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
This is undoubtedly one of the best gimmick matches in WWE. The Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz showdown in 2000 will live long in the memories of wrestling fans, mainly due to the havoc and utter mayhem that ensued. The scripted, creative carnage of this table, ladders and chairs match exacerbated the feud that had been brewing between the Dudley Boyz and the Hardy Boyz – throw in another team and the three-way TLC match created WWE history. Spike Dudley, Rhyno and Lita also entered the ring making the fight into an epic gimmick battle royal. Give skilled wrestlers free range to go crazy in the ring, and throw in some deadly weapons for good measure, and you get a classic. The TLC II was the eighth match of WrestleMania X-Seven and certainly contributed to making the event a success and grossing a record-breaking US$3.5 million.
14 Hated: Asylum Match - Extreme Rules 2016
This really was a gimmick match that sucked on so many levels. Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho were slow, cumbersome and looked like they just didn’t know what was going on – probably not their fault because the duo are very talented individuals. It likely have more to do with the way the match was scripted by the bosses. As the asylum was lowered over the ring, the fans started screaming in anticipation – baying for a hard-core showdown between two coveted wrestlers. But what ensued proved to be less than remarkable. Dean Ambrose eventually won after nailing Jericho into the tacks, but no one will remember the victor. Gimmick matches only work if they’re scripted well, if what takes place in the ring seems realistic and makes the audience "ooh" and "ahhh." This match was a classic case of over-complicating matters, and consequently what took place was a farce and was extremely boring.
13 Loved: Hell in a Cell - King of the Ring 1998
The King of the Ring event in 1998 – the sixth pay-per-view event of its kind- had nine matches on the card, but it was the Hell in a Cell match, The Undertaker vs. Mankind, that would make the event memorable. With two of the most decorated professional wrestlers and firm fan favorites in the ring, a moment of wrestling history was made – an iconic moment that many die-hard fans still recall to this day. Two minutes into the contest, The Undertaker chucked Mankind 20 feet below – from the top of the cage – sending him crashing through the Spanish announce table. This moment created the most well-known Hell in a Cell bout in history – Mankind being hurled through the air and wrecking the announcer’s table was a sight to behold, footage that’s still used on wrestling shows to this day. Dangerous, yes. Terrifying to watch, yes. But amazing and exciting? You bet.
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.
He was actually suspended, but Vince McMahon, not wanting to let the small issue of a logical storyline get in the way of his plans, gave the match the go-ahead anyway, with The Undertaker and Big Show in a Punjabi prison, leaving the fans scratching their heads as they watched The Undertaker emerge victorious – a meaningless victory in a meaningless gimmick bout that really should not have happened.
11 Loved: Ladder Match - No Mercy 2008
The ladder match between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels was certainly a well-scripted gimmick. It was the first match of a scheduled eight in the supercard pay-per-view event, and it certainly kicked the night of entertainment off in style. The build-up to the event began at Unforgiven when Jericho won the Heavyweight title from CM Punk and was told he would have to defend it immediately against Shawn Michaels. On October 5, 2008, the stage was set for what would be a thrilling contest. Ladder matches are always spectacles – the preferred title matches for the athletic daredevil professional wrestlers. The first competitor to climb the ladder and retrieve the belt suspended above the ring wins; it's as simple as that. But the tension that takes place during such matches makes them a highly-acclaimed event. Defending World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho retained his title in a match that ended after both fighters had a hand on the belt. Ultimately, Jericho prevailed, head-butting Michaels and sending him sprawling to the canvas.
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.
A Blindfold Match is exactly what it says; the wrestlers wear blindfolds and carry on as if fighting a normal fight – except this fight wasn’t normal and was far below the standard fans expect when tuning in for a WrestleMania event. To see the two plodding about in the ring in a fight bereft of action robbed the fans of wrestling entertainment and their money – very mediocre and not worth the airtime.
9 Loved: RAW Elimination Chamber - No Way Out 2009
The Raw main event that took place was memorable for the sheer carnage that took place. Just think about this for a second: Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Edge vs. John Cena vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox, all battling against each other in an Elimination Chamber – bound to wow right? It certainly did. That’s because you just can’t foresee what’s going to happen in such an event. Wrestlers enter the chamber randomly; you don’t know how many wrestlers are going to be in the chamber at any given time – it makes for some very watchable orchestrated chaos, and when you have some of the best professional wrestlers in the ring at the same time, sparks are going to fly. During the match, John Cena fell victim to a Codebreaker from Chris Jericho, into a 619 from Rey Mysterio, into a Spear from Edge – a crazy set of event that would ultimately end up with Edge grabbing the title.
