The Hot Topic: The Greatest….TV Champions

Rob Taylor


THT is back and this week with the long awaited Greatest TV Champions and much more… First as ever I cast my eye over the last few weeks action.

Batista is clearly on course for great things as is John Cena, it’s been a long time since we have seen two guys rise and improve like this at the same time… Wrestlemania should see two new champions and a new era begin.

Speaking of Batista, the turn was long awaited and was sweet to watch. Trips looked genuinely afraid of his new nemesis and how he and Flair rebound over the coming weeks will be very interesting. If I had one small criticism, I wouldn’t have show Batista overhearing Trips and Flair…more of a surprise…but I guess it was a “worst kept secret” anyways…

No Way Out was the best SD show for a long time… Big Show is SOOOO ready for a major push right now… The stupid as it may sound thing that may make the difference is Joy… Think of your favourite Bond villain…most think of JAWS…and why? Cos he got the girl and he would kill to protect her… Perfect character for a guy like Show…

Cena was impressive against Angle, the “full circle” angle could have been played more, that 3 years ago, Cena debuted against Angle…now he has beaten him to the match of his life at WM… What will happen to the US title? I have a feeling that we may see a redraft and a return of King Of The Ring to Smackdown, with the King becoming the new US titleholder… It would be an incentive for midcarders and maineventers to jump ship.

So we now might get a Jericho/Benoit v Hassan and Davari match for WM… So I guess that means Regal and Tajiri’s reign is gonna be a short one…I only hope with Edge and Christian’s “serious reuniting” this week we see a serious title feud between The “brothers” and Y2J and Benoit… if there is one fued that could make the general public care about tags again…it is that…

Chris Masters…The Masterpiece?… Sorry JR…but are we really supposed to believe that guy is 22? When he already looks like Randy Orton 10 years from now?…why clone a guy who you already have? And who uses a Full Nelson? Honestly? The Penn State crowd had it right… Silence!!!

Shelton Benjamin needed something to liven him up the chair might be it… He is a “worthy” IC champion, but the belt is becoming more like fodder for Heat than a main part of RAW with him at the helm. I’d like to see Regal face him at WM21, it’s a way to give Regal an identity away from the tag division and away from Eugene and keep Shelton busy till Matt Hardy (which is the feud I REALLY want to see for the IC done with of Kane and Snitsky…

Over on Smackdown, Teddy Long has survived thanks to his “decisions being in the fans interest”, I am one of the few who really starting to like Long in the role… He’s the opposite of Eric Bischoff, a non political GM, who makes decisions on good TV rather than to screw other wrestlers… But if they can get Steamboat into the role, they should…he would be amazing as the head honcho of SD…

The main rumour doing the rounds is there will be a massive redraft after Wrestlemania this year, if so it needs to be total, from writing staff to on air talent… I think a major factor in this will be if WWE programming is going back to the USA network, if this is the case, Smackdown will be unlikely to stay on UPN and if both shows are on USA, we could see SD return to being a live show, in which case a redraft would be essential. In an ideal world we would see HBK, Jericho, Christian and Regal move to Smackdown and Kurt, Eddy and The Undertaker to RAW. Regal would be an ideal US champion while Undertaker vs. Triple H, Orton and Batista before he retires is too good to miss. On SD guys like Jericho and Christian can be champion while Eddy and Kurt could benefit greatly from the change of scene and potential matches the switch would give… Shelton vs Angle or Benoit v Eddy for example. Lower tier guys like Luther could go to RAW while Simon Dean would be a perfect fit for the cruiser division…

I must admit, one thing that might seem crazy to some of the IWC, my thoughts are with Vince McMahon at the moment, the injury he suffered at the Rumble was potentially crippling to guys like Triple H or Kevin Nash… now double the injury and add 25 years to the patient…Vince will have a battle on his hands to recover to be even walking normally… Much as I hate to say it, we might well have seen the last of Vince as “Mr. McMahon”, rightly or wrongly he has always projected a certain “powerful” image on camera and backstage, Vince has always been impressively built and proud of “keeping up with the guys”. If his injuries stop that from being possible, no one could blame him if he decided he didn’t want to be seen onscreen anymore or even in front of his guys… Some (particularly those in Montreal lol) may call it poetic justice… just remember this is the guy who brought us all to the dance… He deserves our support and best wishes during his recovery.

