At its core, professional wrestling has always been about one simple thing: The battle between good guys and bad guys. All those extra trappings -- the bombastic costumes, the pyrotechnics, the funny catchphrases -- are only there to help highlight that timeless fight between good and evil that takes place in the middle of the ring.
But sometimes making that same old narrative feel fresh and interesting takes a little more than a few turnbuckles and a hard-earned 3 count. It might require a steel cage, or a special guest referee, or a... Judy Bagwell. Okay, so maybe not every added stipulation actually winds up adding something good to the match, but there are only so many logical gimmicks you can incorporate into a match. Eventually you're going to have Buff Bagwell's mom hanging out on top of a forklift. It's simple math, really.
WWE has tried literally hundreds of different match types over the years, and not all of them were winners. For every Hell in a Cell, there's been a Kennel From Hell. For every Boiler Room Brawl, there's been a Brawl For All. It's just what happens when the law of averages catches up with your outrageous booking habits.
The following gimmicks prove that when you toss enough random ideas against the wall to see what sticks, some of them are going to get caked over and forgotten about until someone finally comes to scrape them off.
15 15. Blindfold Match
Created to answer the very rhetorical question, How do you turn a wrestling match into a glorified game of Pin the Tail On the Donkey?, Rick "The Model" Martel and Jake "The Snake" Roberts participated in a Blindfold Match at WrestleMania VII. Wearing black hoods over their heads, the two men staggered and stumbled around the ring, using crowd reactions to guide them toward their opponent.
The build-up to match was incredibly extensive. On an October 1990 episode of Superstars, The Model blinded The Snake by spraying cologne into his eyes. In between that night and WrestleMania, Roberts would pretend to be blind for half of a year, going so far as to wear white contact lenses and stumble his way down to the ring each time he showed up on television.
A decade later, Triple H and D'Lo Brown would be tossed into the same situation courtesy of Raw Roulette, an Eric Bischoff creation that "randomly" chose match gimmicks. The match was largely forgettable, but did feature a fitfully hilarious spot where Triple H tries to intimidate a ring post that he mistakenly believes is D'Lo. Honestly, it was worth bringing the gimmick back just to watch Triple H shove an imaginary man and then fall face first into the turnbuckle.
14 14. Crybaby Match
Razor Ramon vs. 1-2-3-Kid was one of the hottest and most unexpected feuds of 1993, remembered best for turning Sean Waltman into a superstar practically overnight with a huge upset over the toothpick flicking bad guy. But three years later, WWE would do their best to actively humiliate them both with this match.
Leading up to In Your House 6, Kid had become jealous of his enemy-turned-friend's success and began interfering in his matches out of spite. When Razor called him out on it, Kid accused him of being a crybaby. He'd taunt Razor with comically oversized, newborn-related paraphernalia, attacking him with strollers and gigantic baby bottles. Hence, the Crybaby Match.
The match itself was pretty straightforward, with no added stipulations to the in-ring action. But whoever lost the contest was to be dressed up as an infant, complete with adult-sized diaper, and thoroughly shamed by the audience. So if you've ever wanted to watch Scott Hall powder and swaddle Sean Waltman's bottom... this is for you?
13 13. Capture The Midget
Another woeful creation used in Eric Bischoff's Raw Roulette, Capture the Midget is exactly what it sounds like. Two men -- nay, two professional wrestlers -- were tasked with hunting down and apprehending a little person.
Bischoff's vertically-challenged "assistant," Fernando was the prey, and was given a 10-second head start before The Hurricane and his superhero-in-training, Rosey, were sent to chase him down. Segments of the "match" were interspersed throughout the night, as the little guy proved to be a difficult collar for both caped crusaders. Hurricane tried to catch him with a humorously large net, Rosey was headbutted in the groin and, in general, many shenanigans were had backstage.
The chase eventually spilled out in front of the crowd, with Fernando evading his predators by climbing into the lap of Jim Ross. By default, J.R. was named the unsuspecting winner of the match.
Jerry Lawler, always the tactful one, proceeded to toss out every offensive thing he could think to say while Fernando was sitting inches away, telling Ross he'd "won a midget" and that he should "put some sauce on him" and "barbecue him."
12 12. Tables & Dumpsters Match
Before the advent of the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, WWE tried a less successful combination of hardcore housewares, with the one and only Tables & Dumpster match at King of the Ring 2000 between The Dudley Boyz and (a watered-down version of) DX.
As with those first TLC matches, this was borne from each tag team's "specialty." Obviously the Dudley Boyz had an affinity for putting people through tables, but DX's link to dumpsters was a bit more tenuous. Two years before this match, The New Age Outlaws sent a dumpster flying off the stage with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie locked inside, and they recreated the stunt once more with the Dudleys in their place.
The match ran on pseudo-elimination style rules, though only one member of each team could be in the ring at one time. The Dudleys had to put all three members of DX through a table, while DX had to stuff both Dudleys into the dumpster at the same time and close the lids.
