The Blueprint on How to Book Perfect Iron Man Match Ahead of WWE Extreme Rules

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2018


This Sunday at WWE Extreme Rules, Dolph Ziggler will defend the Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins in a 30-minute Iron Man match.

This will be the 13th Iron Man match in WWE history as far as television and pay-per-view programming are concerned, with several others having happened at house shows dating back to 1989.

Over the years, a variety of different stories have been told with this gimmick, allowing it to be one of the more flexible match types.

Despite how its nature would indicate quite the contrary, if done properly, WWE can avoid booking it as a rigid segment with too much of an adherence to its points system and, instead, make it one of the most fun of the night.

How to go about doing that depends on what the end game is and how to properly set up the participants for success.


What Story Is Being Told?

The biggest key factor to determine is what the purpose of booking this match was to begin with.

When two people are locked in a bitter blood feud, having them beat the life out of each other leads to a logical gimmick such as Hell in a Cell, Last Man Standing or I Quit, but an Iron Man match is an entirely different animal.

There has to be a reason why, out of all the possible types of matches out there to pick from, something revolving around a time window and scoring points is the best course of action.

Normally, this is an extension of a 2-out-of-3 falls match to prove who can walk away from a feud saying they were the definitive better man, and that the points are proof, but that may not be the case every time.

With Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII, the story being told was more along the lines of how evenly matched the top two babyfaces in WWE at the time were.

Spending a full hour and not having either man score a single fall over the other meant that Hart was a fighting champion willing to do anything to keep his title, while Michaels had a heart that wouldn't stop beating and needed to ascend to the mountaintop.

Absolutely spent, but still fighting.
Absolutely spent, but still fighting.Credit:

Winning by sudden death rules allowed Michaels to capture the title without Hart looking weak, along with getting the crowd to wonder if a rematch was looming.

When Michaels wrestled Kurt Angle on October 3, 2005, their match on Raw ended in a 2-2 draw to put Angle in a negative light, as he refused to go into overtime to truly settle the score and find out who the better man was.

Sometimes, it's less about the two opponents being on par with each other and more about just showcasing their skills in general.

Angle facing Chris Benoit in an Ultimate Submission Match was a means to exhibit that, as the two were both supremely talented in-ring technicians.

A regular match wouldn't suffice, but a match where they needed to score more submissions over the other allowed the two to show off, which is why it went to 4-3. Had there been a 1-0 decision, it might as well have been a regular match with no stipulation attached.

To a certain extent, this is what happened with Bayley and Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Respect, where they went 3-2 with Bayley retaining the NXT Women's Championship.

That match was the follow-up to their fantastic bout at TakeOver: Brooklyn, where they stole the show and proved they were worthy of being the main event of a pay-per-view. Since this was a match to highlight their talent, both Superstars had more than one opportunity to look strong.

On the other hand, instead of making both sides look balanced, an underdog story can be told by loading up points for one person and forcing their opponent to fight back from a disadvantage.

Cesaro and Sheamus scored the first two falls at Great Balls of Fire, and even after The Hardy Boyz fought back to make it 2-1, The Bar followed it up with another point. Eventually, Matt and Jeff were able to tie things up 3-3, but The Bar retained the Raw Tag Team Championship 4-3.


That tension of not knowing whether The Hardy Boyz could make a comeback after being behind by more than one point at two separate times was what made that match entertaining, instead of seeing both sides just swap points back and forth.

The other way to book an Iron Man match is with the purpose in mind to let the audience know that the two competitors are locked in an iconic feud, where this is one of the only types of fights that can simulate how back and forth the rivalry has gone.

By the time Triple H and The Rock had their match at Judgment Day 2000, they had already feuded enough in the past that it was a longstanding program.

The same goes for John Cena and Randy Orton, who stepped things up even more by foregoing disqualifications at Bragging Rights 2009.


Both of those feuds went on for so many years and kept being picked back up time and time again that it's no surprise they are tied for having the most points scored in any Iron Man match, both ending with a 6-5 tally.

With all these options available, what WWE has to do is take a look at the particular feud going on for each Iron Man match and think about why the instinct was to choose that stipulation above all others.

Determining which one of those stories is being told will help distinguish how many decisions should be made, if the match should be one-sided or more of an even affair, who should come out on top and how that person should score the final fall.

So what are we in store for with this match at Extreme Rules?
So what are we in store for with this match at Extreme Rules?Credit:

How Should Ziggler vs. Rollins be Booked?

This is a relatively new feud that came out of nowhere, so there's no precedent at the moment to chalk it up to an iconic rivalry that fans will relish due to the history between the two.

Instead, this is more along the lines of a match that should showcase how talented both of them are in the ring, as they're two of the best wrestlers on the roster right now.

Rollins proved that he can be trusted to have long, stellar performances over the past few months, while Ziggler's entire character is about how great of a wrestler he's been for years.

These two should be told to go full-force and have the most competitive match they can possibly have, not only to wow the audience with their athleticism, but their ring psychology, too.

The best way to allow them to do that is to play around with the points system and allow them the flexibility to score lots of decisions any time the fans in attendance aren't on their feet.

Most of the rest of the matches on the card aren't going to be a technical masterpiece, but this one could be, and it should be booked like the antithesis to the more hardcore-style fights.

This should be about wrestlers doing what they do best, countering each other, pulling out roll-ups and quick pins when capitalizing on when their opponent falters.

With SummerSlam coming up, there may not be another match between these two. If the feud is going to end here, they should treat it as the blow-off that would make people feel satisfied with the conclusion, rather than wanting more and feeling like they left too much on the table.

Since he was the one who dropped the title, Rollins probably won't be winning, but as he's the babyface, he should be at least somewhat protected.

After a score of something like 4-4, Drew McIntyre should cause some kind of distraction or interference that allows Ziggler to capitalize and steal the victory, putting the heat on the heels for having cheated to win in the final moments.

The more the fans boo McIntyre and Ziggler, the better it will be for their future with the Intercontinental Championship and the more sympathetic it will make Rollins.

The only way that could be better would be if Dean Ambrose will be cleared to compete by Extreme Rules, so he could make a surprise appearance. At first, it would seem like he popped up to help Rollins by evening the odds, only to turn heel and betray him with a Dirty Deeds that Ziggler could score the final pinfall from.

That would accomplish both keeping the title on Ziggler, allowing he and Rollins to look strong from the high-scoring match and setting up Rollins vs. Ambrose for the biggest party of the summer.

If WWE has a different goal in mind, the creative team will have to cook up something else, but after over a dozen matches to test things out, the blueprint is sitting right in front of them.


Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.


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