The Trouble with Title Changes

Tennyson famously wrote, “’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.” Clearly, he would’ve made a lousy wrestling booker… just like the ones who write the mainstream North American products these days. Both WWE and Impact Wrestling have given nearly everybody on their rosters a taste of the championship titles, only to have them lose a month or two afterward. These short title reigns don’t just hurt the prestige of the belts, they also do serious damage to these unlucky champions.

At 27 days, Luke Harper’s Intercontinental Title run falls just short of Marc Mero’s in both length and impressiveness. Unlike Mero in 1996, however, Harper is on the right side of his peak with tremendous upside. That it’s even possible to compare the crazy-eyes monster to Johnny B. Badd proves that something is terribly wrong here.

Getting help from the top heel faction to win a title and then dropping it back cleanly to the same guy a month later doesn’t make you look like a man in the rise — it makes you look like an enhancement guy. If a big monster isn’t going to go on a big monster run, then he’s better off never getting the belt. (That’s why the DQ finish was invented. See: the 80s)

At the other end of the title reigns that shouldn’t have happened spectrum lies Jessicka Havok. She debuted on Impact in the fall with an off the charts look and gimmick, but got too close to the title too soon. She was pushed to the top of a thin division [Yes, the Knockouts division is thin!] by interfering in a title match week one, stealing the title belt week two, and becoming number one contender week three.

If you count the imaginary weeks of tape delay that she held the Knockouts Title, Havok held the championship for just over a month, but in reality, she was essentially the Mountie, getting the belt from Kim to Terrell in thee days time. Again, Jessicka Havok, a young star with upside in 2014/15, should not be comparable to Jacques Rougeau in 1992.

Over the last six months, Harper and Havok each had a window to break out as a top monster heel act, but look where they wound up. For Luke Harper, the confusing Wyatt Family clustermess at the Royal Rumble proved that his window as a serious competitor has temporarily closed. Havok was put into an angle with the act she most desperately needed to be protected from, then lost decisively to her at Lockdown.

In each case, the championship title, the definitive gimmick of professional wrestling, managed to lower the champion’s status rather than elevate it. That’s a dangerous proposition, because if you grab that thread and tug it, the logical conclusion is that being champion is not an indication of a wrestler being on a dominant run… And if that’s true, there isn’t much left to hold onto as a wrestling fan.

One thought on “The Trouble with Title Changes

  1. I agree with you about Impact. Samoa Joe, Aries, Roode, Young, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle… They’ve all been world champion, making it ridiculous when they fall in and out of the title picture seemingly at random. But with WWE, the championship setup is much different. I don’t like it when they give the IC title to someone they want to push, because it always means the opposite will happen: the talent will stall. The IC title being won and lost often makes it seem like more of an attainable goal, as opppsed to the WHC which isn’t even part of the show. That’s where the prestige lies, on Brock Lesnar’s shoulder. But I’d rather see Ziggler, Harper, Barrett, Ambrose and all these other potential main eventers actually doing something, chasing something like the IC title, than sitting waiting for their shot at the WWE champion. When Harper lost at TLC I honestly didn’t know whether he would get the belt back or not, and that sort of uncertainty makes it much more exciting. Who knows what will happen with Ambrose and Barrett, what wars they’ll wage, and most importantly, how many times (if any) they’ll trade the title?

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