The Delco Elbow Drop

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WrestleMania 31: The Intercontinental title ladder match

The treatment of the Intercontinental Championship in WWE has become something of a running joke among fans over the past few years. The way the championship has been treated in the past few years has diminished its value in the eyes of the fans thanks to it being traded between wrestlers in meaningless title changes and often times completely ignored or forgotten.

For example, take the current Intercontinental champion – Bad News Barrett. He was on the shelf from late June 2014 and returned to TV in January 2015. In his first match back, he defeated Dolph Ziggler for the IC title. That right there is a red flag – why would a returning wrestler get a shot at the IC belt and why would he be booked to win it? If you remember, it was in a 2-out-of-3 falls match where The Authority beat down Dolph prior to the match, so the title change was mired in shenanigans from jump.

Next, Dolph never got a rematch. If the belt is important and WWE wants fans to view it as important, why would the former champ NOT want or get a rematch? Makes no sense.

On top of that, Barrett has looked ridiculously weak since returning and winning the IC belt. Let me run some numbers by you.

Since returning and winning the IC title, Barrett has wrestled 39 times (including live events). Yet out of those 39 matches – he’s only won 12. If you take away live events, he’s only won FIVE TIMES. This is the Intercontinental Champion, the guy who is supposed to be a step below the World champion, who is supposed to be the gatekeeper to the main event scene, has been made to look like an utter chump while holding (what is supposed to be) the second most prestigious title in the company.

And this is only the most very recent IC title champ situation, not even touching The Miz’s several one-day reigns with the IC title or the forgetful reigns of Big E (currently a jobber) or Curtis Axle (currently a jobber – an entertaining jobber, but still a jobber).

But lately, thanks mainly to Dean Ambrose, the Intercontinental Championship is being built back up a little bit. It’s not in the greatest position yet, but it is slowly becoming more important again.

Initially, I had designs on running down the entire WrestleMania 31 card, but I think I’m going to stick with analyzing a few matches – namely the IC title ladder match and the Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker match (in another article). The entire WrestleMania 31 (aka WrestleMania Play Button) card is so adjace, it physically pains me to think too long on the rest of the matches so I’m only focusing on the ones that interest me.

But the Intercontinental Title ladder match has the chance to be one of the brightest spots on the card – for a few reasons.

It’s a ladder match
Obviously, the stipulation alone means that we’re in for a crazy, physically intense and enthralling contest. WrestleMania has a history of epic ladder matches (Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon, WM11; Edge/Christian vs The Dudleys vs The Hardys, WM2000; or the first Money in the Bank match at WM21) and this contest has all the elements needed to be seen among those memorable matches. Not much else needs to be said about why a ladder match with those six (spoilers - seven) wrestlers could steal the show.

The competitors
Right now, six men are entered in the ladder match – Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, R-Truth, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust. On Smackdown this week (spoilers) Daniel Bryan announces that he is also taking part in the match.

Now before you go crying “Burial! Bryan’s being buried!” – hear me out.

In the far away land of Japan, lives a wrestler named Shinsuke Nakamura who wrestles for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Nakamura has held the biggest title in New Japan – the IWGP Heavyweight Championship – numerous times, but is currently the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Nakamura is one of the most popular wrestlers in the company but he is also one of the most prolific IWGP IC champions of all time. He’s brought a great amount of prestige to the title and many view it in just as high regard as the IWGP Heavyweight championship. Nakamura's matches are exciting and fast-paced and he has an odd yet magnetic charisma to him. Does that sound like anyone else you know? (I was alluding to Bryan but it could also describe Ambrose as well)

Dean Ambrose (left) bearing a striking resemblance to Shinsuke Nakamura (right).
It's not outside the realm of possibility that Daniel Bryan (or Dean Ambrose or Dolph Ziggler) could accomplish the same thing with the WWE IC title if given the chance. If WWE isn’t on the pulse enough to have one of their most (if not most) popular stars in the World title picture, let him use that popularity and starpower to raise the profile and status of the IC title. Who knows – maybe one day WWE fans will view the IC title the way New Japan fans view the IWGP IC title.

But let me not forget the man who kicked off the current drive among so many stars to win the IC belt – Dean Ambrose.

It was, I think, after the blizzard episode of Raw that Dean Ambrose had the sudden desire to win the IC championship and has been on the warpath to take it from Bad News Barrett. When he didn’t win it from him at Fastlane he did the next best thing – he took it. But throughout all his actions, it showed a desire and reverence for the IC title that so many champions before him never displayed. It wasn’t just another prop and he didn’t take it for granted – Ambrose has gone out of his way to take possession of the title one way or another, which is more than you can say many former champions have done to possess the title

Which brings me to my last point…

The build
Ever since Ambrose has begun hounding Barrett for the IC championship, more Superstars have joined the hunt as well. Ambrose was the first to steal it from Barrett but it’s resulted in R-Truth stealing the belt numerous times and handing it off to other contenders, as well as seeing former champions like Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper join the hunt as well. Stardust eventually stole the title and now, former WWE champion Daniel Bryan is in the mix too.

I’ve heard lots of people complaining that this isn’t helping the profile of the title – that the constant stealing of the title and hot-potatoing it around only make it seem like a joke, like it’s the Hardcore title of the Attitude Era. But I would argue the opposite.

How long has it been since this many Superstars at once have shown interest in the IC title? How long has it been since this many Superstars have been fighting it out to try and get their hands on the IC title? It may seem a little too zany for some, but the fact alone that 7 different guys (including former World champions) have been battling over holding the IC belt and will fight in a ladder match to win it is, hopefully, the beginning of presenting the IC title as something important and worthwhile.

You could even say that the IC ladder match has had more of an interesting build than the WWE World title match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Every week, multiple guys are at odds with each other over holding the IC title, going out of their way to take possession of it and are willing to take part in a dangerous ladder match to win it. While the World title picture literally only has Lesnar and Reigns in it and those two have barely faced off or made mention of the other. Paul Heyman is practically the only person advancing the World title picture at this point (and I’m hesitant to call it a feud because Brock is barely ever there and Roman seems to have no desire to be the champion, outside of having won the Rumble).

It goes without saying that the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 31 is the match I’m looking forward to the most. Outside of featuring all the wrestlers I really want to see, it promises to deliver some of the most exciting action on the entire card.

In other words, if you can’t get excited for this match and you don’t see the hope for a better future for the IC title after WrestleMania 31, you may want to reevaluate why you’re a pro wrestling fan.

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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