Browse through the WWE wrestling archives and you’re sure to come across matches you can’t help but remember – matches that stand out for the wrestling skill on display and sheer entertainment.
Now, when the guys at the helm of WWE get together and plan matches, brainstorm ideas to wow audiences during a night of no-holds-barred action, everything is bound to look good on paper. But turning these ideas into reality sometimes proves to be problematic. The plans are executed by the wrestlers, but somehow the script just doesn’t come to life, and the matches leave the fans scratching their heads in disbelief at the absurdity of it all.
Think back to Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho at Extreme Rules, or the Lunatic Fringe - Y2J match up – atrocious matches that should be banished from the record books. These gimmick matches just didn’t work, despite the hype and despite the talent of the wrestlers involved.
But there have been some – such as the Edge vs. John Cena, Backlash 2009 – that have captured the audience’s imagination.
Gimmick matches either stay long in the memory or are serious anti-classics – stains in the WWE history books; here’s a selection of those we loved and those we hated.
16 Hated: Dog Poo Match - RAW, 1999
British Bulldog's return to the WWE in 1999 proved to be a disappointment. After watching Bulldog getting a title match at the 1999 Unforgiven event, he quickly tumbled down the card and this match ended with Bulldog getting Rock Bottomed on a pile of dog poo. Yup, that was the match, slam your opponent into the dog poo for the win. The dog poo is a perfect metaphor for what WWE did with the British Bulldog after this match. He wasn't given a spot back in the main event and there's nothing memorable about the rest of his run.
The match itself was a complete joke and in no way should have been given to a guy like The Rock, who was above this kind of match and Bulldog, who was trying to be taken seriously as a potential main eventer. Ultimately, no one benefited from this gimmick match.
15 Loved: TLC II - WrestleMania X-Seven
14 Hated: Asylum Match - Extreme Rules 2016
13 Loved: Hell in a Cell - King of the Ring 1998
12 Hated: The Punjabi Prison - Great American Bash 2006
This gimmick match was created around the presence of the Great Khali - the 7-foot man mountain hailing from Punjab, India. The not-so-creatively-named Punjabi prison was an enormous bamboo structure built around the ring, consisting of doors and ropes, resembling something like an Indiana Jones movie set. You would think that the match might have been somewhat entertaining – the Great Khali causing mayhem in his own purpose-built structure. It may have been, except for the fact that the Khali wasn’t there.
11 Loved: Ladder Match - No Mercy 2008
10 Hated: Blindfold Match - WrestleMania VII
WrestleMania VII was one of the worst professional wrestling pay-per-view events in memory. The entire event was lacking in atmosphere – unsurprising since only 16,158 showed up to watch the event live at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. The lack of ticket sales and TV viewing figures wasn’t helped by the dire matches on the roster. Few of the 15 matches really captured the audience’s imagination, aside from the Macho Man/Warrior Retirement match. The blindfold match-up between Jake Roberts and Rick Martel hardly helped matters and was perhaps the worst of them all.
9 Loved: RAW Elimination Chamber - No Way Out 2009
8 Hated: 2014 Chairs Match - TLC 2014
This gimmick match makes the list because it just wasn’t entertaining. You’d expect a match between Kane and Ryback to be an action-filled event, but this chairs match was anything but. One of the reasons is because chairs are now just common place in the ring. Chair matches are run-of-the-mill stuff and you can’t really do anything new – smack a guy repeatedly with a chair and that’s about it. That’s what happened in this match. Everything was predictable. If you were watching a chairs match for the first time, you might have been taken in by the spectacle.
7 Loved: Money in the Bank - WrestleMania 21
6 Hated: Brawl For All
5 Loved: Street Fight - Royal Rumble 2000
Royal Rumble matches are arguably the most loved matches in professional wrestling, at least from the perspective of most fans. Who wouldn’t want to see the best talent in the sport hot up against each other – sometimes all at the same time in the same ring. You just don’t know which athletes are going to be in the ring together at any given moment – it’s the unpredictable nature of the event that makes it exciting. However that was not what this Royal Rumble event was remembered for. That fell to another type of gimmick match from that night, the Street Fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack for the WWE Championship.
4 Hated: Barbed Wire Steel Cage match: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. The Big Show
Just the name – Barbed Wire Steel Cage match – makes you think the fight’s going to be an over-saturated gimmick match. It sounds like something that would be added on by Vince Russo. The violent gimmick that involved The Big Show and John Bradshaw Layfield just didn’t work. Firstly, there was barely any feud. The gimmick was simply added due to interference from JBL's cabinet at the previous month's Royal Rumble title match between JBL, Big Show and Kurt Angle.
3 Loved: Iron Man Match - WrestleMania XII
2 Hated: Kennel From Hell - Unforgiven '99
1 Loved: "I Quit" Match - Royal Rumble 1999
The “I Quit” match on the roster was certainly one of the best in history. The main event match between the Rock and Mankind was another bloodthirsty affair – another feat of endurance and technical brilliance after which The Rock was declared the victor. “I Quit” matches offer something different to fans. It’s not just about knocking the other guy out and pinning him to win the match. Someone has to actually say “I Quit” for there to be a result, and in this case, The Rock used his technical prowess to ensure it was Mankind who uttered those two magic words (through a pre-recording of course). The Rock was up against it for much of the match before he clotheslined Mankind and performed the Corporate Elbow. Somehow, Mankind got up, but was subsequently chased from the ring and up the walkway before 11 chair shots forced him to say “I Quit” three times in a row. It was later revealed to have been a pre-recording, which only enhanced Mick Foley's image as a man who would never quit.
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