Gimmick Matches

April 30, 2007

Iíve had a few people asking me about gimmick matches, and if I think there are too many of them in wrestling today. My answer is a whole hearted YES. There are absolutely way too many gimmick matches being done. That being said, the sheer volume of gimmick matches isnít even the real problem, the real problem, in my opinion, is that they are all being done for either no reason what so ever, or the wrong reasons all together.

Iíve mentioned this before, but Iíve gotten to the point where I feel a lot of the people in this industry have completely lost sight of what this business is about. This business is about conflict and the battle to resolve that conflict. You take two people and put them in a ring to fight. To give that fight meaning you create a championship for them to fight for. They then battle to see who the better man is, to either win that championship or climb the ladder towards that championship. Thatís it, thatís the wrestling business. Thatís the steak; everything else is just the sizzle.

Not too many people want to eat just a plain steak so we add the sizzle. We add angles, characters, and storylines to make the steak more appetizing (the conflict more interesting). The concept of a gimmick match is to create an environment that might settle the conflict after the usual means (a regular match) has failed to do so. The gimmick match is supposed to occur later in an angle and needs to relate to the angle so fans are more apt to pay to see the gimmick match in hopes of it settling the conflict.

Where this concept really got lost, was with the advent of the Hardcore Title. WWE started having hardcore matches just for the sake of having hardcore matches. Guys werenít hitting each other with weapons and enduring unbelievable amounts of punishment because of a deep-rooted hatred developed over a long-standing feud; they were killing each other just because it was a hardcore match. There was no specific conflict to be resolved it was just a gimmick match for the sake of a gimmick match.

Since then it has only gotten worse. Gimmick matches are used simply to extend feuds, but no booking effort is being made to tie the gimmick match into the reason the conflict wasnít resolved the last time out. There are even times (TNA in particular) where a ďconceptĒ gimmick match is invented and instead of building to it with the appropriate angle they just have it for the sake of having it.

To illustrate the way things are supposed to be done, Iíll invent a scenario using Sting and Flair. Fans wanted to see Sting beat Flair for the title, so they booked a match and sold tickets. People showed up to see Sting win the title. Once Sting locked on the Scorpion Death Lock the Horsemen hit the ring and beat Sting up. Sting won by DQ but didnít win the title. Fans still wanted to see Sting win the title, so they booked the next match and barred the Horsemen from ringside. Fans thought without the Horseman, Sting would definitely win the title (resolve the conflict) so they bought more tickets. This time out after getting his butt kicked Flair rolled out of the ring and got counted out. Again Sting wins but the title still eludes him. Finally they book a Cage match. Fans figure, Horsemen canít get in, Flair canít get out, this time the conflict will be resolved, Stings will win the title for sure, THEY BUY MORE TICKETS! We then have the match, the Horsemen donít get in, Flair doesnít get out (so the gimmick match actually does what it is suppose to do) and Sting wins the FíN title. This isnít rocket science.

Today we, more often than not, get gimmick matches where the gimmick has nothing to do with why the feud is on going, or why the conflict was not resolved the first time. A great example of this is the Backlash Undertaker, Dave Batista rematch. WWE built up a great conflict between these two men, and fans watched WrestleMania to see the conflict resolved. The match had a clear and decisive winner; Undertaker won right in the middle with a Tombstone Pile Driver (conflict resolved). We then went to Backlash and they were booked in a Last Man Standing match. WHY? What does this gimmick match offer us that the previous one didnít? How will this gimmick change the outcome? Was a Tombstone in the middle of the ring some how not a decisive enough win? I donít get it.

On the other hand the John Cena, Umaga Last Man Standing match earlier this year made perfect sense. Umaga destroyed John Cena in the previous match, but Cena managed a fluke roll up win, to save the title. Vince, wanting Umaga to beat John for the title then booked the Last Man Standing Match. Based on how the previous match went, this certainly seemed like greater jeopardy for the champ. Fans would presumably buy tickets to see if the Hero John Cena could survive this new, greater threat!

This doesnít even begin to cover all the absurd, meaningless gimmick matches weíve had to endure over the years. Remember Judy Bagwell on a pole, Viagra on a Pole? What conflict were those matches meant to resolve? How about every match on the card being fought inside a steel cage, becauseÖ well perhaps just because itís easier to leave the damn thing up than it is to take it down. Or better yet, that atrocity on Impact last week with the X-Division guys. I donít know what it was called, what the rules were, what the hell was going on during the match, or why it was the means by which to select 2 guys for guess whatÖ another freaking gimmick match (a three way dance for the X title) being done for no reason what so ever!

I guess if you canít book an interesting angel, itís easiest just to book a bunch of gimmick matches and hope people are willing to spend their money to see those. Sadly I am not, and judging by domestic buy rates, neither are a lot of other people.

Lance Storm