The Reality of Wrestling: The U.S. Title
By Phil Clark & J.D. Speich
The latest edition of SmackDown! opened with Chris Benoit dropping his U.S. title to Booker T after a reign of about two months. Opinions will obviously be mixed about this as both men have their fans. The issue here however, is not the fact that Booker T won the belt, but why and how it all went down. The match was good for a T.V. match, but the interference from Sharmell didn’t seem right and the the only hype this match has was a tiny preview on the WWE website. These facts, along with the title change itself, raises questions as to whether the U.S. title is another division (along with the tag-team division) that the E just doesn’t care about anymore, or if they are looking to re-build.
P.C. Says: Benoit shouldn’t have lost the belt
There was no hype, no preview, and it was on the beginning of the show. What does this do for the U.S. Title division? Not only that, but interference? Come on, neither of these guys need to have interference in their matches, especially when they’re against each other. It doesn’t help anyone, and it helps to reinforce Booker’s new character as the pussy whipped mid-card wrestler. Not only that, but the U.S. title hasn’t had any legitimacy in the E since Big Show won it back in October 2003, minus John Cena’s title reign in 2004. The belt has basically lagged around the promotion looking for someone to help bring it back to the prosperity it had back when guys like Steve Austin, Sting, and Ricky Steamboat were going after it. I think Benoit is that guy.
Benoit may be near 40, but he still moves like he’s ten years younger, and he can still carry people to great matches (something Booker can’t do); proof of Benoit’s carrying ability lies in the fact that he’s helped Tyson Tomko, Kane (twice!), and JBL to entertaining T.V. matches. Also, Booker has been in the mid-card since Wrestlemania XIX. Yes, he was given two shots at JBL last year, but few people cared. Why? Because, after spending nearly two years in the mid-card in literally the same position for the entire time, who’s gonna care if you are in the mid-card one week and are jettisoned to the main-event the next? The same can be said about Booker’s win here. All Booker has been this year is a mid-card guy wrestling mid-card matches with no long-term importance. Knowing all of that, questions such as “Why does he deserve a U.S. title shot?” and “How did he get a U.S. title shot over Christian?” come to mind.
Benoit, on the other hand, still wrestles at a level that only a few men (Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero) in the E can come close to. He jobs when he’s told, his promos are getting better and he’s still incredibly over. He could be put into the main-event tomorrow and it would still sell. Why? Because Benoit really hasn’t left the main-event. He’s always been up there wrestling the main-event guys on RAW and didn’t skip a beat when SmackDown! drafted him. The only reason he got the U.S. belt was so he could have a belt. An underlying reason may have been that the E recognizes his ability; they still fear it, but believe that he can help the belt’s importance by having him wear it.
Also, what does this mean for Randy Orton. A couple of weeks ago, it seems to be Benoit/Orton for the U.S. belt was going to be the feud that elevated Orton back to the main event. Now what? Orton and Booker, while a fun feud, is only that: fun. It would be a feud that would be entertaining quality wise and wouldn’t help Orton because Booker isn’t seen as a guy who can elevate someone anymore. Benoit is a guy who can help elevate someone as he did just that for Orton by jobbing to him twice (once for the World Title) and would’ve done that again for a belt. But now, if they just have Benoit/Orton as a regular feud, it could still work, but titles on the line adds to feud. I’m not saying every feud needs a title on the line to elevate someone or the feud itself, but in this case, it would help immensely if the U.S. belt were on the line.
One worry that some may have with that feud (a reason Booker may have won) is that if Orton wins the U.S. belt, he’d have to lose it sometime in-between his win and Wrestlemania where he’s going to more than likely take on Batista. This is not true. Orton could hang on to the U.S. belt, something that wasn’t even defended at Wrestlemania this year, and even in losing to Batista (the most likely outcome if they have a Wrestlemania match) he would still have a belt and would still be in the main-event circle. The only reason Cena/JBL still had the fan’s attention after Cena lost the U.S. belt to Orlando Jordan under a month before Mania was because Cena is ungodly over. Orton doesn’t have that luxury and a long U.S. title reign after beating wrestling Canadian God may have been just what the doctor ordered.
J.D. Says: Booker should have won the belt
If anyone deserved to get one more title belt besides Benoit it was Booker T. Booker and Benoit have been in the same situation for the past year. That situation being that Benoit and Booker have been going nowhere with no title shots or any storylines. Finally, after switching to Smackdown about 4 months ago, Benoit got his shot at the U.S. Title. Benoit won it beating Orlando Jordan in a squash at Summerslam. With Benoit winning the title it seemed to have brought a sense of redemption to the U.S. Title since Cena held it. But with Benoit winning the title one question remained, where did this leave the only other decent wrestler on Smackdown with no storyline. That question was answered this past Friday on Smackdown when Booker T beat Benoit due to outside interference from Sharmell, the blackest bitch in wrestling to date.
Booker T winning the title was something I enjoyed because I thought that if anyone besides Benoit deserved to win a title it was him. Now this will bring Booker out of a shit hole that he has been in for the past year, but also it sets up a possibly great feud with Benoit. This feud could possibly be their best since the two had a feud over the U.S. Title in 1998 in the famous best-of-seven series. That feud made Benoit and Booker T not only as singles competitors, but also as rising stars in WCW. If this feud can pan out the way it should, we will see a series of great matches between the two and hopefully Paisely, I mean Sharmell, will be off television by the time the feud is over.
All in all, Booker definitely deserved to get this title because this is probably going to be the last title he ever holds considering he’s at the end of his career and all this title win means is that he gets one last chance at holding gold. Since he won the title and he is at the end of his career, I wouldn’t be surprised if this feud ends with Benoit beating Booker in a retirement match for the belt at a Smackdown pay-per-view between now and Wrestlemania. I leave this segment with one last thing to say, congratulations Booker and thanks for the memories.
The Reality is…this title change doesn’t hurt SmackDown!, but it won’t help it much either. People are beginning to leave WWE T.V. as ratings for SmackDown! have been going down since the move to Friday. If the Benoit/Booker situation turns into a feud over the belt, look for a re-hashing of the best-of-seven series as SmackDown! already did a variation with Booker & Cena last year (best-of-five). All in all, this is just another title change. Most will say that Benoit deserved a long title reign and they are probably right. Some will say Booker deserved the gold because he’d been suffering in the mid-card for the better part of the last 2 Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½ years. Both make their points, but both have to realize that the U.S. title as of now means next to nothing in the E. At this point, all anyone can do in the whole company is put on the best matches they can, because if this title change says anything about the company as a whole, it’s that anything can happen. And that’s not a good thing.