1. a person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, so as to hold first place: “the heavyweight wrestling champion.”
The definition says it all. The very idea of being the best is supposed to be symbolized in the form of the World Championship. If you are the WWE Champion you should be recognized as the very best the business has to offer. Unfortunately the keyword in that sentence is not “best,” it’s “business.” At the end of the day WWE is a business, and anyone who watches WWE programming these days knows that it’s all about what’s “best for business,” not who is the best in the business. That very mindset is the reason WWE decided over a decade ago to split their roster in two and create a World Champion for each brand. There is RAW, and then there is SmackDown. There is the WWE Champion, and then there is the World Heavyweight Champion.
The idea behind creating two World Champions is simple: with two World Champions, WWE can run two separate live event tours with two separate rosters, each led by its’ own champion. For the longest time WWE has run split live tours, which were often referred to as an “A show” and a “B show.” Back in the 1980s the “A shows” were often headlined by Hulk Hogan defending the WWE Championship while the “B shows” were usually headlined by the WWE Intercontinental Champion. The feeling was Hogan and the WWE Championship was the bigger attraction, while Randy Savage, for example, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship was the secondary attraction.
Fast-forward to the early 2000s, following the purchase of World Championship Wrestling by Vince McMahon and WWE, and all of a sudden that wasn’t good enough anymore. When attempting to run WCW as a separate entity flopped miserably, WWE decided to hold a “brand extension.” Essentially, WWE would divide their entire roster of talent into two separate promotions: RAW and SmackDown. The WCW World Championship became the World Heavyweight Championship (technically speaking. The World Heavyweight Championship was considered its’ own creation in WWE, but it was basically the same belt that Ric Flair carried around in WCW, and the very idea of creating a World Heavyweight Champion came after the WCW brand died a second death under the ownership of McMahon). Both RAW and SmackDown had their own weekly television presence and would run separate live event tours, with the two rosters being combined for pay-per-view events with the idea that the rarity of seeing RAW and SmackDown guys on the same show would make the pay-per-views feel more special.
That is the back story on how we came to recognize two “World Champions” in WWE. However by the very definition of the word, a champion is the man who “defeated all opponents” and “holds first place.” In WWE today, RAW and SmackDown are not kept as separate brands anymore, so why do we still have separate World Champions? Currently, John Cena is the World Heavyweight Champion and Randy Orton is the WWE Champion. The question is this: who is the number one man in WWE today? Not in terms of box office. Not in terms of crowd reactions. Not in terms of ability. In the 1980s it was clear: Hulk Hogan was “the man” in WWE. In the early 1990s, Bret Hart was “the man” in WWE. Later, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was “the man” in WWE. They were all “the guy” in the company because they held the richest prize in the industry: the WWE Championship. These days the idea of being the best and having proof by holding a World Championship is watered down to the point that every title in the company, including the secondary championships, are basically pointless. It’s a shiny prop to carry arond that doesn’t really mean much of anything.
According to a new article by eWrestlingNews.com journalist Ryan Clark, WWE is considering a “Champion vs. Champion” match at WMXXX. I, for one, am all for it. Hopefully WWE decides it’s time to unify the titles and go back to the original idea of having one WWE Champion. One guy who is recognized as the best in the company and has the belt to prove it. Sure, these days is all about “what’s best for business,” but allow me to pose a question to you: If John Cena were to become the lone World Champion in WWE and was scheduled to defend it against Alberto Del Rio on one live event, while simultaneously another live event is held with a main event of CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan in an “Iron Man” match, which ticket are you buying? My point? You do not need two “World Champions” to run separate live event tours. For the most part, all talent appear on both RAW and SmackDown anyway, so the idea that each “brand” needs their own World Champion is out the window. Pay-per-views are no longer special in that it’s a rare occasion where you get to see “RAW guys” and “SmackDown guys” on a single card together. The only thing stopping a push to unify the two “World Champions” conceptually is that WWE feels they still need a “World Champion” for their split live event tours. If you schedule a match that people care about or present a story at a live event that fans are invested in, you don’t need a “World Champion” on each card to sell tickets.
John Cena is the Heavyweight Champion of the “world.” Randy Orton is the champion of “WWE.” Which is more important? Who is the “person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, so as to hold first place.” Isn’t it about time we found out?
What are your thoughts on WWE unifying the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship into a single title? Leave your feedback in the “Comments” section below.