One of The Greek God of Wrestling’s major complaints with WWE is how it has devalued the Intercontinental and United States championships. Maybe I’m foolish to get my hopes up, but I have a feeling WWE may finally be restoring prestige to these titles.
The Intercontinental and U.S. championships have rich legacies. They were always secondary to the world titles, but these titles were treated with dignity and respect. In recent years, however, these championships have been relegated to second- or third-class status, with the men holding these championships often reduced to fodder for the WWE and World champions and those challenging for the more prestigious belts.
The promotion for WrestleMania 31 gives me hope that the Intercontinental and U.S. titles may once again be elevated to elite status. These championships are once again being treated as if they’re important.
The fact that John Cena is challenging for the U.S. title elevates that belt. If Cena, a perennial main event wrestler, wants to take the U.S. title from Rusev, then it must be important.
The Intercontinental Championship will be defended by Wade Barrett in a seven-man ladder match. The presence of Daniel Bryan, a huge fan favorite who won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX, indicates the Intercontinental Championship is worth pursuing.
Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler, two extremely popular wrestlers, are also in the ladder match for the Intercontinental title. Their presence also enhances the Intercontinental Championship.
If Bryan wins the ladder match, which fills the void created when the annual Money in the Bank multi-wrestler ladder match was moved from WrestleMania to its own pay-per-view, the Intercontinental Championship immediately garner greater respect. If one of the other participants wins, the fact that they bested Bryan in this match raises their profile.
The Intercontinental and U.S. Championships were once important titles. The men who held these titles, such as Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Tito Santana, Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Rick Rude, Barry Windham, Curt Hennig and Edge – just to name more than a few – were revered and respected.
The championships meant something. Winning the championships meant something.
Achilles Heel is hopeful the treatment of these titles leading up to WrestleMania is a sign that WWE is going to return to treating these titles as valued championships. In fact, as always, the Greek God of Wrestling has a helpful suggestion.
WWE should make the Intercontinental Championship the top title on RAW and the U.S. Championship the top title on Smackdown (or vice versa), in much the same way that each state had its champion during the old NWA territory days. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship, still the ultimate prize, wouldn’t be defended regularly on television, making the Intercontinental and U.S. title matches seem like major events.
LESNAR RE-SIGNS: If you’re reading this Tuesday evening, shortly after I wrote it, the Greek God of Wrestling is bringing you some breaking news: Brock Lesnar told Michelle Beadle on SportsCenter that he has re-signed with WWE.
Lesnar was contemplating (considering, for those of you with a substandard education) a return to UFC. His decision to return to WWE adds additional intrigue to WrestleMania’s main event, which most had assumed would be won by Roman Reigns because of Lesnar’s assumed departure.
TRAGEDY IN MEXICO: In a horrific incident, Perro Aguayo Jr. died Friday from injuries suffered during a tag team match in Tijuana, Mexico. Aguayo, 35, was one of the biggest stars in Mexican wrestling.
Aguayo Jr. was teaming with Manik against Rey Mysterio Jr. and Extreme Tiger. It’s unclear if he was injured falling onto the ropes in a setup for Mysterio’s 619 maneuver, from the ropes snapping back into his neck when Manik fell into position for the 619, or if he was injured prior to this sequence. What’s clear from the video is that Aguayo was unconscious on the ropes. As Mysterio went for the 619, he clearly realized Aguayo wasn’t OK and steered clear of his head as he swung his legs through the ropes.
The official cause of death was determined to be cervical spinal trauma. Regardless of the cause, the loss of a talented and charismatic performer such as Aguayo Jr. is a tragic loss. Achilles Heel sends out condolences to his family and friends.
MAJOR ANGLE: Congratulations to Kurt Angle, who won TNA’s World Heavyweight Championship from Bobby Lashley in a match televised on Impact Wrestling last Friday. Injuries have slowed Angle in recent years, but he’s still an amazing performer.
INTEREST BUILDING: The match Achilles Heel is most looking forward to at WrestleMania 31 is Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins. By the way, it seems as if Jon Stewart’s involvement in this angle has ended – at least for now.
Don’t forget to look for my complete WrestleMania 31 preview later this week on PhillyPhanatics.com.
SAMOA JOE CHASES TITLE: WrestleMania has become a week-long extravaganza for the host city. In addition to the main event on Sunday and all the WrestleMania-related events, many independent organizations present shows for the congregation of wrestling fans.
At Ring of Honor’s Friday show in Redwood City, Calif., Samoa Joe, the longest-reigning Ring of Honor champion, challenge Jay Briscoe for the Ring of Honor World Championship. Jay Lethal, the longest-reigning World Television champion in Ring of Honor history defends his title against legendary Japanese wrestler Jushin “Thunder” Liger.
Other matches include reDRagon (Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly) defending the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship against The Kingdom (Mike Bennett, former Ring of Honor world champion Adam Cole), Michael Elgin squaring off with Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels battling Roderick Strong, and Jimmy Jacobs facing B.J. Whitmer.
EVOLVING: EVOLVE is holding a three-day event at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds in the days preceding WrestleMania 31. In Thursday’s main event, Drew Galloway defends the EVOLVE Championship against P.J. Black (Justin Gabriel in WWE). In the co-main event, Johnny Gargano defends the Dragon Gate USA title against A.R. Fox. In other matches, Drew Gulak battles Timothy Thatcher, Chris Hero takes on Ethan Page and there is a six-man tag team match pitting Ricochet, Rich Swann and Uhaa Nation against Caleb Konley, T.J. Perkins and Brian Cage.
On Friday afternoon, Galloway faces Uhaa Nation in a non-title match, Ricochet battles Black and Hero squares off the Biff Busick.
If both Galloway and Gargano keep their titles, they will face each other in Saturday’s main event. Austin Aries teams up with Roderick Strong to take on Ricochet and Uhaa Nation, Black faces Fox and there will be a four-way bout featuring Gulak, Busick, Perkins and Tommy End.
KING OF INDIES: The Santa Clara Fairgrounds will also host the King of Indies tournament, a 16-wrestler tournament, on Friday and Saturday.
AGAINST THE GRAIN: While multiple organizations try to ride the coattails of WrestleMania 31, CHIKARA is taking the opposite approach. CHIKARA is headed to the United Kingdom for four shows from April 3-6. On the final show of the tour, Icarus defends the Grand Championship against Hallowicked.
NXT TOURNAMENT: NXT will hold a tournament on Thursday at the San Jose Convention Center as part of WrestleMania Axxess. The winner of the tournament, which includes Adrian Neville, Finn Balor, Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami, will receive a spot in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania. It will be very interesting to see which wrestler WWE chooses to participate in its showcase event.
HALL OF FAME: What would WrestleMania week be without the Hall of Fame ceremony? The Hall of Fame ceremony takes place in San Jose, and it will be televised live (8 p.m.) on WWE Network, with a condensed version to air on USA Network after RAW the night after WrestleMania.
The class of 2015 is headlined by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, an incredible performer who died of a heart attack several years ago. Savage will be inducted by former rival Hulk Hogan.
Other inductees include Kevin Nash, the Bushwackers, Rikishi, Larry Zbyszko (to be inducted by Bruno Sammartino), Japanese legend Tatsumi Fujinami, former women’s champion Alundra Blayze (Madusa Maceli) and Arnold Schwarzeneger (celebrity category).
COMING TO PHILLY: WWE stars Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, Paige and Sting – yes, Sting! – are scheduled to appear at the Wizard World Comic Con in Philadelphia. Reigns and Paige will be there on May 7, Ziggler and Orton will appear on May 8 and Sting will appear on May 9.