The IC title is in a crisis and has been in one for quite some time. Formerly, a glory belt in the WWE reserved for future stars and main eventers, the IC title has largely become a gross afterthought to anything happening in the midcard. Despite its history, its lore, its tradition, and the great matches that were contested for it, the IC title has little value anymore.
The main culprit behind the depreciation of the Intercontinental Title has been the total disregard for the belt when scripting shows. Neither the champion nor the title are allowed to shine on WWE TV. For example, let’s take the Beat the Clock challenge on Raw that preceded Hell in the Cell 2013 by a few weeks. On this episode of Raw, CM Punk defeated Curtis Axel in less than 5 minutes. Less than 5 minutes. No champion should lose to anyone in less than 5 minutes. None. Here’s something that the soap opera writers who are in charge of scripting raw may not understand: in the pro wrestling world titles are supposed to mean something. The champions are supposed to be strong characters, who the audience can see being at the top of a division, and thus they should be written that way.
Champions should not lose with alarming regularity. It devalues the title and the division because if the uncrowned king(s)/champion of the division are fairly flimsy and weak, what does that say about everyone else? Champions should not be handily defeated at every turn, the way that Axel has been in the past few months. Sure, he’s beaten some people on the lower level shows and on PPVs but he hasn’t been booked as a credible midcard champion. If you wonder what a credible midcard champ would resemble, look at Dean Ambrose. While this treatment of Axel may be a ploy to highlight Heyman’s importance as a manager–excuse me “advocate”– (he swoops in and resurrects a declining wrestler) that would be fine with someone who doesn’t hold the IC title. I’m not wishing that we could go back to the days of Macho Man and UW where the IC title was almost on par with the WWF/WWE title because that’s impossible, but can we go back to the days when the Rock and Triple H held the title with pride and the title was a legitimate feeder belt to the main event scene?
Their current treatment of the IC title and its champion mimics the years-long behavior that prompted the WWE to admit on screen that the title had lost much of its luster before Cody Rhodes’ long IC title reign and his accompanying switch to white leather for the belt. And to be honest, this is not just something that has been endemic to Axel. Earlier in the year, the belt was swapped between holders like somewhat of a trading card, with Wade Barrett (won’t get started on his misuse, but after his impending warm reception in England, you can expect to hear something about it) and the Miz exchanging title runs, with one of those title reigns lasting only a day. After all that Cody did to bring some prestige and respectability to the belt, the WWE subverts it with that and now this. Cody held the title for almost 8 months, making it desirable and a true commodity. Now, the IC champion has become largely a glorified Main Event jobber, (again) not necessarily a rising star. Sure, Axel’s had the title for over 5 months, hinting that maybe they’re trying to strengthen the belt again, but it’s hard to strengthen a belt when weakening the person wearing it.
Does the WWE even consider the IC title to be a real championship anymore? Do they value it or see it as an ornament? I know that they think that belts are largely vehicles to get people over, but their treatment of the IC title and its holder betrays that thinking. The WWE seems to care very little about the IC title, (regardless of who wears it) and that’s a shame. This is yet another instance where the WWE has tried to build the credibility of the belt only to switch directions midstream; let’s remember they had Rey Mysterio, JBL, and Jericho all drop back down to the midcard to wear the belt, long after those men had solid reigns with a World title. Its history should dictate much better treatment for the champion that spawned a generation of greats.
Making the belt valuable again isn’t too hard. Have someone chase the title for a few months, attach it to a wrestler who has momentum, allow the champion to gain hard-fought wins on weekly shows, make the champion credible, just do something other than making him lose frequently or making him swap it often with competitors. (Miz and Barrett) Maybe having writers who understand the history of the belt would bring about the change needed to re-legitimize the belt. Or better yet, once the belt’s legitimized, don’t undercut it. Honor the history of the belt with good writing for it and better treatment for its champions.