WWE’s gimmick matches are considered to be devalued compared to a decade ago, yet the Elimination Chamber has succeeded in keeping its prestige.
It is difficult to pinpoint when gimmick matches started to be thought of as inferior to previous outings. However there are several factors which coincided with the drop in gimmick match’s status, and these could all have lead to them becoming less important.
One often-quoted reason is the installation of gimmick pay-per-views.
This has meant that the arrival of a high-profile gimmick event is no longer a surprise. The matches no longer signal that this is the end, or at least the next stage, of a high-profile feud either. In fact, some feuds can even start in one of these matches.
Yearly outings have also lead to claims that these types of matches are becoming over-exposed, making gimmick matches more predictable and less exciting.
Another commonly blamed factor was the WWE’s decision in 2008 to change its programming from TV-14 to TV-PG. Becoming more family friendly meant that the gimmick matches had to be less violent, and more controlled. Health requirements added at this time also prevented dangerous activities previously allowed.
Other contributing factors suggested to have added to this decline are a lack of talent on the roster, poor writing, and John Cena. These three points are brought up whenever there is an issue that cannot be precisely pinpointed by doting fans.
Elimination Chamber has been equally affected by all these changes though. So there should be no difference between this event and other shows such as Hell in a Cell or Tables, Ladders and Chairs when it comes to being devalued. Therefore the reason behind this anomaly could well be the key to restoring the rest of the WWE’s signature matches to glory.
Identifying why the Eliminations Chambers has maintained its success is difficult.
Hell in a Cell—which is arguably the closest in nature to the Chamber match—has lost more prestige than any other matchup. The importance of championship matches could be a factor, but the next outing is only for a chance at the gold.
What it actually comes down to is the match’s ability to maintain the importance of the actual outcome.
Going back to earlier gimmick matches, they were always used to finish or highlight specific moments in a feud. People cared who won and lost, as they were emotionally invested in the outcome. Stipulations around a match focused the idea that this might be the moment that the good guy would come out on top, adding further anticipation.
Elimination Chamber has kept this connection to the fans, due its proximity on the Road to WrestleMania. The winner of this match gets to headline the biggest show of all, and that is something that all WWE fans want to do at heart.
This effects fans who—consciously or not—root for their favorite wrestler extra hard.
This extra desire makes everything seem more important. Bumps become harder, moves look cooler, and winning means that particular wrestler will become immortalized beside some of the greatest wrestlers off all time.
So the key to reinvigorate gimmick matches is to remove them as part of the calendar, and only utilize them when highlighting the critical moments in important feuds. This will transfer the emotional investment fans have in the wrestlers onto the match-type itself, and the prestige will be quickly restored.
Elimination Chamber, like the Royal Rumble one month before, may be the exception on the list due to its proximity to WrestleMania. Yet there can be little doubt that its success is the key to rebuilding other great gimmick matches in the years to come.