Throughout the rich history of wrestling, there have been countless intriguing and innovative match types that leave audiences begging for more, but on the other hand there are also cringe worthy ideas that made you question why you’re a wrestling fan, and we are here to discuss both sides. While this article contains strictly WWE programming, it is worth noting an example match from WCW (Hogan vs. Big Show in a monster truck match), TNA (reverse battle royal and King of the Mountain Match), ECW (scaffold match) and Japan as a whole (for 90% of their death match variations) to show that it is not only Vince and WWE that sometimes sign off on matches that should never make it to air.
These matches can be used for several different purposes, whether it be a climax to a long, back and forth feud (e.g. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe in a Steel Cage match in their upcoming Takeover finale), to elevate a new star (e.g. Money in the Bank ladder match) or a Royal Rumble which showcases as many superstars as possible in one match. These different match types, whether good or bad have been the backdrop for some of the most brutal, exciting and death defying moments in WWE history, including every Jeff Hardy leap ever, Shawn Michaels’ famous WrestleMania victory over Bret Hart or Shane McMahon's show stealing jump at WrestleMania 32. These examples have all been of good match types and moments, and while the examples of bad match types often don’t create memorable moments, they foster horrible, head scratching segments that leave fans questioning the product they pay their hard earned money to see.
While many, if not all of the following matches were started in a different time in WWE, for good or bad, the majority are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Without further ado, here are the 13 matches from the last decade that have made fans want to see more, and the 6 that leave them begging to never be seen again.
Being innovated by the Dudley Boyz in WWE, and ECW as a promotion, the tables match remains exciting in WWE even to this day, and even the notion of a table being used garners the biggest pop of the night every time. The concept is simple: put your opponent through a table before they do likewise, with the most recent edition coming on RAW between the Dudleyz and the Usos, with the important catch being your opponent can’t put themselves through a table. This one looks like it will be around for a while, as it’s a simple way to cause carnage and give fans a match they know will end in excitement.
19 Elimination Chamber
The Elimination Chamber first began in 2002, and up until 2015 was a yearly match, who’s sheer daunting and impressive size is perhaps rivaled only by the Hell in a Cell structure. Famous chamber victories include HBK, John Cena (before he was immediately dethroned by Edge), and Daniel Bryan, and although it may be over played in recent memory, it remains no doubt one of the most exciting matches imaginable. Usually featuring six high profile stars, this match is always contested under high stakes, making it one of the most important matches ever as well.
18 2 out of 3 Falls
This match is fairly self explanatory, the competitor to win 2 of the first 3 falls comes out victorious, and it was used as the backdrop for a few of the best feuds and best matches in recent WWE memory, with a pair of classics on NXT TV contested by a young Sami Zayn and Cesaro, and Sami vs. Samoa Joe in 2016. The concept encourages strategy and endurance, whether to risk a fall by DQ to significantly injure your opponent, or how to come back after losing the first fall. It creates an electric atmosphere with high drama, which WWE fans crave.
17 Falls Count Anywhere
One which is used on rare occasion lately in WWE is the falls count anywhere stipulation, meaning the opponent can be successfully pinned in the crowd, the locker room, on the announce table and everywhere in between, usually offering the fans chaos amidst a heated rivalry. While this match may lend itself to the typical “brawling”, which consists of nothing but regular strikes throughout the stadium, it has led to many innovative uses of weapons, death defying falls/leaps and shocking pin falls, making it an excellent match to use in the middle of a card to get the crowd fired up and truly feel like they’re a part of the action.
16 Steel Cage
The steel cage match, perhaps one of the most brutal and oldest forms of match types in WWE history, has seen many classics between the Rock and Triple H, Bret and Owen Hart, and my personal favourite, Edge vs. Matt Hardy. Though the cage may have changed over the years, even in 2016 with the addition of weapons (wonder where I’ve seen that before cough TNA cough) in Y2J vs. Dean Ambrose’ ‘Asylum’ match, the sheer devastation and violence that comes with the match is unmatched and unchanged over the years, giving fans the feeling that they’re about to witness an old school fight, which is always good for business.
