WWE: Gimmick Matches and The Women’s Division – by Mike Sanchez

The Gauntlet match that kicked off (and accounted for over a third of) Monday Night Raw was seen as popular and positive decision by WWE this week. I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality and length of the match, as well as the great stories that were told within it. After over ninety minutes of action, we were left with much to digest; how can WWE ignore Seth Rollins after that performance? Does John Cena have any real impact anymore? Did Elias do enough to have himself be part of the top tier on Raw? Surely Braun Strowman must face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania? Is this the beginning of a downward spiral for Roman Reigns? Ha! sorry, couldn’t resist on that last one. No, we’ll see him with gold come April. Believe that.

Regardless of what WWE wants to do with Reigns, the Gauntlet Match itself was superb, and it’s fair to say that WWE does have a habit of pulling out some great gimmick matches with crazy rules that fans love and appreciate. My personal favorite of the Royal Rumble is one big gimmick. The golden rule of ‘both feet much touch the floor’ has been a staple of Kofi Kingston for the last few years. Something so simple has been the crux of deciding winners in that match, be it a desperate Shawn Michaels infamously holding one leg aloft whilst gripping the rope, to the Rock holding on when Big Show attempted to dump him out of the ring (Rock’s feet hitting the ground way before Show did, but the cameras never caught it) or even the accidental double elimination of John Cena and Batista.

I think ‘gimmick’ is too ‘smarky’ of a word to describe matches, but I can’t think of another that describes them so well. This week sees yet another in the Elimination Chamber PPV. I like this event as it gives a sense of more hard-hitting brutality inside of an unforgiving cage – and the WWE stars testify all too often that the cage is very, very real and has little sympathy for their bodies. I’m worried for the Women’s match, if I’m being honest. While I fully support the Women’s Revolution and loved the Royal Rumble they had, perhaps the Elimination Chamber could be a stretch too far? They’ll be dwarfed inside the steel structure and I hope any high spots they pull off work out and don’t result in a serious injury. More power to them, and I’ll certainly be watching.

With all that being said, sometimes these gimmick matches can harm the fan’s perception of WWE and for that, you can look no further than the aforementioned Women’s Division. Seriously, how many 6-women tag matches do we need? How many times are WWE going to have them and make us endure the same, tired formula over and over again? It’s not new. It’s not going to be different. It’s not the Gauntlet match we saw on Monday.

I think WWE is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place with their female athletes. They have just enough on the roster to have a title on each show. They don’t have enough to warrant a secondary title or a tag team title. While the Women’s Tag Title idea has been floated around many quarters for a good while now, it’s fair to say that introducing it now would be a bad idea. There simply isn’t enough strength in depth, not to mention enough numbers to have it valid or important enough. That’s not to say there couldn’t be a Women’s Tag Title in the future – and I’ll be all for that – it’s just that perhaps now isn’t the right time. There are truly talented women out there, I don’t think anyone denies that, but perhaps WWE needs to focus their efforts not on including as many women as they can on TV, but on their story-lines and feuds.

Perhaps WWE has become a bit lackadaisical when it comes to the women. The WWE of a couple of years ago would’ve given us a six-man tag match on Monday Night Raw with Strowman interfering at the end. Instead they decided on a different match and it paid dividends. Why not try the same formula with the women? Would it not have been too much of a stretch to have Daniel Bryan or Shane McMahon come out on Smackdown Live and say they were so impressed by Monday’s match, they want their own on Smackdown, instead they’re going to have Charlotte, Becky, Natalya et al in their own Gauntlet? No, instead we got yet another tag match.

I’m all for tag matches and the tag division, but to keep using a stale formula doesn’t work with fans over time. Try and freshen it up a little? How about a handicap match, 2 on 3? A Number one Contender tournament? A gauntlet? A stipulation? A ‘Loser has to do ‘X’ type of set-up? Anything different, please. The Women’s Division is one of the best things WWE has done in this current generation and the women wrestlers have done a hell of a lot to make it that way. They’ve been part of something that has ditched their old stereotypes and created new ground. A gimmick match for the women in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a pillow fight or bra & panty match. Now they’re tossing one another over top ropes and are about to step into an Elimination Chamber. Good for them, but please WWE, give them more and not treat them as an afterthought on regular TV. You’ve seen what it did for Seth & co on Monday. You’re about to have one of the biggest female names in sport join the company. Seize the moment and bring the Women’s Revolution into a new era.

What do you think? Did you enjoy Monday’s Gauntlet Match? Could the same work for the women? Do you share my concerns for their Elimination Chamber match, or should I not be worried? Are there too many gimmick matches in WWE, or is the six-person tag enough for now? Will there be a Women’s Tag Division in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.