Curse of the Champions?

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July 18, 2007

Just more than two years ago, the World Heavyweight Championship came to SmackDown when then-champion Batista was selected in the 2005 Draft Lottery. As the richest prize in sports-entertainment, the World Heavyweight Championship instantly became the object of desire for the SmackDown Superstars.

But since becoming the (pun intended) gold standard on Friday nights, the title has seemingly become a curse to anyone who holds it.

Okay, so after reading that statement, you're probably wondering the same thing everyone else is: How the hell can reaching the pinnacle of your profession actually be a BAD thing? Well, really, it's not…if you're a surgeon, that is.

Since Batista brought the gold to SmackDown, EVERYONE that has held it has been put on the sidelines within six months of their title reign. From The Animal on down to most recent ex-champion Edge, the infirmary has become SmackDown's most popular post-championship destination.

Think that idea is a little bogus? Sorry, but the following chronology doesn't lie:

January 2006: Batista suffers a torn triceps during a match with Mark Henry at a WWE live event. As a result, The Animal surrenders the World Heavyweight Championship on January 10 in Philadelphia; Theodore Long holds a Battle Royal to determine a new champion while Batista undergoes surgery and is out of action for six months.

Summer 2006: After losing the gold at WrestleMania in April, Kurt Angle suffers a multitude of injuries throughout the summer, most seriously a torn groin muscle in August. Later that same month, Angle is released from WWE.

October 2006: Rey Mysterio, who won the gold from Angle, suffers a serious knee injury at the hands of Chavo Guerrero. Mysterio, only three months removed from being champion, is put on the shelf indefinitely; as of this article, he still has yet to return.

April 2007: King Booker, who defeated Mysterio for the gold but lost it to Batista at Survivor Series in late-November, is knocked out of action by then-champion Undertaker. Thanks to a Tombstone on the announce table, Booker suffers a sprained and strained neck. He was never seen on SmackDown again, as he was drafted to Raw on June 11, and has since returned to action on Monday nights.

Later that same month, Undertaker suffered a torn biceps just weeks after winning the gold. Edge swooped in, picked the bones and took the title while The Deadman took a trip to the disabled list; Edge, however, solidified the curse theory by relinquishing the gold due to injury on Tuesday night.

Quite a streak, isn't it? Sure, you might say that being a champion is tough, and many WWE Superstars will admit that keeping a title is much harder than winning it. All true, but look no further than WWE Champion John Cena. He's been WWE Champion for the majority of the time SmackDown has had the World Title on Friday nights; however, no matter what anyone has done to him over the last two years, he's barely missed a match, let alone been put out of action for a significant period of time. Is this simply a coincidence, or evidence of a curse?

If you're still thinking this is silly, I present to you the "John Madden Jinx" as evidence. Much like what holding the World Heavyweight Championship has done to SmackDown Superstars, gracing the cover of the EA Sports annual John Madden Football video game has ended up becoming a harbinger of bad things for the NFL players who have done it.

From Garrison Hearst in 1998 to Shaun Alexander in 2006, every athlete on the cover of the game has been injured or had an awful season the year they appeared. Just as brief examples, Hearst broke his ankle in the 1998 playoffs and was never the same again, QBs Michael Vick (2004) and Donovan McNabb (2006) suffered major leg injuries that cost them most of the season, and Barry Sanders (1999) actually retired abruptly before that season even began.

So can this curse be broken? Well, sure; after all, the Boston Red Sox finally "reversed the curse" in 2004 when they broke the almost century-old "Curse of the Bambino" and won the World Series. The Chicago White Sox ended a similar curse a year later. And even in sports-entertainment there's hope; Batista again held the World Heavyweight Championship from last November to this April, and he's still healthy. Of course, the disdain of the Chicago Cubs for Billy Sianis' goat has kept them out of the World Series for 62 years, but maybe that's just the exception these days.

So what does the future hold? Well, only time will tell whether The Great Khali will suffer the same fate as his predecessors. As he embarks on his first championship reign, many of our fans may be wondering how anyone can survive against the 7-foot-3, 420-pound Punjabi powerhouse.

But in the devil's eyes, the real question might be this: Can The Great Khali survive his own situation?

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