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.
But for those of you who tune in year after year, Ryback and Kane failed to deliver an entertaining match. The big men did the best they could do with the props they were given, but fans now expect to see other weapons used. In fact, it may be time to scrap chair matches for good.
7 Loved: Money in the Bank - WrestleMania 21
The Money in the Bank ladder match was actually an undercard to the main event -- the Triple H versus Batista match up for the World Heavyweight Championship -- but it was the ladder match that made the event memorable. The match featured the likes of Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Edge, Kane, and Christian, with Tyson Tomko making an appearance. The chaos of six of the most coveted athletes in the sport all trying to grab the prize money suspended above the ring made the event brutal. After all, people will do anything for money. There were many notable moments in the title fight, one of which happened during the final stages of the match when Edge knocked out Benoit -- who had just been embroiled in a vicious fight with Kane -- with a steel chair, and then climbed the ladder and made off with the money to win the ladder match.
6 Hated: Brawl For All
Brawl for All, a shootfighting (unscripted) tournament, was McMahon's brainchild. The brawl in 1998 featured 16 reasonably well-known wrestlers. No superstars took part in the one and only event of its kind and judging by what ensued, they were wise not to bring it back. Each brawl consisted of three one-minute rounds. Win the first fight, you go into the second round, win that and it’s the semi-finals, then the finals. That’s what Bart Gunn did, but nobody really remembers who won because, as expected, the entire tournament was a farce. Most of the competitors got injured - unsurprising since this would have been one of the few times they’d fought in unscripted events. Wrestling fans who tuned in were left utterly confused, and those in attendance didn’t shy away from voicing their opinions. It was an utter disgrace, and the whole tournament was a gimmick that turned into an embarrassment. Needless to say, fans did not ask for a return of a Brawl For All event.
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.
The match was memorable because of the build-up of the feud between Triple H and Mick Foley. Foley objected to Triple H’s scheduling of matches – a petty feud that just escalated. Unsurprisingly, the two ended up meeting in the ring at the Royal Rumble event, and the bad blood between the two made for a terrific match up. Foley entered the ring as his alter ego – Cactus Jack – and used everything from a trash can to barbed wire to get Triple H out of the ring. But despite his best efforts – and some interference from the Rock – Triple H unleashed his Pedigree and prevailed before being stretchered out of the ring.
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.
It was as if those scripting the No Way Out event just put the two together for the sake of it in order to fill up airtime. Nevertheless, you’d think The Big Show and Layfield would be able to deliver a memorable show. Both were reputable wrestlers at the time, but the match just didn’t take off, despite the commentators trying to create some razzmatazz beforehand. Two heavyweights plodding around the ring sadly created one of the most sub-par steel cage matches in WWE.
3 Loved: Iron Man Match - WrestleMania XII
This was an epic match at WrestleMania XII, a match of epic proportions -- epic in every sense of the word. You normally associate professional wrestlers as being big bulky guys exhibiting their talent in short, quick, fiery match-ups. But Iron Man matches, this one in particular, are far from quick. In Iron Man matches, athletes are able to display feats of endurance, as these matches are long, grueling, technical and often debilitating for the athletes. They may not be great spectacles to watch for fans that are new to the sport, but for true wrestling fans, they present something totally different and can be incredibly engrossing. This match took the feud between Michaels and Hart onto the big stage and gave both a chance to use their skills and a whole load of wrestling psychology. The match lasted 60 minutes and finally ended after sudden death overtime was ordered, which resulted in Michaels defeating Hart with a kick to the face.
2 Hated: Kennel From Hell - Unforgiven '99
Hell in a Cell matches can be a major draw factor at wrestling events and are often on the roster of pay-per-view events. The gimmick works, but only if done correctly. Nowadays, the violence and drama has been diluted, so much so, that the event now presents not much more than guys huffing and puffing, slowly climbing the cell whilst the fans just wish they’d get it done. However, during Unforgiven in 1999, the bosses tried to get their creative juices flowing and come up with a slightly new concept. Initially, when the TV panned around onto the bloodthirsty Rottweilers below the cage, fans must have been expecting an awesome night of wrestling entertainment. But what they got was a painful experience – a debacle that likely would have driven fans to walk away from the event if it wasn't the final match on the roster. It certainly didn’t go to plan, which was a shame because the company spent many weeks promoting the event.
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.