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employs a number of Gimmick Matches (that is, matches whose rules are different from the standard, one-fall-to-a-finish wrestling match). Often these special matches develop their own tropes.
TNA prefers to refer to their gimmick matches as "concept matches"
Some common gimmick matches (and their included tropes):
- 2-out-of-3-falls — The simplest of gimmick matches, this simply means that the wrestlers have a series of matches until one of them has won 2. Sometimes each fall will have its own gimmick from another match type on the list; this is called a Three Stages of Hell match. Tropes: This match is almost never decided after two falls; the competitors win one apiece, leading to the third, deciding fall. The Briscoe Brothers in ROH developed a reputation for winning these matches in two straight falls.
- One of the WWF's many rule variances developed around this type of match: originally, a wrestler / team had to win both falls by pinfall or submission for a title change to be valid. This was eventually reverted to a pinfall or submission only being necessary in the final fall.
- "Two out of three falls" was actually the standard in the very early years of professional wrestling, with "One-fall" becoming the norm when wrestling made the jump from "sport" to "sports entertainment".
- It was used as the storyline reason for then-WWWF leaving the National Wrestling Alliance in 1963. NWA Champion Buddy Rogers lost a one-fall match against Lou Thesz, and WWWF refused to acknowledge the title switch since it wasn't done with two out of three falls. So they went on their own, naming Rogers as the first WWWF Champion.
- Note that when British Freestyle wrestling was big, back in the '70s and '80s all its matches were best out of three, or as Brian Crabtree (the MC) always put it "Two falls, two submissions or a knockout to decide the winner." Hence the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "The Wrestling Epilogue", with a priest and a professor getting into the ring together, "The existence or otherwise of God to be decided by two falls, two submissions or a knockout". You can see it on Youtube here. Hence also the line in Good Omens "Three rounds, one Fall, no submission" to describe the war between Heaven and Hell. 2 out of 3 is the standard match in lucha libre.
- Iron Man — This match goes on for a predetermined length of time, and continues even if a wrestler scores a pinfall, submission, or other decision; instead, each decision counts as a point, and the wrestler with the most points in the end wins. Tropes: Like the 2-out-of-3 falls match, this one usually ends up tied until the closing minutes of the bout. At any point when it is not tied (until the closing moments) the face is always behind. Sometimes if it is tied at the bell, everyone is confused, Calvinball kicks in, someone wins and the loser complains. The Ultimate Submission match is a variant of the Iron Man match where only submissions count for points.
- In one ROH match heel World Champion Bryan Danielson took the lead within the last 30 seconds — giving his opponent no chance to even the score.
- At Bound For Glory 2005: AJ Styles fought Christopher Daniels for the entire match without a single point earned by either man, until Styles finally gained a pinfall with 2 seconds left for victory.
- The more common variation (this match is very rare) is the heel wrestler taking a big lead, then the face wrestler racing to either tie the score or force overtime. In the most famous Iron Man match to actually feature pinfalls, The Rock was racing to tie the score against HHH; as he was WWF Champion at the time, he would retain his title in the event of a draw (a convention which has been retained since).
- Thunder Queen — Used in All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling: Two teams of four. Individual members have one five-minute Iron Woman match each (20 minutes total), followed by a 40-minute tag team Iron Woman match. The team with the highest total amount of pinfalls/submissions wins.
- Ladder Match — There are no pins, submissions, countouts, or disqualifications in this match; instead, an object (usually a championship belt) is hung 10-15 feet above the ring, and ladders conveniently placed outside the ring. To win, a wrestler must retrieve a ladder and climb it to take possession of the object. Several variations exist: in a TLC match, tables and chairs are added to the ladders outside the ring, and in a Full Metal Mayhem match, chains are added to the standard TLC arsenal. Tropes: Expect lots of use of the ladder as a weapon, and lots of jumping off the ladder. At one point, the wrestlers involved will race up opposite sides of the same ladder; this inevitably culminates in a fist-fight at the top of the ladder.
- King Of The Mountain is a TNA exclusive variant. In essence, it is a reverse ladder match (you must take the title belt from the ring announcer and hang it from a hook, by climbing a ladder). But before you can do that, you must first pin one of your four opponents. And when you are pinned, you have to spend 2 minutes in a penalty box outside the ring.
