WWE needs to unify the major championship titles because one of them doesn’t really exist.
Holding a major championship in the WWE still carries tremendous weight. Some guys spend their entire careers vying to be a champion. Smarks can argue that the belts don’t matter anymore since they change hands so quickly, but it’s a lie. We all still mark out when our favorite wrestler wins a major championship (CM Punk). We all still feel crushed when our favorite wrestler loses a championship too soon (Christian). Being a major champion in the WWE and holding either the World Heavyweight Championship or WWE Championship title is one of the last sacred things in pro-wrestling.
Being a major champion means that the company wants to invest in you and they remain confident that you can represent the promotion to the rest of the world. You’re the right man to do radio interviews, television spots, and meet kids all over the world. Symbolically, being a WWE Champion means that you’ve finally made it. However, being a World Heavyweight Champion on the other hand means something entirely different.
The brand split is basically over, leaving little reason for having a champion on both Raw and SmackDown. Raw stars appear on SmackDown regularly and vice versa, for the most part. There’s no need to have each brand act like a separate company and feud against one another anymore. Bragging Rights was a dull concept and totally unnecessary today. Unifying the titles would be the final step in admitting that the WWE is simply one brand with two shows. By clinging onto the World Heavyweight Championship, and keeping it on their B-show SmackDown, the WWE further reinforce the fact that the World Heavyweight Championship is the lesser major title in the company.
Unifying the titles will only help SmackDown. To many fans, SmackDown is still the new kid on the block. Some fans still view SmackDown as the lesser program, despite the wonderful talent the event showcases each week. With one championship in the company, there would be even more significance placed on main event matches. Every week, we see World Heavyweight Championship matches on SmackDown with familiar faces that all seem to blend together. It’s almost as if the WWE convinced us that since SmackDown isn’t as important as Raw, their title can be only passively acknowledged. Last year, we saw Christian and Randy Orton fight for the World Heavyweight Championship so many times that it almost felt like the title itself was losing its charm. By having one major championship, SmackDown will become just as important as Raw since the only major championship in the company can now change hands one additional day per week.
The World Heavyweight Championship has remained on SmackDown since 2009 (following Backlash). Unifying the titles will allow previously unopposed talent to mix it up in the ring, which can offer pleasant surprises every week. Two performers from SmackDown and Raw, Mark Henry and CM Punk, surprised everyone by putting on a fantastic match weeks ago on Raw. Why didn’t we see these two in a WWE Championship match earlier? They were separated by SmackDown and therefore separated by Henry’s unfair allegiance to the World Heavyweight Championship by proxy. The World Heavyweight Championship is like an anchor holding a lot of top talent on SmackDown from fully transitioning into the championship scene on Raw. For instance, a Christian vs. CM Punk on Raw match seems less important if you know that Christian predominantly works on SmackDown, meaning he should naturally be trying to win the World Heavyweight Championship. With one title in the company, every match featuring a top guy would suddenly feel more important.
Having one major title in the WWE will inflate the importance of mid-card titles. Fans young and old complain about the feeling that it often seems nobody cares about the US Championship or Intercontinental Championship titles. You can see both sides of the coin, though: there’s enough to focus on with the two major championship feuds alone. As a result, fans might be disinterested when it comes to keeping track of what’s happening with the Intercontinental Title race (if there even is one at the moment). When there was only one major championship in the company, the Intercontinental Championship and even the Tag Team Championship titles were more coveted. With only one top trophy in the WWE, the lesser mid-carder titles will suddenly gain more importance and focus from both performers and audiences.
The World Heavyweight Championship is like an anchor holding a lot of top talent on SmackDown from fully transitioning into the championship scene on Raw.
WWE still probably views the World Heavyweight Championship as the NWA/WCW title. The World Heavyweight Championship didn’t debut in the company until 2002 when the roster got so huge that the WWE was forced to create two distinct brands. The WWE Championship is Vince’s baby; it’s a title that he brought to prominence in the wrestling world and created the icon that it remains today. I have a feeling that the WWE didn’t want to have the World Heavyweight Championship back in 2002, but there were simply too many wrestlers to constitute one major championship. The Undisputed Championship title, which existed before the World Heavyweight Championship, was perfect. It both looked great and made a major impact with the likes of Triple H, Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan, and Kurt Angle carrying the belt after its debut. There is no reason for that title not to make a return and replace the gaudy looking WWE Championship “spinner” title, which basically looks like a toy.
One champion in the WWE will create better feuds with a more contentious pool of performers. With one less championship, we’d see more stars vying for the title. Watching SmackDown will ensure that every top guy in the company is after the same prize. Previous alliances between heels will be thrown away as they’re now in competition for one prize. There is no downside to increased competition of this kind. There would be more passion and intensity to feuds considering that there’s no longer a “fall back” major championship. If Randy Orton can’t be the main guy on Raw, he can no longer go to SmackDown and win the World Heavyweight Championship. Thus, we’ll see more opportunities for exquisite three-way matches for a major title with top-tier talent as we saw in the Attitude Era and later on with the Undisputed Championship.
By creating one title, the WWE will more seamlessly blend Raw and SmackDown into one fluid program. The WWE is getting really good at allowing both shows to run together. They’re slowly getting more comfortable allowing feuds or storylines to run over onto SmackDown from Raw and vice versa. The mere tendency to announce matches on Raw that will occur on SmackDown that Friday is a step in the right direction. However, SmackDown still feels like the well-meaning younger sibling of Raw, and the World Heavyweight Championship by association is less important. Fans still seem to consider the World Heavyweight Championship very much the “SmackDown championship,” which negatively affects matches on Raw since it’s difficult for fans to believe it would change hands on a program like Raw.
Obviously issues with the World Heavyweight Championship speak to the broader issue of SmackDown being treated differently than Raw. Monday Night Raw and the WWE Champion are Vince’s babies and he pays extra attention to them. SmackDown, and as a result, the World Heavyweight Championship have been maligned in recent years.
I’m not saying that we should give up and just trash the title because it’s on a program that receives little attention. Instead, I’m saying that we focus more intensely on the WWE Championship and make that something to be coveted and sought after by wrestlers. SmackDown needs improvement and Raw needs to no longer be seen as the only program worth watching in the WWE. The first step in doing so is perhaps introducing a singular title that unifies the strengths of top talent throughout the company.