On top of a full four days of wrestling, a new world heavyweight title was announced. Between Battleground on Sunday, to Monday Night Raw, to Smackdown Live on Tuesday, to NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic on Wednesday, there is a lot of WWE content to keep up with. Since the brand split brought the WWE World Championship to Smackdown around the waist of Dean Ambrose, Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and General Manager Mick Foley made it official: There will be a WWE Universal Championship on Raw.
The name is original and fitting. You can tell that WWE wanted to use this name since the Raw and Smackdown titles were merged in the first place. If I remember correctly, there was an online poll to decide the new name of what is now the WWE World Championship (Which I always felt was redundant; World Wrestling Entertainment World Championship?), and one of the options was “Universal Championship.” But my disappointment of this announcement was not in the name.
It wasn’t too long ago that the titles were unified. One roster, one belt. It was simple, and really, the way things should be. Call me old fashioned, but having one major prize in sports entertainment gives that prize its significance. When you split the title, you split its importance.
But wait, they have multiple major champions in boxing! And look how popular that sport still is!
Yes, there’s a reason why UFC has taken the throne in combat sports, and that’s partially due to the importance placed on its champions. Of course, WWE is not a real competitive combat sport, but the same logic does apply. Not only that, but the “Smackdown champion” will likely never gain the notoriety of the “Raw champion” unless Smackdown becomes the flagship show by some miracle. So, as it was in years past, the Smackdown championship will feel like a secondary title; something given as a reward to a guy who’s over, but not “face-of-the-company” over.
I was briefly hopeful that they would simply make the Intercontinental Championship into the Smackdown title, basically to elevate that belt to where it should be, given its history. But alas, it was not to be. So, once again we have a lot of championships and a lot of wrestlers, with a Cruiserweight championship on the way. That part is the good news.
The Cruiserweight Classic has breathed new life into two of my favorite wrestlers of all time: Tajiri and Brian Kendrick. Sorry… I mean THE Brian Kendrick. With outstanding performances from both of them, as well as so many others in this tournament, the Cruiserweight Division is sure to be a success. Nothing opens a show better than high-flying, fast-paced, technical cruiserweight wrestling, as demonstrated by WCW Monday Nitro. So, not only will we see some globally trained smaller guys finally getting some recognition by WWE, but the return of one of the most entertaining in-ring performers of all time is bound to make Smackdown Live worthy for weekly viewing.
That’s right. The Gold Standard, Shelton Benjamin was announced to return to Smackdown. Benjamin will be running up ladders, literally and figuratively, soon enough. Although I’m not a fan of the brand split, I have to admit that it’s what’s best for business. With so much talent on the roster, it’s the only way to prevent good luck in future endeavors from being wished upon some of our favorite superstars. You have to take the good with the bad.
There is no Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. But if there is anything to be learned from the mid-2000s, it’s that the WWE brand split is capable of cultivating some great wrestlers, and Shelton Benjamin is a shining example of that. His return to Smackdown couldn’t be more appropriate.
There is an option for there to be an Undisputed Champion in the WWE, which would include some cross-brand competition. Since WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of wrestling, they should treat it as such. It’s a simple and old idea, but for whatever reason, it was never put into practice. Just like the AFC and NFC, Raw and Smackdown’s Champions could compete on the grandest stage of them all for the Undisputed Championship. It could be a trophy or a cup, or even a ring. There can be a grand prize beyond the Heavyweight Championship belt. Of course, this would mean the Royal Rumble winner would have to challenge for the championship at an earlier date, and there would need to be a hefty amount of cross-brand buildup prior to WrestleMania.
It’s not a difficult solution. Have the Undisputed Champion hold that title for a full year, and have an annual Champion vs. Champion to determine a prize of the utmost importance. There were a lot of reasons the brand split wasn’t successful the first time around, but hopefully they’ve learned from their mistake and can get it right this time; just as long as we can have a champion of champions.