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Looking at what makes a title a world title


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Във форума неведнъж е имало спорове относно това, кои титли са световни и кои не, а тази статия разглежда подробно въпроса. Авторът не стига до някакво конкретно решение относно това, кои титли трябва да бъдат световни, но все пак статията е интересно четиво :)


By Stuart Carapola on 2010-06-10 12:00:00

A lot of companies call their top title a World Title, and while some of those claims have merit, other times you see small, insignificant companies claiming to have a World Title and you just wonder, "are they kidding me?" It may just be force of habit to refer to your top title as a World Title, but I feel like there ought to be some kind of criteria to determine what exactly makes a World Title. So what would those criteria be? The problem with this being a worked business is that there are no criteria set in stone to determine whether a particular title should have World Title status, so there's no clear cut answer to questions such as, "How many times has Ric Flair been World Champion?"

While that's another debate for another time (and one I plan to get to eventually), I came up with some ideas as to what kinds of criteria would constitute a reasonable qualification to refer to a title as a World Title...at least if wrestling were real.

To start off with, to take the literal meaning of World Title, the first thing that jumps out is whether the title is defended all over the world or not. The original NWA World Title, pre-WCW, would seem to fit that bill because it was literally designed to be defended all over the world in several different companies who all recognized that one man as all of their champion. The title went everywhere, and on a fairly regular basis. It has also changed hands several times in Japan, the Pacific, Canada, and even several unrecognized title swaps in the Carribean. If you're talking about the most literal meaning of a World Title, that would be a good starting point.

But the story obviously doesn't end there, so let's look at the other major companies. The AWA World Title has changed hands in Japan, but for the most part was only defended in the Midwest and Central Canada, and spent most of its existence around the waist of the promoter. It was the first major territory to break from the NWA and recognize its own World Title, but it didn't have the geographic scope. The WWF/WWE and WCW both toured overseas and their titles were defended there as often as they ran overseas tours, but you could be pretty well assured that there was almost no chance of a title change happening overseas.

If you look at ECW and ROH, the respective #3 US promotions of the 90s and 2000s, they both had limited scope as well. ECW ran shows around the country, but usually stuck to the Northeast, and Philadelphia and New York in particular. Both huge markets, but still only two major markets. ROH has expanded south and run (very infrequently) out west and overseas, so the title HAS been defended internationally, but ROH still mainly sticks to the Northeast and upper Midwest as well.

Another thing to consider when looking at ECW and ROH when compared to the WWF, WCW, and AWA, is that they also don't have the same kind of television exposure, and in today's day and age, that TV exposure can mean as much as where the title's being defended. A title can be defended every night of the week in a different state or country, but if nobody knows it exists, it's a definite hit to its value and credibility. If TV exposure is what's most important, then that would make the two WWE Titles and the TNA Title the only real World Titles today. ECW and ROH had TV, but in both cases the distribution just wasn't there to have the same kind of positive effect that a weekly show on USA, SpikeTV, ESPN, TBS, or TNT would have, and in ECW's case more of a buzz was made just on word of mouth than people catching their TV show.

Those two companies may both be a step behind in terms of TV exposure and where their titles are/were defended, but what about when you take the champion himself into consideration? Who was holding the title? How long was he champion? Who was he defending the title against? For example, Samoa Joe was the ROH Champion for nearly two years and was the first to carry it overseas, and later would go on to win the TNA World Title as well, which can be seen as retroactively legitimizing the ROH Title. In fact, several other former ROH Champions would go on to hold major gold elsewhere, including CM Punk becoming a multiple-time World Champion in WWE. Conversely, some big names have tried and failed to become the ROH World Champion. AJ Styles, a multi-time former NWA/TNA World Champion, has had three shots at the ROH Title and lost them all. Bryan Danielson in particular made defeating challengers from outside ROH his trademark, as throughout the course of his reign he went over Steve Corino (a former ECW & NWA World Champion), Chris Sabin (TNA), Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH), Chris Hero (CZW), AJ Styles (TNA), Lance Storm (a champion in ECW, WCW, and WWE), Sonjay Dutt (CZW/TNA), KENTA (NOAH) and Samoa Joe (ROH/TNA) before finally dropping the belt. Compare that diverse lineup to the array of challengers John Cena would face in a year and it just doesn't measure up.

You could also make a case for the old USWA Title. 99.999999% of the time it was defended in Memphis and they didn't have any national TV, so that exposure thing comes into play again, but it also spent most of that 99.999999% of the time around the waist of former AWA World Champion Jerry Lawler, and was originally created when Lawler unified the AWA and WCCW Titles. It has also been held by national names like Randy Savage, Owen Hart, Sid Vicious and Jeff Jarrett, and a lot of other major stars tried and failed to win it. But because of the Memphis thing, it's usually viewed as a regional title. World Class also rarely left Texas, but they did have a national TV deal and had a lot of well known stars on their roster at one time or another. However, they only lasted a few years after splintering away from the NWA.

So with that in mind, the next question becomes one of what factor longevity plays in a promotion's claim to World Title status. The UWF and ECW were both considered quality products in terms of great wrestling, solid storylines, and memorable moments, but neither were around anywhere near long enough to measure up to the history of WWE, WCW or the AWA.

Another thing to consider is how often the title is defended. One of the issues that detractors of Hulk Hogan pointed to was that Hogan often went months without defending the WCW World Title, and at times would not only not defend the title on PPVs, but wouldn't even appear on them, and this was a blow to the value and credibility of the title. This is true, but the argument you can make to the contrary is that when Hogan did defend the title, it was against some of the biggest stars in the world: Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Diamond Dallas Page, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, The Giant, and Kevin Nash all put Hogan over.

Then of course you can make the argument that with one world, there can only be one World Champion, but who would it be? There would be constant comparisons between the WWF and WCW Champions in the 90s, and whether the ECW Champion should even be in the same conversation. But taking that idea one step further, what if one promotion has two World Titles? WWE has one on Raw and one on Smackdown now, so is John Cena or Jack Swagger the "real" champion? Similarly, what about when the NWA Title was being defended in WCW in the early 90s? When Ric Flair was NWA Champion in 1993, was he really a World Champion, or was Vader the "real" champion? Or since WCW was technically the member promotion of the NWA, would that have made Vader the "regional" champion and Flair the "real" World Champion?

As you can see, there are a lot of criteria that you can take into consideration, and it's almost impossible to get everyone to agree on a common set of requirements since wrestling isn't even a real sport. Usually people will just say that whichever company is their favorite has the most valuable title and find reasons to justify it after the fact. But I guess at the end of the day, those in the wrestling business prefer the ambiguity since it gives them more creative freedom to shape history retroactively as they see fit.

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