When bad is gold: How cruelty became a recipe for championship success

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September 09, 2013

One look at the roll call of current champions reveals all you need to know about the sinister and seemingly lawless landscape of WWE.

A confluence of events, capped off by Randy Orton’s WWE Championship win at SummerSlam, has left WWE’s most precious hardware — the championship titles — in the hands of individuals with no regard for the rulebook, let alone the WWE Universe.

Every titleholder, from World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio to Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel, is among the most villainous, evil and reviled competitors in WWE today, and with Night of Champions just around the corner, the trend is impossible to ignore. But what does it say about WWE’s current state of affairs that championship gold appears to be the reward for callousness?

“It’s setting the standard for what it takes to be successful,” said The Shield’s Roman Reigns, one-half of the WWE Tag Team Champions with Seth Rollins. “A lot of times, the good guys finish last, and sometimes the bad guys just win. That’s what’s happening now in WWE.”

I wouldn’t call us cheaters ... I would just call us winners.Such a scenario is far from commonplace in WWE, though it is not without precedent. You’d have to go back to February, 2010, when “bad guys” like Batista and Chris Jericho dominated the title scenes, to recapture the same ominous overtone. Chalk it up to Superstars’ embrace of the “ruthless aggression” mantra long preached by WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon, or perhaps it’s the burgeoning influence of WWE COO Triple H.

However you cut it, the lowest of the low are once again riding high in title competition.

United States Champion Dean Ambrose doesn’t believe in assigning rigid labels like “rulebreaker,” nor does he concern himself with how the WWE Universe perceives The Shield’s actions. Instead, the volatile Hound of Justice simply focuses on the end result.

“I wouldn’t call us cheaters or unscrupulous or anything,” he said. “I would just call us winners. In any sport or any business, however you get the job done, the winners write the history books, and all the history books are gonna say is that we’re champions.”

The Shield’s collection of championship gold is just the beginning, they say — a foundation for “taking over,” as Reigns put it. “Dominance in its purest form,” Rollins concurred. The imposing squad took control of the U.S. and WWE Tag Team Titles in May at Extreme Rules. Del Rio, Lee and Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel all scored their championship victories the following month at WWE Payback.

“WWE is one of those whirlwinds where you never know what’s going to happen, but when opportunity arises, you have to rise to the occasion,” explained The Miz, who has also used controversial tactics in the past to win and retain championship gold. “Obviously, those guys who have the championships are doing whatever it takes to keep those, cheating included.”

Whereas The Shield sees a master plan coming to fruition, two-time World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler sees a deck being stacked.

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