Last night’s match at the WWE TLC pay-per-view to unify the WWE Title and the World Heavyweight Title has a number of detractors for a number of reasons:
- It didn’t have big-match build.
- It didn’t have a big-match feel.
- It wasn’t a traditional, one-on-one match.
- It wasn’t very creative; they even rehashed the handcuff gimmick from a TLC match held only two years ago.
- The finish was botched, which wouldn’t have been an issue had it been a traditional, one-on-one match, freed of its abstract Tables, Ladders and Chairs stipulations.
- The match probably didn’t have a big-match feel because it wasn’t a traditional, one-on-one match, grappled in the past by the likes of Jim Londos, George Hackenschmidt and King Mabel.
Some of the criticism holds water: If John Cena weren’t expected to crash through a table, there wouldn’t have been a table to miss. Had the catalyst of the match not been the non-wrestling figurehead Triple H, it may have had a stronger build. Hell, had it not been held at a glorified In Your House, maybe the wrestling audience would have cared, period.
But the one argument I refuse to agree with is that, to paraphrase, “a title match of this magnitude should have just been a traditional, one-on-one match.” This sentiment popped up on Twitter a handful of times before, during, and especially after the match. A mouth-breather from Yahoo (and what a perfect last name, Durr) had this to say:
And shame on the WWE for having such an important match contested in a TLC match in the first place. If it wanted to truly build an appreciation for the unification of the two championships, the match should have been contested in a tradition [sic] one-on-one match. The WWE relied heavily on the history of both championships in its buildup of the match but elected to contest the all-important unification in a gimmick match.
Gimmick matches rank among some of the greatest matches of all time, that much we can all agree with. But to poo-poo on adding a gimmick to a title match, a title unification match, or any other one-of-a-kind main-event match is poo-pooing the very wrestling history you’re attempting to salvage. Rose-colored glasses may only allow in epic world title matches like Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat or Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, but they improperly filter out classics like the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels ironman match, or Ric Flair vs. Harley Race in a steel cage, or…
If you really want your argument stomped out like Smokey the Bear attacking a cigarette in the woods, look no further than the 1992 Royal Rumble. Regarded as one of the greatest matches in pro wrestling history, the Rumble match crowned Ric Flair as the new WWF Champion after a month of vacancy, in a contest pitting not one, not one-on-one, but 30 wrestlers against each other. And not even all at the same time! Gasp! The horror! Wrestling history iz DEAD!
Granted, the examples I can offer are limited. Have there been fewer gimmick matches than traditional to either decide or unify versions of the World Heavyweight Title? Yes. Does the fact that those few matches were gimmick matches preclude an incredible quality of athleticism or level of excitement? Absolutely not. If you wish to complain, don’t hate the chair, hate the chairman.