wrestling / Columns

Goodbye to the Real Grand Championship

February 23, 2018 | Posted by Dino Zee
GFW Grand Championship

Last year, in an attempt to create a little order with Impact Wrestling’s Grand Championship, I used ZeeWI to launch The Officially Unofficial Impact Grand Championship Rankings. At first a weekly issue, it was pulled back to be a monthly feature around December/January, in an effort to allow for more time to pass between rankings, and allowing more movement within the rankings themselves.

It was a way to try and manufacture some order in the division, as the usual manner of deciding top contenders – things like wins, losses, position on the card, etc – were rendered somewhat moot by the different rules of the division. In my opinion, the different rules of the Grand Championship division made it so that wins and losses couldn’t be the heaviest weighted factor, simply because a win in, say, a cage match shouldn’t carry much water in a division where that match type is not a possibility.

To that end, the criteria that was decided upon to fairly rank the competitors was the following:

1. Wins / Losses in recent outings
2. Crowd Response / Interest
3. Momentum Meter (Green, Yellow, Red)
4. Megamove

And honestly, it was because to earn a shot at the championship, it appeared that all one had to do was challenge the champion, or wrestle against him in a tag team match, or not have much else to do so one of Impact’s officials pulls you aside and says “Hey! You have a title shot tonight!”

Yes, it was all tongue in cheek.

However, as the year started, Impact’s secondary championship was a coveted item, as then-champion Ethan Carter, III (MY BOY EC3) was taunting Matt Sydal about his inability to win the big one. This led to a series of matches between the two that would see Carter leave STILL Champion. However, this was usually due to some odd judging going on, and after a few bad decisions, Sydal had enough.

It would be at Genesis where Sydal would be granted his wish: one more shot at EC3, but this time in a “No Rounds, No Judges” format for the championship. Basically, Sydal had decided that everything that made the Grand Championship different and difficult was unfair, because it was making it really difficult for him to capture the championship.

Forget the proud history of the belt – forget the sacrifices guys like Aron Rex, Moose, Drew Galloway and EC3 before him had to make – forget that every wrestler that ever competed for the Grand Championship had to deal with the same hurdles that Sydal did… Sydal decided it wasn’t fair, and after coming up short in the opportunities he was handed, he went and complained until he got what he wanted.

And hey, fair play to Sydal – he finally got the job done.

Unfortunately, his disdain for everything the Grand Championship stood for would still linger, and so, as champion, he would decree that the championship, like the others in Impact Wrestling, would be defended under “normal” circumstances. No more rounds. No more judges. Just two men going at it in a wrestling match, until one defeats the other. And, unfortunately, this idea has some support, as current Impact commentator (as he recovers from an injury to his Achilles) Sonjay Dutt also mentioned on a recent episode that he “100%” backs the decision of Sydal, noting that it just makes more sense to compete for a championship in this way.

Look, I think Sonjay Dutt is a fine wrestler, and I’ve enjoyed his commentary, but this was an area where we could not be further apart. I know that I treated it all in a comical matter, but the truth is, I actually did like the initial version of the Grand Championship. Hell, it was only last May that I listed the things it needed to improve it.

In a nutshell, I felt that the thing hurting the championship the most was the lack of a clear division. To that end, I suggested holding non-title matches in the same rules format as the championship matches, so that competitors are more easily turned into contenders by competing in the Grand Championship style of match! I also suggested going with shorter rounds for non-title matches, or granting two extra rounds for championship matches, not unlike the UFC’s current structure.

Unfortunately, neither of those ever happened. Instead, the championship simply existed. Which, again, is not necessarily a bad thing. I know I liked it, which means everyone did!

Instead, Impact Wrestling played it safe, and neutered the secondary championship. It’s no different than, say, an Intercontinental Championship, but it still carries the name of a belt that is intended to be seen at (nearly) the same level as the Global Championship. Which, of course, it was.

It was supposed to be the “tougher” championship, the one where you had a small window of time to prove you were better, and that you’d have to do everything in your power to win. You couldn’t rest on the outside of the ring for a while to take a breather – because you’d be killing valuable time in the process. Hell, Aron Rex even created a gimmick for the division itself, wrapping his ring in tape, allowing him to deliver a killshot in the match whenever he wanted, because he knew time was not on his side.

In the same way the X Division is a specialized division with a specialized champion, the Grand Championship should have been allowed to exist. I know that we don’t like our wrestling companies littered with too many belts, but from where I sat, there was still room for a TV/IC/US Championship type of belt, even with the X and Grand Championships. Two would be for standard, straight up wrestling matches, while the other two would cater to different styles – athletic high flying, and a more MMA style of wrestling.

This allows the “non-specialized” wrestlers – or those uninterested in the stakes – to compete for two singles championships, while also allowing those who only want to compete in specialized areas to have the same opportunities. Too small for the Global Championship? Go try for the X Division title. Don’t like rounds? Go for the TV Title.

Imagine a Hardcore Championship in a company that never holds Hardcore matches, except for when the belt is on the line? It’d seem silly after a while, and that’s what happened with the Grand Championship. Personal opinions on if it was good or not are fine and valid, but the fact is that Impact Wrestling never fully got behind the championship, never reinforced the concept, and simply hoped that whoever held the belt would make it seem important.

And, wouldn’t you know it, the title suffered because of it!

So here we are, with Matt Sydal holding a belt that should be seen as important, but largely isn’t. He got his win over EC3, but only after failing to beat him multiple times and getting the match rules of the division changed to suit him.

I was long a fan of the Grand Championship, but at this point, I think it’s clear: the belt needs to be renamed. It doesn’t carry the clout it was hoped to carry, and no one would think of Matt Sydal as the other champion of Impact, the way an EC3 or Drew McIntyre had hoped.

That isn’t to say that Sydal isn’t a fine wrestler, or even a fine champion; he’s both. However, he did himself a disservice by forcing Impact to stack the deck in his favor, and by completely doing away with everything that had been established prior, he is basically announcing that he couldn’t win doing things the Grand Championship way, so he’s having the Grand Championship do things the Matt Sydal way.

In the end, this is just about mourning a lost opportunity. The Officially Unofficial Impact Grand Championship Rankings will be no more. There’s no need to have fun with a division that has been redesigned to be just like every other one. There’s nothing that makes it stand out, that makes it unique; it’s just another big belt for one of the guys to hold.

And that’s a bummer. Not for everyone, but at least for this guy.

Viva the Grand Championship!