Truth or Consequences: Read the Small Print

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Truth or Consequences – two columns in as many weeks? Surely some mistake?

Let’s get the ball rolling straight away with the single, solitary e-mail I received this week in my Inbox, regarding my choice of gimmick matches.

fixxer315 wrote…

“Good job on the specialty matches. I can’t say I agree with all of your choices, but I imagine if you get 10 people and ask them to pick their favorite 5, you’d get 10 completely different answers.

So here are mine (plus two more favs):

1. Royal Rumble. This is the type of match that is damn near impossible to screw up.(although Russo managed to do so in 1999) Take 30 wrestlers, have them enter iby “random drawing” in regular intervals and the last man standing wins. This match has worked year after year, because in addition to whatever storylines there are happening, there is also the interest factor in that you don’t know who is coming next. THe winner of the match may get the WM title shot, but often there is a standout performance that really gets the fans interested (Austin in 97, Backlund in 93, Diesel in 94, etc). You can also get some interesting angles to emerge from this event, independent of the winner.

2. Ladder Match: In the early 2000’s, it has been killed off somewhat by overexposure, but the Mysterio/Guerreo match (lame storyline aside) showed how good this match can be. Another seemingly simple concept that really plays off well, especially if you get two bump-takers.

3. Falls Count Anywhere: Whether singles or tag team matches, these are often killer matches that can get really wild. The main problem with this match is that it can get old if you do it too much. (The late 90’s and early 2000’s did this). It also sucks if you do too much outside the arena (WWF hardcore division). Still, there were a lot of really fun matches with this stipulations.

4. Hell in a Cell: While recent incarnations have been kept inside the cell, the early incarnations were violence personified. UT/Mankind is a classic (albiet a demented one), while Foley/HHH was one of the highlights of the fantatstic 2000. Yet this match is not perfect as you need two really good workers that the audience gives a shit about. Otherwise you get the heel v. heel Bossman/UT WM 15 crapfest.

5. War Games: Until they changed the rules in 98, this match was untouchable. You get 2 teams of wrestlers who hate each other, two rings and a cage with a roof to settle their differences. The 1992 edition with the Dangerous Alliance v. Sting’s Squadron is a perfect, violent examply of how good this match could be. The mid and late 90’s editions were too watered down, but even the 96 and 97 matches were good examples of storytelling.

6. Survivor Series: I agree that the elimination match is one of the best. I really miss the old Survivor Series PPVs which consisted mainly of elimination matches. At least the ones that they’ve included in recent years have had some important drama. Still, I’d like to see more of them.

7. Battle Bowl: WCW’s late 80’s and early 90’s gimmick, this never got enough play. I liked the idea of a 2 ring battle royal, with the winners of each having to face each other at the end. It’s too bad you’ll probably never see the WWE break this one out, or the Wargames.

ANd while I’m at it, the top 5 worse specialty matches

1. WW3: In the mid 90’s, they replaced the Battlebowl gimmick with this disaster. Sounded OK in theory, but in practice, this wound up being a complete mess. 60 guys in three rings for a battle royal? Considering about 50 of them had no chance–and it was impossible to follow the action, this was a disaster. The only memory I have of the WW3 matches was Lee Marshall getting kicked in the head by the Barbarian in 96

2. Lumberjack: Here’s a match I’ve yet to see a good version. Inevitably, this turns into a mini-battle between the lumberjacks, and this will almost never end cleanly.

3. Blindfold: Talk about spot-rest-spot match. This consists of two guys fumbling around, connecting with a move, then more fumbling around.

4. X on a poll match. Another match I’ve yet to see a good version. Two guys battle in and around a corner.

5. Handicap matches: Now there have been good matchs from these, but I have come to hate this stipulation, mostly because of its overuse. It doesn’t do anyone any good. If the tag team wins, they don’t gain much, and they really look bad if they lose.

So, what do you think are some of the really band specialty matches?”

