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WWE Overload: Why Adding More Championship Titles Is an Epically Bad Idea (Opinion)

Top pro wrestling promotion will soon have something like 15 people wearing a belt — and that’s way too many

The WWE now has eight championship titles — and a ninth is on its way.

Sometimes more isn’t always better, and nowhere on TV is that more apparent than the WWE Network, which is packed full of solid content, but has also forced the creation of far-too-many pay-per-views events — an obvious effort to justify its $9.99-per-month price.

SVOD aside, the company’s recent roster split has helped another network — NBCUniversal’s USA — in TV ratings, mostly just by replacing a tape-delayed TV show with another live one. Unfortunately, it’s also continuing to water down the in-ring product.

Promising wrestlers exclusively to either “Monday Night Raw” or “SmackDown Live” has required the practical need for more championships. Simply put, if one cannot wrestle on the weekly series that holds the WWE World Championship, for example — which currently resides on “SmackDown” star Dean Ambrose’s shoulder — that grappler can’t possibly contend for the belt.

In theory, some of these titles can change hands/series at an all-inclusive pay-per-view, but WWE needs to promote and showcase the build-up to a rivalry to sell tickets, merchandise (including replicas of all these belts), and streaming subscriptions. And again, you can’t do that from separate shows on separate evenings.

The short-sighted solution was to double the number of belts. Before the brand split, there was a WWE World Heavyweight Championship (that recently renamed Ambrose-owned belt), the Intercontinental Championship, the United States Championship, the Tag Team Championship and the Women’s Championship (or Diva’s, depending on the timing). That was already quite a lot, historically. (This is to mention nothing of the Slammy Awards, King of the Ring title, Money in the Bank briefcase holder, Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale trophy, etc.)

Now, there’s also the WWE Universal Championship (pictured above), which is “Raw’s” version of Ambrose’s strap, and the up-for-grabs Women’s and Tag Team titles just for “SmackDown.” Additionally, “Raw” is adding a Cruiserweight division, which will come with its own belt.

That’s not even mentioning the NXT titles, of which there are three. (NXT is WWE’s minor leagues, so to speak, though those belts don’t crossover to the main rosters, though the wrestlers can and do.)

Why is this a problem? Take Sunday’s “SummerSlam” as a recent example. The four-hour-long (with emphasis on “long”) program had 10 matches. (There were three more on a pre-show.) That means if WWE wants to put all of its belts on the line for one of the biggest crossover pay-per-views — like a “SummerSlam” or “Wrestlemania” — there would be only ONE non-title match. That’s ridiculous. That’s participation-trophy levels of absurd.

The WWE is sports entertainment — effectively it’s fake combat. So, admittedly, none of this actually matters. But having nine titles makes every single match matter all that much less to those who gobble up the product. While this PG time in the publicly traded company’s history is aimed at kids, make no mistake, this writer is not the only adult who partakes. Generally speaking, grown-ups aren’t dumb — we can’t be tricked into not noticing that some double-digit percentage of employees are champions.

Take “SmackDown,” for example. The Tuesday series drafted 26 wrestlers/teams last month when the brand officially halved. (It has since added a handful more.) Soon, at least five individuals there will hold a belt.

And that particular show has just six female wrestlers who are battling it out for the SmackDown Women’s Championship — and honestly, not all of them are even close to being worthy of such an honor. Though maybe that’s the entire point — the prestige is gone. That’s not a good look for the so-called Diva’s — err, Women’s — Revolution.

For those who aren’t caught up on the latest squared-circle happenings, here’s where we stand currently:

WWE World Champion: Ambrose
WWE Universal Champion: ?
WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte
Intercontinental Champion: The Miz
WWE Tag Team Champions: The New Day
United States Champion: Rusev
SmackDown Women’s Champion: ?
SmackDown Tag Team Champions: ?
Cruiserweight Champion: ?
NXT Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT Women’s Champion: Asuka
NXT Tag Team Champions: The Revival

On Monday, a new Universal champion will be crowned on “Raw,” due to a real Finn Balor “SummerSlam” shoulder injury. The “SmackDown” belts will find news homes Sept. 11 at the first show-exclusive pay-per-view, “Battleground.” The Cruiserweight Champion will be crowned at the culmination of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Hopefully, no more titles will emerge after those.

To those in the WWE locker room, don’t fret if the only belt you own holds up your jeans. With the frequency that these things change hands in the so-called New Era, and based on the abundance of championships, it’s only a matter of time. Or, worst case scenario, just go drop a few hundred bucks at the WWE Shop. Because that’s about what a real one is worth these days.

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