- WWE has the Money in the Bank Match, now with its own PPV; anywhere from six to ten wrestlers compete at once, and the prize being hung above the ring is a briefcase, inside which is a contract which the winner can use to get a world championship match anytime he wants within one calendar year of winning it. Almost every time the contract has been cashed in, the one doing the cashing won the title, usually by doing so right after the current champion has taken a nasty beating from a previous challenger and is in little to no condition to fight back. There were only two exceptions to the battered champion strategy. The first was Rob Van Dam's cashing against then-WWE Champion John Cena at ECW One Night Stand, which RVD announced weeks beforehand and simply gave him "homefield" advantage. The other was on the 1000th episode of Raw where Cena did the same to CM Punk.
- In a complete parody of the concept, a Dramatic Dream Team actually has had wrestlers compete against ladders. Huge props to the wrestler for the awesome one-man job, which involves the ladder performing a hurricanrana on him. The DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship that anyone or anything can win has been held by three different ladders.
- Extreme Rules 2014 had a parody called the WeeLC Match, with tiny ladders, chairs, tables, and even midget referees and announcers to accommodate the midget combatants Hornswoggle and El Torito.
- Steel Cage Match — The ring is surrounded by a chainlink fence cage; you must win by pinfall, submission, or escaping the cage (either by exiting through the door, or climbing over the topnote ; this stipulation was popularised by the WWF). In traditional WWE cage matches the ONLY win method is escape, but modern matches usually ignore this as the drama of someone slowly climbing up gets old after awhile. Tropes: Good or bad, nobody tries for the pin, submission, or outside the door victories until they get desperate; everybody tries to climb over the top first. A wrestler perched on the top will often give up his impending victory and instead jump back into the cage with a splash, elbow drop, or other move.
- Ring of Honor would create a variant called the Scramble Cage with wooden platforms atop each corner of the cage specifically to facilitate such back-into-the-ring dives.
- TNA, somewhat predictably, came up with a ludicrous variant where the participants have to fight into the cage.
- They also have an entire PPV (Lockdown) dedicated to having every match inside their "Six Sides of Steel" cage.
- Hell in a Cell — a WWE signature match; this variant of the Steel Cage match involves a larger cage, that includes the majority of the ringside area in its confines, and also has a roof. Escape rules don't apply; the match ends only via pinfall and submission, and only in the ring. In earlier matches big falls from the side or top of the cage were fairly commonplace (most famously, by Mick Foley), but these have been toned down over safety concerns.
- HHH pinned Chris Jericho on top of the Cell at Judgment Day 2002. This was the only time someone had been pinned on top of the Cell.
- The infamous Hell in a Cell between Mick Foley and The Undertaker at King of the Ring '98 involved Foley taking two big falls: once getting thrown off the top of the 20-foot cage into an announcers table, and then (while badly injured from that first bump) getting chokeslammed through the roof of the cell. Until the WWE started toning things down for safety, attempts to replicate the Holy Shit Quotient of that match were common.
- Although popular belief is that Mick wasn't supposed to go through the roof. Look at the ever so brief "Oh shit, did I just kill Mick" moment from Undertaker.
- There was also a Hell in a Cell derivative between Al Snow and the Big Bossman at Unforgiven 1999, which was infamous for all the wrong reasons. The "Kennel from Hell" consisted of a regular steel cage inside the Hell in a Cell cage, with "vicious attack dogs" in the cell portion. Thus, the wrestlers supposedly couldn't leave the ring cage without getting mauled by the dogs. But the "vicious" dogs did nothing but wag their tails and poop around the ring, making the match an even bigger joke than the stupid premise would have suggested.
- Ultimate X — a TNA signature match; essentially a "ladder match without the ladders"; instead, two cables are strung across the ring (forming an "X" pattern), and the object (normally a championship belt or a large red "X") is placed where the cables meet. To claim the object and win, one must climb the turnbuckles, and then climb hand-over-hand across the cables to reach the object. Its flaws, however, are brought to the spotlight during the few times that the title or X has actually fallen. In the first match, officials had to stop the match and re-hang the belt twice. In a later match, a wrestler caught the X, and officials declared the match over, with a rematch immediately signed for a later date, this time with the X literally chained to the cables. Tropes: Like the ladder match, two wrestlers will often end up racing across the cables from opposite ends, and end up fighting in the middle. Like the steel cage match, a wrestler who has the victory within grasp will often give it up in order to do one spectacular move off of the high cables.
