Monday, March 22, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
WWF belts are meaningless
So Val Venis has lost his WWF I-C belt and Bob Holly has lost his hardcore belt. I didn't mind Venis losing - he was getting his butt kicked by The Blue Meanie a few weeks ago so I knew he wasn't going to make us forget the great I-C champions of the past - but I was a little annoyed that Holly lost his belt so soon after winning it.
What's the point of a belt, anyway?
I know the days of eight year reigns are over (and that's probably a good thing) but I'm getting tired of these quick title changes. It doesn't matter if the sport is on the level or not - the image of a fighting champion who hangs on to his title belt has always been a staple of pro wrestling. Are the days of an enduring champion gone for good? I hope not.
I'd like to see a guy go to the post month after month, proudly defending that title with all of his heart and soul. I'll try not to sound like an old fogie, but there was something very cool about guys like Nick Bockwinkle or Bob Backlund hanging on to their belts anyway they knew how. I loved seeing them stumble out of the ring after a match, clinging to the belt they'd nearly lost, or sitting in the ring, dazed and bloody, having their hand raised by the ref. It was an inspiring sight, legitimate or not.
Now that there are so many title belts floating around, couldn't the WWF find a way to have someone remain champion for more than a few weeks? Are they worried the fans will stop tuning in if a guy defends his title more than once? Are their stupid ratings so precious that they have to play musical chairs with the title belts? I'll bet a large segment of the fans don't even know who the champions are and don't really care. And here's why they don't care: the title belts change hands so often that they've become meaningless. A note to the WWF: Not all of your fans are twelve years old and not all of them have short attention spans. Since you have a half dozen belts being randomnly tossed around, couldn't you let at least one of the guys defend his belt for a while? Would an enduring champion really screw things up for you? You might be surprised at how fans respond to a log standing titleholder. They might like it.
When Hogan won or lost the belt it was news. When Bruno won or lost the belt it was news. Bret Hart's title reign was broken up but he was a high profile champion for the better part of four years. I even thought Steve Austin might be a good champion for the long haul, but not even The Rattlesnake could last during this era of quick title changes and meaningless belts.
I want a bloodied but unbowed champion who survives! I'm not looking for a 28-year reign like The Fabulous Moolah, but how 'bout one year? Sure, I know it's only pro wrestling,and asking for a champion to bring some dignity to those belts seems like an oxymoron, but I think it's worth considering. It could be the gimmick to end all gimmicks! A champion who actually defends his title for a while! Think about it.
I'd had some hope for Bob Holly. I had hoped he might hang on to that "Hardcore Belt" and make a name for himself. In between the ridiculous skits involving Mark Henry's love life and The Undertaker's stale gimmicks, Holly was a hard working, no nonsense guy who could execute the pump handle suplex like, well, like a champion.
Was it wrong for me to think Bob Holly might defend his title a times? Shame on me for wishful thinking. Maybe Holly isn't the right guy. Maybe he doesn't have the star power I thought he had. The WWF made a big deal of it on their RAW update. "BILLY GUNN Brings Home the Gold!" Big deal. How long will Billy Gunn hold it? A week? A few days? Has he lost it in the time it's taken me to write this column?
Here's an idea. Maybe a bunch of new belts should be created so EVERY wrestler in the WWF can have one. We could have a "women's hardcore" belt, a "midget European" belt, a "cruiserweight, hardcore tag team belt". And every single match can end with a title change! You get the picture, right?
It used to be common for boxing fans to lament, "Boxing is nearly as bad as pro wrestling." With all of these silly belts and quick title changes, the opposite is now true. Congrats, WWF. You're nearly as bad as boxing!
Don Stradley is from Malden, MA, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.