Something strange happened on RAW this Monday.
No, Weird Al didn’t parody WWE…though, he really could.
As most viewers know, Ric Flair was scheduled to appear on the show for no real reason and, when he did, he appeared to do nothing other than to do two things:
- Strutting, shouting, pretty much suggesting that he swung with every fan’s parents back in the day and, because she hadn’t yet been sexually harassed this week, also hit on Renee Young.
- Offer his prediction at Battleground for the Fatal 4-Way which was “CENAWINSLOL”.
Roman Reigns appeared, right on queue…shook Flair’s hand…and, then Flair left, walking toward the backstage area and making us all wonder what the hell that segment was even about.
Cena’s music hit as Flair hit the top of the entrance ramp and Flair danced to his music and shook Cena’s hand…
Then it happened…
Cena took the Big Gold Belt, (formerly the “World Heavyweight Championship”) detached it from the WWE Championship and offered it to Flair — who balked for a moment — then smiled and took it from Cena, raising it high in the air to a nice ovation. Then Flair folded it up and took it with him to the backstage area after Cena told him to “keep it for the night”.
After all, who is more deserving to hold on to the title than Ric Flair?
Since the NWA/WCW days, the Big Gold Belt was synonymous with Flair. Despite the great wrestlers who would also hold it (Sting, Luger, Hogan, etc.), the only wrestler it truly fit was Ric Flair, the gold standard with the cocky attitude, flowing feathered and jeweled robes, the beautiful suits, the Rolex watches, the beautiful women and the limos he used to get around.
The belt WAS Flair.
And, for the first time since the belts were unified, a WWE wrestler was headed to the ring with the single Championship belt.
It was a fantastic moment…
But it was also one that, perhaps, didn’t have the intended effect WWE Creative had hoped it would — this was, simply put, a retirement of sorts…except that the fans weren’t getting it.
Maybe they were too distracted with the notion that there was still time on the show for Flair to introduce his old friend Sting to WWE. Maybe they were caught up in the fact that the RAW main event was starting and it was back to action. Maybe they just shrugged it off as another maudlin tribute to wrestling’s glorious past, hosted by the current great who just needs one more big title reign to tie Ric Flair’s record of 16.
But it wasn’t that at all.
Like a lover dumping their current flame at a crowded restaurant in order to avoid a scene, WWE was quietly retiring the Big Gold Belt for good — and the fans shrugged it off and smiled.
As if saying, “We’re not joking — we’re done,” WWE removed the World Championship belt from their official website’s profile of John Cena, who now poses with just the WWE Championship belt.
It’s a very interesting move on their part — but it’s one that’s been long overdue.
When I became a fan of WWE in 1989, there were just three titles: The WWF Championship, The WWF Intercontinental Championship, and the WWF Tag Team Championship. If you want to nit-pick and tell me The Million Dollar Championship was a title, be my guest.
During the latter half of the 90’s, WWE went NWA-style crazy with their titles, adding belts for just about any category they could think of. We ended up with a Euro title, a Light Heavyweight title, a “Hardcore” title, two sets of tag titles, two big World titles, a U.S. Championship, an Intercontinental Championship, and a Woman’s title.
In the last 15 years, WWE has retired about half the titles or consolidated them completely.
When WWE absorbed WCW, they eventually started using The Big Gold Belt as their World Championship…which was, honestly, pretty cool for a while. Still, I never understood the idea of having two big titles, even when RAW and Smackdown were equally-important shows for the company.
One was called “The WWE Championship” and the other was the “World Championship”.
Were they of equal stature or importance or was one belt more lofty than the other? It may sound silly but, as I pointed out the other day, there’s a lot riding on the answer.
As I illustrated a couple of days ago, Atlantic writer Dion Beary used the debate as prima facie evidence to prove his thesis that racism was prevalent in WWE. Preferring the WWE Championship (claiming it was a “World Championship”), Beary stated that while there have been black performers who have held the other belts, no black man has ever won “the World title, the WWE Championship.”
Despite its rich heritage, I never thought that belt fit in WWE.
I thought it was even sillier to carry both around when the belts were unified.
The only WCW title remaining to be unified is the United States Championship, currently worn by Sheamus, who hinted that he’d win the upcoming Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal at Battleground — and then “unify the titles”.
This was last week at Main Event.
In light of budget cuts and firings and the loss of performers due to injury, one might have reason to believe that WWE is trying to get back to basics.
Regardless of the differing opinions concerning the Big Gold Belt, there’s no doubt that doing so will be the end of an era in WWE — and professional wrestling.