Part Time World Champs Aren’t
Best For Business
– Chris O’Mealy 6/16/17 – 4:31Pm
Brock Lesnar, WWE’s Universal Champion, made his return to Monday Night Raw after being off television since winning the title at WrestleMania 33 against Bill Goldberg. So why wasn’t he stripped of the championship? After all, WWE has a rule in their rulebook that states, “if a title holder does not or cannot defend their championship within a 30-day time period, that champion is stripped of their title belt.”
Brock Lesnar, WWE Universal Champion, wasn’t anywhere near television for a span of over two months! Why doesn’t this rule apply to him? Is it because he’s considered a part-timer? Should he even be allowed to fight for a championship title belt if this rule doesn’t apply to him? Is there something in his contract stating that he’s considered an exception to the rule? Or is it simply because arbitrary rules are arbitrary? If you’re a long-term WWE fan, you already know the answer to this question.
Now before I go any further, let me say this. I take no issue personally with Brock Lesnar or his status as a special attraction. I also don’t take any issue with Brock Lesnar, as a wrestler, being the top champion in the company. While I personally am not a big Brock Lesnar fan, I know lots of people are, and I respect that. My issue with Brock Lesnar holding the title is simply that he’s never around. The championship itself is never around. The Raw brand doesn’t have a top title on its show. The wrestlers are fighting each other because…they simply don’t like one another. Is that it? No battles for glory, recognition, or legacy. Just a few warring wrestlers with petty grudges with no end means. While that will make for some entertaining television and well executed matches, in the end, it’s just fighting without a prize.
WWE recently booked the main event of their Extreme Rules PPV to be a Fatal Five-Way, with the winner getting a shot at Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship at their curiously named Great Balls of Fire event. The match itself was great, pitting five of Raw’s top superstars against each other. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor, and the winner of the match Samoa Joe, fought an excellent and well-worked match to give Brock a definitive challenger for his title. WWE then upped the ante with Samoa Joe choking out Brock’s advocate Paul Heyman, which resulted in Brock’s official return to television and a brawl between the challenger and the Beast Incarnate. WWE is also doing very well booking their Intercontinental Championship battles, tag team division, and women’s division (although many will argue that the Raw women’s division is currently inferior to the one on Smackdown).
Great booking at the moment does not make up for the fact that the champion was off TV for so long, in my opinion.
Why does this bother me? I think it stems down to the fact that WWE creates rules and stipulations for their wrestlers, and the company as a whole, but only uses them when it’s convenient for them. Or the rule’s existence will make for a riveting storyline, almost always screwing over a babyface champion. While that’s all well and good, WWE ignores the very rules they enforce so often, that they become hypocritical when the rules do come back. This type of inconsistent rule-following happens so frequently, it makes one wonder what the company would be like if these rules actually were enforced out of storyline purposes. Oh wait, sometimes they are.
There are plenty of historic examples to give, such as Edge or Daniel Bryan relinquishing title belts due to injury, but the perfect example of contradictory rules came right before WrestleMania this year. Naomi, fresh off of achieving her dream of become Smackdown Women’s Champion, had to give up the title belt because her knee injury would prevent her from defending the title in the company’s thirty day window. Then, after she got the title back and had her WrestleMania moment, Brock Lesnar disappeared from television, with the Universal Championship in his hands. This was already following what many people considered to be poor booking of the Universal Championship following the brief nostalgia run that Goldberg had, during which he also didn’t appear on television. In fact, the Universal Championship’s inaugural champion, Finn Balor, was forced to hand over the title belt when he would be unable to defend it due to injury!
It’s almost like saying, if you’re hurt and can’t work, you’ll be punished for it. If you just don’t feel like coming to work, you’ll be rewarded for it. That wouldn’t be fair in any other company, so why does WWE do it? The simple answer is that they can. That doesn’t mean that we, as fans, have to like it or even agree with it. Unfortunately, in the wrestling world, rules are often ignored for the building of storylines and payoffs of matches. While this can lead to great memorable matches or historic moments, there’s already a period of time where the rules are simply tossed aside for the payday, only to resurface a short while later and be enforced as if they were always there to begin with.
