by Daniel Johnson
WWE was all over the place with its title reigns this year in terms of quality. If a decade ago an oracle was to predict in 10 years that idiot from the WWE $1,000,000 Tough Enough would have a better run with the WWE Intercontinental Championship than Brock Lesnar would have with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, you’d sooner put stock in a Magic 8-Ball. Also, you’d wonder why even in some crazy oracle’s mind the WWE would use a name as repetitive as the World Wrestling Entertainment World Heavyweight Championship for its top prize. Yet, the future is not so easy to predict. It is mind blowing how the top wrestling promotion in the entire world often produces better programming in its developmental territory than on its pay-per-view programs, yet this argument has been made again and again and again. So to keep our sanity for this list let’s overlook WWE NXT and just keep it to the main roster straps.
5. Big E’s reign with the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Big E started the year with some hope. True, a lot of the crowd at WWE Survivor Series 2013 were more interested in taking a poop than watching his match with Curtis Axel, but that was all in the past. In January 2014, E was in a sweet spot as the holder of the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Carrying the strap for about a month and half, it was still early enough for E to possibly be a decent champion. It never happened. In 167 days as champion E cannot be accused of being a passive champ. To the contrary defending the title a good 40 times he could be described to some degree as a fighting champion. Wait a second! You mean you didn’t know the big one defended his title a whopping 40 times? Well, that’s the problem with house shows. As far as most people are concerned they simply don’t exist. As far as most fans knew Big E had three matches involving his championship in 2014: A defense against Jack Swagger at WWE Elimination Chamber 2014, a throwaway match with Dolph Ziggler on an episode of WWE Main Event and losing the title at WWE Extreme Rules 2014. Well, at least this gave way to Bad News Barrett claiming the title as his career finally had some fire behind it again. Of course Barrett got injured not too long after and had to vacate his prize. Yes, the first half of 2014 was a rough time to be a fan of the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Fortunately, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and later Luke Harper came along and made the title look like something worth fighting for again.
4. Randy Orton’s reign with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
To paraphrase a George Carlin quote and mix it with a cliche, watching Randy Orton’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship run was like watching flies having sex with drying paint. No, scratch that. Even without the magnifying glass that sounds about a hundred times more interesting than the bulk of Orton’s run. Orton had a coma of a match that went 20 minutes with John Cena at the WWE Royal Rumble 2014. He followed up this pay-per-view performance by retaining his title at Elimination Chamber in a booking decision so puzzling even WWE seemed to acknowledge it with a compilation of baffled fans to close the show. Apparently WWE reversed their marketing campaign for the night since it seemed like an effort to take smiles off faces. Mercifully, Orton dropped the title to Daniel Bryan at WWE WrestleMania XXX in a match that could have been a much better highlight for Bryan if Orton didn’t sleep through so much of it. Hell, go back and watch that match and then watch Bryan’s opener with HHH and try to claim the HHH match isn’t better. It just can’t be done. Well, on the plus side Orton at least showed up regularly as champion, which is more than could be said of a certain WWE World Heavyweight Champion this year (more on that later). Still, when the most you can say to defend a championship reign is, “At least the champion went to work,” you know you’re in trouble.
3. Dean Ambrose’s reign with the WWE United States Championship
Talk about deja vu! Although to some degree Dean Ambrose had the same problem as Big E, it goes a little deeper than that especially considering his reign was so much longer. While Ambrose had entertaining, hell at the rate of cheesing off AJ Styles, phenomenal matches in 2013 and 2014 the problem was these bouts were not for the WWE United States Championship. Worse yet they didn’t have anything to do with the WWE United States Championship. This reduced what should be a title used to elevate midcard talent into an accessory no different from The Rock’s sunglasses or Mankind’s mask. Actually there was some difference. Those aforementioned items actually represented those wrestlers’ character to some degree. The belt around Ambrose’s waist had nothing to do with the man. Going from waist to waste, arguably the biggest waste of this opportunity is how he lost it. Let me let you in on a little secret. Come to think of it, it is not a secret at all because this information has to do with fan reaction. The tidbit I have to share is that as far as championship reigns go, longevity is key. No matter how bad the title reign may be, something can be gained from it if the person who ends it can be put over strong enough. Although this example is ancient it is perhaps the best one out there: Honky Tonk Man. You can see on the WWE Network how much the company hyped the length of his reign and how for how long they have done this. Yet, off the top of your head can you honestly recall a Honky Tonk Man, WWF Intercontinental Championship defense that wasn’t him losing it to The Ultimate Warrior at WWF SummerSlam 1988? Hell, do you even remember how he won the title? Yet, Ambrose’s 351 days as a midcard champ/shiny belt enthusiast ended in an unspectacular fashion via Sheamus winning the title in a battle royal on WWE Monday Night Raw.
2. Nikki Bella’s reign with the WWE Divas Championship
Well, this brings me back to 2012. Nikki Bella did not just have a bad run with the WWE Divas Championship then, but for my money the worst single WWE title reign of that year. Although in Nikki’s defense her tenure with the belt has a bit more of a point to it this time, overall it is still about as far from being good as Haystacks Calhoun was from being a light heavyweight. It is true that before Nikki entered the title scene, the battles fought over the WWE Divas Championship weren’t exactly setting the wrestling world ablaze. Despite Paige being an excellent worker and AJ Lee having the ability to excel with the right opponent, the two just didn’t click together more often than not. Still, with the Paige/Lee rivalry there was some suspense. The storytelling wasn’t that captivating with there not being much reason for Paige or Lee being portrayed as the heel at different points, but there was hope. Paige and Lee could have dug deeper into themselves to pull out the promos needed to make this non-sense feud somewhat logical. Paige came close at times. Better yet the two could have finally had the match to live up to the potential promised by their past work. Yet, this all ended when Brie Bella recreated a moment from WWE WrestleMania XXVIII that no one wanted to remember and realigned with Nikki by helping her defeat Lee. It should come as no surprise that over a month later Nikki has only defended the title twice, in forgettable bouts. No wonder the WWE NXT Women’s Championship division continues to outshine WWE’s divas.
1. Brock Lesnar’s reign with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Okay, I admit it! Brock Lesnar taking apart Cena at WWE Summerslam 2014 was one one of the most entertaining beatings in ages. Likewise, despite the screwy finish involving Seth Rollins, Lesnar/Cena at WWE Night of Champions 2014 was also enjoyable. The problem is with the 133 other days this year where Lesnar was champ and did a big pile of nothing. Vince McMahon appeared on The Steve Austin Show recently and brought up that Lesnar’s contract required that he could only make so many appearances, but framed it in a positive manner. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin probably didn’t buy it and neither should you. Although a part-time champion is not 100 percent faulty in theory, Lesnar being booked as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion has made as much sense as the UFC not being competition to WWE. At this point Lesnar would need to have three ridiculously good matches by WWE WrestleMania 31 to balance out his tenure as champ. Given that he may not even appear on every pay-per-view prior to the big event, this has as much of a chance of happening as CM Punk beating Chris Weidman for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Better yet to compare Lesnar’s run with one of the champ’s other endeavors, he is as likely to turnaround the quality of his title reign as he is to overshadow his past glory if he returns to UFC. Sorry MMA fans. Lesnar is not getting any better at 37 years-old. Unfortunately, for WWE fans the same is true of his wrestling work.
Photos 1-2, 5-6: en.wikipedia.org
Photos 3-4: Daniel Johnson / Johnsontranscript.com
Categories: Wrestling Lists