In the case of the WWE Intercontinental and United States Championships, fusing together two struggling entities could create a strong, singular one.
It is always painful to say goodbye to history, but isn't it better to tear down an historic building rather than watch it collapse? WWE's midcard championship picture is that historic building, loved by those who remember when it was awash with glory, but now suffering from neglect.
WWE clearly doesn't have the space on its schedule for both titles.
Those champions get bypassed too often to keep their titles relevant. Over a decade after Edge unified the U.S. and IC titles by beating Test at Survivor Series 2001, it's time to revisit that strategy.
Falling Off the Card
The prestige of both championships can't be maintained when they aren't defended regularly. Once pay-per-views are filled with world title bouts, grudge matches, comic relief and tag team clashes, there is time and time again not enough room for the midcard champs.
That's partly because WWE currently has six championships under its banner and partly because the company focuses so much on the top of the card that the United States and IC champions don't get enough airtime.
Too often these Superstars are sitting on the bench when the lights go on
hat's a long list even if you factor in the gimmick pay-per-views like Survivor Series and Money in the Bank pulling midcard titleholders into multiple-wrestler matches. Of the 19 WWE events in that time frame, 12 of them left off either the United States or Intercontinental Championship.
Every pay-per-view can't be Night of Champions, but a 63 percent inactivity rate is far too high for these champions.
Santino was left off so many shows that it was easy to forget he was champ. Cesaro couldn't make it to WrestleMania 29. Sometimes carrying a title only managed to get a titleholder to the pre-show of a pay-per-view.
Axel will defend his title at Hell in a Cell, carrying on a tradition that saw Barrett face The Miz before WrestleMania 29 truly began, Ambrose battle Rob Van Dam before SummerSlam 2013 and Cesaro take on The Miz as an appetizer for Royal Rumble 2013.
Sure, WWE could have squeezed these men onto the pay-per-view proper, but to what end? With so many moving parts on any given Raw or SmackDown, the midcard champs are given too few stories and too few rivals. Their title bouts end up being uninspired as a result.
That's not the route to prestige nor is it the way to honor those championships' history.
A top championship, one a tier below that and two midcard belts that are at the same or about the same level made sense when WWE was split into two distinct brands. Raw could have the WWE and U.S. titles while SmackDown featured the World Heavyweight Championship and the IC title.
It's harder to balance all four belts now that the brands have become one.
With creative booking and hard work, Ambrose could have a set of challengers coming at him and so could Axel. It's possible that WWE could even bring back the Cruiserweight Championship and succeed. It doesn't look as if the company can handle all those elements, though.
Who is the No. 1 contender for the U.S. title right now? If it's Dolph Ziggler, who is second and third in line?
The reason those questions are difficult to answer is that the midcard champions aren't being hunted enough. They slip into non-title feuds and have the occasional defense, but there's not enough attention paid to the narrative that is their challengers rising up the ranks to earn a title shot.
Ideally, WWE could do that for both Axel and Ambrose while having the world titles, the Divas Championship, the tag team belts and upper midcard Superstars all get airtime. WWE is imperfect, though.
Trimming down the title picture is the best move for this era, as fun as the Cruiserweight Championship would be and as accustomed as fans are to having both the U.S. and IC belts in the picture. A singular midcard championship makes it easier for WWE creative to book.
The Intercontinental Championship once swallowed the European Championship; it appears that it is time for it to feast again.
The Hardcore Championship, the Junior Heavyweight Championship and Women's Tag Team Championships all succumbed to extinction. To place better focus on a single midcard champ, to simplify and improve the midcard in general, either Ambrose or Axel's title must similarly fall prey to WWE evolution.
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