On the episode of Monday night Raw on 28 October 2013, Damien Sandow cashed in his Money in the Bank contract against John Cena. A contract that almost guarantees you a world or WWE championship. Almost….
You see, on that particular Monday night…Sandow cashed in…but didn’t win a title. He became only the 2nd person to unsuccessfully win a title courtesy of the MITB briefcase. (The other coincidentally was John Cena ) The aftermath of Damien Sandow’s loss was anger and frustration by many within the internet community. Many fans were convinced that that would mark the end of Sandow’s push. That by not winning the World title and no longer having a briefcase….Sandow would return to low to mid card status. It indeed has…but it didn’t have to be.
Fast forward to 2015 and the slow build of Seth Rollins. We can be very critical of the WWE’s storylines and creative direction lately…but the build up of Seth Rollins from a cog in the Shield faction to legit top heel in the company has been exceptional. Giving a character time to develop and mature before our eyes is key. The WWE’s patience and Seth’s hard work and natural abilities have made him believable as a main event star.
While every wrestler strives for success with an ultimate goal of being a World champion…a piece of gold with leather straps…isn’t the only passage to greatness. That doesn’t mean I devalue the meaning and purpose of a world title…just that there are other ways to get a push and be valuable without winning one. Look at guys like Arn Anderson, Jake Roberts, Bobby Eaton, Bruiser Brody, Ted Dibiase, Paul Orndorff, Roddy Piper and countless others that never won a world title and were still considered great to legendary. More so than some who’ve actually won a World title like Jack Swagger for instance.
My point is, a wrestler does not have to win a title to be considered a star….not even to secure a legacy. It doesn’t hurt…but not necessary. Still not convinced? Look no further than the Icon Sting. What exactly made him a legit star for NWA/WCW? It was his 45 minute time limit draw with Ric Flair at the inaugural Clash of the Champions. Sting didn’t win the match or the title…but earned the fans respect and showcased himself as a star!
Now go back to Damien Sandow…he didn’t win the title from John Cena and lost the match….but how many times do have we heard a “This is Awesome” chant for a Cena match? I know we never heard one for a Sandow match…until that Raw. That’s what it’s all about…the quality of a match.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield’s 1 match with Eddie Guerrero did more for his career than any match he ever had previously. Eddie sold everything JBL gave and bled profusely…winning the title was just the icing on the cake….but the match itself…made JBL into a main event star.
I’m not saying that this one match between Sandow and Cena accomplished those things, because it obviously didn’t. To me, the joy of wrestling isn’t so much the pay off at the end…it’s the build up before that…the chase. Sadly, having a world title now doesn’t hold the same cred it did back in the days of Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race and Ric Flair. It still has meaning…it’s just not the same. Consistently putting on 5 star matches and getting the fans involved in your character is what works better in my view.
A world title now is used to help a wrestler “get over” as opposed to the wrestler getting the title over. While Ric Flair has always said…”To be the man…you have to beat the man.” Perhaps, but as long as you give the man a run for his money…you’ll be just fine.