Sunday Sermon: Should Champions Be Losing on TV

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Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, John Carbery and Brian Damage

Bizarrely, it is now part and parcel of modern wrestling to see champions lose regularly in non-title bouts. It is something that is a particular bugbear of the team on this blog and in this Sunday Sermon we take a look at this type of booking.

Craig: This really is one of the things that frustrates me most with modern wrestling: champions losing matches week in, week out on Raw. This past week on Raw, all in non-title matches, Paige pinned Charlotte, Sami Zayn pinned The Miz and The Dudleys defeated New Day via pinfall as well. Looking beyond the fact that of those three matches, only Zayn is actually in a programme with The Miz, that’s three champions losing on the WWE’s flagship show a matter of weeks before a PPV.

I can sort of understand the logic: the champion losing shows that their title might be in some danger come the next big event. But it also shows that the champion is, well, a loser. Right?

I’m not suggesting keeping the champion off TV in a similar way to how Hogan virtually never appeared on Raw after WrestleMania 9, all am saying is just protect the champions more. Certainly don’t have champions lose to people that don’t need or deserve a win over them.

Am I the only one frustrated by this type of booking?

Jamie: It is certainly frustrating. I too get that WWE want to create a competitive environment, but there is such a thing as too much. Thankfully The New Day and Charlotte have been booked relatively strongly in recent times, so a ‘shock’ defeat can be written off as such. Although, it’s a bit much for two in one night.

As for The Miz – and virtually every IC Champion in recent memory – his win/loss record as champion just tells me that he will never be a top guy and that there is no point caring about him. Ditto Cesaro, Ziggler, Ryder and to a lesser extent Owens. When WWE want to push someone as a real player they don’t have them lose. Were Rollins and Reigns jobbing to veteran Tag Teams when they were Tag Champions as members of The Shield? This is probably the primary reason why I have very little interest in WWE these days. Where are the rising stars? Hell, where are the current stars?! They are careful not to make Roman Reigns – who appears to be getting less and less popular by the day, if that is even possible – not look weak, but that’s about it.

John: I’m a traditionalist in that I believe a Champion should never lose by pinfall or submission in a non title match. I think its ridiculous to have Champions lose as it kind of defeats the purpose of putting the belt on them in the first place. Can you imagine if the WWF had Ricky Steamboat pin Randy Savage cleanly in a non title match on Saturday Nights Main Event before Wrestlemania III? Thats the level of idiocy we’re dealing with here in my opinion.

I have no problem whatsoever with heel champions losing by countout or disqualificaiton, thats where you get heat, but surely if a challenger needs to build up steam for a Pay Per View there are dozens of other roster members they can beat instead of the Champion themselves?

A textbook example is the build to both Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor matches. Heading into Takeover London, Joe earned a hard fought victory over Tomasso Ciampa that made Joe look like a beast who can take a challenge. Same with Finn heading into Dallas, weeks before he had a cracking match with Rich Swann where he looked like he was capable to take on any challenger for his title. If Joe had pinned Finn or vice versa heading into either PPV what sense would that have made?

That’s the most frustrating part of all of this, it makes no sense! Its almost like when a booker orders their champion to lose they’re trying to damage both their bottom line and the credibility of their title.

Craig: John is right but it’s mad that the WWE can learn lessons from NXT, right?

I don’t mind the way they have the challenger commenting on the champion’s matches and vice versa. But for me the champion and number one contender should be kept away from each other as much as possible when it comes to in-ring stuff.

Also instead of trading wins, why not have both the champion and challenger heading into the event on a winning run. You can believe in the challenger winning without having seen them defeat the champion on TV. Right?

Jamie: My thoughts exactly. Why WWE is not like how John described, or even NXT as Craig suggested, is ridiculous. As an example, I should be chomping at the the bit to see Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles at Extreme Rules but I truly don’t care. Familiarity breeds contempt. I’ve seen that match and I’ve seen the tag version of it, why would I now believe that AJ could possibly win?

The big question is why do WWE take the approach that they do, when the alternative technique they used to employ worked so well? It’s too easy to say that Raw is too long and WWE is over exposed, that’s why they have – or should have – a giant roster. Could it be that they have switched emphasis away from building to PPVs and now just treat them as ‘episodes’ rather than events? Another theory is that there is a lack of long term planning in WWE and shows are thrown together at the last minute, hence there is no direction with their booking other than to get one or two particular people over?

Brian: If I could play devil’s advocate for a minute….who are the WWE’s top stars right now? I mean currently on the active roster that aren’t injured? My point being, the WWE has a lot of guys with talent…but aren’t considered top guys yet. Sami Zayn beating say Kevin Owens doesn’t exactly make him a #1 contender.

The men holding the titles currently are seen as the top guys…I guess. Granted, I still don’t like the idea of a challenger beating a champion in a non title match…but the WWE isn’t the first promotion to employ such a tactic. The NWA did when they had Ricky Steamboat beat Ric Flair in a tag team match that propelled him to being the top contender. It isn’t as unprecedented as many might think.

