Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Booking Sheet



I can remember the first time I ever thought that titles were important.

It was during a Flair/Luger match; Clash something or other, Fall Brawl, Mountain Madness. But unlike other Flair/Luger matches, it was for the US title, and I can distinctly remember the voice of Jim Ross throughout the match, screaming about how Flair NEEDED to win the US title so he would be the number one contender for the World title. It was pounded home, the entire match; need to win the US title to get another match with Sting. Then, at the end, Stan Hansen attacked Luger to set up their program, and that had been set up earlier in the show by Hansen wanting to move up the ladder so he could get paid more money, which would be accomplished if he won the US belt.

Long story short, EVERYTHING in that match, from beginning to screwjob, revolved around that belt.

Of course, now, the prestigious US title is….well, how exactly would you describe the current positioning of both the US title and the ostensibly equally prestigious Intercontinental title, guest wrestling critic Jay Sherman?



Danke, Mr. Sherman.

Let’s admit something here – the ultimate goal of making title belts little more than props has been achieved, to be sure, especially over the last 10 years or so. The ‘prestige’ of a title reign is less than it used to be.

How can we fix that?

Let’s start with the Intercontinental title this week. We’ll tackle the US next week.

The Intercontinental title has been, shall we say, passed around at a rate rivaling a French whore in a Victor Hugo novel in the last several years, with an actual French whore probably holding the belt at some point in that time period. (Fun exercise in the comments section: Name that French Whore/IC Champion!)*

So, what we need is some stability for the belt, some kind of reign that will legitimize the title again; what we need is someone who requires some rehabilitation but is still a legit threat to the upper card if we’re going to try to make the belt strong again.

Bray Wyatt, meet the Intercontinental Title. Intercontinental Title, meet Bray Wyatt.

Please don’t leave the belt alone with Rowan for any extended period of time during your days together; he makes us nervous.

Why Bray Wyatt, you may ask?

Well, let’s break it down:

WHY DOES BRAY NEED THE BELT? 

Wyatt is spinning his wheels – and that may not actually be a cliché, considering the Wyatt family gimmick. You tell me they have a spinning wheel on that farm, I’d believe it. But still, Wyatt has been on an uphill treadmill in the fed since the Cena feud. Sure, he’s hanging out near the top of the card, he main-evented Raw last week for God’s sakes!

Of course, a few weeks ago, so did this man….



….and at least he won!

Ahem.

Bray perfectly fits the profile needed to rebuild a title right now. He’s an upper mid-card heel; traditionally, for chase type scenarios, they work best. His character has been defined with him being the one who chases, which means that we can evolve the character by giving him a belt and letting him become the hunted as opposed to the hunter. It’s a key part of how his character needs to move forward – he needs to be on the other side of a feud, and giving him a belt provides that.

But why would Bray want a title? Well, let me ask you a question: what the hell DOES Bray’s character want? His motives haven’t been clearly explained for a lot of these feuds; does he want more family members, power, what exactly is his deal? So, clarity is necessary. But no problem, WWE – I already wrote his promo for you!

(This promo works best if you turn out your lights. You know, for mood and stuff.)

“Heh. In this world, the rich man is the king! Money, wealth, fame; you all follow the idols created by the television shows they beam right past your eyes into your sheep’s brain! It’s all about the gold in this world, this world that needs (giggle) a new prophet, a poor man who will lead his brothers in revolution! A revolution that burns the false idols of the blind who worship that which shines away the things they cannot see! (Muttering) But they tell me that to be the shepherd, you have to play the game, the game by their rules, the game before you change the rules.
There’s a story they tell in the churches on Sundays, a story about the golden idol and the vengeance of a God who swept away the sinners! But those sinners saw the truth of the future, that the gold would be held above all until the God came to punish the (giggles again) weak. I am the God. I am the Eater of WORLDS. And this world needs its God, so I’ll play the games of the false prophets; but when I take your golden idol as my own, you’ll have to fall to your knees and worship at my feet! You’ll all listen when you hear the Commandments as read by the God who holds the gold, I will unite the sinners and virtuous alike in ways the story's God never did; you’ll scoop up the sand in the desert when I tell you to drink because you can only see the shine’s arc of the gold adorning the Eater of Worlds.

(Singing) He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole wide world, in his hands.”

Bray Wyatt gets that belt, and then he has a reason to prophesize and preach, because he finally has something that people want. That alone should be enough to get him motivated to win the belt, because it gives him something to force people to chase him; there’s nothing that a cult leader wants more than to have followers. In Bray’s demented mind, he can see those who want the belt as a chance to create new members of the Wyatt family. And, in some cases, he should probably succeed.

The title can be used to evolve Wyatt’s character in several different ways. 1) As stated above, he can create new members of his stable. 2) He can start to inject subtle hypocrisy into his positions; what does the poor man prophet do when he gets a taste of the gold? How does it change him? 3) He could LOSE family members as well, if jealousy gets injected on behalf of Harper or Rowan wanting the shiny title. 4) If he were to turn face, the natural conflict he would have with the Authority could be used; right now, most of his feuds have been ‘outside’ the main power brokers and structure, but that conflict could be brought into apparent relief if there was a belt on the line.

