VS. #33 – Raffi Shamir vs. Will Pruett – Combining the WWE Titles

A question is posed. Two Pulse Wrestling writers go head-to-head. But only one will move on to face off with another member of our staff. This is VS., and this week’s question is… Should WWE go through with rumored plans to combine the WWE & World Heavyweight and IC & US titles and why?

Raffi Shamir

Will Pruett

Raffi Shamir: The gut reaction is to say “Yes! WWE needs fewer titles.” However, I think this answer only applies if they were to scrap the brand split all together and combine the rosters completely. Since there are no signs of WWE going that route, I believe that they should keep both sets of primary and secondary titles, mostly for Smackdown’s sake.

Smackdown is clearly WWE’s number 2 brand, and even though WWE may breath fresh air into it now that it’s on Syfy, it’s always been treated as the “little brother” to the major show that is Raw. In recent months, Smackdown’s presence on PPV was dependent almost solely on title matches since there was no attention to non-title feuds (Punk-Big Show is an exception). Some of those feuds were decent and some were not, but at least they got time to showcase Smackdown’s roster on PPV. Without titles and title matches, it would be easy for WWE to marginalize that show even more. If we look back at what happened to the tag titles since they were unified, most of the action those titles saw was on Raw. Smackdown has some teams that could have been built as title contenders with the right booking, but WWE chose to have the champs defend against makeshift teams on Raw (Morrison/Truth) or the Uso who only just debuted. Even when the champs were a Smackdown team – the Hart Dynasty – they stopped appearing on that show almost completely and moved to Raw until they lost the titles. Who’s to say this will not happen if the singles titles were unified?

But it’s not just Smackdown. While it’s not always the case, titles can help elevate certain wrestlers when their title reigns are booked well. The Miz was handed the ball when he got the US title and he ran with it all he way to becoming one of Raw’s top heels. The title gave him focus beyond whatever feuds he might have had in that time. When Drew McIntyre held the IC title it was his identity. Today’s champions, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, are again being elevated thanks to the titles and their quests before winning them. Granted, we sometimes see cases where the wrestlers give credibility and prestige to titles, but in many cases it’s the titles that promote and push the wrestlers, as it should be. We already see too many wrestlers float with nothing to do or nor real feuds, at least titles give wrestlers a goal, something they aspire to achieve.

The bottom line for me is this. While WWE does not always use the titles well as a mean to promote the wrestlers, the situation would be worse if WWE were to unify the singles titles.

Great points here, in particular how losing titles might hurt Smackdown (not to mention be more complicated, if you remember how things were when Raw and SD would alternate who gets #1 contendership each month back in 2002) and midcarders with nothing to fight for. That said, maybe if the titles weren’t used as a crutch, Creative would be more inclined to write interesting reasons for two wrestlers to dislike each other into storylines…

Will Pruett: As I sat down to look at this question, my first answer was that it would benefit WWE to just have one championship. Think about it, there are not two worlds, so how could there be two world titles? WWE does not acknowledge themselves as two separate companies and both champions often appear on shows. With one champion we will have one definitive top wrestler in the world.

However, this is an awful idea for WWE.

When one looks at WWE’s roster right now, they see an overloaded top of the card. Undertaker, Kane, John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Triple H, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, The Miz and more that I have probably forgotten make for a very top heavy show. This situation has been relieved by the brand split and the division of the championships. How will a wrestler break through to the main event if the top of the card is so crowded with top names? Wrestlers are taking longer than ever to retire and many of today’s young stars will be held back until they are far past their primes. Think about Eddie Guerrero. Would he have ever been a World Champion with just one title? There was a certain amount of risk that was included with his championship reign. That risk could not have been taken with just one title. Having two championships, although they are not used this week, could be used as a promotional tool. What if there were only two or three shows a year where you could see both championships defended? Two champions also add a lot of mystery to the Road to Wrestlemania. Without the period of time used to choose which title the Royal Rumble winner will chase after, WWE would be forced to launch into and subsequently burn out on the rivalries that will build into Wrestlemania. Those are my points for keeping two World Championships. Any sacrifice in prestige is worth the gain that the next generation of wrestlers will get.

We have an interesting predicament this week, as both Raffi and Will – while making strong points – are wrong. Or at least incomplete in their responses, as far as I’m concerned. Will makes a great point about how combining the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships would take some intrigue out of the choice the Royal Rumble winner currently has to make regarding which title to go after at WrestleMania. I’d also add this: if the Rumble winner’s prize went back to simply being a shot at the WWE Title, there are many upper-midcarders who are on the cusp of main event status who simply wouldn’t be given the opportunity to win the Rumble and go after the title at Mania. (As it is now, the Rumble winner can always go on to face the “lesser” of the two champions at Mania, or even be put into a three-way if WWE isn’t convinced he can carry the main event without this flexibility.) THAT said, let’s look at Royal Rumble winners since the winner was given a choice of two titles to go after in 2004:

2004: Chris Benoit
2005: Batista
2006: Rey Mysterio
2007: The Undertaker
2008: John Cena
2009: Randy Orton
2010: Edge

I’d argue that all of the above would have received a World Title shot at Mania regardless of how many World Titles existed. Benoit and Mysterio were the biggest stretches, but the time was just right for the former to win (and the other title was Eddie vs. Brock Lesnar, and I can’t imagine them putting Lesnar vs. Michaels & HHH in place of Benoit that year), and the latter was getting the title shot and win no matter what as a “tribute” to Guerrero. All of the other winners, however, could absolutely have gotten shots at an “undisputed” title.

So while a great argument from Will, the strongest differentiator between his and Raffi’s isn’t enough to give him the win…

…but what would I do you ask? Combine all of the titles except the U.S. and Intercontinental Championships, which should stay brand-specific and serve as a means to (a) give each brand a champion who can tour and main event house shows when the World Champ is on the other brand, (b) elevate midcarders and (c) make the titles overall more important. Meanwhile, with one set of World, Women’s/Diva and Tag Team champions crossing over from brand to brand, it will be easier for the Creative team to maintain focus, and maybe even bring all three titles to a level worth main eventing a PPV on their own. There are too many titles now, but I’d only merge the top belt(s), while leaving the secondary championships where they are and giving them, and the wrestlers who hold them, opportunities that would not likely exist otherwise.

Winner of VS. #33: Raffi

Do you agree with Raffi or Will, or do you have an entirely different opinion? Let us know in the comments section, below!

Until next time…

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