There's Something About Elimination Matches: Precedents and Types
There seems to be some confusion regarding two of the matches held on the December 29, 2008 edition of Monday Night RAW, specifically the Divas Battle Royal and the Fatal Four Way Elimination Match. The rules for both seen on Monday Night have precedent in history and are recognized types of individual gimmick matches.
Likely the most popular elimination match is the renowned Battle Royal. Pat Patterson is credited with the idea of the Royal Rumble, using the Battle Royal to establish one of the WWE Big Four Pay-Per-Views. 1993 marked the first year of the tradition that the winner of the Rumble match receives a title shot at WrestleMania.
The difference between the Royal Rumble match and the standard Battle Royal is that the participants enter in intervals in the former, while the latter sees all the participants begin in the ring at the same time.
Taboo Tuesday in 2005 established a separate set of rules for a Divas Battle Royal. Prior to that match, Lillian Garcia announced the rules as both feet must touch the floor after a Diva was thrown from the ring. The over the top stipulation was eliminated as a requirement.
A Gauntlet match is another type of elimination match, wherein the last man, or tag team, standing is considered the winner. Following a series of one-fall pins or submissions, the match type is typically used to show the resilience of the babyface against a plethora of heels.
Dusty Rhodes created the War Games match in the NWA for The Great American Bash in 1989. This match type would go on to be a staple of WCW's Fall Brawl from 1993 to 1998. Vince Russo brought a variation back in 2000 on Nitro.
The format of War Games requires two rings, encased in a cage, with two teams. Two men start the match, with additional members of each team entering at staggered intervals.
Only when all members of all teams are in the rings does a submission count. War Games matches tended towards bloody and brutal, as there were no pinfalls and no disqualifications. The sole way to win was to make a member of the opposite team submit, surrender, or to knock out an opponent.
Most recently, the WWE presented the Elimination Chamber. Debuting in 2002 at Survivor Series, the Elimination Chamber is an amalgamation of the Steel Cage, War Games, and Hell in a Cell matches.
The format sees two wrestlers begin in the ring, while four others are locked in cells within the perimeter of the structure. In intervals of either four or five minutes, a new wrestler enters the match on random selection. There are no disqualifications, no countouts, and eliminations occur via pinfall or submission.
The final type of elimination match that is considered to be widely recognized and utilized by the larger wrestling companies is the Three- or Four-Way Elimination bouts. These matches are considered a specialty of Extreme Championship Wrestling, ECW, and were called either a Three, or Four, Way Dance.
Steve Austin and Mikey Whipwreck were defeated by The Sandman in the first Three Way Dance for the ECW Heavyweight Title on Dec. 9, 1995. The match would continue to be a highlight of ECW programming until Vince McMahon bought the promotion in 2001.
During the Monday Night Wars, McMahon engaged in several cross-promotional broadcasts with ECW. He used Monday Night RAW to hype the Pay-Per-Views of ECW, as well as the television programming.
No stranger to Elimination matches, McMahon incorporated the concept of the Four Way Dance into the WrestleMania 2000 main event.
The Fatal Four Way Elimination match featured The Rock eliminating Big Show, Triple H eliminating Mick Foley, and, with many shenanigans including help from Vince and several chairs, Triple H retained his title over The Rock.
While there are several other examples of the four-way elimination style matches, the same version that was used at WrestleMania 2000 and the Dec. 29, 2008 edition of Monday Night RAW was also the match that determined the WWE Champion at Backlash 2008. Triple H defeated JBL, John Cena, and Randy Orton to become a 12-time champion.
The homage to the old school ECW Four Way Dance was the perfect match to accomplish the storyline goals for JBL and Shawn Michaels. The WWE needed a competitive match to lead up to the conflict and the choice at the finale.
Otherwise, the prestige of the World Heavyweight Championship would have been in jeopardy. Two prominent former World title holders were eliminated from the match before the drama of Shawn's inner conflict and humiliation were played out.
Had a standard Fatal Four Way been used, in which all participants are in the ring at the same time and the match only ends in the first pinfall or submission, the dramatic progression of the foremost storyline would not have been viable.
Neither the elimination of Kelly Kelly without going over the top rope, nor the decision to use the Fatal Four Way Elimination match, violated the rules and precedents set for the match types.
The latter, particularly, was an outstanding creative decision by the WWE. One excellent match, and one dramatic moment, determined the opponent for the World Heavyweight Champion John Cena and added the next chapter in the storyline for JBL and Shawn Michaels.
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