Why Must WWE Always Reboot Its Title History?


In recent months we’ve seen the latest examples of WWE’s tendency to erase its own history. Why do they hate on their old titles?

On Monday’s episode of RAW, Michael Cole uttered a word I never expected to hear during the reign of current–and longest-reigning, at 354 days (as of August 11)–WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day:


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During Kofi Kingston’s match against Luke Gallows, Cole expounded on the current titleholders’ epic reign, but managed to slip in some props for Ax & Smash, the tag team that held a championship longer than any other team in WWE/F history with their 478-day reign, beginning with a victory over Strike Force at Wrestlemania IV on March 27, 1988 and continuing uninterrupted until July 18, 1989 (when they were defeated by The Brain Busters on Saturday Night’s Main Event). But hold the phone–if Demolition held the straps for 478 days, why does WWE refer to the New Day as the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time?

Simple–the current tag titles were created in 2002 as a Smackdown-exclusive championship during the first brand split. The World Tag Team Championship–the belts worn by teams like Demolition, the Hart Foundation, Mr. Fuji & Toru Tanaka, Edge & Christian, and so many more–was exclusively a Raw championship until the two tag belts were unified at WrestleMania XXV. After Carlito & Primo Colon defeated John Morrison and The Miz to claim both titles, the lineage of the World Tag Team Championship, created in 1971, was retired in favor of the Smackdown belts’ history.

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Since the WWE Tag Titles supplanted the World Tag belts, WWE has repeated this scrubbing of their title history in other divisions. The Women’s Championship was brought back to replace the Divas’ Title at WrestleMania Star, but hold on! It’s not the Women’s Championship that the Fabulous Moolah held for 28 kayfabe years; it’s a brand new championship with its own separate history. After all, how could Cole or Mauro Ranallo eventually refer to a current wrestler as “the longest-reigning Women’s champion of all time” with Moolah’s reign standing between them and “history?”

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And that’s the motivation when it comes to WWE’s occasional championship reboots: it’s an easy way to hype a current performer by giving them records and accomplishments that will eventually mean less the more often titles get scrubbed. Soon, either Finn Balor or Seth Rollins will be crowned the first-ever WWE Universal Champion–except there was already a first-ever WWE World Champion back in 1963 (Buddy Rogers) and a first-ever “World Heavyweight Champion” in 2002 (Triple H, wearing the Big Gold Belt that for years represented the WCW World Title and the NWA Championship before that…although their histories, once again, weren’t considered part of this new title). So how much history will Rollins or Balor make at SummerSlam, really?

Curiously, when the Intercontinental Title was briefly retired in late 2002 and then revived in 2003, its history wasn’t rebooted–nor was that of the United States Championship, unified with the IC belt in 2001, then revived two years later as if it never went anywhere. Then again, it’s probably ultimately about semantics, isn’t it? Trying to explain to the fans that this Intercontinental Title is different than the one Pat Patterson won in a fake tournament in Rio in 1979 would just be confusing. And thank goodness–no one should be called the “longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time” unless they manage to outlast The Honky Tonk Man. It’s only right.

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So sure, hail to the new WWE Universal Champion, whoever it may be. Here’s hoping his historic accomplishment on August 21 doesn’t go down as a footnote in WWE history the way, say, Ted DiBiase’s WWF North American Championship reign has. And by all means, be impressed with The New Day’s run with the tag belts–in this modern era of WWE wrestling, any title reign lasting more than a few months is notable. Just remember that there are some face-painted bruisers out there that look at 354 days atop the mountain and think, “aw–that’s cute.”