10 Count!

Defunct Wrestling Championships

HardyzTitlesWith this Sunday’s Money in the Bank being the first where the actual WWE World Championship is also in play, aside from the usual briefcase, I thought it appropriate to do a 10 Count! list for… Defunct Wrestling Championships. There’s plenty of Top Ten MITB matches, or MITB winners floating around the internet, so why bother? If anything, the inclusion of the unified WWE titles being up for grabs made me think of previous championship belts that were no longer active. Some gimmicky, some pointless, and some worth falling off of and climbing a ladder for. But all of them defunct.

InternetChamp10. Internet Championship
Believe it or not, there was a time when Zack Ryder was pretty over. Like, Dolph Ziggler over. His YouTube show “Z! True Long Island Story” amassed a large following during a time when the WWE was still figuring out what YouTube was. The sad part? It wasn’t that long ago. Anyway, Ryder became so popular online that he declared himself the Internet Champion, which was a perfectly relevant way to reintroduce the gimmick title. At first, it was an old Attitude Era Intercontinental foam belt with stickers on it, but then it was made into an actual championship belt. The only cool thing about the belt were the side plates, which had the logos for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the main plate was basically Zack Ryder’s head. He would actually sport it on episodes of Raw, until he became an official WWE U.S. Champion. But the belt was quickly phased out along with Ryder’s push. I can’t help but feel that the WWE missed an opportunity to capitalize on the Internet Title and its new found love for all things social media. Seriously,  they could’ve learned from their mistake of not having a television title and incorporate the Internet Title as an actual belt wrestlers could contend for. The best part? They wouldn’t even be defended on actual TV programming, strictly on YouTube or WWE Network-only programming like Superstars and Main Event. Hell, they could’ve aired on Vine, because let’s face it, the guys competing for this title aside from Ryder, would’ve been dudes like Justin Gabriel or Darren Young.

FTWTitle9. FTW Title
Another gimmick title that made sense. Taz was upset that he wasn’t being given an ECW World Title shot despite earning it, so he did the next best thing: create his own title. The Fuck The World Title. It’s because of this title that I thought for the longest time that several internet memes with the initials FTW meant Fuck The World, instead of For The Win. Either way, both phrases make sense and are easily interchangeable. In fact, Fuck The World would even be a better fit for most of those memes. Anyway, much like Ryder’s Internet Title, Taz’ belt was perfect for him and made sense. Most gimmick championship belts are used to enhance a wrestler’s persona and because this is pro wrestling, a visual medium, props like a gimmick championship belt is the perfect type of iconography to associate with a wrestler and their character. Taz’ belt was black and orange, and it had Taz inscribed on it. It was basically him in belt form. That was the sole purpose of the gimmick belt. If you weren’t going to hold the main prize, the world title, then you make your own in protest. This is why I never understood why the WWE would redesign the world titles for Steve Austin and John Cena. Yeah, it fit their character, but this was a long-standing belt with its own history. At least when Austin lost the belt, it reverted back to the world title, but with John Cena we were forced to put up with that blinged-out, spinner version for almost a damn decade. With the introduction of the new WWE Title, that now has personalized side plates for the champion, they’ve maintained that practice of customizing the belt to whoever holds it because a name plate isn’t good enough anymore. Thus, killing any future opportunity for a new gimmick title.

milliondollarbelt

8. Million Dollar Belt
The original gimmick belt. Sure, you might think that gimmick titles don’t mean dick, but this is professional wrestling, none of the titles mean anything! At least, not in the last 15 years or so. As noted previously, gimmick titles are just an extension of a wrestler’s brand or gimmick, and if done properly, a gimmick title can hold just as much weight as an actual championship belt depending on the wrestler holding it. In this case, Ted DiBiase actually made the Million Dollar Belt seem worth more than the actual WWE Title. Not only because it “cost” a million dollars, but you know, his wrestling ability. Then Virgil won it for a brief spell, and it became the Minimum Wage Title, or The Downside Guarantee Deal Title, or whatever more accurately reflects the minimum pay scale in professional wrestling. Personally, I don’t think Ted DiBiase should’ve defended it against Virgil. If championship belts are supposed to be indicative of what they’re named after, then clearly Virgil wasn’t even close to being in contention. If the WWE Title is the heavyweight championship, then technically, only heavyweights should compete. Same goes for the cruiserweight championship. So, really, it would’ve made more sense if only bonafide millionaires could wrestle for the belt. Which actually might have sucked because DiBiase would’ve probably had to keep wrestling Hulk Hogan. Or who knows, apparently every damn wrestler in the WWE in the 80’s was making crazy stupid money, so maybe a few more would’ve had a shot. They tried to reintroduce the title back when WWE was trying to make Ted DiBiase Jr. a thing, but that was a bust. They should’ve just given it to Alberto Del Rio. Maybe he can bring it back on Raw after he loses this Sunday at Money in the Bank.

