As the televised segment of the WWE draft started to gain momentum, it became clear that the company had gone with the obvious and sensible choice of having the U.S . Title defended on one show, and the Intercontinental Title on the other. With some relatively strong mid-card talents on both Raw and SmackDown Live, hopefully the move portends some frequent, well-rounded exposure of competition for those belts, finally putting to bed the ceaseless bugbear of meaningless titles.
However, the outcome of the draft leaves a larger question mark hanging over the women’s, tag team, and WWE World Heavyweight championships.
In the last few years, the WWE and tag team championships were unified into one, as were the World Heavyweight and WWE championships. Meanwhile, the Women’s Championship ditched the outdated and patronizing ‘Divas’ prefix. This has helped enormously to put more value in winning these titles — ‘undisputed’ championships, if you will.
The trouble is, with the holders of these titles having been explicitly drafted to their own shows, and with no mention of champions defending against two talent rosters, it leaves fans with the frightening prospect of the WWE again circumventing the problem by creating new titles — so soon after they have acknowledged, through creating undisputed ones, that an over-abundance of belts dilutes their prestige.
But the other issue with a solution like that is even more concerning: the shows just don’t have the talent resources to keep the competition for all these titles fresh and competitive.
SmackDown Live has a mere five tag teams on its roster now. Of them, one has ceased to be of any interest to the fans (there are only so many superkicks we can bear to watch, Usos…), three of them have been consistently booked as doormat incompetents (Breezeango, The Ascension, The Vaudevillains), while American Alpha has only just arrived on the scene. None of them are going to have an easy ride being taken seriously, and the fact that they have all recently been presented as a bit rubbish will only make a SmackDown Live tag team title look like a prize awarded to the best of the worst.
As for Raw, they at least got all of the best tag teams (The New Day, Enzo & Cass, The Club, The Shining Stars, The Dudley Boyz and… err… The Golden Truth), but having six teams, only four of whom are going to be accepted as champions, is going to make for an extremely repetitive program of matches.
And if that didn’t seem worrying enough, the top card on both shows is looking to be very slim. WWE Champion Dean Ambrose is on SmackDown Live. So who are their top-tier guys with the credibility to bring him down? Well there’s John Cena and Randy Orton, who have about a thousand championship reigns between them and carving themselves out a future as WWE grandees, reserved for dream matches and putting over younger talent. There’s AJ Styles, who is in roughly the same position but could potentially be in line and at least has the backing of the fans. And then there’s Alberto Del Rio, who is now so lower card we are expecting him to job to the Brooklyn Brawler on Superstars next week.
Now, the outcome of Battleground could at least see the heavyweight title parachuted into Raw, where there is a richer surfeit of top players. But that doesn’t eliminate SmackDown Live’s issue, which could also end up with a bronze medal top title.
The only solution to this issue is to have the top champions defending on both shows. As well as having the world champion putting in fewer appearances and becoming a specials attraction for PPVs (just like back in the day). It would mean that, on T.V., the newly flourishing mid-carders could regularly find themselves in the main event fighting for the Intercontinental and U.S. titles.
If the draft had been carried out more judiciously (had SmackDown Live not got such a bum deal), and if there was an equality of quality on both shows, then perhaps a multitude of championships wouldn’t be such an issue. But it wasn’t, and there isn’t, and the company needs to act fast to turn it into a positive.