Remember a time when the United States and Intercontinental championships mattered? Granted, I'm talking about pseudo-championships in a pseudo-sport, but just go along with it, okay? I assure you once upon a time these titles mattered.
WWE's Intercontinental Championship was born in 1979 and has generally been regarded as the "worker's title". The title, which was originally the WWF North American Championship, was first held by Pat Patterson and was held by such wrestlers as Pedro Morales, Don Muraco, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, Ric Flair, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho to name a few. In this decade, former world champions Christian, Big Show, and The Miz held the title, as well as current world heavyweight champion Dolph Ziggler.
The United States Championship has been around even longer. Born in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (as part of the National Wrestling Alliance) on New Year's Day 1975, it was regarded as a stepping-stone to the NWA (and later, WCW) World Heavyweight Championship.
Harley Race was the first of 77 different champions that include Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Lex Luger, Sting, Dusty Rhodes, Stan FUCKING Hansen, Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, and Bill Goldberg. When WWE bought WCW in 2001, the United States Championship came over with it, and after a year and a half hiatus in the early 2000s, wrestlers such as Booker T, Chris Benoit, Matt Hardy, MVP, and current WWE Champion John Cena held the prestigious title.
Even if your wrestling fandom is recent, just reading off that list of famous names might give you the impression that the Intercontinental and United States championships meant something once upon a time. And trust me when I tell you, they did.
This clearly hasn't been the case as of late. At least not the way they have been booked on the WWE show of record, Monday Night Raw.
Yes, there are five other shows they broadcast (SmackDown, Superstars, Main Event, NXT, Saturday Morning Slam), but WWE has made a concerted effort to let you, the viewer know, whether consciously or not, that Monday Night Raw is the only one that matters. Why do you think SmackDown matches are rehashed the following Monday on the regular? Because they know half of the Raw audience doesn't watch people fight on Friday nights.
In other words, if it didn't happen under the big lights of Raw, it doesn't count. That said, late Monday night, I got a thought in my head after watching both the midcard champions lose (yet again) -- "How have they done on Raw in 2013?"
Well, the answer, to put it bluntly is, "Not. Good".
The Intercontinental champion, which has been Wade Barrett for all but one day this year (WrestleMania 29) is 5-7-1 (42.31% win percentage), with five weeks not booked for a match. Barrett has not won on back-to-back Raws since January.
The United States champion, which was Antonio Cesaro until three weeks ago, is an alarming and astounding 2-11 (15.38%), with five weeks not booked for a match. Kingston has not won in two Raw matches since winning the title from Cesaro. Even more astounding: the US Champion has exactly one clean win in 2013 on Raw: a January 7 win by Cesaro over Zack Ryder... the same guy he beat Monday night.
Okay, you say, "It's just a phase. Maybe the midcard champions are in a funk or something". You can say that, but if that's the case, they might want to hit a shower or something, because they've been stinking up the place.
So Tuesday morning, I went back further...to one year ago. Including Monday night, there have been 53 Monday Night Raw episodes since this day last year. How have the midcard champions done?
The United States champion, which was Santino Marella this time last year (before Antonio Cesaro won the title at the Summerslam preshow), who lost it to Kofi Kingston three weeks ago, is 13-19 (40.62% win percentage), with 21 weeks not booked for a match. Eleven of the 21 weeks, Santino was champion, including five of the last six weeks he was champion. Also of interesting note: Cesaro has three losses on Raw to both Randy Orton and Ryback in non-title matches.
The Intercontinental champion has not fared much better. Cody Rhodes, Christian, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, and Wade Barrett have combined for a 17-22-1 record, with one no contest and 12 weeks not booked for a match. Side nugget: Kingston won seven times on Raw in eleven weeks as IC champion. The Miz, with twelve weeks as IC champion, won just twice on the flagship show. Christian, the champion before him, was treated better: he went 3-3, with four weeks not booked for a match.
In my lifetime, the midcard championships have never meant less with the champions continually losing in non-title affairs on Raw. You cannot expect your fanbase, myself included, to feel as if these titles matter if they keep losing this regularly. I'm not saying they should always win non-title matches, but once in awhile, they should be able to knock off a main event talent, or at least be competitive.
There have been meaningful feuds for the titles, and the men that have held them have catapulted into superstardom. It can still be that way. But first, they must be booked better...you know, like champions.
To see the last year for the United States and Intercontinental champions, go here.