- In one version of this match, the Dudleys Team 3D actually did use a ladder to cheat and win the match.
- War Games: The Match Beyond — a signature match of defunct promotion WCW; the War Games match started with two rings, side-by-side, surrounded with a steel cage, and two teams of four (originally five, including the managers of the Road Warriors and the Four Horsemen in the original NWA War Games) wrestlers each. One wrestler from each team starts the match. After five minutes, one team (determined by coin toss) gets to send another man in, making it two-on-one. Two minutes later, the other side gets to send a man in. The two teams alternate sending men into the cage, every two minutes, until all eight men are in. At this point, "the match beyond" officially begins. Up until this point, there is no way to end the match; after this, the first team to make one of their opponents submit is declared the winner. TNA has run a variation of this match with only one ring, calling it Lethal Lockdown. Tropes: The heels always win the coin toss, making sure that the faces are a man down (and thus, the underdogs) going through the majority of the match. This also increases the drama when the faces are able to even the odds after every advantage period.
- When announcing the Elimination Chamber, Eric Bischoff stated that he'd drawn heavily on War Games to create the match concept.
- Ring of Honor does a one-ring version called Steel Cage Warfare and used CZW's Cage of Death for another variation. ROH is also notable for, during the ROH vs. CZW feud, performing the only variation of War Games rules ever in which the babyface team won the coin toss.
- Speaking of CZW's Cage of Death, it's a variation on the Wargames format with a little bit of Bunkhouse Stampede thrown in for good measure. The competitors showcase their best Garbage Wrestling while avoiding touching the floor (which either involves being thrown over the top of the cage or crashing through the wooden boards between the two rings)
- WSU had a match named "War Games" that took place inside a steel cage. It was a team of three vs three. Two members of each team would start off and a new one would enter the ring every two minutes (beforehand there was a coin toss to decide which team would get a new member first). Once all six were in the ring the only way to win was for one member to say "I Quit" on behalf of the whole team. The match was only performed once and had a notoriously dramatic ending - one of the participants was threatened with a machete and one of her teammates forfeited the match to save her.
- Battle Royal — A match with a large number of participants (usually 20, but see Royal Rumble below) begin in the ring. The winner is the last man standing. Elimination is being thrown from the ring and landing on the floor outside (usually over the top rope, though Diva battle royals sometimes only requiring having exited the ring). Tropes: The biggest wrestler almost never wins, but it usually takes three or four (or sometimes ten or more) guys to eliminate him. Also expect at least one elimination by someone who's already been eliminated (or occasionally by somebody who's not an actual participant). There will also often be one wrestler who's universally hated by faces and heels alike, who everybody teams up to eliminate immediately.
- TNA, somewhat predictably, came up with a ludicrous variant where the participants have to fight into the ring.
- Royal Rumble — WWE's signature variation of the Battle Royal has 30 mennote with a twist: It starts with two wrestlers in the ring, and a new wrestler is added every 2 minutes, Although it has had 1, 1 1/2 and 2 minute intervals, the actual timing of the entrances varies on how "into" the match the crowd are. An entire pay-per-view event is built around it, and since 1993 the winner gets a shot at one of the two top titles at Wrestlemania, that is held approximately two months afterwards. Tropes: Expect one of the first two wrestlers to last to the final four. If there's anybody that the evil boss has spent the last month trying to keep out of the match, watch him; he'll be the one to win it all. At one point, there will regularly be a dominant heel who goes on an elimination spree but doesn't actually win the match. Also, the last wrestler to enter rarely wins, despite the obvious theoretical advantage to entering last. Only John Cena and The Undertaker have done so, and it can be said Cena's win was more because of the element of surprise — this was Cena's return from an injury.
- Also expect to see a former WWE star/legend to make a one-time appearance (though this can sometimes lead to more appearances afterwards). Such notable examples include Honky Tonk Man in 1998 and 2001, Mr. Perfect in 2002 (who was one of the last four in the match), "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka in 2008, Kevin Nash and Booker T in 2011, Road Dogg in 2012, and The Godfather in 2013 (lasting all of five seconds)
- No Disqualification/No Holds Barred/Street Fight/Extreme Rules: These match types in the modern era connote an "anything goes" scenario where the only way to win is through pinfall or submission, with subtle variations depending on the elements each match type emphasizes. Falls counting anywhere is optional, but not standard like in the eponymous match type or a normal hardcore match. No DQ and No Holds Barred matches originally (and often still do) functioned like regular matches, with the former just disregarding the DQ rule and the latter allowing "banned" moves. Street fights sometimes have participants compete in "street clothes" rather than wrestling gear, and weapons are improvised from the surroundings or brought by the participants themselves.
