Monday, September 10, 2007

Devaluating the Titles: A World Championship Just Can't Catch A Break

I had asked this question in a previous column, but it bears repeating again. Remember when titles actually meant something in Pro Wrestling? It seems like ages ago, and it's just not with WWE. TNA has been guilty of this also, and when the opportunity came for them to do something about it, they completely flushed it down the toilet.

From the start in TNA, they had control over the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team Titles. They didn't want the Board Represented Champions to be their Champions on PPV, so they vacated the titles. It's a shame seeing as how they stripped Dan Severn of the belt to give to Ken Shamrock, when fans had been wanting to see them meet since 1998. To my knowledge, Severn never had a chance to appear in TNA at all. What's even more of a shame is the fact that they vacated the World Tag Team Titles, held by the Shane Twins (fans may remember them better as The Gymini.) Why, you ask? They worked for TNA right off the bat, although someone thought it would be hilarious to dress them in bodysuits and masks, call them The Johnsons, and make a bunch of dick jokes.

So they wanted to form their own identity and establish their own stars and own Champions. Well that's fine and all, but the wrong thing to do if you're leeching off the lineage of the NWA World Title. Honestly, who could blame them. They got more out of the deal, than the NWA did. They had complete control over the booking of the belts. They didn't have to worry about booking workers from other NWA Promotions, just the Promoters themselves (Jim Miller, Bill Behrens, Bert Prentice, Rich Arpin, etc.) Their contribution to the NWA was advertising show dates on a ticker during their PPVs, and even that didn't last long.

The NWA didn't make this any better for themselves. The NWA North American Championship was still controlled by the NWA Board, and they wanted the belt back when Champion Quinn Magnum was unable to make defenses because of injury. As a result, Magnum dropped the title to Paul Atlas (I should mention that I was a stablemate of Atlas at the time and did a run-in on the match) who, as talented and deserving as he was, was used as a Transitional Champion to drop the belt to a TNA guy. Bringing him in to job to Jorge Estrada at that year's NWA Anniversary Show was cheaper than Fed-Exing the belt (and that is a shoot.) They showed a 30 second highlight video of the show and made mention of Estrada winning the belt, but was it ever shown or defended on TNA?

Before the deal, NWA Affiliates would bring in the Board's Champions for shows on occasion. After TNA kicked off, who could afford to bring in Jeff Jarrett for an Indy appearance. To my knowledge, there was only one instance of this where Jarrett defended the belt on an NWA Virginia Card. Hell, the World Title Matches wouldn't even take place on the NWA Anniversary Shows. When Raven was the Champ he dropped the belt to Jarrett on a non-NWA card in Ontario. Actually, to this day, it still follows, as the finals of the NWA World Title Tournament took place on an IWA Puerto Rico card.

Back to what this column is really about, post NWA/TNA split. Despite the fact that Kurt Angle won the NWA World Title in Christian Cage's last defense (the night that the NWA announced the split) the title was held up due to a controversial finish. Okay, fine… Who wins the title when they decide a new Champion? Kurt Angle. Okay, then what was the point of vacating the title in the first place? Then comes the match where all titles were on the line and Samoa Joe, already the X Division Champion, wins the Tag Team Titles. Instead of Angle and Joe becoming the Tag Team Champions, Joe holds both belts on his own and doesn't defend them until the next PPV match with Kurt Angle. I cannot begin to describe how big of a problem I have with one man holding a Tag Team Title on his own. WCW was infamous for this, as they did this numerous times. Heck (edit) I would have been happy with Samoa Joe and Judy Bagwell as the Champions. Okay, not really, but still…

Next month Kurt Angle beats Samoa Joe in the match that everyone was sure was made just so Joe could finally win the big one, but instead we have Kurt Angle holding the World, Tag Team, and X Division Titles all on his own. He's then booked to defend them all at (insert PPV Name here.) Did Angle or Joe even defend any of these titles in the last two months leading up to this? I get that they were looking to do something unique by having Angle defend 3 different Championships in 3 different nights, and hopefully draw some interest to the event, but they backed themselves into a corner so far that the only direction they could go is down.

