WWE needs to ignore the negative fan reaction to the Universal Title and leave it unchanged.
Has anybody stopped to think the WWE fans simply don’t like the color red? The introduction of Raw’s WWE Universal Title went over about as well as Kane in the main event. The fans seemed to enjoy it about as much as they like Ms. “All Red Everything” Eva Marie in a singles match. But despite the fans booing the crimson title into oblivion, WWE needs to hold their ground and keep things exactly as they are.
There has been no shortage of critics of the new Raw title, including some from my esteemed colleagues here, and hopefully, WWE will continue to do what they always do. Namely, ignoring what we say and doing their own thing. The reason why boils down to Seth Rollins’ comments to those Brooklyn haters the night the title was revealed.
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More important than a title's appearance is what it represents for the men fighting over it. You really let me down tonight, Brooklyn.
Seth is right. Period, point blank, full stop. Championships have never been about their appearance. They are as valuable as the prestige placed upon them by WWE, its superstars, and ultimately by the fans themselves. There have been titles that look like belt straps you’d buy from the Gap, and others as gaudy as something you might find in Donald Trump’s closet. Their worth isn’t predicated on how they look. Is there anyone out there who would say Bruno Sammartino’s legendary WWWF championship run is less meaningful because his belt isn’t that impressive visually? That would be absurd.
Let’s look at a more recent example. Remember those awful, hideous spinner belts John Cena used to love so much? He had a downright ugly silver one for the U.S. Title, and then another as WWE Champion. He couldn’t get enough. Fans hated them. They’re still terrible to look at. Fans were just as vocal and just as much a part of the WWE action then as they are now, but they came to respect those championships for what they represent because Cena and others battled for them as if they were the only things that mattered. That is the point of EVERY title, and it’s up to the WWE to give those titles relevance.
Imagine what would happen if WWE backtracked now. The reaction would be ten times worse because the audience isn’t stupid. They know a cowardly backpedal when they see it. Even if some elaborate storyline was created to explain the title’s redesign it would be met with louder boos and complaints that WWE didn’t have faith in their own product. That’s no way to launch any championship meant to represent the entire company.
That Rollins and others have voiced their displeasure at the fan reaction to the Universal Title is perfectly fine. WWE has cultivated this kind of instant fan interaction and sometimes things don’t go as planned. Contrary to some belief, it’s not the superstars’ job to sit back and accept it when the fans go a little crazy. Considering all the “CM Punk” chants that still echo throughout arenas it’s clear the fans have long memories.
So it’s up to WWE to shift the conversation. A good first step was putting the title on Owens, who is someone audiences either love or love to hate. A not-so-good step was aligning him with Triple H, but that’s a complaint for another day. Now it has to be followed by giving Owens tough, hard fought matches against credible opponents. If they do that, then nobody will care that the Universal Title looks like it was made out of a package of Twizzlers. But if they hot-shot a redesign any chance for the flagship show’s title to have credibility will vanish.