Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hierarchy of Titles.....

In the past 20 years, I've seen the hierarchy of WWE's and TNA's titles fluctuate almost as much as the stock market. In WWE, however, during the most simplistic era of title arrangement, the way things went was as follows:

RAW circa. 2002-2007-ish had the World Heavyweight Title as the big prize, followed by the Intercontinental Title. From there, it was the World Tag Team Titles and lastly, a specialty division; in the case of RAW, it was the Women's Division.

On Smackdown, the arrangement was very much the same; the WWE Title, the US Title, the WWE Tag Team Titles, and a specialty division, which was the Cruiserweight Title during the time.

I have no problem with the title strata looking like this, BUT it does do something that TNA was able to remedy: it made it very clear that there was a hierarchy in terms of which belt was the best one to hold. TNA gave the X Division Title belt a great deal of respect by enabling their "Option C" initiative, allowing for more freedom for smaller wrestlers to move up the card without having the "cheap win" element that WWE has employed for YEARS with the Money in the Bank briefcase. With the "Option C" initiative, the Champion ALWAYS knows who he's facing by the time Destination X comes around each year. This gives a sporting chance to the World Title holder by allowing a full blown match with some build going into it. The ONLY time I recall there being warning enough to make it worthwhile in WWE was when RVD made the challenge to John Cena at the very first One Night Stand PPV for the World Title. Nevermind that RVD held the WWE Title AND the fledgling WWE/ECW Title by the end of the night.

So I now move into the actual bulk of the subject matter of this column.....TNA's title hierarchy. I'd like to think it's a simple strata, but the truth is, it seems like there's some dispute over the importance of the TV Title depending upon who is running the creative team, but that wasn't always the case. TNA blew a HUGE opportunity with their belt hierarchy by not keeping the TV Title on the forefront when they had the chance to do so. In trying to establish the Aces and Eights as the dominant faction of the brand, they NEEDED to make the attempt to secure every belt, but they didn't. SO, it made the title meaningless, even when it was defended weekly. Why? I truly wish I had a way to answer that. On the other hand, I DO think there's a way to do some justice to each title belt without having to move around the roster very much to do so.

1. Establish the top tier. TNA ALREADY does a tremendous job of maintaining a consistently good top tier of talents to secure the product, so this doesn't entirely fit TNA for the most part, but this needs to be done in order to lay the ground work.

2. Establish those who are going to build into the top tier. This is what WWE's Intercontinental and US Title situation was put in place to do. Where TNA can capitalize is using BOTH the TV Title AND the X Division Title as the barometer. Those who are more apt to get into the top tier sooner might stand a better chance of getting exposure by utilizing the trade in value of the X Division Title. Those who might need some seasoning before entering into the top tier might gain value if they are given a lengthy reign as TV Champion, provided the title is treated in such a way that is fitting of a VALUABLE title in the first place. This brings me to number

3. Use the TV Title match as the main event ONCE per month on TV and NOT PPV. This gives that potential star some face time to garner fan support. If TNA is going to give exposure to their up a rising talents, the best way to do so is to mix the pot and put AT LEAST one resume-worthy veteran into the fray. A decent feud can make or break a potential top tier candidate. Let's assume that Ethan Carter is being built into the top tier eventually. By bringing him into a feud with the CURRENT TV Title holder, he would have INSTANT credibility just by having beaten him. Why? Because Abyss is holding that belt right now. Like him or not, Abyss IS a resume-worthy veteran who would help establish Carter as a valid title holder of a secondary title. The FEUD would help determine whether or not Carter would be a good fit for the World Title picture down the line.

Likewise, let's assume we want someone like a returning Petey Williams launched into the World Title picture quickly. We would simply put him into the mix shortly before Destination X and he would be on the fast track on that note. If the weight limits were removed, you could very easily put someone of the caliber of Jeff Hardy or even Kurt Angle into that category and catapult him into the main event with whoever cares to make the venture noteworthy and attention grabbing.

TNA is so much more flexible than WWE in terms of how a performer reaches the top tier and it's that fact that makes the hierarchy of titles more appealing to me, as a fan. Maybe we'll eventually see the return of the TV Title to television before year's end, but I'm not counting on it until there is a plan in place for them to give it some much needed attention, even in the short term.

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