Every Road to Wrestlemania season, I’m reminded of the grueling nature of the WWE schedule. WWE boasts the fact that they have no off season as a point of pride, but it’s also pretty irresponsible. Of course you want to keep your athletes from ring rust, but there’s a difference between keeping someone warmed up and driving someone into the ground to the point that they’ll be exhausted by the time of the big game.
In light of increasing sensitivity in regards to athlete safety in all sports, there’s no excuse for putting wrestlers through an event like the Elimination Chamber on the way to WrestleMania. Sports entertainers have gone on record as saying that the Chamber match is legitimately painful and dangerous. They fall on metal with no give, which not only hurts, but it doesn’t even look that good. While I love a good car wreck like the next fan, putting this pay-per-view just before the Showcase of the Immortals is downright stupid. Vince McMahon’s old school mentality of toughness bleeds into the modern era in a disservice to his employees. This idea that only the strong survive is all well and good, but not if half of your roster is on the disabled list when it really counts.
I’ve made the point time and time again that great matches aren’t always great for wrestling. Sure, it feels counter-intuitive, but five-star matches dilute the big picture; the big picture being WrestleMania (or Summerslam, or the Royal Rumble). While Raw and Smackdown’s weekly programing like to brag about constant “WrestleMania calibur matches,” this leaves us with nothing to look forward to at the actual WrestleMania. Even with all the grandiose pageantry, the grandest stage of them all should be a time where wrestlers go all out and put on extraordinary performances. But if you’re doing this every week, it’s near impossible for WrestleMania to remain special.
“Special” is a word we’ve heard the McMahons throw around about certain superstars, specifically Brock Lesnar. “Brock is special.” Surely, Ronda Rousey will be deemed “special,” which is more or less a way of Vince to rationalize why he has to give someone a lighter schedule. But this “special” kind of contract does beget good booking. Keeping someone or something from overexposure ensures that your audience will be more excited when the moment finally does occur. This also makes moments memorable. The sports entertainment economy’s biggest export is nostalgia. As Kurt Angle said in his Hall of Fame speech, wrestling is about creating moments.
Being incredible in the ring will make you a fan favorite, but preserving a five-star match for the perfect time is what creates a legend. Today’s athletes put on performances on a weekly basis which would be considered some of the top matches of all time had they happened even a decade ago. The in-ring aspect has improved exponentially since the great migration of indy stars to the WWE. Do these wrestlers the justice of protecting their bodies until it truly matters. There’s something to be said about building up excitement to an amazing match. But what’s being done is akin to a fireworks show where the whole thing is the grand finale.
In regards to the Elimination Chamber, this needs to be a match that appears on a rare occasion. We now have these scheduled bi-monthly events centered around a stipulation, when it should be an a surprise announcement for a major pay-per-view.
“The championship will be decided at Summerslam in an Elimination Chamber match!” is much more interesting than: “The Elimination Chamber event is in February!”
Give me Fastlane or Backlash over Elimination Chamber and TLC any day. Save these matches for the right moment. Have a Chamber match at Backlash. Have a TLC match at WrestleMania. These are the matches that I will remember. The past few Elimination Chamber matches may have been great, but the problem is, I don’t remember them. I remember the first few Chamber matches, when it was special. I remember the first few TLC matches, when it was special. I remember the first few Money in the Bank matches, when it was special. Utilize these big matches only when necessary to show off your world class performers, and never, ever, put them in a career shortening match before WrestleMania.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke