The new Triple H era already seems intent on fixing many of WWE’s problems.
SummerSlam is of course the biggest example, with immediate changes like a long-requested Becky Lynch face turn going through. Weekly programming has seen a notable bump in the amount of actual wrestling and interesting feuds, too.
And darn if those midcard titles aren’t feeling a little more important right now. Heck, they’re even approaching the status of things fans specifically tune into Raw and/or SmackDown for on a weekly basis.
Gunther’s intercontinental run is just getting started, and he will face Shinsuke Nakamura next week in a promising matchup. The U.S. title is especially notable right now with a former main event juggernaut like Bobby Lashley having showcased one of the company’s next stars in Theory.
And now that Ciampa is in the mix with Lashley and others, the U.S. title feels like it’s getting the respect it hasn’t had since perhaps John Cena’s open challenges in 2015.
This has been a long, long time coming, too.
One would think that while Roman Reigns has both top titles, the midcard belts would have been used smartly.
Instead, both the intercontinental and U.S. titles inexplicably didn’t get defended over the course of the two-night WrestleMania 38 back in April. There were mundane tag matches. There were celebrity matches. There were part-timers. But both midcard titles went undefended, which said it all.
So to say this new era of WWE had a steep hill to climb is an understatement. But look how quickly and effectively it did—the August 1 edition of Raw was must-see television, as it featured a pair of triple threat matches and a singles match to determine who will challenge Lashley.
AJ Styles and Ciampa emerged, with the latter winning a shot—a former NXT megastar under Triple H with the potential for so much more.
Consistency will be key, but there was no excuse for a company with a roster this talented to struggle to make engrossing midcard title scenes. WWE throwing in a mix of should-be-top-champions and the next wave of top guys into the mix recently is just proof of what fans have said for too long a time.
This course correction comes at a pivotal time for WWE, too. Interest is up after Triple H’s takeover of creative, so now is the time to strike with must-see feuds around all titles, not just the main event scene.
These midcard feuds don’t just give should-be contenders something to do—they throw the next wave of top Superstars into the deep end of the pool and eventually give them a credible way to move up, not unlike the way NXT’s main-event scene was supposed to prep wrestlers for the main roster. When that worked—Kevin Owens answering Cena’s U.S. open challenge the prime example—it was epic.
Those occurrences were rare, but they don’t have to be. If Triple H can replicate that process, WWE could enjoy an upswing for a long, long time.
Not shockingly, many of the overarching problems plaguing WWE derailed these midcard titles. But this new era throwing its top guys into the mix, adding serious stakes and, perhaps most importantly of all, creating long-term continuity to the stories will restore these titles to their prestigious standing.