Prestige or prop?
My friends Kevin and Chad raised this question this morning on the Facebook page for their blog, My 1-2-3 Cents, as it pertains to championships within WWE.
It's not hard to find a legion of people who believe the same titles once held by wrestling legends like Harley Race, Ric Flair and Bruno Sammartino have been devalued and turned into something resembling a toy.
Often times, it seems WWE wants to play a rousing game of Hot Potato with its championships, which should be presented as the company's top prizes.
When a person wins a championship, especially if it's their first, they're rarely booked to look like a strong and deserving champion.
In the eyes of many, these elements of planning, managing and executing title tenures does nothing but lower the value of any respective championship.
Many will point to Santino Marella's United States Championship victory on Monday's Raw as another example of that particular title being treated as little more than a joke.
Yes, Marella's victory over then-champion Jack Swagger seemed less important than it should have because the match faded into the background of a scuffle between Raw and Smackdown General Managers John Laurinaitis and Teddy Long.
But, no, I don't agree with the armies of haters who spew rhetoric about Marella's win decreasing the value of the United States Championship.
Let's face facts. The title hasn't meant much in recent years. This is a title that was bumped from the WrestleMania card last year and, before that, was held by Bret "The Hitman" Hart... in 2010.
Sure, Zack Ryder winning the belt in December provided a feel-good moment, but he lost the title less than a month later to Swagger, who then proceeded to disappear from television.
I compare Marella's win to Ryder's. Listen to recent crowds during Marella matches, especially during the World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber.
The fans want to see Marella, and they want to see him succeed. There's nothing wrong with giving a midcard championship to a man who has been loyal, hardworking and dedicated to the company.
Marella's run with the Intercontinetal Championship - in which he unveiled the Honk-a-Meter - was a fun ride while it lasted, and I expect no different from this reign.
Despite what many assume because of his character, Marella is an extremely gifted in-ring performer. Maybe this title run will help people understand that. Yes, he uses comedy most of the time, but that doesn't take away from his abilities.
Marella's first title defense in a steel cage match against Swagger set the stage for what could be an entertaining title run.The two men put together a good match.
No, it won't go down in history as one of the best cage matches of all time, but it gave these two television time and put the title at the center of a televised match, which is better than where it was during Swagger's reign.
The contest also furthered the ongoing - and seemingly never-ending - issues between Swagger, Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler.
Let's just hope Marella isn't cut short and forced to drop the belt to David Otunga to help further the battle of the general managers...
For my money, Laurinaitis is one of the most entertaining characters in WWE right now. The writers - as well as the man himself - have done a great job of character development with the Raw general manager. He has gone from a strictly-blah authority figure to one of the most anticipated acts each week. His mocking of Long's mannerisms and saying in recent weeks has been on target, and his gear for the match between the two tonight was great. The match itself was more of an angle, as Kane came out, only to be distracted and RKO'ed by Randy Orton, allowing Long to win with a roll-up.
A promo featuring World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and his WrestleMania challenger Sheamus was highlighted by Bryan telling AJ to shut up. That adds another wrinkle to their relationship. Outside of that, the promo was solid, but nothing really special.
The six-man match event match delivered in the ring and advanced a number of different storylines for WrestleMania. The Miz's presence was an obvious sign from the beginning that he'd be eating a pinfall for the loss. That's exactly what happened when Orton hit him with an RKO, after Big Show and Cody Rhodes and Sheamus and Bryan brawled off on their own. After the match, Kane re-emerged to brawl with Orton, and the show ended with them fighting in the crowd.
Kofi Kingston and R-Truth, despite being two random wrestlers thrown together, make a good, cohesive team. They scored their second win over Tag Team Champions Epico and Primo in a really good match. The problem with matches like this is that they're just a tease at how good the tag division could be if WWE just focused on it.
Drew McIntyre was re-hired, after defeating a mystery opponent selected by Laurinaitis, who was running the show as part of this week's GM swap. The mystery opponent was teased to be The Great Khali, but at the last minute, it was revealed that McIntyre would face Hornswoggle. The match was basically the Scottish superstar bullying the leprechaun until the ref stopped the match. It seems likely a match with Khali will be in McIntyre's future, and I know that's one we're all looking forward to...
Mark Henry beat Ezekiel Jackson in what was essentially a squash match. It's hard to believe the difference between Jackson's original push to winning the ECW Championship on that show's final night and his recent streak as a jobber. On the other hand, it was nice to see Henry get a win after being on a bit of a losing streak of his own.
Santino Marella d. Jack Swagger in a cage match to retain the United States Championship
Drew McIntyre d. Hornswoggle
Mark Henry d. Ezekiel Jackson
Teddy Long d. John Laurinaitis
Kofi Kingston and R-Truth d. Primo and Epico
Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus d. The Miz, Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan
Tonight's Smackdown wasn't a home run, but it managed to advance a number of prominent stories heading into WrestleMania. I may be in the minority, but I'm enjoying the feud between Laurinaitis and Long. On a WrestleMania where the top matches all come from Raw, Smackdown is doing a great job at providing a strong undercard with several matches with great potential to shine on the grandest stage of all.