If it sounds silly to read, rest assured it was much, much sillier to actually watch.
11 11. Last Ride Match
The gimmick match most commonly associated with The Undertaker is the Casket Match, where the basic goal is to beat your opponent mercilessly until you're able to stuff them into a coffin and shut the lid, thus damning their souls to an eternity in hell. Or whatever it is that's supposed to happen once they're inside. (A quick nap and a gimmick change?)
In 2004, after Taker had transitioned back into his Dead Man persona, he put a little twist on the popular gimmick, swapping the casket for a hearse. The ultimate objective of No Mercy's Last Ride Match was the same though, with The Undertaker and JBL attempting to pummel each other until one of them was able to toss the other into the back of a death car, which was then driven out of the arena and straight into the bowels of hell. Probably. (Again, the implication of what happens afterward was never made clear.)
Heidenreich randomly popped out and started wailing on The Dead Man toward the end of the match, which was kind of Heidenreich's thing at the time. With his assistance, JBL was able to win the match and Taker was driven out of the arena. He'd return to this match a couple of years later against Mr. Kennedy, but this time The Dead Man would be doing the driving.
10 10. Gravy Bowl Match
During the Attitude Era, Vince McMahon left no exploitative stone unturned, and so fans were treated to a variety of vaguely-sexist matches where the main object was simply objectification. Bra and Panties matches were extremely popular, as were bikini contests, which completely forewent any pretext and openly admitted "No wrestling is about to occur, but here are some boobs and butts to ogle. Enjoy."
Thanksgiving provided a cheap excuse to put some of the company's top women into something called a "Gravy Bowl Match," which was essentially just mud wrestling with a worse smell. The first bout occurred on the 1999 Thanksgiving episode of Smackdown between Jacqueline and future Right to Censor leader Ivory, who was a great sport, saying she got "a big giggle out of it."
The two ladies spent most of the match just trying to keep their footing, and only one legitimate wrestling move was performed. At one point, Miss Kitty, who was "refereeing" the "match" (it's unfortunate how many quotes this requires), started choking on a mushroom and required a Heimlich from a busty EMT. Because apparently management didn't feel there were enough over-the-top sex antics already.
Two years later, they'd break out the gravy slop once more to let Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler try it again, but this time it began as a contrived food fight and was actually for the Women's Championship.
9 9. Indian Broken Glass Arm Wrestling
WWE has a strangely extensive history of in-ring arm wrestling contests, presumably because they're always looking for new and interesting ways to cheat fans out of actual wrestling matches.
Days before they were set to face off for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2008, The Great Khali challenged Triple H to an incredibly outmoded display of machismo. But unlike the standard, Over the Top-esque arm wrestling contest, this had an extra element of danger. Whoever had their arm slammed all the way down onto the platform would also have chunks of broken bottles embedded into their hand.
Well, hypothetically, at least. Unfortunately, the promise of either Khali's or Hunter's hand being impaled by shards of broken glass was too good to be true, as Khali stopped the contest dead in its tracks by grabbing Triple H's hair and headbutting him, earning a DQ in the process.
8 8. Stairs Match
How do you make the steel ring stairs a threatening object? That's a question WWE has never stopped trying to answer, despite absolutely no fans actually asking it. Big Show and Erick Rowan's Stairs Match not only made the stairs look less imposing than ever, but the stipulation was genuinely insulting to fans' intelligence.
Trying to convince people this was the first time participants could "legally" use the steel stairs, after years of watching folks get Irish Whipped and Piledriven into them during regular matches without any repercussions, was just absurd.
The whole thing played like an awkward sketch by an amateur improv group who'd received the world's worst audience suggestion. There seemed to be two planned spots, with the rest of the thirteen minutes consisting of stacking and/or wedging the stairs into different patterns. It certainly wasn't a Ryan Stiles/Colin Mochrie-level masterpiece inside the ring.
7 7. Straitjacket Match
When applying match stipulations, it's important to use the extra gimmickry in a way that's both logical and fitting for the characters involved. That's what made this Straitjacket Match between Ken Shamrock and Jeff Jarrett click.
Shamrock was billed as "The World's Most Dangerous Man," a mixed martial artist-turned-wrestler who was as famous for his submission maneuvers as he was for freaking out on the referees if he lost a match. The guy truly looked like he'd completely snapped most of the time.
And since Vince McMahon was trying to get one over on Shamrock, taking away half of his limbs was a great heel tactic. The fact that Shamrock was still able to beat Jarrett using only his feet, even forcing him to tap out by effortlessly applying a hands-free headscissors submission, raised Shamrock's the legitimacy of his billing.
6 6. The Dungeon
Say what you will about Ken Shamrock's uneven pro wrestling career, but the guy was always willing to test out things that no other performers had ever tried before. One little-remembered match gimmick was The Dungeon, a submission match Shamrock had against Owen Hart that took place inside Stu Hart's famous training facility.
