The Steel Cage Match, Last Man Standing, The Lockdown Wargames match, Hell in a Cell, The Elimination Chamber, TLC, Triple Threat, Special Referee, $50,000 bounty, anything on a pole; Of course these are all gimmick and stipulation matches that we have in wrestling. It’s kind of interesting when you think about it, most of these matches didn?t even exist 15 years ago and now we have them and so much more. Are there too many gimmick matches right now in professional wrestling? Is it hurting the business more than helping it? You?re reading ?Wrestling Rumblings?.
Maybe it’s me, maybe I am a bit old school but I remember growing up when the biggest stipulation or gimmick match you really had was the Steel Cage Match and it’s funny because when you really stopped and thought about it everything you saw in those matches was pretty much what happened in a regular match except now there was a cage around it however in the weeks leading up to one of those the major companies would sell you on the illusion of the Steel Cage and you would go into it really expecting to see someone get hurt and the feud resolved. These days we have a ton of stipulation matches and all of them are supposed to resolve feuds, but none of them ever really do so. Sometimes (Undertaker vs. Punk) we just forego the regular match up and just head straight to the stipulation match up. Why do we do this?
Some people will argue that the gimmicks and stipulations sell and there is a small truth to that. I mean if you told me two guys were going to fight I would be there to watch but I don?t know about my girlfriend; however if you told her that one of those two guys was going to be set on fire she would probably be there. Still I think it’s more than that. I was talking to a friend of my girlfriends recently who was lauding the ring work of Edge and while I am a big fan of the character I have not been a big fan of his in ring stuff the past few years and I challenged this friend to find me three really great matches Edge has had since he ascended the throne to main event status that were not gimmick or stipulation matches. Mind you I didn?t even reserve the right to challenge it. I just wanted to know what he thought was a great one on one singles match and yet when I put him to the test he really couldn?t do it. He bought up the matches with Cena but when I asked him for a good straight up singles match he had with Cena he couldn?t do it. Why? He was thinking of the TLC match they had a few years ago. He bought up Jeff Hardy and again it was asked by him to think of a good singles match without any gimmicks that they had and once again he couldn?t do it, you see he was thinking of the TLC match they just had. He came at me with the Undertaker and it was the only one we could both agree on that had a great regular match with Edge (although I should mention I let him suggest I could still think of a few more). It kept me thinking though; could it be that Edge had a great match with the Undertaker because he is one of the few old school guys left who know s how to have a great match without all the craziness? Then I had to ask myself the only question left to ask; how would the performers of today do without gimmick matches?
I started thinking and while there are exceptions when some of today’s performers have had really good matches with each other without the use of stipulations/gimmicks there really haven?t been that many of today’s stars who have done that night in and night out. As a matter of fact in recent memory the only example of a younger star doing so is John Morrison. I remember a handful of years ago when everyone including myself was applauding the work of AJ Styles. Everything he was doing at the time was pardon the pun phenomenal, yet he is another of today’s younger stars who hasn?t had a great match without the use of a gimmick in years. Upon thinking of all of this I couldn?t help but reflect on conversations I have had with Diablo Santiago in the past where he has told me that the art of wrestling is dead. I used to try to challenge it, tell him everything runs in cycles and of course he would shut me up really fast when he would ask me to name good matches in recent memory without gimmicks of young guys wrestling young guys on a national scene in wrestling (TNA, WWE). I?d brush it all off with me just telling him he is getting old and is one of those guys who will always just say ?Back in the day it was better? but writing this column right now I can see that he is right.
I don?t want to just vilify the young guys after all The Undertaker has probably been in more stipulation/gimmick matches than regular matches the last few years and do not get me started on Mick Foley who if there weren?t any gimmick matches to have would?ve stood retired 9 years ago. These matches have been a way to extend careers, which when you take into account the increased risk for injury in these matches is kind of an oxymoronic thing to say but it is indeed true. If there were no Casket, Hell in a Cell, Buried Alive or any other crazy gimmick matches would Undertaker still be going this strong in the year 2009? Sadly enough I really don?t think he would. Say what you would about Ric Flair but outside of the stipulation matches that he used to ?end? his career he actually went in there and just had matches for most of his WWE run. Shouldn?t it be if you can?t go no more than you just shouldn?t?
Of course I realized that maybe the last few months have jaded me a bit and I had it all wrong and there weren?t as many gimmick/stipulation matches as I thought so I decided to do a little research for this column. I rounded up every TNA and every WWE PPV match up and then isolated what I felt was a gimmick/stipulation involved. For the record anything short of a straight one on one match is a gimmick or stipulation. If there is a special referee that’s a gimmick, if there is something hokey on the line like Abyss $50,000 bounty that’s a stipulation, anything out of the ordinary for wrestling in the states like a mixed gender match that’s a gimmick, and of course any multiple person singles match is a gimmick as well. This is what I found. When adding up all of TNA’s PPV matches this year (including dark matches) they have had 86 total matches. Out of those 86 matches 39 of them have had either a gimmick or stipulation associated with them. That’s 45% of their PPV matches that are either gimmicks or stipulations. WWE is not that much better when doing the same match including the Hell in a Cell matches this is what WWE had 88 total matches and 40 of them had either a gimmick or a stipulation attached to it. That’s actually another 45% for tho se of you TNA bashers who complain that TNA has more stipulations and gimmicks than WWE. We are talking about close to half of the matches we see on PPV every year with this number, and with more WWE and TNA gimmick PPV’s before the year is up that number will rise. I don?t know about you but that bothers me.
It used to be that when WWE advertised something like Hell in a Cell everyone would be on board for it. After all it was a match that you saw only once a year. This year we are going to see it at least 3 times. In addition to that we have already seen two ladder matches which we used to see just once a year and god knows how many more we are going to see before the year is out. TNA has bastardized the use of the steel cage with its Lockdown show where it really means nothing anymore. When does it all stop? Whatever happened to two guys with an issue, one fall to a finish? I?m attending the Hell in a Cell PPV and if it wasn?t for the good company I keep I wouldn?t even be looking forward to it at all for the simple reason that I am of the belief that if everyone is having a gimmick or stipulation match than it is no longer to be looked at as special but just another match. To paraphrase=2 0Sgt. Slaughter ?I want my wrestling back?.
I am sure there are going to be lots of thoughts and opinions on this subject and I am eager to hear them all. Of course you can share your insights with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and well that’s it for this week, next week I will try to do better, and until then I am out.