A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Ever since I saw the first one, the Royal Rumble has been one of my favorite gimmick matches. It was an ingenious twist on a match I already loved. The Rumble is not my favorite gimmick match, however. Growing up, I loved them all. Just the hearing about them would get me fired up for them. Sometimes, they wouldn’t really pan out (blindfold matches), and other times they wouldn’t live up to expectations (scaffold matches), but I always looked forward to the next one.
When they were what I hoped for, they were amazing. More than three decades after it was first held at the Omni, WarGames is still the greatest gimmick match of all time. It is the ultimate feud ender, promising violence and pain. Watching The Match Beyond, you really believed the announcers’ hyperbole. It did not just shorten careers; it shortened lives.
Not every good gimmick match idea has to be as intricate as WarGames, however. A good old fashioned Street Fight told you exactly what to expect. As long as there were no wrestling holds, they worked. Taped fists matches (the roundless versions) were straight and to the point. Two people who hated each other would punch the hell out of each other. Even plodding scaffold matches had the anticipation of the giant bump.
I remember reading a column in Pro Wrestling Illustrated asking fans what the next great gimmick match would be. It seemed like every single gimmick match conceivable had been done. (This was in 1989.) They all ended up being slight variations on the same themes: excessive blood and violence. In other words, they lacked in imagination.
This really is not the fault of the people who submitted the ideas, though. By 1989, the gimmick match had basically evolved to the point where was no room to do much more. Two out of three fall matches to tag team matches to cage matches covered a lot of ground. After that, promoters began thinking of more outlandish ideas. It was obvious, there really was not much left to do.
There were no new gimmick matches worth doing.
By the time the 1980s ended, all the good gimmick matches had been done. An argument can be made for the occasional exception, like Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches. Of course, that would also require putting aside the fact those matches are more about the spectacle than the resolution. And if you are not doing a gimmick match to end a feud, then what’s the point?
The fact there are nonsensical matches like the Elimination Chamber which just combine WarGames with the Rumble further proves all the good ideas have been used. The problem is not unique to the modern era, either. When it comes to gimmick matches, promoters have been running on fumes for decades. The late ’80s gave fans silliness like the Tower of Doom, for example.
I love gimmick matches. They are a perfect way to put an exclamation point on a feud and also breathe life into any card. At this point, there is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, however. The ideas are already there — it’s just a matter of using them to their fullest potential. As for new gimmick matches? Whatever happened to a good old fashioned Loser Gets Powdered and Diapered?
Next Week: The Super Bowl of wrestling.
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