Gimmick matches in wrestling serve a multitude of purposes. They conclude rivalries, enhance angles and sell pay-per-views. They increase fan excitement and build anticipation for a given contest.
Without gimmick matches, there would be no differentiating what one sees on weekly television from what they are asked to pay for on a monthly basis.
They are special bouts that help create magical and memorable moments that fans will talk about for years to come.
The casual fan may not remember the near-classic between Chris Benoit and Shelton Benjamin from Raw in 2005, but they definitely remember the Batista vs. Great Khali Punjabi Prison match from No Mercy in 2007, even if they wish they would not.
Gimmick matches have that effect on fans.
While they may no longer be as plentiful, assorted or violent as they once were, they still attract attention and serve many purposes.
The landscape of today's World Wrestling Entertainment and the direction it has taken in terms of the content on its shows has watered down and, in some cases, eliminated several gimmick matches from the company's programming.
With that said, of the matches still featured on Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-view events, here are the seven best.
*For the purposes of this article, the TLC and Money in the Bank matches will be included under the ladder match heading.
The submission match is one rarely seen in today's WWE there is still a place in today's wrestling landscape for the gimmick.
In the match, two submission-based wrestlers compete in a match to determine whose skills and holds are better than the other's.
Typically, the matches are more mat-based in nature due to the competitors targeting specific body parts in an attempt to set of their finishers.
Perhaps the most famous of all submission matches in WWE history was the Survivor Series 1994 showdown between WWE champion Bret Hart and Bob Backlund. It was a slower-paced match that lasted just over 35 minutes and featured outstanding technical wrestling. In that match, Owen Hart convinced his mother to throw in the towel on Bret's behalf, ending the match and costing his brother his title.
At the 2001 Backlash event, Chris Benoit defeated Kurt Angle in an Ultimate Submission match. The rules followed an Iron Man match format, though shorter in length, in that the man to score the most submission victories in the 30-minute time period would be declared the winner. Benoit won in overtime, beating Angle by a score of 4-3.
The submission match maybe difficult for some of today's younger fans to get invested in thanks, in large part, to the fact that so much of the match is focused on the ground-based mat work of yesteryear. That may be why they are used so infrequently.
For fans of technical wrestling, who enjoy the slow build of a match and the picking apart of a limb to tell a story and to utilize in-ring psychology, it remains a favorite.
The Last Man Standing match has been used so much over the last three years in World Wrestling Entertainment that it has almost been devalued.
When utilized sparingly, however, the match can be the ultimate test of toughness for the competitors involved.
In the match, two men beat, batter and brutalize one another to the point that one cannot get to his feet by the time the referee reaches a count of 10.
There have been a number of outstanding Last Man Standing bouts in WWE, including The Rock's attempt to win the WWE title from Mankind at St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1999, John Cena's WWE title match against Edge at Backlash 2009 and the WWE title match between Randy Orton and Triple H at No Mercy 2007.
Two stand out more than the others, however.
In July of 2000, Chris Jericho and Triple H clashed in the semi-main event of Fully Loaded in a Last Man Standing match that would go a long way in both proving Jericho's worth as a main event talent and cementing The Game's status as the top worker in North America (at the time).
The match was chaotic, brutal and violent, and iwas won by Triple H when he reached his feet at the count of nine, only to fall right back down. Both men were bloodied during the bout, really putting over the savagery of the match type.
Seven years later, John Cena would be faced with defending his WWE Championship against the dominant Samoan Savage, Umaga. The match, at the 2007 Royal Rumble event, would prove to be the toughest of Cena's title reign as he was forced to try and trade power moves with a man who had outmatched some of the sport's legendary figures, including Ric Flair, Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
Cena did manage to retain his title after choking Umaga out with the ring ropes.
The match legitimized Cena as a worker who could get great matches out of all types and sizes and reintroduced wrestling fans to the sheer brutality of the bout.
Current World Heavyweight champion Alberto Del Rio is no stranger to Last Man Standing matches, having beaten Big Show in one back at the 2013 Royal Rumble event.
