A lot has been made of the idea of unifying championship titles in the current WWE. People wanted the World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE Championship to merge, becoming this ultra championship that would take the historical value of the Big Gold Belt and the better match-ups that came with the WWE title and mix them creating oneundisputed champion.
This obviously happened after one hell of a promo leading up to the 2013 TLC pay-per view (PPV).
Then, the attention turned to the meander-y mid-card titles. The Intercontinental Championship, a championship that used to be put on the best worker in the WWE before they were over-enough to become WWE Champion, has become a shell of its former self. More often than not (at least since my return to regular viewing in 2013), the championship rarely had any feuds, and never made anyone. In fact, when really thinking about it, most of the best moments that have happened with the Intercontinental Championship are decades old by now.
I mean, hell, you can look back to epic ladder matches between future stars, moments where certain icons become icons, and one of the greatest Wrestlemania main events had the Intercontinental Championship. Some people even regard the greatest Wrestlemania match as an Intercontinental Championship bout.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the mid-card sits the United States Championship. It’s lineage stems from the NWA and WCW territories. It worked as a secondary title in the south, usually set aside for someone who was set to become the next World Heavyweight Championship. People like Harley Race, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Stunning Steve Austin and Dusty Rhodes all held the championship.
While my time watching WCW, I can’t remember an epic feud for it, but looking at it’s history, the past reigning champions have been a who’s who of greats.
In the last few months, the longest tenured champions of both titles (Big E.
Langston and Dean Ambrose respectively) used the belts as props more than anything. They rarely defended the championships, and when they did the matches tended to be underwhelming. Ambrose was able to hide it, as part of the best modern-day stable, but Big E. seemed to actually get sidetracked during his run. I’d even venture to say that he lost all his heat holding the Intercontinental Championship…something that would have been blasphemous if it had been said in the 80’s or 90’s.
As you remember, in the lead up to Elimination Chamber, most people were expecting to see both men battle in a unification bout. Big E., the hand-picked future champion who fit all of Vince criteria while being the African-American wrestler the WWE hadn’t been able to make, was beloved by the fans. Dean Ambrose, the indy darling who had become a staple of the hottest act in the WWE, was set up to become the crazy heel we had all expected him to be.
Photo via WWE.com
The match never happened.
Big E. lost to Bad News Barrett, a former champion himself who won the title match via an exciting (albeit predictable) tournament. Ambrose lost to Sheamus, a former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion, during a lame-duck battle royal orchestrated to further the Shield/Evolution angle. There is new life in both belts, but (and don’t hate me for saying this) both champions are retreads…guys who haven’t been able to get over the way they probably should be.
Keep in mind; I don’t blame Sheamus or BNB for that. In fact, I blame past creative decisions more than the talent. But, Sheamus (in theory) should be in the main title picture, and BNB (logically) should be as well. And while both participated in the recent WWE WHC MITB qualifiers (and rightfully so), it seems odd that these men aren’t busy defending their titles and building feuds rather than worrying about the current WWE WHC landscape.
A few months ago, the WWE released a series of photos with current stars and retired championship belts. Daniel Bryan was holding the Eagle-Winged version of the WWF Championship, The Shield had the old (and superior) Tag-Team championship belts; most notably, Cesaro was holding the European Championship.
Of all the photos, this one struck me the most. I found myself excited, actually. In the comments of the adjoining CSS (or WWE.com) article, someone mentioned that Cesaro (a third-rate talent, according to said poster) deserved "that undercard title". Part of me, a fan of Cesaro, was offended. Another part, partially agreed. While it’s clear Cesaro is not a "third-rate talent", the idea that there should be a title for "third-rate talents" is solid.
Photo via WWE.com.
Enter stage left: The WWE European Championship.
In, 1997, the WWF created the European Championship. It seemed as though the title was created as a kind of promissory championship that Vince McMahon created to appease an embittered British Bulldog. How true that is? I don’t know. Bulldog, however, held the title for 209 days before losing it in England to Shawn Michaels. Michaels lost it to Triple H. Aitch held the title, only losing it for a brief stint in the early part of 1998 to Owen Hart, before gaining it back and then losing it to Nation of Domination CAPO D’Lo Brown. The title was used as a tool to enhance the rivalry between the Nation and D-Generation X. This led to heating up one of the most memorable rivalries of the Attitude Era.
That said, the title was battled for between side characters: D’Lo Brown and X-Pac.
During its lifespan, the championship belonged to as many big names (Michaels, Bulldog, Hart, Triple H, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Mark Henry) as it did to names that wont be remembered in the future (Mideon, Perry Saturn, Test, The Hurricane and Al Snow).
The point is, the title (for the most part) was used as a breeding ground for low mid-carders to battle for while proving they have enough longevity to be an Intercontinental (or United States) Champion. It should be harder to become the Intercontinental Champion than it should be to become the World Champion.
Because you should be as respected by the fans (even if you are a heel) and the boys in the back (even if they don’t like you) to be considered ready for the secondary title.
When Pat Paterson won the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship, he made it clear that he had unified said title with the South American Heavyweight Championship during a tournament held in Rio de Janeiro. Even though this tournament was a farce, the title became the Intercontinental Championship. It was made in order to combine the North/South American Champion.
The US Championship was created as a way to recognize the top singles talent in any particular NWA affiliated regional territory without taking away from the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Both titles, ultimately serve the same purpose…to recognize a talent who is not the World Heavyweight Champion, but is worthy of recognition. Specifically, the Intercontinental Championship has more often than not been referenced as a championship given to the top worker. Stone Cold Steve Austin even referred to it as a more important title than the WWF Championship because of this during his podcast with Kevin Nash.
They also both serve to represent the same geographical location. Even though that ultimately means nothing to wrestling, it disrupts the illusion to have two championships representing the same area.
The fact is both titles are the same. There is no reason to have both.
So, where does the European Championship come in? Why bring it back?
Because at this point, the only thing to do is make the tertiary title clearly a tertiary title. Why have guys who have either main evented a Pay-Per View for the WWE Title (
Wade Bad News Barrett) or been the WWE Champion (Sheamus) holding tertiary titles.
For me, the best course of action is having Rusev go on beating jobbers and lower mid-card guys up. Keep looking like a monster heel. Then, around Survivor Series, have him match up with Sheamus for the US Championship. After a solid match, one that can be as good as the one with Big E., have Rusev come away with the championship. He can even win via dirty tactics. Then, post match, have Lana cut a crazy promo, one where she talks about Europe being such a better place than the United States (something she’s done thus far) and have some "Russian Diplomat" roll out with a suitcase. He pops it open, revealing the European Championship belt and have Rusev put it on. The US Championship, which Lana will be holding up, will be spit on and thrown in some trashcan.
Then, have Rusev roll for a few months, keeping this title "European" before having a person like Adrian Neville or another up and coming NXT talent who they want to enact the dragon slayer title as well as a big rub.
So, while this wont change anything, it wont happen…I thought it right to write about why I think the European Championship should return. Why keep demeaning two championships (Intercontinental and United States), when you can remake an old championship meant to build up very young talent.
NOTE: I would prefer a Television Championship, but I doubt they would ever bring the TV Title to WWE. Especially while Vince is still alive.