- Falls Count Anywhere: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Often more of a street fight than the eponymous match type itself, as it's not uncommon for the action to spill onto to the backstage areas or even outside the arenas and onto the actual streets. Depending on the circumstances it can be as tame as the above or extreme as below in terms of violence.
- Hardcore Match: Basically the above match types but dialed Up to Eleven, it puts a major emphasis on ultraviolence. Often referred to as "garbage wrestling" because of its complete disregard for traditional mat wrestling and even a deemphasis on moderate brawling and "tame" weapon use in favor of excessive and creative use of unconventional weapons and extreme induced bleeding. Staple weapons are barbed wire, thumbtacks, fire and broken glass, with the probability of even more off-the-wall choices.
- WWF did a one-time variation of this where they rented an entire arena and then...didn't sell tickets (instead broadcasting the match to a filled arena elsewherenote ). This was called the Empty Arena match and was basically a Hardcore Match but without the audience, allowing The Rock and Mankind to brawl all through the audience area that would normally be filled with people. Mankind won the WWF Championship by pinning The Rock using a forklift and a pallet (hey, his shoulders were down) and this match was never used again (due to the prohibitive cost).
- A variation is the Bunkhouse Brawl, where weapons are strewn around the ring. Usually things like 2x4s, loaded gloves, or baseball bats. Former wrestler Raven made this match his specialty during his time in Ring of Honor and TNA; his personal version was called the Clockwork Orange House of Fun Match.
- Inferno Match — Sometimes called a "ring of fire" match. Fire surrounds the ring, usually just under the bottom rope; the first person to catch on fire loses. Dramatic spots of trying to push a resisting opponent closer to the flames are common. Tropes: If the Inferno Match is someone's "specialty" they are bound to lose, particularly if they're the one wearing the most protective clothing. Invariably all that gets set on fire is a boot or a glove, since anything else would be far too risky in reality (incidentally, while we're on the subject, let's give props to WWE wrestler Montel Vontavious Porter, who took the match-losing burn from one of these on his back — granted, he was clothed there, but it still takes balls).
- A variation, the Human Torch match, has the same victory condition, but the ring is not surrounded by fire.
- The man who's most commonly associated with this match in WWE, Kane, has only won one of them (against MVP, as mentioned above). It's treated as "his specialty" because his gimmick has a strong association with fire.
- At Summerslam 2013, Kane and Bray Wyatt had a Ring of Fire match where the ring was surrounded by fire, but the object was pinfall or submission. Kane lost when Bray's two henchmen managed to put out some of the fire, allowing them to enter the ring and beat Kane down.
- Bra & Panties Match — Two female wrestlers (or more likely, two non-wrestling pieces of eye candy) get in the ring and "violence" ensues until one of them is stripped of all clothing save their underwear. Used to be an "evening gown match" or a men's equivalent "tuxedo match" until the mid 90s Attitude era. Tropes: Typically the heel loses and is humiliated by it, fleeing the ring trying to cover up... and then the victorious face willingly strips down ANYWAY and parades around the ring for the (usually male) fans to enjoy.
- One of the oddest variations of this match combined the Tuxedo and Evening Gown stipulations to make Lilian Garcia the RAW ring announcer by defeating (a surprisingly-heel!) Howard Finkel. Several of the other divas joined in on beating Howard down after several markedly misogynistic remarks.
- At King of the Ring 2000, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, two elderly male former wrestlers, had a match of this kind. Pure, refined horror, even when put in context; they were feuding with Crash Holly for the Hardcore Championship (which was then defended under a 24/7 rule, which meant the title could be on the line anytime, anywhere).
- Tennessee Boot match combines it with two out of three fall, though it can become two out of four falls. Each fall or submission leads to a lost boot.
