As long time wrestling fans, there are certain tropes, storytelling mechanisms, and match layouts that we pick up on over time. These aspects of wrestling either become second nature to a fan (the heat segment and hot tag in tag team matches), or they become a maddening sights and sounds that make our blood boil (the way competitors in ladder matches climb the ladder as if it’s the Bataan Death March), and I’d like to discuss one today that has become prevalent in modern WWE multi-man matches.
Firstly, the WWE’s dependency on multi-man matches is lazy storytelling, and the way competitors trade wins and wrestle in tag team matches in the weeks between major shows is tiresome and monotonous. The television that these feuds and poor writing produce is uninspired and lacking, just as the blow off matches tend to be due to a lack of action.
As an example, the recent RAW branded Elimination Chamber show and the Smackdown Fastlane 6-man match featured 2 World title matches with 12 men. The action in each match revolves around 2 men fighting at a time while the four other men lay prone on the ground, selling minor injuries in order for the spotlight to be shared by only 2 wrestlers at a time. The lulls produced steal the energy from the live crowd, and the viewers at home are deprived of the mayhem and chaos promised by a match of this type. There should be no down time, there should be no breaks in action; six men ought to be able to keep a genuine flow and tell a compelling story, however the stories never materialize because the workers are not allowed to work in any meaningful way, rather the matches are laid out simply for what is most appealing for television production.
As a counter to this recent development in multi-man matches, I offer the 1997 Final Four Match featuring Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Bret Hart, and Vader. In this match, four men vying for the WWF Title carry themselves like savage animals at a break neck pace for over 20 minutes and produce a modern day, and sadly forgotten, classic. The only dead spot occurs when Steve Austin is eliminated from the action, but it is only a brief respite before the other three competitors pick up the pace for the home stretch. Nearly the entirety of this match is four men pairing off and clobbering each other, and the crowd reaction is rabid for the non-stop carnage that the WWF cameras catch at a frantic pace, thus adding a sense of urgency to the proceedings. This is the sort of match that ought to be the template that every multi-man match follows in the present day WWE.
I feel like I speak for most fans when I say that the modern day WWE production crew has enough cameras and manpower to cover the desired mayhem of a true multi-man match, and most fans are tired of seeing guys roll to the outside and sell a vertical suplex as if it’s Hulk Hogan’s leg drop while 2 men trade moves in the ring for minutes at a time. Give us more action!