After watching Alexa Bliss capture her fourth WWE Women’s Title inside a year, Screen Critics Shaun feels the company has a major problem on its hands.
Last night audiences saw Alexa Bliss capture her fourth Women’s Championship (Including Smackdown Live’s belt). It should be a huge moment for the WWE Superstar, except it’s more awkward. Alexa Bliss only joined the main roster last July, capturing her first title only last October. That means in less than a year, Bliss has held (and lost) the belt more than most manage in careers. Her opponent, Sasha Banks, was also a four time Women’s Champion (Since joining the main roster). For a belt that’s only 17 months old, it’s a horrifying state of affairs.
I’m not adverse to frequent title changes when done right, but since introducing the WWE Raw Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 33, WWE seems to be on a mission to let everyone hold the belt at one point or another. Since April 2016, when the belt was introduced, the title has changed hands 10 times, between four different women. That’s a title change almost every seven weeks – which is terrible.
If WWE wants people to pay attention to the Women’s belt then the worst thing to do is reduce it to an accessory. One of the reasons the Divas Championship was so vilified by the end of its existence was that it came to mean nothing. Women won it and would carry it around like it was an accessory – but fans didn’t care. When you treat your Championships like they’re just toys being handed round, it decreases the amount that audiences care. Why should fans get excited for Sasha Banks winning at SummerSlam if they know she’s probably losing it in her first defense?
The biggest loser in all this is Sasha Banks, arguably the Superstar who’s reputation has taken the biggest battering. Having held the Championship an astonishing four times since July 2016, the popular WWE Superstar has failed miserably to defend the belt on television. Worse still, some of her biggest detractors now view her as a joke Champion – someone WWE only gives the Championship to for an audience bump. It’s a shocking state of affairs for one of the company’s more over Superstars
To put that in context. Trish Status won her seven WWE Women’s Championships between 2001 and 2007. Lita won her four Women’s Titles during the same period. Sasha Banks has just as many titles as Lita did in an almost decade long run with WWE – and yet she isn’t even close to matching any of those reigns for prestige. It’s laughable in an age where WWE has insisted on the women being treated as equals to the men — only to reduce their Championship to a hot potato.
And it’s not just Sasha that’s suffering because of this. Bayley’s run with the belt lacked any of the excitement fans expected – bizarrely WWE chose to paint her as someone not worthy of the position. Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss is now a four time Champion (including her Smackdown Live title runs) meaning that since October 2016 – she’s held and lost the belt with alarming frequency. None of these women are being elevated with these title runs because it ultimately means nothing in the grander scheme.
It’s all the more disappointing when you glance over at the NXT Women’s Championship. Asuka won her Championship in early 2016 – and held it for over 500 days. Fighting her for the Championship became a huge deal, as fans tuned in to see if this would be the moment Asuka would be dethroned. It made the belt mean something and it elevated those who came close but didn’t conquer the Champion. A revered Champion can make even losing challengers seem that much better. That’s not happening on the main roster.
The closest we’ve had to this on Raw was Charlotte, who arguably had the best run with the Championship in 2016. She felt like an important Champion and it made Sasha Banks victory in the summer feel all the more special. Instead, fans have to watch as Sasha has her big moment effectively nullified within several weeks. I understand there may be a story developing here, but WWE really shouldn’t be trying to leverage such negative feelings towards their Championships. It only damages the hype behind Sasha – who has been instrumental in helping to get women’s wrestling over.
Likewise, why are we seeing the same challengers for the belt? Audiences like new, fresh and interesting. You’ve got a division of great women but opt to keep the belt passing between the same women over and over. Audiences grow tired of seeing Bayley challenge for the belt. They get tired of watching Alexa Bliss sneak a win. When you’ve got so many great parts to your division but opt not to use them – it only devalues the whole.
Take Mickie James for example. She has held belts around the world – to much acclaim. She is considered one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time. In kayfabe, she was so desperate to challenge Asuka for her NXT Women’s Championship because that belt meant something. Challenging for it was something that a seasoned veteran like Mickie had to do. Yet she hasn’t been given the same story against any of the main roster Champions. It makes the belt look not worthy of chasing – adding more frustration to the whole thing.
I have no idea what WWE is doing right now with their Championship – but audiences are beginning to turn against this current trend of hot potatoing the belt around. There needs to come a moment when WWE stops and realizes that it’s only doing more harm than good in trying to create “excitement”. Sometimes the best story is one that doesn’t try to shock you on every page.