The room itself wasn't quite as menacing as it sounds, but what it lacked in creepy lighting and grotesque cobwebs it made up for with a complete disregard for anyone's safety. It just wooden walls, a few haphazardly placed dumbbells, and an irresponsibly thin foam mat covering a concrete floor.
Whilst inventive, the match didn't come off very well. The typically athletic performers were incredibly restricted by the small space -- though Owen was somehow able to pull off a hurricanrana with the help of a water pipe attached to the ceiling. For the most part it was just a couple of guys grunting and gasping their way through very simplistic spots. There was a lot of heads being bounced off the wall and not a whole lot of anything else.
5 5. Hardcore Evening Gown Match
To anyone who watched Vince McMahon's "Stooges," Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, battle it out for the Hardcore Championship at King of the Ring 2000, this probably counts more as one you wish you could forget. WWE's Hardcore Division often disregarded ECW-style extremes in favor of lighthearted, shenanigans-heavy matches. It was a joke, basically. And nothing proves that better than Patterson and Brisco's Evening Gown Match.
Two 50-somethings attempted to put together a hardcore wrestling match while wearing wigs, glittery dresses, bright lipstick, and foam boobs. But the only semi-hardcore thing about this might've been the peep show/Bronco Buster Brisco gave his friend in the corner. It was pretty gnarly, in more ways than one.
A tremendous roar of boos surged through the crowd during the last half of the match once the novelty wore off and everyone realized that this was actually something they'd paid to see. The Stooges managed to give both the Hardcore division and transvestites a bad name all at once.
4 4. Hog Pen Match
Vince McMahon has shown he has no problem tossing his Divas into random slop matches over and over again, but there was actually a time when his own (soon-to-be) son-in-law was the one getting dragged through the mud. It definitely wasn't as sexualized as those "classic" Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler mud wrestling matches, and the end result was meant to be more disgusting than titillating.
Henry O. Godwin -- get it? -- who was a hog farmer by day -- GET IT?? -- challenged Hunter Hearst Helmsley, still in his aristocratic sashaying phase and not yet into his rebellious crotch-chopping period, to a Hog Pen Match. Rather than starting in the slop like all those other Diva mud/jello/turkey gravy matches, though, this one started inside the ring and stipulated that whoever tossed their opponent into a makeshift hog pen erected near the entrance ramp would be declared the winner. The implication was that, by match's end, someone was getting tossed into a puddle of pig crap.
3 3. Good Housekeeping Match
One of the most underrated feuds of the Attitude Era found Jeff Jarrett and Chyna in a classic battle of the sexes. Playing the role of male chauvinist pig with an effortlessness that made you question how much of it was an act, Double J started cutting promos about how women didn't belong in a wrestling ring and should stay at home.
He set his sights on Chyna, who had been working for years to prove that Jarrett's way of thinking was outdated. This led to the first ever Good Housekeeping Match, essentially a Hardcore Match where you could only use items you'd find in a typical household. The two hit each other with pots, pans, brooms, toilet seats, an actual kitchen sink, and a wide array of breakfast foods. The most memorable spot of the match, however, involved Chyna's creative use of tongs to put "lil' Double J" in his place.
Jarrett still defends the concept, saying that it made perfect "wrestling sense" and was "a pretty good recipe for success."
2 2. Iron Circle Match
Yet another one-off gimmick match involving Ken Shamrock. This one borrowed heavily from the cult classic Fight Club, pitting Shamrock against Steve Blackman at Fully Loaded 1999 in what amounted to an "underground fight," at least in appearance.
The two fighters, dressed in street clothes, were surrounded by cars as well as some of their fellow wrestlers who had nothing else to do on the card that night. Most of the match was spent awkwardly ramming each other into the hoods and windshields of the cars, with an occasional nut-punch thrown in for good measure.
While it might've made sense on paper to put these two martial arts aficionados into a Fight Club-ish scenario, the end result was as dull as Steve Blackman's personality.
A few years earlier, WCW had actually done something quite similar. The Belfast Bruiser (aka Fit Finlay) and Lord Steven Regal (aka William Regal) were involved in a Parking Lot Brawl that was essentially the same thing with a different name.
1 1. Duchess of Queensbury Rules
Remember that one childhood friend of yours who would make up a game, and then whenever it seemed like he was about to lose, he'd change the rules to work in his favor? William Regal was clearly that kid. At least, that's the vibe he put out there during his match at Backlash 2001 against Chris Jericho.
For those wondering exactly what the Duchess of Queensbury's rules are, the answer is simple: They're whatever rules helped William Regal win the match. In the book My Favorite Match, Regal recalls how the malleability of the rules whipped the fans into a rage: "The thing is, nobody was told of the rules beforehand, so every time it looked like Jericho had won the match, he didn't, and the crowd just kept getting angrier and angrier."
The "Duchess" sat at ringside, adorned in outrageous garb, ensuring her obscure, arbitrary rules were enforced according to her whims. Naturally, Regal won the match.
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