cruisertagbelt7. WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship
At the peak of WCW’s fall from grace, and with total disregard of the giant writing on the wall, WCW decided to create this abomination of a tag team championship a month before its demise. On paper, this would’ve seemed like a good idea for a title in 1997, when half of WCW’s undercard to midcard roster was made up of almost nothing but cruiserweights. And really good ones. Think about it. Eddie Guerrero & Chris Jericho could’ve held it during their brief partnership. Hell, Los Guerreros could’ve become tag team champions for the first time in WCW. Juventud Guerrera & Psicosis were always teaming, and Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko were actual WCW World Tag Team Champions at one point, so holding the cruiserweight tag belts would’ve been an obvious choice. Imagine a Fabulous Freebirds take on these belts involving the VIllanos I-X. But nope. Instead, WCW, in its futile attempt to come up with something to steer clear of the gigantic AOL-shaped iceberg, decided to create a tag team championship that would catch the fans’ attention much like the WCW Cruiserweight Championship originally had. Although WCW still had a good amount of very talented cruiserweights, it just wasn’t the same. In fact, the first WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions crowned were Kid Romeo and Elix Skipper. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you Google them. The even sadder part is, when they finally lost them to Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman (a team that could lend credibility to the titles), it happened on the last episode of WCW Monday Nitro, the day WCW died.

WCWUSTagTeamBelt

6. WCW U.S. Tag Team Championship
If you think about it, it kind of made sense in theory. WCW had a World Champion and a United States Champion as its secondary champion. So they took it a step further and decided to add the WCW United States Tag Team Titles as a secondary title for the tag team roster because… they had a lot of teams? The belts actually carried over from the old NWA, which is weird when you consider that once WCW tried to establish themselves as a separate entity from the NWA, with its own titles, they decided to have a tournament at Clash of the Champions XIX for the NWA Tag Team Titles. Mind you, this was a tournament to crown a new pair of champions, not unify all the damn tag team belts. So yeah, at one point WCW had three different sets of tag team titles. Even though they had like five really good tag teams to build a solid division around, they felt it necessary to do something with The Young Pistols or Todd Champion & Firebreaker Chip. Considering that the other set of belts were World titles, the WCW U.S. Tag Team Titles were as prestigious as the WWE’s Women’s Title circa 1995.

Europeantitle5. WWE European Championship
At first, I thought this was going to be another gimmick title, like only the British Bulldog would be able to hold the belt. Or you had to be of European lineage to contend for the title, but then that would’ve opened the door to semantics, and suddenly every white WWE wrestler has a shot at the belt because of pilgrims and stuff. Luckily, only two former European Champions were actually born in Europe, British Bulldog and William Regal, so that cleared that up. The only distinctive thing about this championship was its name, which it got because the tournament final to crown the first champion took place in Germany. So, had it taken place in Japan or even Australia, I guess the belt would’ve been named after that country. Makes sense, considering the main championship belt in the WWE is called the WWE Brazilian Heavyweight Championship. With no parameters in place, or any kind of restrictions, this belt pretty much gave the ever-expanding WWE roster another reason to wrestle. Aside from, you know, doing it for us The Fans. I guess it was a stepping stone to the stepping stone that was already the WWE Intercontinental Title. It could’ve been the WWE’s answer to the television title, something WCW and ECW already had, and would make sense considering how often WWE was/is on TV. But aside from the name, literally nothing set it apart from the other secondary title.

sixmantagtitle4. WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship
Another championship that WCW decided to revive after severing ties with the NWA. I touched on this in my Worst Three-Man Teams post, and how an idea like this can make sense when you have three-man teams like The Shield (RIP) or The Wyatts. But in the history of wrestling, there have only been a handful of decent three-man teams, and more often than not, most wrestling companies (WWE) have a hard enough time building up a credible tag team division. As mentioned in entry number six, WCW had a solid tag team division that included The Freebirds, The Steiner Brothers, and Doom. For some reason though, some guy (probably the same dude who would later come up with the idea for the cruiserweight tag belts) decided to bring back a tag team championship for teams of three, and still incorrectly call it the WCW Six-Man Tag Team Championship. Unless the sole purpose of this championship was to somehow elevate The York Foundation, I have no idea why these belts would ever exist. Seriously, there was no wrestling trio that was setting WCW on fire, like say a Wyatt’s Family, or The Shield. So what the hell was the point? The first team to hold the belts were the Junkyard Dog, Ricky Morton, and Tommy Rich. A legit Lethal Lottery pairing if there ever was one.

