Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, Hell in a Cell, Tables Ladders & Chairs...Make no mistake, WWE has some of the most lucrative gimmick matches in the business. They are matches that whet the appetite and sell PPVs.
With a bloated PPV calendar, WWE have attempted to freshen things up by giving a gimmick theme for each event. But in doing so, is Vince in danger of killing his golden goose?
With TLC scheduled for Dec. 13, this is a PPV that highlights the problem. We all love a TLC match now and again, but the prospect of having three in one night is ridiculous. How are viewers supposed to keep the same level of enthusiasm for each successive match?
This was a problem at Breaking Point. A submission-themed PPV isn't a bad idea in principle, but in execution, it was flawed. A submission match is dependent on all participants having an established submission hold.
Orton v Cena: Only Cena's STF is over enough to win a main event, and so their match could only end one way. CM Punk v Undertaker: Two problems here, in that Punk's Anaconda Vice is nowhere near established enough to win a match of this calibre, and secondly that Undertaker was never going to tap out.
Legacy v DX: None of the wrestlers here have an established submission hold, so when the finish arrived, nobody expected HBK to tap, the atmosphere was flat, and the finish felt anticlimactic.
Hell in a Cell also suffered similar problems. Only Legacy v DX made good use of the cell, and consequently produced a fantastic match, worthy of the main event. Orton v Cena and Punk v Taker weren't bad, but did they really need to be inside a cell?
Gimmick matches such as ladder and cell matches are best kept as a rare treat, used sparingly throughout the calender to keep them fresh and to provide a blistering end to a feud. The match should be appropriate to the feud, rather than trying to crowbar in three of the same kind of match on one night for the sake of it.
There are some themed PPVs that work. Royal Rumble is my favourite event of the year, and works because it is unique—one match, once a year. Even having two elimination chamber matches doesn't feel excessive, because the matches give sufficient creative freedom to keep things fresh.
I enjoyed this year's Judgment Day by virtue of it containing straight singles matches—a breath of fresh air in the otherwise manic jumble of gimmicked matches. Having said that, Extreme Rules is a solid idea if each match is different, as it keeps things interesting. I also think Night of Champions is a nice concept, which leaves enough creative freedom for the bookers.
Bragging Rights was a good idea, albeit underdeveloped, being shadowed by the Iron Man main event and also being too close to Survivor Series to fully exploit the possibility of a 7 v 7 tag match. Survivor Series itself has lost its way in recent years, but this year's card contains two classic 5 v 5 elimination matches that should be interesting, if given sufficient time.
The problem with gimmick PPVs is when three of the same type of match are forced onto the card. With Breaking Point and Hell in a Cell, the feeling of square pegs being hammered into round holes was palpable. It's inevitable this will repeat itself at TLC on Dec. 13.
The real tragedy in my eyes is what TLC was selected in favour of - the alternative in the public vote was a King of the Ring style tournament. I lament this as a real missed opportunity to make use of the staggering amount of midcard talent WWE has at it's disposal.
If the winner of said tournament was given a future title shot, think how exciting a tournament featuring the likes of John Morrison, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger and Kofi Kingston could be.
If WWE are hellbent on having a theme for each of their PPVs, then they should cut at least two from the calendar. They must avoid the Breaking Point/Hell in a Cell/TLC format which crams in multiple matches of the same kind.
Keep it to a one-off, yearly match (Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber) or a theme (Night of Champions, Bragging Rights, King of the Ring) which gives the bookers the freedom to keep the card fresh.
Otherwise, WWE may end up ruining the crowd-pleaser matches that make their brand so unique.