Analyzing the Anatomy of the Perfect Triple Threat Match

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterMarch 28, 2014


The Triple Threat match is one of WWE's most exciting offerings, a swirling, wild war.

When the gimmick match is at its best, it's a three-pronged feud filled with animosity and star power that leads to a match marked with unique moves and fluid action. Fans have seen classics in this genre at WrestleMania XX, Vengeance 2003 and SummerSlam 2000.

At WrestleMania XXX, Randy Orton and Batista will await the winner of Daniel Bryan and Triple H.

The latest Triple Threat at "The Show of Shows" has the potential to be a classic. Both Orton and Triple H have been a part of some of the best WWE Triple Threat bouts of all time. 

The following is a look at the elements of the best three-man battles that the WrestleMania main event should emulate.


Criss-Crossing Rivalries, Star Power 

The best Triple Threat clashes serve as the climax to narratives filled with intersecting hatred. 

Rather than two forces opposing each other, a third is added, creating reasons for each wrestler to go after both of his opponents.

For Triple H, Kurt Angle and The Rock before SummerSlam 2000, the story was both about the WWE title and Angle and Triple H fighting over Stephanie McMahon. 

Edge vs. John Cena vs. Big Show at WrestleMania 25 is another example. It may not top many fans' lists as the best Triple Threat match of all time, but it got the animosity part right.

Cena hated Edge who hated Big Show who hated Cena. That kind of circular contention is part of what makes these kinds of matches so fun.

Edge had just dethroned Cena at No Way Out, adding to a long list of times "The Rated-R Superstar" had angered him. Big Show and Edge's beef centered around Vickie Guerrero cheating on Edge with the giant.

While that part of the story leaned too far to the ridiculous side, it elevated the match's intensity.

Creating that kind of conflict is key to the perfect Triple Threat match and so is star power.

Had Carlito, Santino Marella and Zack Ryder met at WrestleMania XXIV, no amount of story would have made it feel as monumental as Orton vs. Cena vs. Triple H did. Pitting three of the era's biggest stars in a single match was a smart move.

Both Cena and Triple H were in search of redemption after missing time due to injury.

Orton stood in their way, one titan looking to keep two others from knocking him off his throne. The result was a match that may not have been as exciting as the very best Triple Threats ever but had a big-fight feel that made it worthy of WrestleMania.

Expect a similar vibe for Orton vs. Batista vs. the winner of Bryan and Triple H. It is set to feature three men who have been WWE champ and some of the biggest names in the industry.


Strategy and Saves

A great Triple Threat match is a display of moving parts, foes weaving in and out of frame. Fans saw an excellent example of that just last year.

When Rob Van Dam, Christian and Orton met on the Aug. 2 SmackDown, the match didn't have the advantage of a long buildup or the kind of animosity we've seen in the very best Triple Threat bouts. It did deliver in terms of action, though.

There was a great smoothness and rhythm to the match.

Just as Orton dropkicked Van Dam off the apron, Christian came slinking in. When Orton later hit Van Dam with the RKO, Christian slipped behind him and pinned him with a backslide.

Each man seemed to be waiting in the reeds for the right moment to strike. 

One attack bled into another. Orton, Van Dam and Christian gave fans little time to breathe, cramming in as much action as they could into the duration of the match.

That's been the hallmark of many a Triple Threat match. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H at WrestleMania XX did that better than anyone has before or since.

Another important element is the close-call. One man hits one of his best weapons and goes for the pinfall. Just as the referee seems to be closing in on a three-count, the third combatant rushes in to save the match for himself.

Big Show vs. Angle vs. Brock Lesnar at Vengeance 2003 provided plenty of that.

Lesnar hit the F-5 on Big Show, but Angle yanked the referee out of the ring before he could count to three. Angle later stopped a potential three-count by cracking a chair across Lesnar's back.

Just as tag team matches rely on standbys like the "hot tag" and the distracted referee, the Triple Threat is dependent on saves like these. They make victory less certain when a Superstar delivers his finishing move.

Normally, it's up to the victim to kick out, but the Triple Threat offers escape by enemy.


Spots You Won't See Elsewhere

Having three wrestlers in the ring at once allows for opportunities not found when only two foes collide.

Not adding sequences unique to Triple Threat bouts is like having a cage match where no one rams his opponent's face into the cage. How well the wrestlers take advantage of the match's special nature helps determine how big a mark it can have on the audience.

Triple H, Edge and Jeff Hardy met at Armageddon 2008 with the WWE Championship on the line. What followed was a stunning bout filled with unexpected moments and jaw-dropping moves. 

Hardy jumped onto Triple H to spring himself onto Edge. While Triple H held Edge on his shoulders, Hardy swooped in with Whisper in the Wind.

Edge missed spear on Hardy, only to nail Triple H in the gut.

The three wrestlers made full use of the Triple Threat format, crafting memorable moment after memorable moment. It was no spot-fest either. The moves felt like natural parts of the story and the match.

That is key to success in this kind of match.

It's also a match that offers the chance for doubling moves. Two foes can each clamp on their submission hold to a single opponent, making for an eye-catching experience.

For example, Triple H once put Orton in a Sharpshooter while Cena applied the STF to "The Viper." Natalya has taken a slightly different approach, putting two opponents in one hold at the same time.

One of WrestleMania XXV's most lasting images is Cena lifting both Edge and Big Show over his shoulders for an Attitude Adjustment.

Combine these kinds of spots with an excellent flow and compelling story and greatness is all but guaranteed. WrestleMania XXX already has the narrative to have it nail those requirements. The next step is for the Superstars to deliver in the ring.

If it's Triple H who enters the fray, he's already proved that he can compose a masterwork in the format. Few would doubt that Bryan can thrive in this spot, though, as he's made a habit of churning out outstanding in-ring performances.


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