15 Extreme Rules
The simplest stipulation to put on in WWE, taken from classic ECW, where anything goes, it has taken many names over the years: No Holds Barred, Street Fight, Extreme Rules, but whatever the case, fans know they’re going to get a violent match with any weapons necessary used to keep the opponent down for a 3 count. Due to the simple nature of the match, there have been countless appearances of this match in its many forms, with too many good ones to name, as there has even been a PPV named in its honor, which came about in 2005 with an all ECW tribute PPV, ECW: One Night Stand, where the WWE for one night goes extreme. This year's event featured a much anticipated rematch from Payback, seeing AJ Styles looking to take Roman Reigns’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Innovated by HBK, Razor Ramon and the Hardyz, this match is by far the most high risk match in WWE history, with falls from 20+ feet becoming the norm, due to the bar constantly being raised, something which was unheard of 30 years ago in wrestling. This stipulation is as exciting with two wrestlers as it is 8, and has fostered the Money in the Bank ladder match, which now has it’s own PPV also, which gives 6-8 men, depending on the match the chance to have a guaranteed WWE championship match at a time and place of their own choosing. The ladder itself can be used as a weapon, a launching pad or the mode to victory, making it one of the most diverse and exciting matches WWE offers today.
13 Hell in a Cell
The Hell in a Cell is another match which has gained its own PPV, and nicknamed the “Devil’s playground” is the most destructive structure in WWE history, with many classics put on by the Undertaker, Triple H, Mick Foley and Shane McMahon (yes, he has appeared in more than one cell match). It features anything goes rules inside a gigantic 20 foot structure made of nothing but unforgiving steel chain link. The cell has provided fans with many bloody classics, like Triple H vs. Batista and Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, as well as many horrific falls from Mick Foley and Shane McMahon. It has an aura all it’s own due to its size and graphically violent nature, making it a match fans often look forward to seeing.
One of the most underutilized matches in WWE history, the Ironman match is often used by the better workers on the roster, giving them either 30 or 60 minutes to gain more pin falls than the opponent, and has featured absolute classic matches such as Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle and most recently an Ironwoman match between Bayley and Sasha Banks. While most matches on this list feature violence and unpredictability as their draw, this match focuses on pure wrestling ability and story telling, as it is used so little because it needs only the best and most exciting feuds to properly draw in all members of the audience to its story.
11 “I Quit”
The hardest thing for any competitor in wrestling to do is verbally admit that they submit to the opponent, that they were the better man/woman, and that is exactly what the “I Quit” match is designed to do, force the opponent to admit their submission, usually under quite overly violent and personal situations. This brutality has been put on show by must watch matches from Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio, John Cena vs. Randy Orton and JBL vs. John Cena. While this like many others has been watered down in recent years, it still provides a fresh match for fans to see, while satisfying the violent thirst of the crowd, without offering actual blood.
10 Last Man Standing
To force your opponent to not even be able to reach their feet to answer a 10 count implies violence, brutality and should not be watched by all members of the family, as the last man standing match has become a personal favourite of WWE in recent years due to the pure chaos and unpredictability it provides, while also being able to show less of a violent and bloody side (e.g. Roman Reigns vs. Big Show). This match will no doubt continue to be one of WWE’s go to matches to settle big rivalries, due to the fact that it is unexpected because it remains one of the only big matches (TLC, Royal Rumble, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber) to not have its own PPV, and the pure story telling opportunities it provides.
