In April of last year – I didn’t realise it was that long ago – I wrote a two part feature on the state of the various titles in the WWE. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here. There, I looked at the state of the belts, the worthiness of the holders and what the future held for the then champion and the belt itself.
This latest take will see me look at the US, IC and divas titles. Next week I’ll take in the WWE title, NXT title and the tag titles.
At the time of writing the original post the then Antonio Cesaro was on day 233 of a 239 day reign with the title. I remarked at the time that the crowd weren’t buying into his act – what a different 14 months make. Since then Kofi Kingston had a 34 day run, Dean Ambrose became the longest reigning champion under the WWE banner with a largely uneventful 351 days with the title and now Sheamus is at a month and a half.
Ambrose’s title win came at the time that all three members of The Shield carried gold. However, it was fighting as a trio in six-man tags that they had their finest moments limiting the number of times Ambrose fought in singles action and defended the gold.
That said, it was a surprise when he dropped the title, although perhaps more of a shock that the belt was actually on the line. In the end it was former champion Sheamus that last eliminated Ambrose to regain the title. Since then, Ambrose and Roman Reigns have had their hands full with their former team-mate Seth Rollins while Sheamus has found himself part of the Money in the Bank match to crown the new WWE Champion.
As much hope as many would have had that Ambrose’s title reign would be a success, it simply wasn’t allowed the opportunity to do so. Any title defence – and there were very few – seemed tokenistic with much of his focus, rightly in terms of match quality, being on six-man tag matches.
Sheamus being given a run with as champion could be good news for the title and the Celtic Warrior. After all, neither was doing all that much. The title will give the Dublin born grappler a chance to focus his attention somewhere while having a former world champion carry it will give the belt some much needed prestige.
However, Sheamus’ inclusion in the MiTB as opposed to, say, putting the title on the line at the PPV perhaps indicates what interest in the company have in the strap. Time will tell how much of a vehicle the strap that greats like Harley Race and Ricky Steamboat wore will be for giving Sheamus the sort of direction he’s long been missing. The future is less bright, perhaps, for the title itself. Could a unification with the IC title be on the cards? That’s a post for another time.
The 21-year-old Saraya-Jade ‘Paige’ Bevis is the youngest and current Divas champion. Her surprise victory, the night after Wrestlemania 30, over AJ Lee saw her become the first diva to hold both the Divas title and the NXT Women’s Champion at the same time.
I found AJ Lee a very interesting champion. She represented all that was different, especially aesthetically, about the divas division with the added bonus of also being a very credible in-ring working. In fact, I even worried that Paige was too similar to Lee to really break out. How wrong I was!
There will always be those that wonder if Lee’s reign ending had anything to do with her partner CM Punk walking out but the young Paige has a bright bright future ahead of her. She’s from a wrestling family which will set her in good stead for a long career. The lack of quality opponents may provide a short term issue but NXT has already created a number of credible potential opponents.
Her biggest worry, and that of all female wrestlers in the WWE, will be the lack of focus and time afforded to them by the promotion to tell a story in the ring with their matches often still seen as a smoking break on a PPV.
It was Wade Barrett, on his third reign, that held the title back in April 2013 and the same superstar holds in this day – although there have been two other performers that have also held the belt.
Neither Curtis Axel or Big E. lit up during the time carrying the belt that was usually saved for the promotion’s “workers”. Now I’m no’ fan of this version of Bad News Barrett. I thought the character worked very well on the JBL and Cole show but, in a similar way to Zak Ryder before him, once the WWE creative got their claws on to the character it lost a bit of interest.
Still, Barrett has a unique style and a look that largely sets him apart. There appears to still be a groundswell of support for him from the fanbase and 4 IC reigns indicates that there are people behind the scenes that also have faith in him.
I had thought the WWE would use the title to get Big E. to the next level but he lacked the X factor to really get him there and perhaps Barrett was seen as a safe pair of hands to carry the gold. It provides him with a platform to get the ‘Bad News’ gimmick over with the WWE faithful.
Could it return to its former glory? Probably not but with the unification of the top titles there is no reason why the title can’t be used to build up a future champion. I expected Reigns to have had a run with the title by now but now I wonder if he isn’t already too big for it. A feud between Ambrose and Rollins, which is quite probably the more obvious feud, over the IC title would first of all give the two something else to fight over but also be a huge boost for the title.