- Thing On a Pole — Some object is put up on a pole at one corner of the ring, winner must retrieve it. Could be a flag, or a belt, a pink slip, or a bottle of tequila, or whatever. Occasionally, the thing on a pole is a weapon (such as a steel chair, a hockey stick, brass knuckles, whatever); in these cases, obtaining the item doesn't end the match, but instead makes the weapon legal to use without disqualification, giving a competitor a major advantage. Tropes: Despite not being particularly difficult to reach, wrestlers will struggle to weakly climb up there and paw at the object before being yanked away by an opponent. Matches are typically lousy, a poor man's ladder match. Vince Russo, journeyman wrestling writer and he of Shocking Swerve fame/infamy, absolutely adores these for some unknown reason. Often, the weapon would be disarmed from the person who retrieved it, and the other wrestler, for some odd reason, allowed to use it!
- Probably the most notable of these matches took place in late 1999, where the power-hungry Triple H and Stephanie McMahon made a "Pink Slip on a Pole" match pitting Mankind and The Rock against each other, whom were both major fan favorites. The stipulation being that whomever got the pink slip kept their job, while the loser got fired. Mankind would lose and thus be fired, but this would lead to a lengthy and awesome feud between him and Triple H.
- Perhaps the ultimate expression of this trope was the infamous(ly terrible) Thanksgiving Turkey on a Pole Match. This was during the American Wrestling AssociationWA's final phase: The God-forsaken Team Challenge Series. Not exactly the way the promotion would like to be remembered. This was when Col. DeBeers of South Africa faced long-time AWA jobber Jake "The Milk Man" Milliman. The match went predictably until somehow DeBeers was distracted, felled, and Milliman went up the ladder to retrieve the turkey, win the match, and demand "It's MY turkey!!" Over... and over... and over again.
- WCW's San Francisco 49er Match had four "secret boxes" on poles, one containing the Heavyweight title, the other three containing a blow-up doll, a coal miner's glove (from the infamous WCW 1992 Coal Miner's Glove Match), and a headshot of Scott Hall as Razor Ramon. It was so silly and combined with a decent match from the participants (Booker T and Jeff Jarrett), if it wasn't for the title, it would probably be better than it sounds.
- One such match between Kaz and Black Reign had four boxes on poles. Three held mousetraps, the winning box held Black Reign's pet rat.
- A variation of this is used in TNA, often as a "Feast or Fired Match". Several of the boxes would contain either direct awardings of championships or imminent title shots. One, often, would remove the wrestler from the promotion — and you wouldn't know what was in which box you got until you opened them at a later date.
- One female variation had the match "loser" be forced to perform a striptease or be fired. This would be better than it sounds, until the person being forced to do so was Daffney, a goth character.
- The Pole and Paddle variation was one that Trish Stratus did rather often. The match consisted of two attractive females, and the object in question was a spanking paddle; once one wrestler won the match by gaining it, she could spank the user. Usually done solely for fanservice, with one very notorious exception involving a rather irate Molly Holly.
- Barbed Wire — depending on how "extreme" the competitors are, the ring ropes are either wrapped in or replaced by barbed wire. Tropes: Up until recently, American wire matches used rubber barbs. This has been phased out since Mick Foley's glory days. (Japan, "Garbage" feds) Expect several excruciating spots where someone is tangled in the wire. (A legendary ECW match between Sabu and Terry Funk ended with ring tech spending ten minutes cutting the two men free of the tangle of wire they ended up in.)
- One variation sometimes seen in Japanese Garbage Wrestling promotions is the electrified barbed wire match. A wrestler running into the wires causes a shower of sparks.
- Lumberjack — A pre-determined number of wrestlers surround the ring (usually 12, but can vary from 10 to 30), ostensibly to keep both competitors in the ring (of course everyone knows it's to keep the heel from running). Trope: The Lumberjacks are usually divided evenly between faces and heels, each group on one side of the ring. If a wrestler leaves the ring (usually thrown out), they'll be helped out if they land within their corresponding group, and pounded on by the opposite. Also, before the match reaches the climax, a brawl will usually break out among the lumberjacks, generally the signal for outside interference — which is almost always how the match ends. Will also be used by the Powers That Be to punish a wrestler (surrounding a face with heels, and vice versa).
- Loser Leaves Town/Retirement Match — a match that stipulates that the loser of the match had to leave town (whichever promotional territory they were in) or retire, often "for good", but usually for three months. Generally used to cover for a wrestler's planned absence (for injury or a tour of a distant promotion - usually Japan). Tropes: Often resulted in an oddly-familiar masked-stranger showing up within a week or two of such a loss. Interestingly, in Memphis, the time-limit for losers leaving town was actually mentioned quite explicitly. Often the build up would mention that "the loser must leave the territory for a period of six months (or one year, or what have you)."
