EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, November 9, 2001
WWF should treat titles right
There are typically between seven or eight matches on a good wrestling card. They can throw nine or ten in if they want to, but invariably one or two of those matches would be last-minute throwaways. Seven or eight are closer to historical averages. If we were to assume that half of the matches are tag team matches, which is very generous, then between twenty and twenty four wrestlers should be fighting on a given card. Aside from the fact that eleven titles is more than enough for one title to be defended in every match, thirteen title belts are enough to fit more than fifty percent of the wrestlers fighting on a card. That's astounding and ridiculous.
There was a time when three titles were more than sufficient. The heavyweight title, the secondary title, and the tag team titles were plenty for a very long time. The women's title and light heavyweight titles made sporadic appearances and then faded into nothingness. The spotlight was on those three titles, and to this day any WWF tag team that held the tag team titles in the 1980's is remembered fondly. I think Edge and Christian, who were only a tag team for a few short years, won more tag team titles than Demolition and the Legion of Doom combined.
In the days of fewer titles, those titles meant something. The men holding the titles were elevated. Matches fought for the titles were deemed important. Wrestlers had a reason to want the titles. Since they were rare, they were only held by the best. As a result, holding a title meant you were the best.
Other wrestlers, those without the benefit of titles, fought grudge matches. They got themselves into old style feuds and settled their scores in the ring. The funny thing about the current era is that despite the presence of four times as many titles as ten years ago, matches are still fought over feuds and grudges. In many matches now, the titles aren't even an issue. Wrestler X despises Wrestler Y, fights him, beats him, and wins the title but doesn't even want it. Then the WWF is confused about why fans don't then want to see Wrestler Z challenge Wrestler X for his title.
I understand that the WWF is hesitant to get rid of the WCW titles just yet. They may start a new separate WCW promotion, after all. To that, I say that they've already damaged the WCW name so much, I doubt they'd start a promotion under the WCW name. It'll probably be called Alliance Wrestling or something to that effect. Even if they did re-use the WCW name, they would have to re-brand it anyway. So they have nothing to lose from temporarily shelving the WCW titles. Hopefully, that's exactly where they're going with the Survivor Series angle. Close down the Alliance for awhile and keep the wrestlers, then start up a second promotion when you actually want one later.
The WWF is probably hesitant to retire its own titles because it has already put time and money into developing them. As poor as they are, the hardcore, European, and women's titles are marketing brands worth a certain amount thanks to their presence over the past few years.
Companies with products that aren't performing close down those product lines. The WWF should do the same with its non-performing titles.
The WWF could arguably keep a second world title, but then the WCW title would replace the function of the intercontinental title as the federation's second most prestigious title, to be fought over by those who can't quite reach the big gold. There's no excuse for a tertiary United States title, nor two sets of tag team titles.
If the WWF is going to put the WCW name to bed for awhile after Survivor Series, I suggest it drop their titles, as well as their own relatively unused ones. At this point, having thirteen belts isn't just eroding the value of the worst belts, but the best ones too. Drop the European, women's, and light heavyweight titles. Keep the heavyweight, intercontinental, tag team, and hardcore championships. If the WWF insists on keeping the WCW name alive, keep the same belts plus the WCW heavyweight title. Other than that, everything else is dead weight.
When things are working and the company is making money, it's arguably okay for the WWF to have its eccentricities. There's no excuse when the WWF is doing so poorly, though. This is a wrestling company and titles have an important place in the wrestling business. Treat them as such.
Have a good one.
Here's the mailbag.
Dave Ranallo, from email@example.com, writes:
Just a quick question. I happen to be writing a sr. thesis on pro wrestling, and I can't seem to find when Kevin Nash and Scott Hall wrestled their last WWF matches -- breaking kayfabe by hugging Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the ring. I was wondering if you could help me out with this.
Love your column.
-- Dave Ranallo.
Everybody say it with me: Madison! Square! Gardens!
I get a surprising amount of e-mails from folks writing theses about professional wrestling. Dave and everyone else out there doing serious academic work about wrestling: I'd love to hear from you about exactly what you're working on, and maybe feature some of it in a future column. Good luck!
Baron von Imhoof, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
If a writer wanted to apply for a job writing the stories for the WWF, how would they go about it? As many others have said, I feel this is the biggest weakness they have.
While there are many who would agree with you about their current writing, I don't think the WWF has put out any help wanted signs just yet.
Based on previous hirings, I would say that the WWF hires new writers from two sources. One, from within, from their pool of agents and wrestlers and other employees who express an interest in the booking of the show. Two, from Hollywood, which means writers with real previous experience.
Writing for the WWF is probably one of the most demanding such jobs out there. I'm sure it would be impossible to throw a newbie in there and hope for the best, if that's what you were thinking, as everyone does from time to time.
That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!
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