Randy Orton is the current WWE champion, not that many fans seem to care. The reaction he gets at the moment is lukewarm. Fans fill his promo time with ‘YES!’ chants in favour of Daniel Bryan, during his matches they seem to chant for anyone but him! The top guy in the company should have a rapport with the fans, either loved or hated. You either want to see them win and be the hero or want your favourite to beat them so bad that you are willing to pay money to see it (in theory at least). Unfortunately in 2014 Randy Orton doesn’t have that connection and as such the top prize in wrestling is suffering.
So by evoking such a reaction does that mean that people have stopped caring about the title and it’s importance? Let’s face it, the WWE/Heavyweight championships have been watered down so much that they don’t mean what they used to prior to the early 2000s. In WCW that’s when their title died by putting it on actor David Arquette. Saying it did irrevocable damage across the board is probably too severe but it’s clear the current titles don’t mean a thing in the current climate.
Endless Triple H, John Cena and Randy Orton title reigns over the last 10 years hasn’t helped as the top of the card has became stale. Having mediocre world champions like The Miz and Jack Swagger have also done damage to the once prestigious championships. They don’t compare to credible champions of old, such as Ric Flair in his heyday. With the suits, jet planes, champagne and limos he lived the champion’s lifestyle. You believed in him as champion and as such the Heavyweight title was at the top of the card where it belonged and meant something in the eyes of the fans.
The WWE brand split lead to the creation of two so called world champions which never made sense, it just diluted the product and credibility of both title claims. Furthermore towards the end of 2013 we were fed too many poor finishes to Pay Per View title matches. This meant we lost faith in WWE following through on the outcome of these matches the more it happened, especially after Daniel Bryan was stripped of his win on the Raw after Night of Champions. This has led to a general malaise and a feeling of apathy, we are not going to get what we want so why should we care?
The world title unification match between John Cena and Randy Orton at TLC was meant to go some way to start the rebuilding process. It has taken away the problem of having 2 World champions in one company, but the public still don’t seem to care. The live audiences has made it clear they have no interest in Randy Orton as champion, and had no interest in seeing Batista win the Royal Rumble to face Orton at WrestleMania. The crowd wanted Daniel Bryan during the Rumble, when they didn’t get him it was Batista who bore the brunt of their fury. So what should have been the biggest match of the year on the biggest show is now stone cold, pardon the pun. The hardcore fans that attend WrestleMania will show their frustration at this match and go through the usual gamut of chants.
Over on TNA it’s no different. They have a new world champion in Magnus. They have tried to build a new star for a change and not use a former WWE superstar. But they now refer to him as a paper champion. The face of their company is seen as someone who doesn’t deserve his spot, who should have an asterisk beside his name in the records books.
Unfortunately it’s not just the world title that is suffering. All the belts seem to lack credibility. (Note that WWE have stopped referring to them as belts as per a directive from Vince McMahon, they are titles because belts are something that hold up your trousers). There are plans to unify the Intercontinental title and US title. They are both steeped in rich history, however they have received terrible treatment by WWE in recent times. Both were made redundant in the past, in 2002 and 2001 respectively, only to be brought back, more weaker for the experience. Why should we care about titles when they can come and go? Up until Monday nights Raw on February 10th, Dean Ambrose the US champion had not defended the title since last October. So if it’s just something he wears to the ring each week but doesn’t get involved in feuds, it just becomes a prop and another line of merchandise for them to sell. (A side note, the tag team belts look awful and are in need of an urgent revamp)
The WWE still has the Elimination Chamber PPV before WrestleMania, and they may start to right some wrongs there. The fans want Daniel Bryan pushed as the top guy, CM Punks departure will certainly help him here. Pushing him as a strong world champion, with legitimate competition, along with match finishes fans can believe in and trust can resurrect the world title. Having one strong secondary title from the outcome of a unified Intercontinental/US championship, where the holder will be seen as someone on the up, can resurrect this, getting it back to a stepping stone to the world title, just like it used to be.
Champions need to be considered legit and not just one of the old faces who WWE trust and would use rather than taking a risk on someone new who deserves it. The aforementioned Daniel Bryan has never had a serious reign as the top champion in the company and now is definitely the time to correct that. The fans want it and by associating the title with someone with as much credibility as Bryan might make the title mean something again.