- These matches were especially popular during the territorial days of Professional Wrestling. It was an effective way to end a major feud, and it would draw a lot of money because the fans wouldn't see the losing wrestler for months or even years.
- TV Time-Limit Match — a match that ends in an official draw if the TV show ends before there is a winner or disqualification, but is otherwise standard. Virtually extinct now as all matches conveniently end (via pinfall, submission, disqualification, or a brawl breaking out) just in time for the program to end (or, as with Raw or on PPV's, the network has given the show overflow time should the match run a little long).
- Formerly, either 1980's Crockett-based television shows or Mid-South shows would be notorious for giving fans loads of jobber matches, and then one main event which might be interesting, but after a certain amount of the match, "BUT WE'RE OUT OF TIME!!!"... (The match is usually completed for the live audience.)
- It is possible you may see a television title, a belt in which every match fought for it is under this kind of time limit or something similar.
- I Quit — essentially a contest of determination, there are no pinfalls, no submissions, no countouts, and no disqualifications in an I Quit match. Instead, there is just one way to lose: say the phrase "I Quit", on a live microphone, in front of all the fans in the arena and everybody watching at home. Naturally, these are generally the most brutal matches ever seen in Professional Wrestling, as nobody wants to be seen as a quitter.
- In a famous version of this match between The Rock and Mick Foley (then Mankind), Foley was incapacitated by multiple chairshots to the head, and Rock won by replaying tape of Foley saying "I quit!" on Raw prior to the pay-per-view (in the context of "this is what I will not say"). A few years later, when Foley challenged Ric Flair to one of these matches, he tried to never say those two words in any of his promos leading up to the match so that the same trick wouldn't happen twice.note
- In a 2011 "I Quit" match between John Cenanote and The Miz, a similar tactic was used by Miz in order to seemingly win the match, but on the account of the referee finding the cellphone that played the supposed recording of (an out-of-context) Cena saying "I quit!", Miz ended up losing the match to Cena.
- While the intent of the match is to show who is the more determined/braver of the two, this matches will end in a loophole of some sort about as often as they do cleanly. This often happens when the face is booked to lose yet still needs his reputation intact at the end of the match. The Rock/Mankind fight is an apt example. Others, such as the Triple H/Rock fight and the Mick Foley/Ric Flair fight, utilize the heel threatening harm upon a close one of their opponent unless they quit the match. Since any halfway decent person would put the well-being of friends over a victory, this is an acceptable way to lose an "I Quit" match with one's reputation intact.
- A variation is the version of the submission man where a wrestler's manager, valet, or friend has to throw in the towel to stop the match. If this variant is used, there is most likely a Face-Heel Turn in the Face's valet's future. However, the most famous of these types of matches, Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund, actually had Hart's corner man (Davey Boy Smith) knocked out, leaving Bret's mother to throw in the towel in his stead, persuaded by his brother Owen Hart (though she probably didn't need much persuading after seeing Bret in Backlund's crossface chickenwing for a full five minutes), who had already turned heel owing to massive sibling rivalry; in fact, he was Backlund's cornerman in the match. The whole thing was teased as a My God, What Have I Done? moment for Owen — until Bret's mom threw in the towel and Owen immediately started celebrating.note
- Smoky Mountain Wrestling used a variant on this particular variant called a "coward waves the flag" match, where each team of two had a representative at ringside wielding a white surrender flag. The winners were the team who would make their opponent's representative wave the flag. In both instances where the match was used, the same finish was used where the losers rep was tricked into waving his flag by swinging it at the other team's rep, which was seen by the referee as a "surrender".
- In a match billed as an I Quit between Beth Phoenix and Melina, neither competitor was required to say the words "I Quit" into a microphone, but rather just tell the referee whether or not they gave up.
- An I Quit match that made the loser seem royally Bad Ass was the one between Bret Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: the match ended with Austin passing out, but never saying "I Quit".
- In the match between the Hardy Boys, Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy; Matt quits, not because of the physical pain he's enduring, but because of the physical pain he's about to endure.note
- Elimination — In any match where there are three or more wrestlers, the victory is usually decided by a simple pinfall or submission. However, an elimination variable added to such a match means that every wrestler except one (or every member of every team except one) must be pinned, forced to submit, counted out, or disqualified for there to be a victor. For example, in a four-man man match, there must be three eliminations for there to be a victor—and not all of them need be by the same wrestler.
