With Clash of Champions fast approaching, I’m thinking (fondly) back this week on titles retired and forgotten, no longer in the WWE Universe rotation of titles.
While some titles won’t die—see the WWF Hardcore Title, the busted up belt now re-envisioned as the 24/7 title—some titles have either been out of rotation or relegated to undercard promotions.
The inspiration for Clash of Champions, besides trying to hone in on Wrestlemania ratings, was to give loyal TV fans the chance to see multiple promotion belts defended on TV without pay. It was a pay per view quality program with no cost.
Over the years, a number of the belts I’m thinking on have been put up for grabs at the Clash in appreciation of the fans. While none will be defended this week, they’re all up on the Network for your rewatching pleasure.
5. WCW TV Title
The idea behind the NWA/JCP/WCW TV title was to have a belt and champion competing weekly via TV tapings. While world titles and even the US and Tag Titles were often saved for annual shows or bigger tour dates around the country, the TV title would be defended weekly so fans could always see a title contest. It was, in this way, the people’s belt.
This use of the belt continued into 1990s WCW. While Saturday Night and Nitro often featured US and Tag Team Title contests, they ALWAYS featured TV title contests, and the TV champ was therefore the most prominent promotional competitor to fans like me, whose family could not afford pay per view.
Long standing and outstanding TV champs over the years included Arn Anderson, Lord Steven Regal, Steve Austin, and even Lex Luger.
Once the WCW Cruiserweight Championship was created to push the Cruiserweight division in WCW revolutionizing wrestling in the 1990s, the TV title lost its prominence. The Cruiserweight Champion became the weekly, show by show title draw.
The TV Title so fell out of favor that its last use was just storyline fodder, where a fired-now-janitor Hacksaw Jim Duggan in brown coveralls found the TV Title belt in the trash, where, it’s prominence so diminished, Scott Hall had thrown it after winning it (he tried first to give it to Kevin Nash who did not want it either).
A sad ending for a glorious belt, by far the one we saw most on TV in the early 90s.
4. WCW International Heavyweight Title
Most fans will remember Ric Flair bringing the “real world title” to WWF in 1991 when he left WCW as then reigning champion and took the big gold belt on WWF television. This belt was the end result of the WCW side of the saga.
Follow closely: In early 1991 the NWA World Title and WCW World Title were the same belt. When Flair left over disputes with the company, he took his belt with him. Although WCW no longer recognized him as champion, the NWA still did. The WCW designed a new, much uglier World Title Belt for its championship. Then the courts ruled that belts are the intellectual property of the promotions and not the reigning champion wrestler, therefore the big gold belt was given back to WCW. So as not to mess up its championship storyline at the time (now 1992), WCW created a new name for the big gold belt, NWA sponsored title, the “WCW International Heavyweight Title.”
This led to a modern day WWE style two champion promotion for the better part of two years. Unfortunately fans then, like fans now, found the two champion system a bit confusing for actual championship hierarchy, and that both belts were diminished in significance while the other existed.
To end this debacle, but keep the prettier gold belt, the belts were unified at a Clash of the Champions XXVII show in 1994. When Sheri swerved Sting and sided with Flair to assist the Nature Boy in the win, the ugly World Title belt was discarded and the big gold belt was restored as the single WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Flair lost it the next month to a debuting Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach 1994.
3. WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
First, what the freak is up with the name? How is anyone a light heavyweight? Second, this was a purely reactionary title created by the WWF once it was clear that the WCW Cruiserweight division was the direction fans wanted to see wrestling go.
The problem was the WWF still preferred short stocky American wrestlers to luchadores from Mexico. Style was as important as size to the success of the WCW Cruiserweight title.
To exemplify the awfulness of the booking of this belt, Crash Holly once beat Dean freaking Malenko for this title. It was used mainly to get babyface underdog types, like Crash Holly, over as opposed to rewarding and pushing the best smaller wrestlers.
2. NWA World Title
This is the only active title on my list, but since it’s days in cross-promotion as the WCW World Title and the TNA World Title a decade later, the NWA World Title has fallen out of the mainstream picture. Instead of propping up start-up national promotions, it serves to prop up regional promotions for a time before moving on – see NWA Texoma Champion Tim Storm. Its most infamous moment came when Shane Douglas won it for ECW, only to throw it down in disgust and hoist the new ECW belt in a shoot.
With a storied career, and its history as THE belt of the 80s swapping between the likes of Harley Race, Ric Flair, Kerry von Erich and Dusty Rhodes, it’s a shame to see it so low on the promotional card.
On the plus side, regional fans at house shows get to see the legendary NWA World Heavyweight Championship defended. In use since the 1940s by the National Wrestling Alliance, it is undoubtedly the longest running belt of import in the business.
In recent years, it has gained some prominence back. Since Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan bought the NWA and saved it from bankruptcy, the title has won some cache back, first in Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) and then when Cody Rhodes won it at an AEW event (only to lose it back to Nick Aldis at a non AEW event).
1. A Unified WWE Championship
What can I say? We haven’t had this in a few years and I miss it. As I said above and in other rants here on TWM, I just don’t see the bonus in two world title belts. The only benefit it provides is to help a bloated, brand-split roster fill in story-line. There are too many wrestlers currently on the rosters, men and women, to just chase a single belt.
However, the trade-off of a single belt of prominence, of a single main event on a pay per view, of a clear pursuit within the promotion creates quite a watered down product.
Just look at how much hype Jericho’s stolen AEW title belt generated. If that had happened to Kofi or Seth in the WWE it’d matter to be sure, but since neither has THE belt, it wouldn’t be the same scandal as with AEW’s. Take a cue, WWE.
You can find me on Twitter @gritvanwinkle.