Some good choices there, fixxer. I was going to include the Royal Rumble, but in the end I chose not to, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it only comes around once a year on WWE television and it’s always the main event (Hell, it’s even got a PPV named after it.) so I don’t see it as a gimmick match, so to speak. Also, in my view gimmick matches are supposed to mark the end of a feud and, to my knowledge, not one solitary feud has been ended by a Royal Rumble match. Indeed, quite the opposite usually happens as the Royal Rumble often marks the first step on the road to WrestleMania. Also, I decided not to include it because, as I suggested with regard to the Elimination Chamber, for certainly the last 10 years the winner has usually been an obvious choice (okay, with the exception of Chris Benoit in 2004 – you’ve got me there). Everyone knew that this year’s winner would be either Cena or Batista; just like everybody knew that 2003 would be the year of Brock; 2002 was always going to be Trips or Angle…you see where I’m going here. I like the original concept that somebody – be it a main eventer or a total curtain jerker – could some manage to hang on in there and survive until the very end. You don’t even have to be a good wrestler, just tenacious enough to never go over that top rope. In reality, though, does anybody really expect someone like Rosey, Rene Dupree or Orlando Jordan to win the match. The ones who win are already either legitimate main-eventers (Trips, Brock, Stone Cold and the Rock were all former world champions when they won their respective Rumble victories) or had been built up in the preceding months to the exclusion of all else (cf. Batista and Cena).

Ironically, one of the better stipulations attached to modern Rumbles, the one whereby the winner gets a title shot at WrestleMania, has made sure that there isn’t even the possibility of a shock victory any more. How cool would it have been if Shelton Benjamin had won the Rumble this year? It would have swerved people in a good way (as opposed to the 1999, Vince McMahon way), he already had a couple of victories over Triple H thus lending their match an added bit of history and, being one of the darlings of the IWC, there would have been no complaints regarding his elevation in this way. But no – the WWE seems to want to lead us by the hand through every single storyline, as if we were children

Ladder matches are fine but, again, I prefer my simple gimmicks. If got nothing against spotfests and I wouldn’t dream of taking anything away from the Hardys, HBKs and Edges of the world, who’ve made these kinds of matches hugely enjoyable but, once again, from a psychology point of view, they just don’t make sense. There are, at the very core of wrestling, two types of feuds – “I hate you and I want to hurt you, really badly” and “I’m a better wrestler than you and I’ll prove it by pinning you 1-2-3”. You can add any number of extraneous plotlines and twists to them, but they are the main two and the ones that draw big money. Therefore, the final blow-off for feuds of this nature should be ones where the best man wins, be it through winning multiple falls (2 out of 3 falls, Iron Man matches) or simply surviving everything that the other man can throw at you (Texas Death, Stretcher, “I Quit”, Last Man Standing and, to an extent, hardcore and deathmatches). You prove that you are the better wrestler or the tougher bastard, one way or the other. Ladder matches, just prove that you can climb a ladder quicker than anybody else – whoop-de-doo! I’ve no doubt that Funaki could scale a ladder in seconds and grab the World Heavyweight Title – would that necessarily put him on an equal footing with Batista?

Being a massive Foley mark, I do like Falls Count Anywhere style matches and the old Hardcore Matches that were held under the 24/7, falls count anywhere rule. When they’re done well, they’re awesome, but I’ve seen a fair few where the action only ever takes place in and around the ring – what’s the point in that. If the whole arena is your canvas, why restrict yourself. This is why I also like Empty Arena and Boiler Room Brawl type matches. Again, like my other favourites, this match ends when one guy can’t get up due to a massive beating but also, in the best examples of it, his opponent is also so knackered that he can’t even drag the guy into the ring and just collapses on top of him for the three count. I love that.

Wargames is one of the finest gimmicks known to man and I always enjoyed the late eighties, early nineties stuff but, as you said, the late nineties variants just crapped all over the good memories (Team Hogan vs. the Dungeon of Doom? – come on), so it had to be bumped, unfortunately.

As for the truly bad gimmicks – you’ve certainly picked two of my ‘favourites’ – lumberjack matches and Item on a Pole matches are generally dire from start to finish and few of them stick out in the mind. If they do, then it’s rarely for the match itself, but for some cute little extra gimmick. I remember a lumberjack match from 2000 WCW, for instance, between Sting and Lex Luger. Luger’s gimmick at the time was that he was breaking people’s arms with a steel chair and so Sting’s lumberjacks were all the guys whose arms Lex had broken. So far so good. The funny part was that Luger had his own lumberjacks and, according to the plot, they all decided to have their own arms broken to make sure it was an even match (or something). So here they came, wearing Bob Orton like fake casts. That was funny and it made me remember the match, but the actually bout itself was just as dire as any other.

I’d also include Strap matches in my bottom 5, for many of the same reasons that I’ve already covered elsewhere. Like ladder matches, the way to win is at odds with the kayfabed premise that these guys hate each other and will want to pummel each other and, also, they’re just too predictable – one guy hits 3 of the corner pads, with the other guy trailing behind tagging them as well, and then the second guy will leap forward and tag the final pad, securing victory – as sure as the sun will rise and set, this will occur.

