside the drafting of male singles wrestlers. These would be the draw of which brand each McMahon sibling gets to control, and the destination of the tag team and women’s divisions. You could also have an additional ‘New Talent Draft’ where each General Manager gets to pick two male singles wrestlers from NXT to add to their roster.
Again, considering that the emphasis is to improve Smackdown’s ratings, my suggestion would be to have Stephanie McMahon and the women’s division go to Smackdown as these have been more prominently pushed recently.
Will Cooling is a freelance writer who writes on combat sports for Fighting Spirit Magazine, pop culture for Geeky Monkey and politics at It Could Be Said! FSM is available in all good British newsagents and internationally. In this month’s issue he writes about the rise of Ronda Rousey and argues that intergender matches destroyed Chyna’s career.