I’m still talking about wrestling because Andy hasn’t fired me yet!
MOMENTARY ASIDE: I literally just Google searched “Pushing the envelope” to post an image here in relation to how I keep talking wrestling on our comic book blog and podcast, and almost every picture that comes up is a little man shoving against a huge envelope. Is… is that what you picture when you hear the phrase “pushing the envelope”? I was thinking, like, of a hand sliding a normal sized envelope across a table; that’s what I was expecting. Am I wrong? Leave your thoughts in the comments on what you picture when you hear that colloquialism! This is unimportant, but humor me. I am staring at all these macros of little men pushing huge envelopes, and it’s starting to bother me that I had this wrong for years.
What am I even doing right now? I forgot already. Let’s look up at the title of this article again… oh, right! Gimmick matches! Got it. Let’s start the show!
5. Falls Count Anywhere
Starting off really basic before we get to the more convoluted match types that I love, FCA is a bout that I usually get a kick out of. Much moreso than Cage or Ironman or Lumberjack or Last Man Standing… if I want a general stipulation match between two competitors, for some reason, it’s Falls Count Anywhere that I dig the most. The match can go–and end–anywhere, and the ability to pin your opponent amongst the fans or in the parking lot or next to concessions is really creative and allows for a lot of new sights. I never liked the more basic variants on “No Disqualification/Anything Goes” matches where the wrestlers can journey all around the building… but they have to guide themselves back to the ring to win. If that’s where winning happens, why would you ever leave? But if you can defeat your foe in the aisle, then hell yeah… take a walk and build your strategy!
A lot of people will probably pooh-pooh this and saying winning between the ropes is what keeps a match structured, but… nuts to that! I want more wins in the middle of the crowd! Also, for whatever reason, we almost never see these, so they keep their luster for me.
4. War Games
You’re going to pick up on a theme in many of these matches from here-out: I like matches where not all of the participants who are in the match are there when the match starts, and I like big, multi-person affairs who give a lot of talent time to get involved.
It’s so weird that WWE has recently embraced War Games under the NXT brand after the rumors having been for ages that since it was a WCW original idea, Vince McMahon refused to bring it back. For it to have reappeared after all these years with relatively little fanfare (as much as most diehard fans don’t want to admit it, NXT is seen by many fewer eyeballs than Raw or Smackdown Live) is odd. That said, it’s a welcome return! The 2017 NXT War Games was my second favorite match of the year, behind only the third Okada/Omega bout. War Games is visually striking, bringing both an extra large cage AND two adjoining rings! Two (or three) teams compete with members entering one at a time to join the brutality until everyone is involved. From there, it is a melee that can only end in submission (except in the WWE variety). It’s a huge trainwreck of a battle, the air of mystery on who is coming out next is fun, and it’s just a great gimmick.
3. Money In The Bank Ladder Match
And not just because the 2018 show was in recent memory. The Money In The Bank Ladder Match is always a great concept. There is a fluctuating number of combatants from year-to-year (between five and ten per contest historically), and while it’s just a multi-man ladder match (which is already great! And would have made the list on its own if I didn’t get specific here), the winner gets the Money In The Bank briefcase. This is often one of WWE’s best annual gimmicks, allowing for shock moments and teases until a final payoff. Granted, there have been more poor-to-middling cash-ins than there have been truly spectacular ones, but the grand cash-ins are such a huge moment in WWE history that they make up for all those Corbin, Swagger, or Sandow shots.
Even taking the briefcase out of play, multi-man ladder match are consistently some of the most delightful car crash matches professional wrestling presents. With the stacked number of competitors, you can always fill so many roles! You’ll have spot monkeys and big bullies and technicians and sneaky, devious heels… there is so much action crammed into these matches that the crowd usually doesn’t have time to breathe.
2. The Elimination Chamber
So, no… basic cage matches don’t do it for me because the rules are weird (why do you WIN by running away from your opponent?). And Hell In A Cell is just a regular cage match, minus the weird running away rules, plus an equally weird walking path around the ring. There have been both great cage and great Hell In A Cell matches, but just the idea of one doesn’t get my blood pumping. It feels rather ho-hum. But when I hear the Elimination Chamber is coming? YES. I’m all in. It’s a weirdly shaped cage match… WITH PODS. Pods, people! That’s what we were missing in wrestling all along! What isn’t improved with little plastic jail cells? You can kick them! And hide in them! And… shut up, they’re great. Pods!
I kid, but I really do dig the Chamber. There’s the air of mystery as to who is going to be “released” into the match next at any given point. There’s usually a title up for grabs, and if not, at least #1 contendership in the “Brock can’t be bothered with this” era. The build of the structure allows for more unique stunts and extra visceral carnage (with the grated floor outside the ring seemingly particularly dangerous). And there’s also at least six competitors in a free-for-all environment where anyone can go after anyone, so there’s a fairly constant stream of action.
1. The Royal Rumble
To the surprise of no one who follows my articles both here and at 411mania.com, the Rumble is my absolute jam, as the hip kids say. It’s a 30-person battle royal match where the contestants enter one at a time after the match has already started. The winner of this challenge of endurance and luck gets a World Title match at Wrestlemania. It doesn’t sound like much, but what it lacks in gimmickry and extraneous items, it makes up for in significance and storytelling. With [usually] 30 participants, angle development can abound at all stages in the match, and WWE can either further existing stories or organically grow entirely new ones. Shawn Michaels, for example, was the master of coming out of Rumbles with a Wrestlemania feud (Jericho, Angle, Vince) even if he lost. In 2016, Kevin Owens either grew or started three feuds in the span of three entrances (he had big brawls with AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, and Sami Zayn upon his own and the latter two’s entrances into the match)! Beyond that, you’ve got the historical moments (the first Hogan/Warrior seeds were planted in a Rumble, for instance), great debuts (AJ Styles in the aforementioned 2016), or shocking returns (Cena in 2008; Edge in 2010). And, of course, there’s the fact that the Rumble shapes the Wrestlemania main event scene. Wrestlemania is the biggest event on WWE’s calendar, and the Rumble is its hype man! So sure there may not be any ladders or structures or crazy rules… it doesn’t need ’em! The Rumble is legendary all by itself, and that’s why it’s the best gimmick match going today.
So there’s man, what are yours, yada yada yada. It’s a pretty good list! Why aren’t there more Falls Count Anywhere matches, damn it? We get Iron Man matches all the damn time in comparison! Get me some more roaming wrestling, damn it!
Until next time… take care!