I disagree with your pick of Handicap matches though as, used properly, they can seriously help to get someone over as a monster. Unfortunately, by ‘used properly’ I mean you should have your big guys wrestling a pair of total unknown jobbers, not established talent. Having Batista destroy La Resitance lessens your product, but having him beat up a couple of Indie Kids from the local promotion makes him look good, without damaging the in-ring credibility of your other superstars.

When I watched WCW Worldwide as a kid, I used to mark out big time for Vader and Sid Vicious destroying the everloving crap out of a couple of enhancement talent workers. Andre and King Kong Bundy used to take on three at a time and it was good fun to watch. The jobbers get a better payday than they would at an Indy show, and the big guys looks like absolute brutes. So, as I say, fine if it’s Superstar vs. Jobber A and Jobber B, but I see where you’re coming from in regard to established wrestlers.

Anyway – thanks for the e-mail, and don’t forget to keep ’em coming to the link below.

Onto this week’s article, then, and it looks like a good time to be a sports agent, doesn’t it boys and girls.

One of the big stories this week has been the Dudley Boys being informed that they cannot wrestle under the Dudley moniker, as that particular trademark is held lock, stock and barrel by the WWE. Whilst certain people have been bitching and moaning about this all over the ‘Net as a shocking display of bad form on Vince’s part (most notably Dave Scherer) I disagree. The Duds, or Team 3D as they will henceforth be known, have got no-one to blame but themselves in this debacle.

Let’s face it – anybody who takes Paul Heyman at his word in a business transaction deserves everything they get. Sure, Paul may have promised them that they could continue to use the Dudley names once ECW had closed its doors for good, but then he shouldn’t have included the Dudley copyright as part of Vince’s buy-out of the company. But the fault isn’t Heyman’s either. If he had told the Dudley’s that the rights to the name had been signed over to them, then the Duds should have INSISTED on getting legal documentation to prove it.

So far so good – I’m not really saying anything earth shattering here – but this does lead us onto something more important and it’s something that has been bandied around for years. Should wrestlers have a union to protect them from stuff like this (as well as being fired whilst injured or pregnant and other things of this nature)?

It’s not just the Dudleys that have been affected by contract-wrangling in recent weeks and months. Joey Styles has had to walk away from his own wrestling promotion, because his WWE contract states that he can’t work for any other promotion; Brock Lesnar signed a contract that meant he couldn’t wrestle for another wrestling promotion for ten years. Again, this is their fault and nobody forced them to sign the contract but perhaps the introduction of a union would allow them to have some impartial adjudicators to examine the contract and, perhaps, come up with a standard wrestling contract that granted the same basic conditions to everyone with only matters such as work schedule, salary and creative control to be worked out.

This will never happen, of course, because wrestling isn’t a real sport, nor is it included with the entertainment industries such as film and television (why can’t wrestlers get in the Actor’s Guild or the equivalent, if they’re portraying a character on television and PPV?). Most important of all, the promoters don’t want it to happen.

Every single wrestler in the entire world is expendable. If John Cena or Batista got up in front of the locker room and demanded that a Union be started, do you think Vince would even hesitate before jobbing the belts off them and relegating them to curtain-jerker Hell immediately? Also, whether you like it or not, if Vinnie Mac doesn’t let his boys start a Union, there’ll be no point in any other promotion trying it. Sure, you could try and blackball non-union members from wrestling in TNA, but the WWE preventing union members from signing a contract with them is more than enough reason for most wrestlers to never sign that dotted line. The ‘E’ is the pinnacle of Sports Entertainment in America, make no mistake. Young guys just getting into the business talk about main eventing a WrestleMania or wrestling at MSG. Well, boys, there’s only one place to go if you have that dream – McMahonLand.

It looks like reading the fine print would be de rigeur for any aspiring wrestler – take it away and read it at your leisure if you have to. If the promotion really wants you and really thinks you’re worth it, then they’ll change things and, if they’re not prepared to do that, then they clearly don’t hold you in high regard and you’ll just end up getting squashed by the likes of Viscera in any case. Hell, even the Warrior was smart enough to trademark his own name. How scary is that? Jim Hellwig outsmarted Brock Lesnar and his phalanx of lawyers, the Dudley Boys and Joey Styles.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back next Thursday with some more incoherent ramblings for you all to enjoy.

Until the next time…farewell.