So now without any more ado…we come to The Greatest….part 2…. The WCW Television title…

First some points to remember… The WCW TV title was designed to be defended every week, sheer number of defences does not make a TV champion great… Calibre of opponent, prestige they brought to the belt and what they achieved as a result is important but some big names have held this title… many have gone on to much greater and don’t make the top 5… as ever if you strongly disagree then tell me at robwilltaylor@hotmail.com…

5: Scott Steiner: I bet you forgot about this one didn’t you? Big Poppa Pump’s first foray into singles glory came as early as 1992, when he defeated Rick Steamboat in a specially stipulated “Title Changes Hands on Countouts and DQ” match. Steamboat was attacked outside the ring, making Scott the new champion. What we didn’t know at the time was that backstage politics had forced the reign, Rick Steiner had already left WCW bound for the WWF, the TV title was WCW’s last attempt to keep hold of Scott, arguably the more valuable of the two. Scott rarely defended the title first time around and when his contract was up he simply vacated and went to Stamford… Fast forward now to late 1998, and it is a totally different Scott Steiner, now known as “Big Poppa Pump”, part of the NWO and with his “freaks” he defeated Konnan, who had been a popular although brief champion. Scott defended the title until losing to Booker T, within a year of losing the he was in WCW’s main event and remained World champion until WWE bought WCW. Scott is a great example of 2 polar opposites…1st reign was relatively poor, but his 2nd was memorable…

4: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat: This was arguably the peak of the belts “stature”, when the man who had torn down The Silverdome to lift the IC title and gone on to beat “The Man” Ric Flair for the World title, became the TV champion. “The Dragon” took the belt initially from “Stunning” Steve Austin, though his reign was relatively short, he lost to our Number 5. Steamboat’s first TV title reign also began the trend we see more and more today, main event starts “making do” with lower tier titles after their World title reigns are over. After Steiner had departed Steamboat entered into a “veterans” feud with Paul Orndorrf, who had won the tourney to crown a new champion. Steamboat regained the title from Orndorff for his 2nd reign, one month later, putting over Lord Steven Regal for his first win. Ricky is important in this list because he lends major credibility to the TV title as a belt worth winning and defending. Steamboat enhanced the careers of Scott Steiner, Regal, Steve Austin and more through his two short title reigns, 3 men who went on to do much greater things…would they have done so without this “rub” from “The Dragon”? Doubtful in the extreme…

3: Booker T: Booker was fresh out of Harlem Heat and being a record breaking tag champion when he first won the TV title. Booker was a popular TV champion defeating Disco Inferno for the first run. He went on to have 5 reigns over the next 2 years, making the belt one of the most prestigious in the business in terms of quality title matches. The level of opponents Booker faced sets him apart from the crowd here, Booker feuded with Rick Martel, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Disco Inferno amongst others, all top quality workers. Booker goes down in history not only as the most decorated TV champ, but arguably one of the more credible champions of the 1990’s period.

2: Arn Anderson: The man who held the first WCW TV title is one of its legends. The Enforcer was always in contention for this title, (holding it twice in WCW, his other 2 reigns came as NWA TV champion). He places highly because of the impact he had on the division. Arn made the TV title credible, Arn was arguably a wrestler of main event talent even World title level, yet was content to carry the TV title proudly… Indeed, when Arn held the belt it never looked like the 3rd string title, It looked like the most important title in the world. That he never took it to the next stage is something open for debate, was he held back by Flair? Could he not hack the main event? Doubtful. Arn was one of the “old school” who valued any form of title and always put forth a fighting effort to keep hold of what he had won. How many today would do the same? Or just expect the World title to come to them cos they defend a lesser title for a few months…Randy, Edge… I’m talking to you!

1: ‘Lord’ Steven Regal: The man who one day would become WWE commish, IC champion and Eugene’s best buddy first entered WCW in 1991, as Steve Regal…his first contact with the TV title came in the future star-studded 1993 tournament, created by Scott Steiner’s defection (need proof? RVD, Kevin Nash, Chris Benoit and Buff Bagwell were also involved in the tourney…)

Within months, Regal reinvented himself as a blueblood snob with a shady butler named Sir William (Bill from USWA) Dundee and had lifted the first of four TV title reigns. Regal was the strongest heel champion WCW had after Rick Rude had left them, hated by fans and wrestlers alike yet grudgingly respected for his ability to get it done in the ring. The key to Regal’s success is indeed his gimmick; it was perfect TV title material. The TV title was defended weekly, often as part of the “Worldwide” show, syndicated around the world. The snooty, nefarious Englishman who would cheat at every opportunity made perfect TV for that international market, while American fans got on his case for his superiority complex. Regal was like wrestling’s version of Dick Dastardly or Terry Thomas from those old movies, a guilty pleasure if you will. People wanted to see him lose, but they secretly got a kick when he escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Regal was able to stay in contention through to his departure from WCW in 1998, and held some blistering title matches with some of the business’s finest including Ultimo Dragon, Rick Steamboat, Antonio Inoki, Davey Boy Smith and Arn Anderson. The reason he works so well with any title and why he is still a major force is that unique style. One week he could wrestle Ultimo Dragon, the next Arn Anderson or Johnny B Badd, all different styles, but all great matches. That skill is what sets Regal apart from the other TV champions, others like Benoit, Booker, Jericho et al might be able to do it now, but Regal has done it all the time, even for the TV title… That makes him the most important TV champion ever…

Well, there’s the list… Honourable mentions go out to those who were in the top 10, namely Chris Benoit, Steve Austin, Paul Orndorrf, DDP and Chris Jericho… All will be remembered, but not for their TV title reigns….. Next on the list are the WWF World Tag Team titles! This will cover WWE up until the buyout, so keep your eyes peeled for it…

See you all soon…

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