As Justin Gabriel would now be the person who closest resembles a guy who could claim ‘real’ World Champion status, the title would spend the next month mired in the midcard. That Gabriel and Heath Slater were contending for the Tag Team Titles at the time also narrowed down potential opponents; what better way to build up a tag team feud then by just sticking each permutation of the four guys into two minutes singles matches? No?
So in a somewhat surprising fashion, Gabriel would actually manage to make one title defense, something I personally hadn’t foreseen. With Santino and Vladimir Kozlov the current tag champions, the one defense would be against the Russian in a match that would only go two minutes. Kozlov would use his head, literally, to work over the South African, only to get tripped by a ringside Heath Slater. Santino would even the odds by hitting the cobra on his ginger nemesis, only to get taken out with a baseball slide. A Kozlov elbow drop would be blocked by Gabriel getting his knees up, an offensive move so damaging as to keep the Russian down long enough for the 450 splash and a three count.
In the desire for fifty-fifty booking forever, it is unsurprising who Gabriel would lose the title to. Having defeated Kozlov, it was only right in the world of the WWE for Gabriel to drop a fall later on in the feud to Santino. This time, it would be the involvement of Kane and The Big Show, building up to a four on four contest at Wrestlemania, that would prove decisive. The match played out almost exactly the same as the one against Kozlov, only with different signature spots. This time, as Slater would try to get involved, Kane would be on hand to stop it, allowing Kozlov to interfere for his tag team partner. One Cobra later, and we would have a new ‘real’ World Champion.
Superstars would be the realm of matches that just sound a little strange on paper, and this would be the way for Santino’s first title defense as he would go eleven minutes against Ted Dibiase Jr. The big storyline would be the lack of Maryse in the corner of Dibiase, and the commentary team would seem to focus more on that than the actual action in the ring at times. Dibiase would fake out on a handshake to take advantage, and stop several comebacks from Marella, only losing the advantage on a charge into the corner where Santino would collapse out of the way due to the punishment he had taken. The comeback would be cut off quickly by a diving headbutt getting blocked by knees, but Dream Street would be avoided by Santino, allowing him to nail the Cobra for a three count and a first title defense.
With Santino and Kozlov spending the majority of the next month battling the Corre with a variety of different partners and to mixed results, it would be almost a month before Santino would compete in a match that would qualify under the rules of the ‘real’ World Title matches. It would be in London, as the WWE would do one of its many live Raws from the UK capital. Would Santino be able to make it a second title defense, keeping the belt floating around the detritus that littered the WWE midcard at the time?
In a word: no.
Santino would not even be considered worthy of the match being a title match for his opponent’s US Title, and Marella would be used to showcase the treatment doled out to any wrestler who would be perceived as embarrassing his opponent. In a little under four minutes, and to resounding boos for a man who was only born across the Irish Ocean, Sheamus would land a Brogue Kick to win the ‘real’ World Title in relatively short order. The Irishman would blast through Santino with ease, utilising a bruising mix of strikes, and cutting off the one comeback attempt by Marella with the finish.
This would be the Irishman’s first run with the ‘real’ World Championship, and I was hopeful that this would drag the title out of the mire of a feud involving a comedy team and the latest attempt to reignite the remnants of the Nexus. On the house show circuit at this time, Sheamus would be mixing it up with Daniel Bryan, and the idea of getting a decent twelve to fifteen minute match between the two is a pretty exciting prospect – so naturally, Sheamus would lose his next singles match in two minutes to a guy who would continue to be the answer to the question ‘who is the blandest guy in the WWE?’ for another few years yet. Even worse, it wouldn’t even elevate the title much past the midcard.
With the WWE Draft the focal point of the show, Sheamus would battle against one of the talents from the Smackdown side of things for the right to the next draft pick. Rather than try and keep their secondary title strong, Sheamus would get defeated in under three minutes, though it would at least spark off the beginning of a feud that would at least see some focus on the animosity between the two. With the first two minutes all being Sheamus bullying his opponent around the ring, it would take breaking the High Cross to even stop the US Champion in his tracks.
One spinning boot to the face, and Sheamus as champion was no more. If I was all about the punning for the lolz, you could even say that Sheamus had had trouble in paradise. But I wouldn’t. Ahem.
Kofi Kingston, a wrestler who offered little of interest between the time when he ‘botched’ the ending of a match between himself and Randy Orton, up until the time when he joined The New Day, was your new ‘real’ World Champion. How long was he likely to hold onto it? And would we actually get a title match that lasted more than four minutes that didn’t involved Santino Marella? Guess you’ll just have to check out next week when I continue to track the Real World Champion.
- Brock Lesnar (5 reigns, 23 title defenses)
- Rob Van Dam (3 reigns, 11 title defenses)
- Kurt Angle (3 reigns, 7 title defenses)
- Chris Jericho (3 reigns, 3 title defenses)
- Spike Dudley (3 reigns, 2 title defenses)
- Randy Orton (3 reigns, 4 defenses)
- Jack Swagger (2 reigns, 9 defenses)
- Edge (2 reigns, 7 defenses)
- The Undertaker (2 reigns, 5 defense)
- The Miz (2 reign, 3 defenses)
- Hurricane Helms (2 reigns, 2 title defenses)
- Chris Benoit (2 reigns, 2 title defenses)
- John Morrison (2 reigns, 1 defense)
- Kane (2 reigns, 3 defenses)
- Eddie Guerrero (1 reign, 8 defenses)
- William Regal (1 reign, 2 title defenses)
- Tajiri (1 reign, 2 title defenses)
- Lenny Lane (1 reign, 2 title defences)
- The Rock (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- Test (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- The Big Show (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- D-Von Dudley (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- Charlie Haas (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- Billy Kidman (1 reign, 1 title defense)
- Luther Reigns (1 reign, 1 defense)
- John Cena (1 reign, 1 defense)
- JBL (1 reign, 1 defense)
- CM Punk (1 reign, 1 defense)
- Shawn Michaels (1 reign, 1 defense)
- Wade Barrett (1 reign, 1 defense)
- Justin Gabriel (1 reign, 1 defense)
- Santino Marella (1 reign, 1 defense)
- Paul London (1 reign)
- Goldust (1 reign)
- Al Snow (1 reign)
- Maven (1 reign)
- Hardcore Holly (1 reign)
- The Blue Meanie (1 reign)
- Dave Finlay (1 reign)
- Umaga (1 reign)
- Sheamus (1 reign)
- Kofi Kingston (1 reign)