Over the last few years WWE has seen an increase in the number of Gimmick PPV’s they are running each year. In 2017 WWE will host Elimination Chamber, Extreme Rules, and the recent Money in the Bank, while in recent years WWE has held WWE Hell in a Cell and WWE TLC. But are these events becoming redundant and impacting on the ability to use match-types to progress storylines as a whole?
The biggest issue with gimmick PPV’s is the way it potentially devalues the match type presented. Take for example Hell in a Cell 2016; that show held THREE Hell in a Cell matches in one night. THREE. First Roman Reigns faced Rusev inside the cell, then Kevin Owens defended the Universal Championship against Seth Rollins and finally for the first time ever a Women’s Match main evented a PPV when Charlotte won the Women’s Championship from Sasha Banks. Make no mistake about it, watched by itself all three of these matches were very good, and while they did their best to build progressively in terms of what they did in the cell, by the time the main event rolled around we had been overexposed to the cell, we had seen too much of it and nothing felt fresh or new. This is the case for all gimmick matches in PPV’s.
At events such as Extreme Rules the novelty is having each match have an Extreme stipulation to it (although maybe not the recent 2017 Extreme Rules), or the novelty of the TLC event is to have each match include the use of Tables, Ladders or the dreaded Chairs match (who would have thought Baron Corbin & Kalisto would be the ones to finally put on a good chairs match); or perhaps even worse, the Stairs match. Once again (Most) of these matches are very good, but seeing so much of it in the one three-hour block waters down its effect so much.
“But ECW used to do stipulation matches all the time and you never complained about that” I hear you ask. That’s because being Extreme and Hardcore was ECW’s identity, and promotions such as CZW and others are doing the same thing now. It wasn’t a gimmick to them, it was who they were. It wasn’t just a one night stand (awful pun, I apologise) but they lived and breathed ‘Extreme’. WWE has made it very clear that that’s not who they are nor who they want to be; you can’t just create that feeling or environment for one PPV every few months.
Gimmick and/or ‘Extreme’ matches should feel special. They should be the accumulation of a long-term rivalry that has gotten so intense, so personal, so important that the only way to settle things is to lock the competitors inside of Hell in a Cell where one man (or woman) will lose everything, and the other will merely survive. Ladder Matches should feel the same way, an environment so chaotic and wild that the Ladder Match is the only solution; not just because it’s the TLC PPV and we need a Ladder Match on the card somewhere. The same thing can be said for the Elimination Chamber. Having these matches just for the sake of having them because the yearly PPV has rolled around devalues everything that these matches should mean. Match stipulations are one of the most effective instruments bookers have when it comes to telling, developing and progressing stories, and they shouldn’t be devaluing these through overexposure. Comedy wrestling is great and entertaining, but wrestling is at its best when it is taken seriously and fans can invest in the seriousness of the story being told.
The Extreme Rules PPV is one that splits opinion; some love it, others hate it. Look at the recent 2017 edition, the show featured a match where if the champion got disqualified (that is, the champion DOES NOT follow the rules, he would lose his championship), it featured a Mixed Tag Team Match which is hardly extreme, and featured a Kendo Stick on a Pole Match which is so ridiculous it is something straight out of Vince Russo’s glory days. The other issue is that so many stipulations mean the same thing if someone can explain the difference between an Extreme Rules Match, a Street Fight, and a No Disqualification Match I’d love to hear from you.
Money in the Bank is often a favourite on the WWE calendar and rightfully so; it establishes who is almost certainly going to be world champion in the next year. While it is fine on its own PPV (contrary to popular belief I found Money in the Bank 2017 to be fantastic), this match felt its biggest when held on the Wrestlemania card itself. Not only did the match feel bigger at the Grandest Stage of them all, but it allows you to put six to eight wrestlers together in a high-profile match on the Wrestlemania card (not the Pre-Show), which is becoming extremely difficult considering the growing roster and the presence of part-timers on Wrestlemania. You can now do the same thing for the Women as well, giving them a chance to shine on Wrestlemania where otherwise they would likely miss out. This would also allow these matches to be between both brands rather than exclusive to Raw or Smackdown; you could even throw an NXT superstar in there as a debut as well. The options are limitless. Sure this would likely see the end of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal which is a fantastic and worthwhile concept in itself, but wouldn’t you rather see guys like Tye Dillinger, Luke Harper, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn and TJ Perkins (all guys who missed out on Wrestlemania 33 not including the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and yes I’d have a Cruiserweight in there) compete in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match rather than a Battle Royal featuring Mojo Rawley, Rob Gronkowski and Jinder Mahal (oh wait…)
One could make the argument that the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series are nothing more than Gimmick PPV’s, both shows hold unique match types that are only seen once a year at the event. However, these are two of the big four PPV’s, the history and tradition associated with these events pits them on a far higher level to your average B-level Gimmick PPV.
Do Gimmick PPVs need to go for good? Not necessarily. As mentioned they still regularly produce good shows and some great matches. However, they still often water down the impact of the associated match type. To WWE’s credit it seems they have scaled back on this number in 2017 and may be looking to continue this trend moving forward. Will we see this trend continue, and does WWE need to take a closer look at its PPV scheduling moving forward?