As the stepchild of the steel cage match, the Hell in a Cell match is one of the most popular gimmick matches in WWE history.
It has often times been the violent, bloody finale to many intense rivalries. Men, such as The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Triple H and Shawn Michaels have added to their legacies inside the confines of the roofed cage.
The match is often times utilized to bring to an end a major feud. However, with the incarnation of the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event, the match is now used to spike a buyrate and provide the latest chapter in a given program.
Some of the most breathtaking moments in World Wrestling Entertainment have come in Hell in a Cell matches, the most famous being Undertaker tossing Mankind from the top of the cell and through the announce tables some 20 feet below.
How about Undertaker watching from the top of the cell while medics checked on an unconscious Mankind, who had taken the second major fall of the match, this time through the roof of the cell?
Who can forget Cactus Jack lighting a barb wire-wrapped two-by-four on fire and bashing Triple H in the face with it?
Batista delivered the finest performance of his career inside Hell in a Cell, defeating his mentor Triple H in a barbaric brawl that ended their months-long angle once and for all.
Today, the match is no longer the Devil's playground. It is, instead, the centerpiece of the October pay-per-view event and a cheap excuse for kids to say the word "hell" and not get in trouble for it.
Still, there is something imposing about the giant cage that invokes excitement and anticipation.
For those who remember the wars that were held inside the structure from the late '90s until the mid-'00s, it is one of the finest concepts the company has ever implemented.
There is nothing better than a good, old-fashioned street fight.
A match without rules, street fights are typically the more violent, emotionally charged version of what one would call a Hardcore or Extreme Rules match. They are usually bloody affairs that signal the end of a feud or angle.
Weapons are frequently utilized, but the story fuels the action and drama.
The 2000 Street Fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack at Royal Rumble, a match in which the WWE Championship was on the line, solidified The Game as a legitimate main event star and gave the legendary Mick Foley yet another iconic performance to add to his resume.
A year later, Shane McMahon and Kurt Angle took violence to a whole new level.
When Angle threw McMahon into the glass portions of the King of the Ring set, only for the glass not to shatter as expected, Angle repeated his actions. When it failed to break a second time, Angle delivered a dangerous belly-to-belly overhead suplex to his opponent. Shane exploded through the glass, suffering several cuts about his head in the process.
Angle would win the match and change the minds of fans who may have considered him strictly an in-ring technician.
2012 Hall of Fame inductee Rated R Superstar Edge was involved in two outstanding street fights on Monday Night Raw.
The first came on the February 28, 2005 edition of Raw, when he lost to Shawn Michaels in a blood-soaked main event
Later that same year, he met Matt Hardy in what was the continuation of their feud, which centered around Edge's very real affair with Lita, who had been dating Hardy at the time.
It was a stiff, hard-hitting match that ended in a no-contest when Hardy delivered a Side Effect to Edge, off of the Raw stage. Both men were stretchered out of the arena.
The street fight is a match that, when done correctly, showcases a Superstar's knack for telling stories and their ability to integrate their trademark moves and holds in a different setting.
The best street fights are the ones in which the fans are emotionally involved in the violence because of the strength of the story that accompanies it.
The Elimination Chamber match, which made its debut at the 2002 Survivor Series, is a match in which six Superstars compete for either a championship or the opportunity to challenge for a championship.
To start, four of the six competitors are locked inside an individual pod. The remaining two Superstars start the match in what is essentially a one-on-one contest. Every five minutes (sometimes shortened to three or four, depending on time constraints), a Superstar is released from their pod, joining the contest.
This continues until all Superstars have entered the match.
Once a Superstar is pinned or made to submit, he is eliminated from the match. The final Superstar is declared the winner.
2011 Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels won the very first Elimination Chamber match, defeating Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kane, Rob Van Dam and Booker T in a star-studded affair to capture the World Heavyweight Championship.
Arguably the finest edition of the match came in 2009, when Triple H defeated The Undertaker, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Vladimir Kozlov and Big Show to capture the WWE title.
