I don’t like the way WWE has several pay events through the year which are named after specific stipulations. Most of all, I don’t like that the given stipulation ends up being imposed on the card and the current feuds whether the specific storyline really fits it or not, often to the detriment of the story and the dilution of the stipulation’s special allure.
Look at the Hell in a Cell and Tables, Ladders & Chairs events held either side of Survivor Series this year. Both were excellent events but the stipulations dictated by the name of the pay per view seemed forced in many cases.
At Hell in a Cell, the dilution of a once powerful gimmick continued as the ‘career shortening’ and ‘most diabolical structure in sports entertainment’ was used in three different matches. This isn’t the first time that the Cell has done multiple duty, with the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 versions of the Hell in a Cell pay per view all seeing the structure play a part in more than one match.
Overuse of the Cell makes it seem less scary and as such, less of a boon to fan interest and crucially, business.
Now, it’s worth saying that I enjoyed all three Cell matches at this event but only the Women’s championship match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte really felt special and the matches of Roman Reigns vs. Rusev and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens could easily have been done in almost exactly the same fashion with more generic No DQ or Falls Count Anywhere stipulations.
It also kind of bothered me that the women seemed to want to be put into the Cell just because it would be a first and is a prestigious match (which is fine from a backstage point of view) because from a kayfabe point of view I always feel the cell should be rolled out when a rivalry has gone out of control and needs to be settled once and for all, with the Cell acting to stop the cowardly heel from running away or as another mountain for an underdog face to overcome. The participants shouldn’t be pitching to be in the Cell to make history and for prestige (unless it’s a young up & comer wanting to beat someone like the Undertaker or Triple H in the Cell to ‘make me famous’) and they shouldn’t be blowing off their feud in an Iron man match a month later. The Cell should be peak intensity of a feud, not a speed bump along the way.
As for TLC, the main event between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose was a great match, but I always feel that a ladder match and especially an super-sized ladder match like TLC should come when a title is somehow disputed and the usual championship advantage needs to be voided.
It doesn’t help that the booking team take the TLC stipulation to mean there needs to be another ladder match (more dilution of the stipulation,) a chair match and a tables match added to the card, although at least the Smackdown! bookers bothered to have those stipulations make a degree of sense in the booking of the specific feuds in the weeks leading up to the event.
So, as a rule I’d prefer it if Hell in a Cell, TLC and Extreme Rules fell off the calendar to be replaced with generic pay per view names and the various stipulations get wheeled out when they are necessary to further or enhance a feud (or lets be honest, boost business with a promise of a little extra violence.)
It’s important to note that this sentiment doesn’t include the annual fixtures which are multi-competitor matches and come with a definite status boost and usually storyline opportunity such as the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series and Money in the Bank.
These events stand as waypoints in the calendar, with the showpiece match often a mechanism by which major pushes are started, feuds are continued or kicked off and storylines can be sent in new directions for a large number of competitors and those are all good things, plus the gimmick doesn’t get diluted.