So, my question is this. Should part-time wrestlers be allowed to hold top tier title belts in major professional wrestling companies?
I personally believe that the answer should be “no.”
Like I said earlier, this has nothing to do with Brock Lesnar being a part-timer. I don’t necessarily believe that a company’s world champion should always be present at every show. After all, that limited exposure is what helped make Hulk Hogan such a draw back in the 1980’s. Hogan, and the world title, were the special attraction that really made the shows special and sold out the arena. The difference of course, was that Hogan still worked frequently, and still defended his title. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be the champion anymore. Brock isn’t doing that. Brock can sit at home and collect a big paycheck, higher than the guys and girls who are working weekly, and still get to be the company’s top superstar on his own brand. That isn’t a knock at Brock or his status with the company, but the company shouldn’t allow a wrestler with a top title to get away with that. The worst part is that if Jinder Mahal got hurt on Smackdown, he’d probably have to give up the belt. Whether it’s done in storyline or not wouldn’t even matter. The rules only apply when the company wants them to.
If I was part of the WWE booking team, I would make it a point to enforce a rule that states the following: “Any wrestler of any status, should they want to be considered for the honor of being the top champion and focal point of their respective brand, and a representative of the WWE, must agree to work a full time schedule and adhere to thirty-day defense rule during the period of time in which they are involved in storylines both up to and during their run as the champion. Only upon losing the belt may they return to their part time status and can go back to picking and choosing which shows they appear on.” This rule can, and should, also be applied to title belts of any type of any tier on any show. I’m sure I’d make a lot of enemies even trying to pitch a rule like this, most likely Kevin Dunn, but I don’t care. It’s a rule I feel should be enforced, and if Kevin Dunn doesn’t like it, I’ll just pull him across the production table by his bucky beaver teeth.
I could go on about which rules WWE picks and chooses to follow, but I feel as though this one is pretty blatant. It’s mentioned only when it’s convenient for a storyline, and ignored when the bosses feel like it should be. As a former booker myself, all this does I make me itch to see Brock Lesnar lose the belt as soon as possible. WWE’s ratings and reputation on the Raw brand are negative enough without their world champion acting like showing up to work is beneath him, even if he doesn’t feel that way. It is how it comes across. This decision makes the company come off as hypocritical and petty, which is a poor image for a publicly traded company who loves to tout things like anti-bullying and race for the cure. Sadly, this type of hypocrisy won’t be going away anytime soon, so we’ll just have to go along for the ride.
Maybe Paul Heyman should omit the word “defending” from his list of hype statistics when he’s talking about his client.
Every week, my lovely readers submit questions, and every week I do my best to answer them. Let’s see what we have this time.
Q: I get why people dislike TNA/Impact. But where does the anger come from towards the company? (Via Adrian on Facebook)
A: I think people see the company as broken, and not in a fun Matt Hardy way. TNA has long had a reputation for being bad with wrestler’s careers, from how they’re booked to handling their money. TNA has had countless opportunities to be an alternative to WWE, and failed every time. Yet all they do is bash WWE at every turn, while wrestlers who flee their promotion reveal how horrible they were on all accounts. I firmly believe that wrestling needs more competitive brands, but with NJPW, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground all easily accessible now, why would anyone want to watch TNA, knowing how they treat people? I wouldn’t. They look and feel minor league, yet act superior. They’re that big mouthed kid in the classroom who was all talk but no action. Even seeing my own personal friends appear on the show isn’t enough to make me want to watch regularly. I’ll just watch JT Dunn’s match, and then move on. He, and many other talents there, are worth so much more. And with that said, I’ll filled my TNA quota for the rest of the year.
Q: Do you believe there is a new Jinder Mahal story coming? (A star that didn’t work, left, came back, finds a new gimmick and clicks with success) (Via Robert on Facebook)
Q: Which NXT superstars do you see coming up next, and how do you see them faring on the main roster? (Via Randy on Facebook)
A: I’m combining these two questions because I think the same wrestler is the answer: Drew McIntyre. He came back after having a run that didn’t work (the way it should have), found a new gimmick, and I think he’ll have a very successful run this time around. I see him making a run on the main roster as a viable world title contender, although I’m not sure if I see him on Raw or Smackdown yet. Either way, I think we’re going to get the best Drew McIntyre yet. Still, I want him to be NXT Champion, so we can have Heath Slater win the Universal Championship, and 3MB can monopolize the WWE top belts. Book it!
