Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Putting The Sport Back In Sports Entertainment

Saw something interesting at my old stomping grounds at 411 yesterday:

One of the major reasons that Vince McMahon has been supportive of CM Punk keeping the WWE Title for so long is because of The Rock. McMahon was said to be very supportive of CM Punk holding on to the title at Survivor Series because he's worried if the title gets put on someone different, The Rock might have an issue with it.

CM Punk vs. Rock at Royal Rumble has been teased since the summer and is something The Rock agreed to do. Vince reportedly doesn't want to upset The Rock by changing things last minute regarding the creative plans for 2013.

The missive, which was credited to, could very well be true. I’m not there to know. But I think there’s more to it. Something I’ve noticed for quite a few months now.

In fact, to illustrate this, I can go back to 411 (and Monday News Sheriff Stephen Randle) and bring up some data regarding the length of title reigns available there at the beginning of every week:

WWE Champion: CM Punk
- 372 day reign, defeated Alberto Del Rio on November 20th, 2011 (Survivor Series PPV)

World Heavyweight Champion: The Big Show
- 29 day reign, defeated Sheamus on October 28th (Hell in a Cell PPV)

WWE Intercontinental Champion: Kofi Kingston
- 40 day reign, defeated The Miz on October 17th (WWE Main Event)

WWE United States Champion: Antonio Cesaro
- 99 day reign, defeated Santino Marella on August 19th (SummerSlam PPV)

WWE Tag Team Champions: Kane and Daniel Bryan
- 71 day reign, defeated Kofi Kingston and R-Truth on September 16th (Night of Champions PPV)

WWE Divas' Champion: Eve Torres
- 71 day reign, defeated Layla on September 16th (Night of Champions PPV)

WWE NXT Champion: Seth Rollins
- 89 day reign, defeated Jinder Mahal to become the inaugural Champion

Whils most people (including WWE themselves) are focusing on the length of CM Punk's reign, those are some pretty impressive numbers across the board, especially compared to what they used to be. The shortest reign there (at that time, Monday, November 26) was that of World Heavyweight Champion Big Show. Before that? Sheamus held that title for 210 days (04/01/12 - 10/28/12)

What this points out is that WWE, under the direction of Triple-H (I believe), is subtly putting more focus back on the sporting aspect of “sports entertainment.”

Many, if not all, of the titles listed above, used to change hands like Taylor Swift at a Hollywood premiere party. There was no real focus put on having a title and, as a result, no real meaning to having a belt. Now? That’s slowly and sneakily changing by having those titles - and those holding them - being treated with some import. Hell, even the Tag Titles mean something now!

And it’s not just the titles this is happening in. WWE’s newest show, “Main Event,” has one of the coolest formats on television. (It’s easily my favorite wrestling show on right now with the exception of NXT, which I’m not sure I can count since some bonehead made sure we can’t watch it in the States.) Two dudes are set for a feature match. They show videos on both guys beforehand. They interview both guys beforehand. They have the match. Cole and Miz/JBL focus on the match with play-by-play and color commentary about what the match means. Somebody wins, somebody loses - and we get comments from both guys afterward. Just like a regular sporting contest. Imagine that.

Even on Raw, the show where a lot of ridiculousness happens (no, I’m not discussing the AJ/John Cena/Vickie Guerrero/Dolph Ziggler storyline here...or at all, really), there are more matches! What a concept! Granted, the show is now 3 hours long (?!), but the thing about those matches? They’re actually good! And when they happen, there’s some semblance of urgency placed on who won, who lost, and why!

In my mind, I think we’re seeing Triple-H’s handiwork. For all his time in DX, Triple-H has always come across as a wrestling fan. He’s always had a passion for this business, maybe because he loves what it was, is, and - more to the point - could be again. I think that, as time goes on, we’ll be seeing more of this shift back to a product that can be taken more seriously. If that’s what’s going on here, I’m all for it.