hardcoretitle3. WWE Hardcore Championship
Though hardcore matches quickly lost their novelty during the Attitude Era, this belt added depth to the inflated WWE roster by creating its own division. Even though they seem to rarely pay attention to the associated weight classes, I always liked how in Mexico (particularly CMLL) their lucha championships were based on weight divisions. It made it seem… legit? In American pro wrestling, weight classes don’t matter and anybody can hold the world heavyweight championship. Which works, because then we wouldn’t get to see guys like Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Rey Mysterio as world champions. And you know, wrestling is a work, so fuck legitimacy. It’s cool to mix it up and have a high-flyer vs. a brawler, and so on, but creating divisions helped provide a spotlight on particular wrestlers who would otherwise get lost in the shuffle. The WWE Hardcore Championship gave dudes like Al Snow, Big Boss Man, Hardcore Holly, Mankind, and Raven a purpose. Were they pigeonholed? Yes, but it beat being lost in the shuffle. The bad thing is, during the Attitude Era every other match seemed to be a hardcore match. It was to the point where WWE World Title matches were more hardcore than the actual Hardcore Title matches, so the only way to really distinguish the Hardcore Title was for it to be over the top and ridiculous as hell. The 24/7 provided some fun moments, and the hardcore battle royals were entertaining, but this was a hardcore title dammit. Any match for this title should’ve easily been the most extreme, blood gushing, car wreck of a match on any card.

wwecrusierweighttitle2. WWE Light Heavyweight / WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Wrestling fanboys (AKA smarks AKA the internet wrestling community) the world over have been lamenting the loss of this title on message boards everywhere since its demise. The actual date of which was when the belts were unified in the WWE. Even though the WWE would eventually have the same exact cruiserweights WCW had, at one point or another, this belt was never the same once it jumped ship. Much like my argument for the WWE Hardcore Title, this title also gave a purpose to a criminally overlooked group of wrestlers, who would eventually go on to do greater things. Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio were consistently turning heads during their time as cruiserweight champions. And much like other secondary titles, the cruiserweight title proved to be a stepping stone for many of them. This division alone was the reason why we stuck around for WCW Monday Nitro, and would later tune in to Smackdown to see if it would ever duplicate its once glorious past. While many fans salivate at the thought of WWE one day reintroducing the title, they fail to realize that the belt has already served its purpose. It brought awareness to the cruiserweight wrestlers. While I liked how it created a separate division, most of the WCW cruiserweight wrestlers never really became main event successes until they went to the WWE. Where cruiserweight championships don’t mean dick. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather watch a WrestleMania XXX Daniel Bryan WWE World Title win against Batista and Randy Orton in a triple threat match, than a WrestleMania XXX Daniel Bryan WWE Cruiserweight Title win against Sin Cara, Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Xavier Woods, and Los Matadores in a ten-minute, eight-man battle royal.

WCWTVtitle1. WCW Television Championship
Now, carrying over this championship from the NWA to WCW made sense. In the days before the Monday Night Wars and pay-per-view quality matches taking place on free TV, unless it was Clash of the Champions, or Saturday Night’s Main Event, regular Saturday morning matches were generally shit. One-sided squash matches, where you maybe gave a damn about one of the two wrestlers competing. And that’s if you were lucky, unless you actually liked seeing Hercules and Warlord Saturday morning matches. You’d rarely see the actual world champion wrestle, at least that’s how it was in the WWE. So you can bet your ass you weren’t going to see an actual championship match. In WCW, the Television Title fixed that. From what I recall, the television title was defended almost every week on WCW Saturday Night. And, most TV champions were quality wrestlers. You had guys from Sting to Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin and Lord Steven Regal defending the title in 15-minute time limit bouts. The TV Title was the main reason I would tune into WCW as a young, loyal WWE fan. I joked about the WWE utilizing the Internet Championship as an actual title to be defended on YouTube, but in all seriousness, the TV title being defended weekly, or even twice a week, on WWE television would help break the monotonous pattern of non-title Intercontinental and United States championship matches that we have become accustomed to. At the very least, it would give us a Dolph Ziggler match every week, and he’d finally have a purpose. It’d be a win-win for everyone.

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