It’s been a bad week for champions in WWE, which doesn’t bode well for the whole company moving forward.
In WWE, their champions are their faces in the public eye. That’s why it’s been so strange to watch them use their champions as pin cushions for the past week.
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Starting with the WWE Royal Rumble Kickoff Show and running through Tuesday night’s SmackDown Live, WWE champions were pinned in four non-title matches. SmackDown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss suffered two of the losses, both clean. Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose took a pin from AJ Styles, although there was some interference involved. Even WWE World Champion John Cena wasn’t immune, falling clean in the middle of the ring after an RKO.
The big question is: why would WWE do this?
There isn’t a very good reason. They could give weak excuses like Styles and Randy Orton both needing wins on Tuesday night, but they didn’t need to get them over Ambrose and Cena. There were easy ways around both of SmackDown’s top champions falling on the same night.
Ambrose needed a win just as bad as Styles. After retaining his title over The Miz on the previous edition of SmackDown, Ambrose wasn’t given much time to shine in the Royal Rumble match, and wasn’t given the opportunity to defend his belt at all. His belt lost value that night and he needed to build it back up, not lay on his back for three seconds and contribute more to tearing it down.
Cena took the pin from Orton to ignite a small flame in their rivalry, as the current state of things would put champion Cena and Rumble winner Orton on a collision course for WrestleMania. Most fans expect the title to change hands before then and for them to not lock up at The Show of Shows, so it’s done in vein.
There is no excuse for what happened with Bliss. Bliss’ small build already puts her at a disadvantage. When she slings her belt over her shoulder, it looks massive on her, and makes her lose a little legitimacy. She completely makes up for this with her strong personality, but she needs to be protected in matches. She took two pins from Naomi in three nights. It makes it look like WWE values other talents over their champion. We know that they do, but when they prove it on screen it hurts the champion, the championship, and the entire division.
This doesn’t even bring WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens into the conversation. Twice this week, Owens and his title were used as a pawn to help build a feud between Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. Reigns had Owens beat at the Royal Rumble, but Strowman came down to the ring and used the No DQ stipulation to help Owens retain. Strowman then had Owens beat the next night on Raw, but Reigns got his revenge on the big man. The title is secondary in a story that WWE views as more important.
These practices are a detriment to the company, and they aren’t new. Champions constantly lose non-title matches in WWE. Sometimes it’s the only setup WWE has for a title match.
All this hurts the way that the talent are viewed, and it stops talent from getting over. When talent don’t get over, it stops people from feeling like they need to view the product, going to see it in person, or buying merchandise. When that happens, WWE loses money.