Craig: Oh there’s no doubt that it has been done before but I can’t help but think it makes it feel a whole lot more special if it is saved for a big event. I think one of the best examples was back in 1990 with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior clashing in the Rumble then facing off at WrestleMania. Now, I know there was no Raw etc then and they were in the ring with each other on the house show loop but a match physically can’t have that ‘big match’ feel to it if it has been done on TV and given away for free?

But that’s not my main gripe. No, my main gripe is that I don’t like seeing champions look like losers. If wins and loses actually mattered to the WWE, and maybe that’s a whole new topic in itself, then they wouldn’t have their champions head into PPVs with a win/loss record that is pretty much split down the middle. Would they?

Brian: I am with you 100%, just wanted to see both sides of the story. Champions should be chased and win as much as possible to look like strong champions. You want to pay to see them lose…that’s the whole point of it all.

The WWE uses the “beat the champion, therefore I am the number one contender” gimmick waaay too much for my liking.

Jamie: Remember all the swerves in WCW circa 1999-2000? That’s what I’m reminded of with WWE’s continued weak booking of their champions. A swerve in a wrestling storyline can be a beautiful thing, but not every week. Ditto when champions are unexpectedly beaten, because if it happens all the time it’s not unexpected, it’s not special and it’s not effective.

So there you have it. It’s pretty unanimous – we, like a lot of fans, hate this way of booking champions. Got something you want to say on on the matter? Leave your comments in the section below.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.

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12 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: Should Champions Be Losing on TV

  1. I’m old school as this is just one of many things that made me stop watching WWE. Back then, if someone was a mid-card champion or a tag team champ. Those guys would have matches and would always give you a reason into why they’re champs whether they’re face or heel. What WWE has been doing is what WCW is sort of doing in its dying days where now, the titles don’t mean shit.

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    • And therein lies the rub. Didn’t realize that WWE was pulling the WCW crap until you mentioned it. Agree 100 percent.

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      • I was watching ROH TV and Jay Lethal is the current champ and he’s rarely been pinned. He gets challenged and goes into non-title matches but always finds a way to win. He is a heel but he’s a guy that manages to back up everything he says and more. You may not like his character but he’s not a chicken-shit like Roman Reigns or the Miz.

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      • Yeah, you’re right, I’ve seen that too. I’m actually a big Jay Lethal fan, ever since I first saw him in TNA. His imitations of Randy Savage and Ric Flair were absolutely hilarious. And he is sooooo much better than the Miz and Reigns put together. (Although Miz seems to have turned his game up a notch since Maryse came back, it seems) I don’t know if Lethal and Seth Rollins have ever met in the ring, but even if they have, I’d still pay stolen money to see that. THAT would be a Wrestlemania-caliber match.

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  2. I was watching at the time and pretty sure hogan and warrior never faced each other on the house show loop- checked results and pwi mags from that time. They had run ins that were on tv but no matches.

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  3. I was watching at the time and pretty sure hogan and warrior never faced each other on the house show loop, checked result and pwi mags from back then. They had run ins on tv but no matches.

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  4. I’m going to take a trip in the “Wayback Machine” and recall how it was done NWA style on TV. An unscheduled match on TV would result in a challenger beating a champion or as was stated a pin took place in a tag match. I remember Butch Reed in Florida pinning Flair in an unscheduled match but when the had the title match in an arena, Flair won. It may have been by disqualification or count out but that’s how it was done.

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  5. But…if you know the Champions are going to win why watch them wrestle on RAW? Besides in real sport no one is unbeatable. The Yankees lose, the Red Sox lose, the Warriors lose even Novak Djokovic loses! Besides it’s a way of deciding a new challenger ie if Charlotte wins at Extreme Rules Paige could be the #1 contender on the basis of he r non title win.
    Personally I’d book wrestling like a real sport and when elite players/teams play each other one of them does not win all the time.

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  6. Happened all the time back in the 70s and early 80s, my primetime a viewing. Hence, not in the same style as you guys mention #OnTV. But there were many times a contenders hand was raised, the belt was given to him only to be taken away a few minutes later due to some disqualifying reason. This would build the hype for the big match the following week in which the contender would lose. I don’t know If Vince is trying to build heat or if they’re just mixing it up. I don’t watch it , I prefer watching older matches on YouTube

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  7. Seems to be a touchy subject! If you saw a champion losing in a non-title match, whether it be the AWA, WCCW, NWA/WCW, or WWE, it was such a rare occurance that you could be sure it was being talked about the next day–“Holy shit, Magnum T.A. pinned Flair right in the middle of the ring! Cleanly!” But it sure seems that it’s becoming more commonplace for a beltholder to keep losing on TV. Me personally, okay, go ahead and keep doing that, and watch the importance of the belt (whatever it is) lose more and more of its luster. If a challenger pins the champ a few weeks before a PPV, then, fine, that seems plausible to me because you’re setting up for a big title match at that card. But having somebody like, say, Sin Cara, pin Roman Reigns without any real followup? What was the point? To confuse the fans? Piss them off? I understand that it makes for great TV to see a titlist have that sense of vulnerability, but if you’re not gonna keep a feud going from that, then what the hell was the fucking point? Give me the older matches; the promoters really knew how to instill drama in that way. Even the dreaded “Dusty finish” made for great drama.

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  8. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 21 | Ring the Damn Bell

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