Champions are not always the stars of their own shows, at least in the WWE.
There are so-called transitional champs whose main purpose is not to shine their own light but to boost the next guy’s stock. Usually, the next guy is the guy, a higher-billed superstar the company has put its money on. No wonder most transitional champs are heels.
You see, it’s not exactly the best idea to have two well-loved babyfaces beat each other up – that will just confuse the fans and raze both superstars’ momentum. It’s worked on some occasions, sure, but nothing beats a classic babyface-versus-heel feud. That’s why transitional champions are often a necessary evil. There’s got to be someone to warm the belt before the “real deal” comes along, don’t you think?
Well, at least the WWE thinks so. The only problem is that transitional champs risk being forgotten. They’re not the focal point of their own storyline to begin with, so what’s the point of committing their title reigns to memory? I don’t know about you, but I say there is a point to it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about shortly after this walk down memory lane:
The Iron Sheik
Casual wrestling fans may pull a blank face when they hear his name, but the Iron Sheik was a controversial character back in the day. Many saw his gimmick as preposterous while others appreciated him for his rawness.
What’s especially notable about the Iron Sheik is how he made possible not only the transition of the belt between two babyfaces but also the transition of the WWE from a territorial company to a global brand. It’s fair to say that, without his contribution as a 28-day transitional champ, the Hulkamania wouldn’t have been as big as it was. He provided an effective foil for the Hulkster, too. His feud with Hulk Hogan, the new American hero, was in a sense the embodiment of the political turmoil between the U.S. and Iran during that time.
Yokozuna held the belt for two minutes and six seconds in one of the shortest title reigns in WWE history, third only to Seth Rollins’ and Andre the Giant’s even shorter time in the limelight. The 589-pound giant won the belt over Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX, only to lose it a few blinks later to Hulk Hogan, who was challenged by Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna’s manager, shortly after his client’s victory.
The entire storyline was pointless since Yokozuna ended up reclaiming the belt after Hogan’s failed comeback run as champion. Yokozuna was to hold the belt for almost 10 months before surrendering it to – surprise, surprise – Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X. In a sense, Yokozuna was a transitional champion twice for the same two babyfaces. Still, his solid work as a heel champion is one worth remembering, as he helped put over the likes of Lex Luger, The Undertaker, and Bret Hart without hurting his own character.
Some transitional reigns are planned weeks ahead while others are just tossed in as a quick fix to an unforeseen event. The latter was the case with Christian, who became champion only because his buddy Edge, the Rated-R Superstar and World Heavyweight Champion, dropped the title to retire prematurely.
Christian’s reign – if we can call it that – lasted only five days. His victory over Alberto Del Rio proved to be a practical choice for Creative since Del Rio was drafted to RAW before their championship match. With the World Heavyweight Title still under the Blue Brand, Randy Orton, fresh from the flagship show, could swoop in to steal the belt from Christian. And swoop in he did. Rumor has it all this fuss was only to humor the Apex Predator, who was relegated to the B-show against his will.
Remember when the charismatic Bray Wyatt was champion? Me neither. That reality seems nothing now but a wisp of a dream. It might as well not have happened, for all the good it had done to Wyatt’s career – which is tantamount to saying it did nothing. Nada. Nil. Wyatt is back to being the underrated supernatural villain who always ends up being fed to top babyfaces and heels.
It’s a shame, really. I remember watching the 2017 Elimination Chamber and feeling elated after Wyatt emerged victorious over AJ Styles, John Cena, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, and Baron Corbin. I thought that, finally, Wyatt was getting what he deserved. Little did I know that he was just a temporary guy scouted to bring the title back to Randy Orton. His 49-day reign was surreal, for sure, but looking back now, it’s apparent that it was Orton’s story as much as his.
It’s always exciting to see the smaller, more adept guys at the top of the muscle-packed empire that the WWE is. So when Rey Mysterio won an eight-man tournament on RAW to become the new champion, the audience roared their approval. But the celebration was short-lived. Mere hours later on that same episode, the Ultimate Underdog defended his newly won title against John Cena, who abruptly took the wind beneath Mysterio’s wings with an Attitude Adjustment.
What’s even more disappointing is the fact that Rey Mysterio’s win and loss were all for nothing. He only became champion because CM Punk left for what would turn out to be a mere one-week hiatus. He returned the night of Mysterio’s win to reclaim his place as champion. Rey Mysterio never got close to winning a belt again until he eventually left the company in 2015.
Photo Credit: WWE.com
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