Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Looks like WWE's trying to rebuild the prestige of the Intercontinental Championship

Credit: WWE.com.
And they're doing by way of a tournament.

A bit of background info for the non-wrestling fans: The Intercontinental Championship is a singles title that has been in the WWE since 1979. Hierarchy-wise, it's a second tier title, just behind the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but ahead (at least, in my opinion) of the United States Championship. The title has had a long history of being used as a stepping stone towards the world title and as a conciliation prize for guys who aren't getting a run with the big belt or a second run. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Savage, and CM Punk have all held the IC title before becoming world champions. On the flipside, The Miz, Christian, and Rey Mysterio have had runs with the belt after winning the world titles.

And the fact that the WWE had, until recently, two world titles (the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship) is what robbed the Intercontinental title of its prestige. Back in 2002, the WWE had a bloated roster after buying out WCW and ECW, and so they spun their two TV shows into autonomous entities, called Brand Extension. Each show had their own rosters and belts. Eventually this included a second world title and that's when the IC title went downhill. With two big belts, attention shifted away from the secondary belt and guys who normally would have been IC champs instead were pushed to the world titles. Another problem was that the guys who held the title had abysmal runs. Oftentimes, they would lose every match that wasn't a title defense.

Then, things got worse. The WWE Championship became the de facto world title, while the World Heavyweight Championship became more like a secondary title, which relegated the Intercontinental title to a third tier belt. Brand Extension ended in 2011 and the two world titles were unified in 2013, but the the company hasn't really put an effort into rebuilding the IC belt until now. Giving the belt to Big E Langston was a good start, but this tournament they started last night on Raw is a much bigger push towards that goal.

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