The Royal Rumble is over, the dust has settled and whether you like it or not, The Rock is the new WWE Champion. The hot debate of whether or not the title should be around the waist of a part-timer has been greatly discussed and will no doubt be exhausted between now and April 7th.
A continuing concern for the WWE audience’s majority is that of the current WWE Championship belt. Many have argued for a new design over it’s eight year existence but at no other point has the moment been more appropriate to replace that design than now.
When the current WWE Championship belt was introduced in 2005, I was indifferent to it’s design. I’ve never had an issue with gimmick title belts and initially, this is what I expected it to be. I didn’t expect that the design would maintain any kind of longevity; I assumed it would be replaced with its predecessor or a new design once Cena dropped the title.
Of course, that was not the case. The current design adorned the likes of Edge, Rob Van Dam and Randy Orton in years to come. The belt suited Cena; it was in line with his character and I appreciated that. Just like Steve Austin before him and Edge later on, their gimmick belts not only identified them as WWE Champion, they were also an extension of their character, designed as representations of their respective personalities.
The idea of Cena’s title being held by other established Superstars didn’t sit well with me. Throughout the title’s earlier years, I knew that the belt would have its day and at some point be replaced. I never envisaged that title belt around the waist of a traditional wrestler or a veteran; someone like Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker or Triple H. However in 2008, Triple H won the championship and to my surprise, he held that belt for over half a year. It was at this point that I realised that this championship belt was probably here to stay.
Some would argue that the appearance of the championship belt is irrelevant and I understand where they’re coming from to a certain degree; the championship identifies the champion, rather than the title. It isn’t what it looks like, it’s what it represents. The same group of people aren’t too concerned with the current design either, and haven’t been since its inception almost a decade ago. My primary issue with the belt is that it’s synonymous with John Cena, yet held by many others.
It’s always bothered me that the belt identifies its owner as the ‘Champ,’ not the ‘Champion.’ Its embellished design is ostentatious and flamboyant. I reiterate that the bling-bling design suited Cena but it is dated and has no place in WWE anymore.
Very recently, members of the pro-wrestling community have called for a new championship to be introduced. CM Punk himself has claimed he constantly campaigned for a new design and in the last month Paul Heyman has stated that “the belt itself leaves a lot to be desired”. Even Hall of Famer and 6-time champion Steve Austin chipped in to concur.
Our current champion is not of WWE’s modern era and the current design just isn’t appropriate for The Rock. The Rock is a legend; his family is one of the major traditional wrestling families. It’s worth mentioning that April 25th marks 50 years since the Championship’s launch. Who better to establish a new design ahead of it’s 50th birthday than an inevitable Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest WWE Superstar of the last 15 years?
WWE have a great opportunity to do so during The Rock’s reign. We can however assume that Cena will challenge for the championship at WrestleMania and with The Rock no doubt returning to Hollywood, it’s probably safe to suppose that Cena will win and once again hold his title belt. Does the fact that Cena is likely to regain the belt in April mean that it will once again be relevant though?
The proposed end of this title belt’s reign has little to do with The Rock or John Cena. Sunday night witnessed the end of CM Punk’s 434-day reign as Champion; a feat not surpassed since Hulk Hogan’s run from 1984 to 1988. During Punk’s great sovereignty over WWE, a lot was said about the Chicagoan attempting to bring credibility back to WWE and to the championship which had previously been on a merry-go-round between John Cena, Randy Orton and others for seven years.
I’m a fan of long championship reigns; it doesn’t just increase the reputation of the Champion but also of the championship. Without doubt, Punk brought prestige back to the WWE Championship whilst simultaneously cementing his place in WWE history among the likes of Sammartino, Backlund, Savage, Austin et al.
The proposed introduction of a new WWE Championship belt isn’t just about the title’s aesthetics. Its time is simply up. The end of Punk’s prestigious reign and the championship reaching its half-century landmark should be celebrated with a new traditional, credible and dignified championship belt to replace the existing cartoon effort.
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