Match one of the night: Kurt Angle and Sting defending the Tag Team Titles against Ron Killings and Pacman Jones. Why was this match made in the first place? I'll save the fact that they had to release 3 guys to pay for Pacman's Salary for another rant, but why when you have a solid Tag Team division with numerous worthy contenders? Why not LAX, Team 3D, MCMG (edit) Triple X, The Steiners, VKM, or Shark Boy & D-Ray 3000? (Okay, my timeline's off a bit on the last one) Now I didn't see the actual PPV itself, and this is going just by reading the report of the show, but Killings wrestled the match himself for the team. Angle turns on Sting, lays him out with the Angle Slam, and Pacman gets tagged in and pins Sting. Great…

First professional match ever, and you go over on two of the biggest names in wrestling history, one of them you get a clean pinfall on without having to break a sweat or take a bump. This may not necessarily end up being the case, but not having to pay dues usually leads to guys getting massive egos. I guess time will tell with that. It's not like Sting gave the rub to Pacman because it didn't help his credibility by being able to beat the legend. He was just in the right place at the right time. If anyone should have gotten the rub from Sting, it's Christopher Daniels. All this match accomplished was getting the titles off of Angle & Sting, which they shouldn't have been on in the first place. It's nice that Killings at least got something out of this, but hopefully we can get the titles on a real team sometime soon.

Match two of the night: Kurt Angle vs Jay Lethal for the X Division Title. Lethal gets the upset here and rolls Angle up when he attempts an Ankle Lock. This is good for Lethal, as it is certainly the biggest win of his career. However, he didn't have the momentum, desire, and emotion going into the match as he did when he was chasing Sabin for the belt. His momentum was gone when he lost the belt to Joe one night after the initial title win. So the only purpose of him losing it was to do the stupid storyline with Angle getting all the belts. Hopefully Lethal can use the win over Angle to project himself even further. I really like the Black Machismo gimmick and I want to see him do well.

Match three of the night: Kurt Angle vs Abyss for the World Title. He's already 0-2 at this point, and having him lose the belt to Abyss here would be the best thing for the Title's credibility. Does it happen? Of course not. Angle makes Abyss tap out. So we're supposed to believe that Kurt Angle is still the best wrestler in TNA because he's the Heavyweight Champion of the World, yet he lost two matches in the same night prior to retaining that title. The announcers put it over as he kept the one that mattered. I don't think so. All it means to me is that Jay Lethal should have been the one challenging for the World Title and not Abyss. It would have been a little more believable and credible if Angle couldn't get the job done against Abyss but was able to retain the X Title over Lethal. I know Angle is their new top dog and they're content on pushing him to the moon, but they just derailed his momentum by jobbing him out prior to the Main Event. Sure, you could argue that this is similar to Bret & Owen Hart at Wrestlemania 10 prior to Bret beating Yokozuna for the World Title, but I'm sure Lethal isn't going to get a World Title shot because he pinned Angle.

While it was a breath of fresh air to see someone other than Triple H with the WWE Title, fans are now tired of John Cena being shoved down their throats. The same can be said about TNA. While it's nice to see someone other than Jeff Jarrett at the top of TNA, the fans are soon going to start resenting Kurt Angle as their Champion. And the sad thing is the victim in all of this, is the TNA World Title. Not a good sign going into a two hour timeslot, now is it?


Tim Haught said...

I love the shoot comment about the NWA North American Title. Interesting how the NWA still doesn't have the belt change on their own shows. That is an organization in shambles in my opinion.


Christopher Daniels beats Black Machismo in a non title match at the impact taping. Shouldn't he be number one contender for both the X title and the World Title? Probably...

Will he be? NO F'N Way!

Mac S said...

I agree. If Jay lethal can beat Angle for the X-divison belt there's no reason he couldn't be see as the #1 contender to the heavyweight and tag tgitles in the same instance...how much sense does that make???