Throughout the lengthy history of the professional wrestling business, the title structure of a given promotion was fairly simple to break down.
Typically, there was a "primary" world title which was contested for by the best of the best. Behind that was usually one or two "secondary" or even "tertiary" titles, usually broken down by region (Intercontinental, United States, European, etc.) or by specific divisions, each with their own set of rules to quality (X-Division, cruiserweight, etc.) Throw in a tag team title, and you find yourself with a neat set of diverse championships to keep your roster occupied and your fans happy.
That all changed in 2002, when WWE, roster bloated from the recent acquisitions of WCW and ECW, decided to create a "brand extension," splitting their roster between the Raw and Smackdown shows in order to keep things manageable.
This posed a serious problem when reigning "undisputed" champion Brock Lesnar was drafted to the Smackdown brand. WWE needed a primary championship for the Raw brand. So, they reintroduced "the big gold belt" version of the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC). This title belt was handed to Triple H, while Lesnar's "undisputed" title reverted back to the WWE Championship.
Thus, WWE became the first promotion (at least that I'm aware of) to have two "equal" primary championships. The two titles would switch shows from time to time, with whichever title was being defended on Raw usually acting as title "1A" to the Smackdown's title "1B." Still, holding either was treated as a major accomplishment and the titles were more-or-less interchangeable in the minds of the WWE Universe.
Then, in August of 2011, it was announced that the "brand extension" was to be dissolved. Superstars would appear on every show as they became a "supershows".
That is where the problems started for the WHC.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact moment where the WHC began to feel more like a #2 title rather than the #1b, but a good guess might be Daniel Bryan's infamous 18-second defeat at WrestleMania 28, losing the title to Sheamus.
Many would argue that the devaluation of the title started even before then, but that moment was the clear kickoff to a major downturn in prestige for the WHC. There can be no arguing though that, since then, the WHC hasn't main evented a single pay-per-view (PPV), while the WWE title frequently has. The WHC has also changed hands on free TV two of the past three times, while the WWE title hasn't in nearly 2 years. Then, there was the John Cena promo announcing his intentions to pursue the WWE title following his 2013 Royal Rumble victory in which he basically buried the WHC as the inferior title.
And now, based on the spoilers for this Friday's (June 28) Smackdown, we have the clearest evidence yet that "the big gold belt" has lost its luster. The sheer disparity in talent between the participants in the "red" WWE Title Money in the Bank match and "blue" WHC Money in the Bank (MitB) match is mind boggling.
On the "red" side, all 7 competitors are former WWE and/or WHC champions. CM Punk is a two time MitB winner and is still fresh off the longest WWE Title reign in the modern era. Daniel Bryan is another former MitB winner and is the hottest superstar in WWE today. Randy Orton and Sheamus are two of the company's top faces on the roster. Kane, Christian, and the returning Rob Van Dam are all WWE "grand slam" champions, with Kane and RVD being former MitB winners as well. Looking over the past MitB matches, this is almost certainly the most accomplished group to ever participate in the same match.
However, on the "blue" side, (upcoming Smackdown spoiler,) we have Dean Ambrose, Antonio Cesaro, Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, Fandango, Damien Sandow, and Cody Rhodes. There is only one former primary champion in that group, Jack Swagger, and his reign was largely forgettable. Swagger is also the only former MitB winner of this group, compared to the "red" match's four former MitB winners. While this match certainly contains some "smark" favorites (Ambrose, Cesaro, Sandow,) it is nowhere near as accomplished in terms of WWE success. Though it could still prove to be an entertaining match (assuming Swagger doesn't decapitate anyone with the ladder,) it is clear that this is the secondary match as far as the WWE bookers are concerned.
While WWE's current version of the World Heavyweight Title is technically a separate entity from the old NWA or WCW "big gold belt" titles, it is the spiritual successor to them. Constantly treating it as the secondary title in the organization while paying it lip service as a "primary" title is only tarnishing that legacy of greatness.
Thus, in my opinion, it is time to retire the title unless/until the day comes when it makes sense for WWE to establish two true primary championships.
Not only would this preserve the legacy of the WHC, it would also promote the Intercontinental title back to its rightful place as the real #2 title in the company. Once the launchpad for up-and-coming superstars in WWE, the IC title has long since fallen into irrelevancy, being treated more as a mere decoration for the top jobbers rather than as a legitimate and worthwhile championship.
While unifying the titles ASAP without much build would likely be underwhelming, I'd follow Paul Heyman's advice and unify the titles in the main event of WrestleMania 30.
The match could even be a triple threat match, featuring the two reigning champions and the Royal Rumble winner, in order to keep that tradition alive. Imagine the rub one would get from winning the Royal Rumble, then going on to the main event on the biggest stage of them all and coming away as the WWE "Undisputed Champion." It would be a career boost second only to ending the Undertaker's WrestleMania undefeated streak.
So do the right thing here, WWE. I, and I'm sure many others, are tired of watching the WHC drug through the mid-card muck. Preserve it's legacy and the prestige shared by all the previous holders of the title before it is too late.
This is the expressed opinion of Eric B. Stephen and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cageside Seats, their staff, or SBNation.