The Elimination Chamber, as of late, has been utilized more effectively as a way of setting up the WrestleMania main events. In fact, the February pay-per-view event, formerly known as No Way Out, underwent a name change in 2010 and now shares the name of the match.
One of the hardest matches for a wrestler to compete in due to the toll it takes on the body, the Elimination Chamber is a favorite of fans, and with good reason.
The Three Stages of Hell match is one of the two greatest gimmick matches in WWE history because of the fact that it has been used so sparingly that, when it is booked for a pay-per-view event, it carries an importance with it that other specialty matches simply do not.
So rare are the matches, in fact, that there have been only four of them in history.
The match adopts the rules of a basic Two-Out-Of-Three Falls match but adds special stipulations to each fall to make it that much more interesting, unique and special.
In 2001, the feud between Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had reached its boiling point. The two needed to settle their differences and it was determined that they would do just that at the No Way Out pay-per-view in February.
In the first fall, they would clash in a straight wrestling match. The second fall would be a street fight and the third, if needed, would be inside the confines of a steel cage.
The match was booked beautifully as Austin stunned Triple H, defeating him in a wrestling match while Triple H won the more Austin-friendly street fight. Finally, inside the cage, Triple H would pin Austin's shoulders to the mat and win one of the biggest, and best, matches of his career.
Triple H would be involved in the two matches that followed the first, defeating Shawn Michaels in one and losing to Randy Orton in the other.
Most recently, John Cena defeated Ryback at Payback to retain the WWE Championship.
Three Stages of Hell is a test of a Superstar's creativity and story telling in that they must craft three distinctly different matches, all the while tying them together as one single unit.
It is a hard match to craft; it is an even harder match to actually pull off. When it comes together, though, like it did for Austin and Triple H in 2001, it is a thing of beauty.
The most exciting, death-defying match in World Wrestling Entertainment, the ladder match is second to none on this list of greatest gimmick matches.
The object of the match is to climb a ladder and retrieve a prize—be it a championship, contract or weapon—in order to be declared the winner.
The first ladder match in WWE history took place in 1992, when Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels battled for the Intercontinental title in the match that was popularized in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion.
Within two years, however, Michaels and Razor Ramon would set the bar for the match with their battle for the same title at WrestleMania X. They would utilize the ladder as a weapon, battering each other with it in hopes of becoming the undisputed Intercontinental champion. Ramon would win the 1994 match, but a year later, Michaels would make up for it by winning the rematch at SummerSlam.
In October of 1999, the Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian would revolutionize the concept in a match that represented the extreme and dangerous side of the Attitude Era. On one October night in Cleveland, Ohio, the four young stars delivered a performance the catapulted them into relevancy and laid the groundwork for their Hall of Fame-worthy legacies.
In 2000, the two teams, along with the Dudley Boyz, would innovate a new match that would stand the test of time.
The Tables, Ladders and Chairs match (TLC for short) featured all of the high-flying, death-defying stunts of a regular ladder match but added elements of the hardcore, such as tables and chairs.
It instantly became a fan favorite and, at WrestleMania X-Seven, the three teams delivered a five-star classic that was won by Edge and Christian.
In 2005, the ladder match would once gain be adapted, this time to create a match in which the winner was all but guaranteed a run with either the WWE or World Heavyweight title.
The Money in the Bank match built on the premise of a prize awaiting Superstars at the top of a ladder and added to the chaos by adding more wrestlers.
The first match of its kind took place at WrestleMania 21 and was won by Edge when he scaled the ladder and retrieved a briefcase containing a title match contract. The Rated R Superstar would go on to cash in his guaranteed opportunity and win his first WWE Championship.
Over the years, Jack Swagger, CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio have all claimed their first major singles titles as a result of winning the match.
With two match types adapted from it, as well as two pay-per-view events (July's Money in the Bank and December's TLC), the ladder match is not only the greatest gimmick match in WWE today, it is also the most imitated.