First things first: I am not going into the pro wrestling vs. MMA debate. I watch both and I enjoy both, although I am more of a "pro wrestling guy." I see them as different forms of physical and mental expression. In fact, I enjoy any sport whose rules I have even a crude understanding of.
I do not have any exact statistics regarding fans that watch both sports. But if my family and friends are any indication, there should be quite a few, which probably makes it easier to watch PPVs of both sports without burning one's pockets.
While the athletic intent of both sports is different—in one, you try to defeat your opponent while (hopefully) suffering minimal damage; in the other, you give a good performance, usually by both competitors voluntarily taking some punishment—the common goal is to display the mastery of physical technique.
In an era where many fans complain about too many gimmick PPVs on WWE programming—I myself have problems with the annual Hell in a Cell and TLC shows—it might seem odd to suggest one more gimmick show for the company. Rest assured, I am suggesting that it should be a replacement and not an addition to an already stacked calendar.
Now, I have to clarify a few things. By suggesting an MMA-style event, I do not mean that pro wrestling should also have unscripted matches. The script is what differentiates pro wrestling from just about any other show and it also ensures that the "fighters" can trust each other to stick to a basic game plan. The lack of a script would lead to too many injuries and would be hazardous to the sport in the long run.
What I am suggesting is having a pay-per-view event that focuses primarily on MMA-style matches, with less high-flying and more grappling and submissions. No, I am not suggesting WWE bring back Breaking Point—a PPV in 2009 where all matches ended with an opponent submitting or giving up—but rather change the style entirely.
Most MMA matches are fought in an polygonal cage structure—the name "Octagon" is a trademark of UFC, but the structure is similar for most big MMA promotions—with the matches being multiple-round affairs with breaks between rounds. Matches are decided by knockouts, submissions, technical knockouts and submissions and points (judges' calls).
While adapting this to the WWE, changes will obviously have to be made. Using an octagon might be seen as some form of copyright infringement, but WWE can simply use the same cage it uses for its cage matches and remove the ropes and turnbuckles.
Obviously, rounds and breaks in a pro wrestling match are a big no-no, but having a time limit, which was typical in the old days, would come in handy. Perhaps 20 minutes for a non-title/mid-card title match and 30 minutes for a main event match would be adequate. And instead of going to judges in the event of a tie—although "judges" could even be an added plot element—matches that last the distance could simply be called a tie.
Obviously, the absence of ring ropes would reduce some moves in many wrestlers' repertoires; the universal Irish whip can still be done on the cage, while giving a show of even more punishment to the "victim." Also, some of the competitors might still do high-flying moves, only this time they would be doing it off the top of the cage.
Matches would normally end by pinfalls or submissions (and maybe KO, if you are the Big Show). However, unlike regular cage matches, disqualifications and count-outs (if someone tried to win by escaping the cage, he would be greeted by the sudden need to get back in within a ten-count) would still be in play, making things different and more interesting.
Of course, there could still be no-DQ or hardcore matches on the card, which would mean everything goes full circle again, although an escapee in a hardcore match would either need to be pinned outside or dragged back into the ring where the referee is.
It would be interesting to see new and different rules in the WWE instead of using the same gimmick matches turned into whole pay-per-views, demeaning the history of the gimmick matches.
I wonder what Mankind or Cactus Jack, not "Mick Foley the person", would think about Hell in a Cell matches today. Instead of beating a gimmick to death, using a new gimmick now and then would be much more captivating.
I understand that every idea might not be well-received by the fans and every innovation might not be spectacular, but occasional risks have to be taken. Using an MMA-style gimmick match might not only revive the decreasing enthusiasm in many longtime fans, but might also bring in a few crossover fans who want to see how it goes.
What do you think about such a gimmick match or pay-per-view concept? Should WWE try it out?
Please leave your opinions and your own gimmick ideas (if any) in the comments below.
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