Clean Finishes

May 7, 2007

After last weeks article on gimmick matches I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about finishes this week, clean finishes in particular. Last week I talked a little about The Undertaker – Batista, Last Man Standing match and how from a “gimmick match” stand point the match didn’t make a whole lot of sense, to me. With their original “regular match” having a clean finish what really was the point to the, Last Man Standing gimmick?

Despite the Last Man Standing gimmick not making sense from a traditional logic stand point, there were two very good reasons behind it. The first being to make it seem like a “bigger and better” match up than the previous one. The other quite obviously now, was to enable the match to have an indecisive winner and prolong the conflict between Batista and Taker. That is one of the real problems in wrestling today, which unfortunately I don’t think can be completely fixed.

The problem is in that fans pretty much expect and demand clean finishes, which make extending feuds almost impossible. With standards for big matches on TV being set so high, companies have to constantly feature big name match ups on a weekly basis, on TV, as well as try to extend feuds over 2 or 3 PPVs. In order to extend a feud between say, Undertaker and Batista over 3 PPVs WWE will have to come up with involvement between these two guys for approximately 12 weeks of TV (more if they work cross brand) and 3 major PPV match ups.

To do this creative will no doubt exhaust all possibilities involving tag team combinations with the two on TV (contributing to the decline of the tag team division. A subject for another time), which pretty much just leaves single match options for PPV. As I mentioned before fans expect clean finishes, especially on PPV, which again greatly reduce booking options. Back in the Kayfabe era of wrestling, Ric Flair could get himself disqualified and actually get heat for it, but today you only get the wrong kind of heat for DQ finishes, and fans see it more as a sign of indecisive booking or an unwillingness to do “the job” rather than a character driven finish designed to create heat.

With the Undertaker – Batista program you also have the World Title on the line, so you can’t just flip flop finishes back and forth either, as switching the title every match is never a good idea. This is where the Backlash, Last Man Standing match comes into play. I received a lot of e-mail from fans furious over the double count out finish to this match, claiming it was extremely lame. While I agree it was not particularly satisfying, I’m not sure what other options existed. Fans wanted a clean finish, but with the Title on the line, and a desire to leave the Title on The Undertaker, a clean finish would pretty much bring this feud to a close. Taker defeated Batista clean at Mania to capture the Title and had he then been the Last Man Standing at Backlash, Big Dave would have lost decisively twice in a row and what possible reason could there be for this feud to continue?

This is one of the reasons why gimmick matches are so frequently used today, and more importantly, as mentioned last week, used incorrectly, in my opinion. Gimmick matches are often being used nowadays as a means to create a match that can be won in a less than decisive manor. How many times have we seen cage matches where the ”escape” finish is used and the person escaping really doesn’t come off as the dominant winner? I recall a Kane – MVP cage match on SD, not that long ago, where MVP was destroyed the entire match only to fluke his way into escaping the cage for the victory, or the Rhino – Christian Cage, cage match from Impact, where Rhino speared him through the cage leading to the destroyed Christian Cage actually winning the match. The “escape” finish option creates a means by which to win the match without actually being the decisive victor. Oddly enough this actually defeats the purpose of having a gimmick match as the gimmick is suppose to reduce the chances of indecisive finishes not increase them.

Don’t get me wrong I am not condemning those who book in this fashion, because as I stated earlier, I’m not sure there is a completely viable alternative. If you choose to save the gimmick matches just for the climax, or blow off on the angle (as they were originally intended) you will be forced to utilize unclean finishes such as count outs or disqualifications, to extend feuds, which fans hate. It’s a catch 22 created by the “Big Match” TV formula fans are accustom to today. There are however, I believe, a few ways in which to minimize this problem.

I think if bookers avoided unclear finishes at all costs in non-title matches, fans might be a little more tolerant of the ones that do arise. I also think too many feuds are being booked, which only helps burn out angles and booking options. In my opinion if the top 3 matches (or feuds) on you card won’t sell the show, a bunch of lesser ones won’t either. The more matches on the card that have clean finishes the more fans might tolerate the few that don’t.

This is my biggest complaint with TNA. Often on Impact there will be three, tag team, or 6 man matches and all three will feature run-in, outside interference for the finish. When you see finishes like this each week on TV a non-clean finish on PPV is all that much more frustrating.

I think the recent matches between Edge and Orton on RAW, and Hardy and Kennedy on SD are prime examples of how things could be done on TV to alleviate this problem. When you give talented workers enough time, they can have a match that makes both participants come off looking strong, despite one getting beat cleanly. I also think when action is this good the matches themselves don’t need as much of an angle or storyline to get it over. Save the feuds and angles for the top few matches and round out the rest of the show with great quality action with clean finishes. I believe fans will end up a whole lot happier, and it would also be a lot easier to book.

That’s my two cents,
Lance Storm