WWE is willing to do pretty much anything to increase pay-per-view buyrates, and that has included the institution of gimmick pay-per-views over the past several years. Some of them have merit and there have certainly been some solid gimmick pay-per-views in the past, but the upcoming Elimination Chamber event proves that they have run their course.
A gimmick pay-per-view is essentially any event that is named after a match type.
That includes the likes of Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell and TLC. It's a fairly new phenomenon that led to the extinction of events such as Vengeance, No Way Out, Judgment Day, No Mercy and many others. There is very little uniqueness when it comes to WWE's pay-per-view names these days, although I can understand it to some degree.
WWE wants its pay-per-views to thrive like they did during the Attitude Era, and while that isn't possible due to the way the professional wrestling landscape has changed, Vince McMahon has never been averse to tweaking things. His line of thinking with regard to gimmick pay-per-views is obvious, as he hopes that fans will recognize the name of a special match type and gravitate toward it, but that hasn't really been the case.
I will admit that Money in the Bank has been a success, so I can't fault WWE when it comes to the event, but the rest of them have been very hit and miss.
Money in the Bank seemed like a good concept from the start, though, as the match was removed from the WrestleMania card and made into its own pay-per-view. The difference between Money in the Bank and the other gimmick pay-per-views, however, is that there is more cachet and importance behind Money in the Bank than the other matches.
Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber and TLC matches are fantastic when they come up organically, but those matches lose much of their luster when the calendar dictates that they must be held. Such matches should be used in special situations in order to further or end feuds, but that simply doesn't happen anymore. Things feel too forced and the fans aren't buying into it.
It was one thing when we were guaranteed to see a couple Elimination Chamber matches on a card, but WWE has cut down considerably. Hell in a Cell featured just one Hell in a Cell match as CM Punk took on Ryback. It had always utilized two such matches in the past and there is no reason why Big Show vs. Sheamus couldn't have taken place in a cell. Having two matches would have at least made it worthwhile, but it was simply a normal pay-per-view with one unique bout.
The same thing is poised to happen at Elimination Chamber on Sunday.
The Elimination Chamber was actually one of the few gimmick pay-per-views I came to enjoy to some degree, but it is en route to being effectively ruined. There is currently only one chamber match on the entire card, and unless The Shield vs. John Cena, Ryback and Sheamus is made into a quasi-chamber match at some point this week, that is how it will remain.
Perhaps even worse is the fact that the chamber match won't main event the card. I could live with it if the chamber match was simply being outshined by The Rock and CM Punk since they did the same to the Royal Rumble match, but the chamber match is arguably the fourth-most important match on the card, and that is absolutely inexcusable.
Rock vs. Punk, The Shield vs. Cena, Ryback and Sheamus, and Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show are all bigger matches. The lone chamber match on the card won't even have a title on the line as the Superstars will battle for a World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania instead. To top it all off, I can easily see that match opening the show. For a pay-per-view that is called Elimination Chamber, it's tough to fathom how that can happen.
It has gotten to the point where WWE is still technically delivering on the promises made by gimmick pay-per-views, but they are bare bones to say the least. WWE isn't technically lying when it calls the upcoming pay-per-view Elimination Chamber, but the chamber match is such a small part of the show that it almost seems ridiculous for the event to be named what it is.
For the most part, gimmick pay-per-views haven't helped further buyrates like WWE hoped they would. Money in the Bank is one good thing that has come from it, but essentially everything else has been a failure. I'm not suggesting that more basic pay-per-view names will improve buyrates either, but it would clearly open the door for more creative booking.
As things currently stand, the writers essentially operate while being bound by shackles.
Perhaps that is the way they prefer it since they can be lazy while booking gimmick pay-per-views, but the fans don't want to see that. The fans want to see gimmick matches when feuds call for them and not simply because the name of a pay-per-view suggests that they should occur.
When you take into consideration the path that gimmick pay-per-views are going down, hopefully that means they are on the verge of extinction. It won't happen in 2013 as all of those events are scheduled to take place, but things are uncertain beyond that. At the same time, it could be a case of the WWE getting even lazier and refusing to remain true to the integrity of their pay-per-views.
Ideally the former scenario is taking shape and we will soon be rid of nearly every gimmick pay-per-view, but I'm far from convinced. I have to imagine that WWE will receive plenty of backlash concerning the way it is about to handle Elimination Chamber, so there is hope that change is on the horizon.