Why I Like WWE’s Gimmick PPVs by Matt Corton

Think about your friends for a minute. Are they normal? Most people aren’t normal, unless that’s just me, and most people have their own little gimmicks. That’s why wrestling works so well – all it does is highlight those little gimmicks and blow them up in their very WWE titantronic way.

We all have the friend who makes inappropriate jokes. We also all have the friend who makes rubbish jokes that aren’t funny but he doesn’t realise it. We all have the friend who’s just a little bit too ‘handsy’ when he’s been drinking and we all have the friend who likes a bit of a fight on a Friday night.

Or my circle of friends might be a bit…wrong.

WWE has got its own little circle of money-making friends, their PPVs, and just like your circle of friends, they have their little gimmicks. There are some obvious gimmicks like the upcoming Royal Rumble, Extreme Rules, Hell in a Cell and TLC, but they all have their own set up.

Wrestlemania is a bit like Vince McMahon himself – a massive show(man), really over the top and larger than life and capable of kicking the ass of its rivals even when you think it probably shouldn’t.

It’s not just the wrestling, although the quality of the wrestling on PPVs these days is really good. No, though, we’re getting one or two really good TV matches out of Raw and SmackDown if not every week then regularly, so some of the ‘straight up’ wrestling is covered by TV. The reasons a PPV exist are to be different, to close off a feud, for a title to change hands (although I like that they’ve done that more on TV recently) and to see something you wouldn’t normally see on the weekly programming.

Take the Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble, and by which I mean specifically the Royal Rumble match, is like an old friend to me, one who’s stayed in your small home town while you’ve moved away and seen something of the big city. You visit it every year, not thinking that you’ve changed, but it’s only when you revisit the sleepy little town that you realise how much you’ve moved on.

That’s how it was for me last year. I was excited for my annual Rumble and remember thinking they couldn’t make it as bad as the year before. Well, they didn’t – they managed to make it worse because they managed, somehow, to make it boring. My old friend had become a tired and plaintive thing which just made its audience groan.

This year, I’m doing it all over again and getting excited about my old friend the Royal Rumble because I don’t learn my lessons. It’s a new year, after all, and I’m actually quite excited by a lot of the things that I think could be coming up in the WWE this year. For the Rumble in particular, there’s something different for me to get excited about and it’s something that really plays into the gimmick of the match. This year, the old friend has come along to the old drinking hole but he hasn’t come alone. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship being on the line is like your old friend bringing along a girlfriend to your annual reunion for the first time. You’re not sure about it, but it sure is different and it gives you something different to talk about other than ‘remember when the Royal Rumble used to be good in the good old days?’

I think it’s brilliant. It’s not a stroke of genius or anything, it’s actually a fairly straightforward idea, but an idea being straightforward doesn’t stop it being a good one. Having the title on the line makes this Rumble stand out and it makes the WWE World Heavyweight Championship something it absolutely should be – it makes it something anyone in WWE can win. It’s a shot at the title for everyone in the Rumble.

Now, that to me makes this Rumble an easy story to tell. Everyone is desperate. Everyone is straining at the leash to get into the Rumble and get at their chance to win not just the Rumble but the title. It’s the chance they’ve all been waiting for. They’ll all be trying harder than normal, not just entering the match, hitting a finisher then getting thrown out. They’ll be doing anything they can to win. Heels will be cheating, people will be making alliances and they’ll all do anything they can to win.

It doesn’t really matter if they don’t book it like that, or even in another exciting way. It doesn’t matter if the Rumble falls short of expectations either through who the winner is or through how the winner wins, because it can’t be as bad as last year’s. Even if it is, it’s got a unique gimmick about it that has got us all talking and that’s exactly what a PPV should do – this is a 30-man battle royal for the title and that’s brilliant because it’s different and that’s all I’ve ever asked of a PPV.

And that’s what gimmick PPVs give you. The Royal Rumble gives you a match and now a title match that you don’t get to see anywhere else. Extreme Rules gives you ‘hardcore (lite)’ that you don’t or can’t see on weekly WWE programming. Money In The Bank has…well, the Money In The Bank match(es). TLC similarly gives you what it says on the tin. Add in Wrestlemania and Summerslam, which give you some extra glitz, you’ve got half of the PPVs of the year having interest built in before you even put the matches together.

That’s pretty good, when you think about it. Now, you’ve also got Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell that have their own gimmicks, but as this is my article I’m going to put them in a separate category of ‘things that interest other people but don’t really interest me’. Night of Champions is a redundant concept because title should be defended on PPVs anyway, in my opinion. Hell in a Cell…well, I just don’t like the concept, but I appreciate it’s a gimmick that others like.

So that’s eight PPVs that have interest built in before you start.

So why isn’t it twelve?

I’m not sure I’m as excited about Fastlane, Payback and Battleground and while that’s only 3 out of the 12, when you consider Survivor Series isn’t really a gimmick PPV any more you realise a third of the WWE’s year is taken up with PPVs that I think could be replaced with other more interesting and more eye-catching events.

Really easily.

You could replace Battleground and Payback straight away with Elimination Chamber and King of the Ring. You should (but they won’t) replace Fastlane with either Breaking Point (which had a great idea – a submission-only PPV is something different) or War Games (they’re just not going to) and you could replace Survivor Series with a proper Survivor Series where Survivor Series matches actually happen.

Easy. Twelve PPVs right there, each with their own distinct identity and each with their own ways to stretch the superstars involved to give us something different to TV.

Just as an example, I’d personally love to see an Elimination Chamber match between Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. Just once – a real heavyweight match where anyone could win and nobody was the weak link. Where they went wrong with Elimination Chamber matches was having two on the same PPV and having people involved who stood no chance at all of coming close to winning.

But who’s in the matches isn’t even really the point – I’m just excited to see eight (nine if they get Survivor Series right) PPVs this year that have the potential to grab my attention and hold it – and they’re doing that because of the gimmicks.

Perhaps weird, gimmicky friends are the best ones.