- A variation, the Elimination Chamber, has become a signature match of WWE in the past few years, and specifically has been attached to their No Way Out pay-per-view (which in recent years has actually been named for the chamber). In this match, four men start behind Plexiglas cages within a much larger structure, not unlike Hell In A Cell, with the other two men start outside the Plexiglas like a regular match. Every two or three minutes, another is released. It is, as the name indicated, an elimination match: five competitors must be defeated for there to be a victor. Tends to get bloody, as the chamber has much less give than most types of cage.
- Another variation the WWE built a PPV around was Survivor Series. Four- or five-man tag teams, pinfall or submission eliminated the wrestler, but a team didn't win until their entire other team was eliminated. Of course, the heels almost always had the extra man. In its heyday, all the Series matches were of this type, but nowadays there are usually three or four.
- This is usually just a more convoluted version of the "Elimination Tag" format used in other promotions.
- Tag Team Turmoil: Two to four tag teams start in the ring wrestling under normal tag team rules to eliminate the others by pin fall or submission. Each time a team is eliminated, another comes in to take their place until no one is left. A common occurrence is that an evil authority figure will insert another previously unannounced team into the match once a winner has been determined between all the known participants.
- Gauntlet Match — A match that usually has at least five competitors. Two will start until a pin fall or submission is gained after which the loser will be replaced by another wrestler and the process will continue until only one wrestler is left. The aforementioned Royal Rumble takes this up to eleven and combines this with battle royal.
- Variation: One wrestler may be forced to "run the gauntlet" in which wrestlers will keep coming at him one at a time until he defeats them all or is defeated himself. Sometimes the run will end when the wrestler forced to run it is beaten, other times he must continue wrestling until he has faced everyone no matter how many of them beat him. Most commonly setup by evil bosses.
- Blindfold Match — The wrestlers involved are blindfolded, hooded, or otherwise prevented from seeing. The fans, however, aren't so lucky. You see, these matches tend to be boring, disastrous, or a combination of both. They usually amount to the face wrestler pointing around the ring, and the crowd cheering when he points at the heel, leading the face to wander in that direction. This does not make for good entertainment. A perfect example of this is when TNA booked Chris Harris vs James Storm in a blindfold cage match. Their blindfolds repeatedly came off, 9/10 of the match involved them stumbling about the ring, and the fans turned on the match in a hurry, chanting "Boring" and even "Someone Stop This", and the match ended up being named the worst wrestling match of 2007. Yowza. Incidentally, there have been very few blindfold matches since then.
- Variant: Only one wrestler's blindfolded and at the complete mercy of the one who can still see. This is another one almost exclusively set up by evil boss characters to punish faces, though on WWE Smackdown heel Jamie Noble had a blindfold to punish him for all the abuse he put Nidia through while she had been temporarily blinded by Yoshihiro Tajiri's black mist.
- Handicap Match— Two or more wrestlers, acting as a tag team, take on a lesser number of wrestlers. This is almost always done by an evil boss to cause problems for a Face, or occasionally as Fanservice to punish a particularly disliked Heel (or to put a Giant over).
- John Cena and Randy Orton once took on the entire WWE RAW roster. It was also an Elimination Match.
- Cena and Orton won the match when the RAW roster finally invaded after taking the better part of a half-dozen falls against it. Then the beatdown ensued, and the Heel Triple H came out to exact his dominance.
- First Blood Match — The loser is whoever bleeds first, or, more correctly, who the referee sees as bleeding first (the referee will frequently be seen checking the competitors by wiping their faces with a white towel.) There is no other way to win, or lose. Tropes: Count on the Heel to somehow hide that he's bleeding from the referee, use particularly brutal methods to cause the Face to bleed, or use some technique to make bleeding less likely. (Ironically, this type of match is actually less brutal than a normal match in which a wrestler happens to start bleeding and yet still must continue to fight.) Most notably used in a match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Kane. The latter was given a ridiculously extreme advantage, because at the time he was masked and covered head to toe in a black-and-red costume, making it rather difficult for the referee to see if he was bleeding.
- John Cena defeated JBL in one of these matches by strangling him with a chain until he started coughing up blood.
- Sadistic Madness is a type of match created by TNA. It is similar to the First Blood match, but doesn't end when the blood starts flowing—at that point, the bleeding wrestler is able to be legally pinned (until at least one wrestler bleeds, there is no way for the match to be won or lost).
