What’s in a Belt?

Alfred Hitchcock made famous the term "MacGuffin," which refers to an object in a story that the characters pursue - but which ultimately doesn't matter all that much. It exists so that the characters can chase it so that there can be a plot. The story is more about why the characters want it and what they'll do to get it, than it is about the actual MacGuffin.

To me, wrestling belts are nothing more than MacGuffins. There has to be a reason that these characters are constantly beating the heck out of each other, and the belts are one convenient story motivation.

What's really interesting in a wrestling battle is the motivations of the characters going after the belts and the crazy twists along the way as they pursue them. If the motivations aren't well-explained or developed, or if the twists along the way are predictable, then there's not a whole lot of payoff to the viewer when the belt changes hands.

In 2014, Dolph Ziggler's character was put into the chase for the Intercontinental title. Dolph had never really captured my attention before, but the way his Intercontinental chase was presented, I was captivated. Dolph wanted the title because he loved the sport, loved the fans, and wanted to share this victory with them. I was thrilled when he won it, broken-hearted when he lost it to the Miz, and back on top when he got it right back from the Miz. Every time he lifted the belt, pointed to the crowd, and yelled, "This is for you!", I felt like I was a part of the story, caught up in it the way I want to be when I watch wrestling.

By contrast, Dean Ambrose is the current Intercontinental title. Now, I love Dean. LOVE him. I've written pages and pages about how much I relate to and love the character.

But, once the delight of his win wore off, I haven't felt much about Dean holding the belt or about him fighting Kevin Owens in order to keep it. What was Dean's motivation to win? What does the title mean to him? How will it affect his character emotionally if he loses it? There's some yelling about who's better and more deserving, but what I see is a confident, scrappy fighter who will be pretty much the same whether he's carrying the belt or not.

It meant something when Dean appeared to win the WWE title off of Seth Rollins at Elimination Chamber in 2015 - because it symbolized Dean finally getting a moral victory over the man who betrayed him and destroyed the Shield.

It meant something when Kalisto won the US Championship because it was just another average night on Raw, and he wasn't expected to win (by the viewers or by the characters).

It meant a whole lot when Seth Rollins won the WWE championship off of Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31 - I hated it because I wanted Seth to get his comeuppance for all his evil deeds, and when he took the belt, it was a symbolic victory of evil over good.

If you've been watching longer than I have, you can tell stories about title wins that meant something to you, as well as ones that fell completely flat. Technically, it was always the same thing happening - one character outwrestles another (or cheats to beat another), and a title belt changes hands.

But the belt itself isn't what's powerful; it's just a MacGuffin that the characters chase around in endless circles. What's important is the motivation and build-up. That's why some title changes are unforgettable and others are, well, unmemorable.

There are amazing, moving stories in wrestling that don't involve the belts. I was on the edge of my seat for Shield v. Evolution; the U.S. title was involved a little, but that's not what the story was about. Mizdow's turn on the Miz after months of abuse had nothing to do with belts but was satisfying because of the characters' motivations.

WWE can build compelling, memorable stories for all of the characters on the roster without the belts. And they can build boring, forgettable stories about who gets to hold which belt at which time. The more they keep that in mind and focus on character-building rather than simple belt-switching, the better their stories will be.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.