The current feud pitting Punk against Curtis Axel, largely because of Punk’s Paul Heyman obsession, could be a boon for the Intercontinental Championship. What was at one point the federation’s 2nd best belt and the launching pad of many WWE title runs, has lost a significant amount of luster. I blame this in large part on two related items. First, the purchase of WCW, and as a result, the integration of the former WCW championship belts.
You used to have 3 championships-the World Tag Team belts, and the two singles belts of the Intercontinental Championship and the WWF/WWE title. In the years since the greats such as Savage, Hart, Henning, Michaels and others carried the IC strap up until present day, the WWE added the former WCW championship belt and the US title, along with now retired (or merged) titles such as the hardcore title, the cruiserweight title and the ECW championship. When there was more of a brand split between SmackDown and RAW, the separate top champions made more sense, in my opinion. Now that there’s hardly any separation, I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to a unification, though I doubt it happens. But I blame this proliferation of belts on the diminished value of the IC belt.
I’ve seen it commented on elsewhere-the IC belt used to be the number 2. It was a major title; winning it back in the day was almost as good as winning the MITB briefcase-often a successful IC championship run led to a world title shot, if not a title reign. And this is why it makes sense to put it on Punk.
First, while I understand the lineage for Henning’s son, and that he’s been around and in WWE before this current version, I’ve not been a fan of putting the belt on him so soon. Watching this week’s RAW even, I wasn’t a fan of how he as a relative greenhorn compared to Punk, was admonishing him and “teaching him a lesson”. Yes, I understand Curtis is the heel and playing the part, so I take it with a grain of salt. Just not a fan. Unless, it’s a means to an end. Which is where getting Punk into an IC title reign makes perfect sense.
Clearly, Punk and Axel are going to meet and meet some more until Punk claims the hallmark victory. If I were booking it, I would pull a match out of the history books-Punk versus Axel for the IC title, with Paul Heyman suspended above the ring (or locked up ringside). Punk wins. Gets Heyamn retribution and locks up Axel in the cage for good measure.
Getting the strap on Punk accomplishes two things. One, it does elevate Axel, or at least it should. I already think it is. Second, considering Punk is a former world champion, having him hold the IC belt for a few months or more absolutely elevates the title as well. I don’t know if it makes the belt as significant as it was when the WWE had fewer belts-that may not be possible without eliminating some titles. But I think it would be an exciting feud with a satisfying ending, building toward something even bigger.
Punk does not even necessarily need to hold the title for hundreds of days-though on one hand I would not object to it. My perfect payoff for this? Bryan as WWE champion versus Punk as IC champion at WrestleMania XXX.
Does this happen? I don’t know, as I am not in charge of booking. And seeing how the Orton/HHH “face of the WWE” angle is in full swing at the moment, it’s too soon to call. But if nothing else, consider me in favor of a CM Punk IC title reign.