Of course, these are all things that would help Bray Wyatt if he had the belt.

But….

WHY DOES THE BELT NEED BRAY?

Short answer: it doesn’t. The belt is an inanimate object that has no actual feelings or needs.

Longer, less sarcastic answer: There is no title that needs rehabilitation more than the IC title. What is it when we say ‘rehabilitation’? Well, to me, it’s all about the positioning of the belt to enhance the title's prestige. You know, unlike, say, fishing a belt out of a trash can. Back in the day, positioning the belt holder as the number 1 contender did the job.

Nowadays, it’s normally just whoever is holding the belt doing the job.

That’s a big part of what needs to change. Therefore, the person who tries to elevate the title again must be only slightly stronger than a mid-carder (to give a greater variety of wrestlers the chance for a title feud), while still able to make a plausible main eventer (should the time come to elevate them again).

Again – Bray Wyatt. His most high-profile jobs since Wrestlemania 30 have been to Cena and to Jericho, both of whom there is no shame in losing to. The title needs a strong heel more than it needs anything else, because heels tend to be stronger standard bearers for long title reigns, especially with a correctly positioned IC title. Look at the long roster of IC champs, and most of the best were heels. Savage, Honky Tonk, Perfect – these were the guys who held that belt and made it one of the strongest titles in the company.

But more to the point, we’re at a place in the WWE right now where the belt is necessary if Brock Lesnar is going to hold the world title until Wrestlemania. The current scenario is tailor-made for the IC title to once again rise in importance, especially if the main belt is gone for long, extended periods of time. It will need a strong wrestler and promo guy to be a part of that rebuilding. Bray Wyatt is the answer. He can elevate the title to something akin to what it once was. He would make a great champion for either a long chase by a midcard face to finally go over, a dominant heel champ for many months, or to use the title as a hotshot to a rookie like Sami Zayn (since the IC title works better as a hotshot title than the World Title).

Allow me to draw a comparison here between Bray Wyatt and the most obvious character in the same position….



…um, no. I meant Bray Wyatt and…Curt Hennig.

Hennig’s career trajectory followed Bray’s in some ways. He went over jobbers for months, was given vignettes that established the character before he came in, and he worked his way up Hogan with a perfect record before doing the job to him – but instead of sinking him to the bottom of the ocean, he went over for the IC belt and became a standard bearer for that title, holding it for multiple reigns and treating it as though it were quite prestigious the whole time.

Let’s take a quick look at Bray: vignettes to build up the character? Check. Winning streak to build up his character? Yup. Worked his way to the top face in the company and lost the feud? Cena says hello. And now…..

That’s why the IC title was so important. Wyatt is perfect for it at this point in his career. It gives him focus and it gives him a storyline that can relate both his strengths as a character in his wacky-ass promos while still allowing the traditional wrestling storylines to permeate through; sometimes we forget that the reason that some things are tradition are because they, you know, WORK. Combine the two and we have a winner.

And that’s the Wyatt is so important for the title. The title can only benefit from a strong reign by an over heel that could go many different directions. The title can only be elevated by someone making it a focal point of their character, especially if that character evolves along the way as a result of that reign.

So, WWE, take my advice:

Follow the buzzards.

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on twitter

*As far as I know, there weren’t any French whores that held the IC title, but here’s hoping it’s good for some chuckles from you all in the comment section. Fire away. All jokes about The Miz will be ignored because, face it, that one's too fucking obvious.


8 comments:

  1. Title changes can also help a title's prestige. Take a few guys, present them as all being equal more or less, make it all about the belt, and have kick ass matches. Pretty much what the LHW title was in UFC before Jones got it.

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  2. I wish they'd use WCW's U.S. Title. It looked 100000000000000 times better than the WWE's version.

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  3. I think Jones did help it rebuild in some ways. The Forrest and Rashad era where just anybody won the belt was dark.

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  4. It was a dark era because Rashad was champion? RACIST!

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  5. The WWE used the IC title real well during the Attitude era to build up stars like Austin, HHH, the Rock, as well as give midcard acts like Shamrock, Owen Hart, etc something to go after. It was a barometer for how over someone was with the crowd. If someone could hold that title, have some interesting feuds over it, and be more over when they dropped it, then they had a potential main eventer on their hands.
    Once they started hot shotting titles on to rookie talents, the title went down in value, especially with the WWE's 50/50 Baskin Robbins booking. If they would let Ziggler defend the title twice a month (once on TV and once on PPV) and have matches that are 12-15 minutes long, the title could rise in importance again.
    Tied in to Bray winning the title, a Bray/Ziggler feud could be interesting. Ziggler's show off personality would make great fodder for Bray's promos.

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  6. Considering Miz has an IC title run... would Maryse be said French Whore?

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  7. French IC champ whore is Pat Patterson surely?

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