“Chris got the championship as a reward for years of hard work, but that term, you’re right, mid card champion, he almost got lost in the shuffle. He was almost just like someone holding the belt till the next guy” – Former WWE creative writer Dan Madigan on Chris Benoit
Time and time again, we’ve heard about people not wanting to be “the second best”. In professional wrestling, where there is cut throat competition, no one wants to play second fiddle. Think about it this way: Would you want to be the “second most popular guy” in school?
Even as a person, we would hate to be looked at as “The guy next to the guy”. It gets even worse when you earn everything, and even when you have the richest prize in the business, you’re still looked upon as a temporary champion, a “transitional” guy who won the richest prize, just to shine it up and give it over to someone else.
In professional wrestling, they are called “mid-card champions”, something that no performer wants to be.
When you talk about the likes of CM Punk or Alberto Del Rio getting frustrated with the WWE, it is because of the tag they were assigned with. When CM Punk won the World Heavyweight championship, it was the culmination of hard work, dedication and defiance.
Punk didn’t give into the “You can’t do it” remarks. We can even talk about Daniel Bryan, who won the World Heavyweight championship like Punk, but wasn’t considered to be “the guy” in the company. In the history of WWE, the more we get into the depth of it, the more we find guys who were treated as “the serving platter”, just to hold the title until someone else gets it.
Ironically, these are the guys who’re “wrestlers” and not “sports entertainers”, at least most of the times (Unless, we count performers like Orton). Back during the Attitude Era, people like Mankind and Kane won the title for about a day.
Although they were the champions, they always played the second fiddle to guys like Austin and The Rock. But when we look back in the last decade, there have been superstars such as Chris Benoit, who were handed the title as a “token of recognition” for their 20 years of dedication and hard work.
Although Benoit became the World champion, the focus was still on Triple H and his stooges, which didn’t speak well about Benoit’s stake in the company, and his subsequent “recognition” by the company.
Another such superstar is Christian, who after more than a decade of sacrifice in the WWE, won the World Heavyweight championship, much to the delight of the WWE Universe and long time WWE fans. Christian was always seen as “the guy who makes others look good” in the ring, and has been one of the best workers in the business for a long time.
Hence, when his sacrifices culminated with him winning the World Heavyweight championship, everyone thought he would follow in the footsteps of Edge. Sadly, that never happened, as it was used as a way to put over Orton, similar to what happened with Chris Benoit. The funny thing was, with Chris Benoit losing to Orton, even Orton was used as a transitional champion until he dropped the title once again to Triple H. And when Christian lost the title, the reaction of the fans was something like this:
Recently, Dolph Ziggler was one other such superstar who became a mid card champion. Although holding a title with the history and legacy the World title has makes it important, the way the company looks at someone and books them makes all the difference.
With Daniel Bryan now facing John Cena at SummerSlam, one can only hope and wish that Daniel Bryan wouldn’t be booked as the “Mid card champion”, and win the title just to lose it to Randy Orton, and get lost in the shuffle much like Christian in 2011. Or, much worse, history repeating itself.