Q: Why do you think Carmella is considered the favorite to win the Women’s MITB? (Via Renae on Facebook Messenger)
A: I haven’t heard any rumors that Carmella will be the victor here, but the dirt sheets did accurately predict that Randy Orton would win the Royal Rumble, Bray Wyatt would win the Elimination Chamber, and Samoa Joe would become the #1 contender, so I can easily exercise the idea that Carmella will be the winner here. Why? Hard to say. Personally I don’t think she would have high quality matches with Naomi the way someone like Becky Lynch, Charlotte, or Nattie would, but I also didn’t see Alexa Bliss as a viable women’s champion until she was thrust into the title picture, and her game increased tenfold as soon as that happened, so anything is possible. For storylines, it would make sense with the interference from James Ellsworth, and a heel cheating her way to an opportunity helps the Carmella character anyway, since she’s always making faces at her own allies in Nattie and Tamina. I’ll hold out until I see what happened before I judge whether or not this will be a good move on WWE’s part. Still, Carmella is probably the weakest of the girls on Smackdown right now, so whatever helps push her as equal with her peers is okay with me.
Q: With the women’s revolution still going full force (first Women’s MITB match, Mae Young Classic), what is the next big milestone you think they’ll reach? (Via Melissa on Facebook Messenger)
A: The women in WWE have rightfully been given the biggest showcase in the history of the company today, and it’s only going to get better as time moves on. The next milestone I’d like to see personally is to officially drop the gender-specific division booking and just have wrestlers competing for championships, the way Lucha Underground and various independent promotions do. The women in Lucha Underground, like Sexy Star, Mariposa, Taya, and Kobra Moon compete alongside and against the men regularly and realistically. If I were running a company again, I would do the same thing. I know that is a longshot for a company like WWE, since the idea of women being beaten up by men is not something akin to a “PG” show, but I really think it’s the next true milestone they should hit. A more realistic goal will be that the girls get the final match slot, aka the main event, at WrestleMania. This is the crop of women to do it with. A five-star match to close the show of shows would be amazing to see. I think we’re not too far off from that happening either. Still, my wish is to see wrestling evolve to an “everyone vs. everyone” style, where we finally etch a women’s name into the history for the company’s world title. And I’d love for that women to be Sasha Banks, because she’s the boss.
Q: Why are wrestling fans so hard to please? Push new talent, they’re boring. Bring back our favorites, part timers are bums. (Via Donnie on Facebook)
A: I could, and will, do an article explaining my true feelings towards wrestling fans and their contradictory opinions in the near future. For now, I’ll say that it basically boils down to hypocrisy, much like how WWE treats its thirty-day defense rule. Fans only seem to apply their logic to people they like personally and want to see on top. For example, if you’re a huge fan of say, Stone Cold Steve Austin, then you’d want to see him back and competing for titles (if he could) at the expense of the roster because you like him. Yet if you’re against someone like say, The Rock, then you’ll use the part time excuse as a way to justify hatred for his run as world champion. Same goes for the calling of new blood. Fans will pick a talent like Daniel Bryan and cheer for his success, claiming new blood is the way to go, but scoff if the talent is someone they don’t like, which has happened recently with Jinder Mahal. It’s all about hypocrisy, which is why I don’t believe the vast, vast majority of fans could cut it as writers or bookers. I know this because I was just like that at one point, until I booked my first show, and got a taste of reality really quickly. Not a knock at the fans either, because it really is harder than you think, but putting personal feelings aside when trying to argue logic in WWE booking is not something wrestling fans, for the most part, seem to be able to do.
Chris O’Mealy is a former indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community (http://www.ckcconline.com) and currently hosts three podcasts and writes for his own blog (http://comealy17.wordpress.com). He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or emailed directly at email@example.com. You may also contact him on Facebook, but if you wish to be his Facebook friend, you must ask him first.