Just imagine the heartwarming scene, the one fans have been clamoring for. It’s 2 in the afternoon, U.S. time, as thousands of miles away Cody Rhodes caresses the belt that was introduced to WWE a month prior, at a show drenched in blood money that has an incredible wrestling history of…Goldberg nearly killing an aged Undertaker. Cody, with fireworks going off and somehow with a straight face, will look into the sea of fans in Saudi Arabia and tell us that his “story is completed!” And every WWE fan will be expected to just go along with the fact that Rhodes’s “journey” really was about a title that had the gestation time of a cockroach and is certainly the junior to the title he didn’t win at Wrestlemania.
For those of us who aren’t exactly Cody fans, it’s a delightful image.
WWE invents a new ‘top’ title
In case you didn’t see the news, WWE is inventing a new “top” title that will be the highest spot on one of their shows after they reorganize their roster between Raw and Smackdown through a “draft.” The new title’s home will almost certainly be Raw, because it’s highly unlikely that Fox is going to just let Roman Reigns walk over to Raw, even if he only shows up five times a year.
Of course, having two top titles devalues both. Triple H came out on Monday on Raw to unveil the new belt, which looks like it was stuck in the microwave for 20 seconds too long, and in his promo somehow managed to run down both the current title that Reigns has and this new one.
Raw and Smackdown had separate titles for years, after the last brand split in 2016. Reigns united them in Vince McMahon’s last attempt to make a Reigns-Brock Lesnar match feel like anything other than his own personal vanity project (just missed!) at Mania 38. Because Reigns lords over the company to such a degree that he was able to get himself a part-time schedule — more power to him for that — and almost never appeared on Raw, the Monday night show felt pretty centerless without the anchor of a champion to main event most weeks.
This could have been avoided
WWE, as it always does, missed a chance to enhance one of its shows and get people excited about whoever was carrying the belt that Reigns wasn’t. Anyone taking one-half of Reigns’s collection of belts would have felt like a huge star and given the new title luster. It would have felt important because of who it was taken off of.
Instead, WWE has been so focused on making sure that Reigns never loses that they’ve smooshed anyone who ever came up against him into an unrecognizable mess. Now whoever claims this new title will be seen as being given some consolation, something lesser, something that Reigns can’t even be bothered to put at risk.
Simultaneously, as HHH pointed out that Reigns is only part-time now, he made his reign seem like something the company has to deal with instead of one it’s banked pretty much its entire present upon. “Roman isn’t here much, so we have invented…this thing!” If it hurts the company so much that the champion isn’t around to defend the title that they felt the need to make up a new one, then here’s an idea…HAVE HIM LOSE!
Booking themselves into a corner
WWE had multiple chances for someone to take the title off Roman, who then could have lost half of it down the road to get to where they are now, just in a lot better shape. Be it Sami or Cody or KO, there were triggers to be pulled. Maybe I’m the only one who still thinks so, but coming out of the 2022 Royal Rumble there was still an excellent story to tell with Seth Rollins.
But because WWE kept taking the safe road, the easy one, the predictable one, they’re left with two titles that seem definitively trinket-like. One make-believe title to make up for the problem of the other one.
This is what WWE does, try and assuage fans and wrestlers after cocking up the big moment. They had Sami and KO come out on top in a post-match beatdown with the rest of the Bloodline after they whiffed on putting the strap on Sami in Montreal as a make-good to the fans who were so disappointed after being so ravenous for a Zayn win. Then they put the tag titles on the two at Mania as another one, and though it was fulfilling to see the two get there, it was still below what could have, and should have, been.
While I may not have bought it, WWE certainly sold Cody Rhodes as a viable hero at Mania and fans were certainly eating it up, and then punted him overboard, and any fan’s ability to actually buy into this kind of story for a long time. So again as a consolation, at least likely, they’ll hand this concoction to him and try to tell you it’s just as meaningful. Reigns will continue to carry the other one, the one they’ve taken down a peg or two because no one is going to buy that they can actually pump a challenger up to the point of believing he’ll beat Roman, or that they’ll ever pull the trigger on doing so. It’s not so much a title Roman carries now, but a weight. No wonder he only wants to do it a handful of times per year.
But hey, Cody will get those tears going again, don’t you worry.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate to see which wrestler this week is using him to forward a storyline.