‘A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
There was a lot to complain about when it came to the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s, but one thing Vince McMahon’s promotion always got right was the title situation. No matter how deep the roster was, the WWF kept the title picture limited to the Tag Team Titles, the Intercontinental, and the WWF Championship. Every title change was memorable and each reign meant something. There were upsets like Honky Tonk Man’s 1987 Intercontinental Title victory, but championships were never devalued and no title run seem undeserved. This would eventually change in WWE, but the problem existed long before in other promotions.
Possibly the most glaring example was in World Class Championship Wrestling in 1988. WCCW had the World Class and Texas Tag Titles and were co-promoting with Wild West Wrestling, who had their own Tag Champions. This effectively left three sets of belts for teams to fight over. Unfortunately, there were only four teams. The Samoan Swat Team were a fine team that went on to make names for themselves, and John Tatum and Jack Victory were decent enough. The other teams? One included the man with the worst nickname in pro wrestling history, Steve “Do It To It” Cox (his partner was Michael Hayes) while the other was a pair of Jon Bon Jovi lookalikes (the long forgotten Simpson Brothers). It was impossible to take seriously.
The NWA was not immune to this silliness, either, partly due to the territorial structure of the organization. Still, not even counting regional titles on any given Saturday, on WTBS a fan could see the NWA World Champion, the World Tag Team Champs, the U.S Champion, the National Champion (not sure what the difference was), the World Six Man, the U.S Tag, the National Tag (thankfully, not at the same time), and the Television Champion. It was a little difficult to keep track.
Some titles didn’t even make sense. When Dusty Rhodes was the TV Champion, he started calling it the World Television Title since he was the best wrestler on television. This raises some immediate questions. How could he be the best wrestler on TV when he never wrestled on any of the shows? And what about World Champion Ric Flair?
Not to be outdone, the AWA created the International Television Title. In the history of pro wrestling, there has never been a title more obviously made for someone not worthy of being given an actual belt. But in 1987, Verne Gagne showed HHH how to do nepotism right and gave his undeserving son Greg the title. The sorry history of the championship will tell any fan all they need to know.
The title I hated the most was the Brass Knuckles Championship. Along with being a title in many smaller territories, it was also in World Class and even in the NWA. Here was a title I understood even less than the World Television title. First of all, there did not even seem to be a belt for it. The champion would just show up and the announcers would refer to him as the Brass Knuckles Champion. The fact it was usually some lower midcarder made it seem even less important.
The matches were usually just normal matches. They would sometimes be bloody brawls that would be contested with taped fists. Even more confusing was when the bouts would be contested under a rounds format, similar to boxing. It was a crappy precursor to the much more exciting WWF Hardcore Championship.
A long time ago, the WWF proved the best way to make titles mean something was to have fewer of them. Two main titles and a bevy of midcard belts only serves to devalue the worth of all championships in the promotion. Titles are supposed to be a way to determine who are the best wrestlers in the promotion. Giving a belt to everyone defeats the purpose.
Next week: What you see is what you get.