Regression Through Expression: How Santino Marella Killed The United States Championship
A few months ago I did an article on Cody Rhodes and how, thanks to his growth as a performer, he’s made the Intercontinental Title matter again. Despite no longer wearing the title, it looks fine around the waist of Christian, and a feud between the two men should result in some fantastic matches. The Intercontinental Championship matters once again, and considering the history of title, that’s a very positive thing. One cannot currently say the same thing about the United States Title.
Let me first start off by saying that I believe Santino Marella is a fantastic performer, and prior to his winning the title, was one of my favorite guys on the WWE roster. He’s consistently hilarious, solid in the ring, and cuts a mean promo. While I’m not a fan of overdoing comedy in pro wrestling, I do believe there’s a time and place for it, and Santino makes for wonderful comic relief. That said, he has no business whatsoever wearing the United States Title.
I understand wanting to give someone a run with the belt as a thank you for their efforts, but that’s why the paycheck exists. Santino, for all his talents, and make no mistake about it, he is a very talented performer, is a clown. He power walks to the ring, cuts odd, stand-up comedy-like promos, and for a finisher, he pulls a sock painted up like a snake out of his trunks, puts it on his hand and strikes people in the neck with it. He’s a goof, a bit (albeit, a damn good one) and he’s killed the value of a once prestigious championship.
One of the most annoying things about Santino’s run is that he doesn’t even need the title. Santino is over like rover, regularly getting some of the largest crowd reactions of the night. Kids love him, ladies love him, even wannabe tough guys love him, but none of their affection for the bumbling Marella has anything at all to do with the fact he’s the U.S. Champion. His wearing of the title is inconsequential to his fan response, and quite honestly, for all his great work in the comedic role WWE has mapped out for him, he’s made the United States Title a joke.
The most annoying part of this entire title run, however, is that WWE has a roster loaded with talented guys just looking for an opportunity. Before WWE put the Intercontinental Title on Cody Rhodes, he was working the mid-card and trying to find his way in the company. The title invigorated him, forced him to step up his game, and he quickly rose to main event status and is now one the most consistently entertaining members of the WWE roster. So, why not take the U.S. Title and attempt to do the same thing with another member of the roster, and I don’t mean what they did with Jack Swagger when they effectively killed his character by pushing him too fast to the World Heavyweight Title a few years back. You can’t put a major title on someone the fans still aren’t sure about, and then give the performer no time to gain their trust as a top guy. Swagger appears to have only just now recovered from that treatment. No, I mean taking someone like Tyson Kidd, or Curt Hawkins, or Antonio Cesaro and making them. Cesaro has been very good since his arrival from ROH/FCW. Why not make him the face of the U.S. Title? With him being a European heel, the promo possibilities by having him wearing the U.S. Title are endless.
I actually thought one of the fastest ways to make Mike McGillicutty was wasted at the Over The Limit PPV. Imagine if WWE had made him the winner of the opening match Battle Royal, then had him go on to beat Santino for the title, grab a mic after the win and cut a scathing promo on WWE, saying his, “name isn’t McGillicutty, it’s Hennig” and have him talk about his dad, and how he’s gonna “show the world that perfection runs in the family”. That would have gotten over so huge, and with his in-ring ability, he could easily carry the U.S. Title back to prominence. Instead, WWE went back to the Christian well one more time, a move that will certainly result in some fun matches between he and Rhodes, but not something that makes WWE better long term. Christian is a known quantity, an upper mid-card guy with a decent fan ‘pop’, nothing more, nothing less. If you already know what you have in him, why wouldn’t you want to find out if you don’t have something more in someone else?
The United States Championship has a lineage as storied as any title in wrestling. From Harley Race to Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat to Booker T, some of the biggest names in the history of the industry have worn the U.S. Title at some point during their careers. The title, full of history and prestige, shouldn’t be treated with such gross indifference. For better or for worse, WWE won the war and as such, they get to write the history books. As such, it is their responsibility to ensure titles like the United States Championship are treated with the respect they were shown by so many other greats throughout the history of the business, and I’m sorry, but as much as I enjoy Santino Marella for what he is, and fully understand he's simply seized and opportunity, him wearing the U.S. Title is a disgrace.