9 Tables, Ladders & Chairs
The T.L.C match is one that got many fans, including myself into wrestling, for the pure weapon based innovation offered by the Hardyz, the Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian in the days of the Attitude Era, while still being able to put a story behind all the high spots, crazy chair shots and dangerous falls, which have been attributed for the shortening of many careers in and outside of WWE. With the same goal of the ladder match, the additions of the tables and chairs make it both exciting and devastating. Being labeled a “human demolition derby” by Jim Ross, this match has also gained its own PPV, a testament to the staying power of pure car wreck like wrestling, and the ability of these wrestlers to tell a story amongst all the exciting carnage in the ring. This match has featured more and more innovative weapon spots as the years have gone on, and will remain exciting and fresh as long as the WWE continues to use it.
8 Royal Rumble
Seen only once a year, the Royal Rumble is WWE’s oldest annual match, featuring 30 stars all vying for an opportunity to main event WrestleMania, having to go through other hungry superstars to gain such a fantastic chance. Despite the less than critically acclaimed finishes in recent years (both on WWE management, more so than Roman Reigns/Batista), the match is the golden opportunity for big upset eliminations (Maven over the Undertaker), heart stopping returns (John Cena in 2008 en route to victory) and is typically the most exciting hour of wrestling on the WWE calendar. The kick off to the Road to WrestleMania has been around for 30+ years, and is one of the most anticipated events of the year, and for this it is the best WWE match type there is, and it will not be going away anytime soon.
6 First Blood
While this match has not been seen since a John Cena vs JBL clash in 2008, many fans remember it fondly from the attitude era and WWE video games, because of the fans well documented thirst for blood, and the guarantee that this match provides. While there have been some memorable first blood matches, the problem with the match is, especially in the attitude era, blood was used to heighten the drama of a match, leading to an eventual bigger climax, rather than the blood being the usually disappointing climax. This feel of an anti-climax, and the banning of intentional bleeding in recent years lands it low on this list.
While only one stairs match has been officially sanctioned, featuring the Big Show vs. Erick Rowan, it is seen as a silly match type for several reasons. With the ladder or the tables match, these generic objects serve a purpose (e.g. putting your opponent through one or using it to attain an object hanging above), but the stairs serve no specific purpose, especially since they’re over used foreign objects as it is. The second is because of the awkward insistence of WWE to add ‘stairs’ to the TLC PPV name and showing the fans measurements of the stairs, making it one WWE fans wont want to see again anytime soon.
4 Bull Rope
Again, another match which has featured some impressive bouts, most recently John Cena vs. Rusev, but over all lacks the pace and excitement to please the majority of the crowd. Whether it be a rope or chain match variation, the competitors are tied together by rope and made to drag their opponent around the ring to touch all 4 corners consecutively to achieve victory, a complicated mode of victory to a fairly boring match.
3 Punjabi Prison
Ah the Punjabi Prison, where to begin? The match featured a silly looking variation of the steel cage/Hell in a Cell structure, used complicated rules which few understood, was hard to see the action for crowd and TV viewer alike, and worst of all did not feature the man it was created for, the Great Khali. The sloppy match featured the Big Show and the Undertaker, and is one of the most forgettable attempts at a match in recent WWE memory, although they should be commended for taking a chance to be different and exciting.
2 ‘Something’ on a Pole
If the stories are to be believed, this match is one of Vince Russo’s creations, a red flag from the beginning, being used in TNA, WCW and WWE. The very concept of the match is to climb the top rope and grab something from a pole, which seems too simple and stupid to be true, asking fans to suspend their belief too far, making it impossible to enjoy. Thankfully, it seems WWE have seen the fault in this match and will not return it anytime in the near future.
1 Hog Pen
While the original hog pen match featured a literal hog pen, with living hogs and a less than stellar Hunter Hearst Helmsley, this had been altered in recent years, to feature Vickie Guerrero in a pool of mud against a forced comedy gimmick from ‘Santina Marella’. The match was an all around embarrassment, and while it gave Vickie the comeuppance which the fans always craved due to her being such a fantastic heel, it did nothing but hurt her legacy in the company, which featured over 10 years in an on screen management role. This is one WWE is unlikely to show in any highlight reels, and will look to avoid now that the women are being given more of a serious, wrestling role on the main roster and NXT.
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