- Last Chance Match — Usually a championship match, with an extra rider—if the challenger doesn't win, he's barred from challenging for the title again until it changes hands.
- Lucha de Apuestas/Wager Match — Most common in Mexico, but comes up in other countries as well. A match where both competitors put something of theirs on the line. The most common ones are the Mask vs Mask match (between two masked wrestlers), Mask vs Hair (between a masked wrestler and an unmasked wrestler), and Hair vs Hair (between two unmasked wrestlers). Occasionally, a title belt will be put on the line, either instead of or in addition to the wrestler's mask or hair (such as Rey Mysterio Jr and Eddie Guerrero's mask vs title match in WCW)
- According to The Other Wiki at least, there is an actual law about this in Mexico, which says that, if you lose your mask in such a match, you may never wear that mask, again, which is enforced whenever Mexico's wrestling ruling bodies damn well feel like it. In the case of Mysterio, Eric Bischoff decided to unmask him because he thought that wrestlers who hid their faces weren't "marketable". Mysterio and just about everyone around him were horrified at the idea of such a career-altering (and potentially career-wrecking) move being done for such a lame reason. Worse, WCW hardly did anything to push him after he was unmasked. Rey has been allowed to wear masks in WWE with no repercussions.
- The mask rule is enforced in the vast majority of cases. Rey's case is unique due to a number of factors, mainly the extremely disrespectful manner in which his unmasking was handled. Rey and his uncle, the original Rey Mysterio, argued that Rey was representing his uncle's image on WWE since he dropped the Jr. from his name (the original Mysterio was a heavyweight by the way). Pure Loophole Abuse, but the commission liked his uncle and they hated Bischoff for what he did so they allowed it.
- Last Man Standing — A gimmick rarer than most (though with increasing frequency in WWE), this match sees two wrestlers fight in a no-disqualification match until one of them is down for a ten-second count. Tropes: the likelihood of a tie is somewhere around 50% but varying depending on the people involved. Such a match will have a lot of high spots and generally moves that would normally end a match will draw a 9 count, usually multiple times. Expect the finish to usually involve someone being thrown off or through something.
- Exploding Ring Match (or "C4 match") — Sometimes seen in Japanese Garbage Wrestling promotions like FMW, a hardcore match in a ring rigged with explosives on a timer. In some versions the idea is to finish the match before the timer runs out and detonates the ring (although this does not necessarily end the match!), while in others the explosives are concentrated in a specific area, with the wrestlers struggling not to get pushed onto it. Frequently combined with the barbed wire match.
- Triple Threat/Fatal Four-Way — This match is similar to the Elimination match in that more than two wrestlers are involved. However, unlike the Elimination match, only one pinfall or submission is needed to end the match, whereby the wrestler who gets the pin or submission is declared the winner. A title is (almost) always on the line for these matches, and there is a good possibility that the current title holder will lose the title without being the one getting pinned. Naturally, there will invariably be multiple near-falls where the third wrestler breaks up the pin or hold. Also, you can count on one wrestler being "knocked out" or otherwise indisposed for much of the match and win it at the last moment after both his opponents have beat the living crap out of each other.
- Triple Threat, specifically, is one of the most interesting type of matches when you take wrestler alignment into account:
- Two Heels/One Face: This match will be, for around 50% of its duration, a handicap match. Both heels will gang up on the face and beat the crap out him. However, after beating the snot out of the face, the heels quickly turn on each other. Usually, the face is the title holder in this type of match. In this particular setup, it's pretty even odds on either the face or one of the heels winning. If the title holder's the face, it's quite common for him to lose the title by one of the heels pinning the other heel, meaning he lost the title but not "cleanly." (And thus, he isn't made to look weaker to the fans.) Once in a while, a heel might consider the face an Worthy Opponent and hint a turn, especially if he really goes at it with the other heel, but it's just as likely that both heels will be as rotten as ever.
- Two Faces/One Heel: Much less common than Two Heels/One Face. The heel is practically GUARANTEED to win this type of matchup. While the same handicap rules apply, it's not uncommon that the faces are MUCH more vicious to each other than if it were two heels instead, and the heel will milk this for all it's worth. It is also quite common that one of the faces will start a feud with the other face after the match, if not do a turn outright.
- Notably averted by the Shawn Michaels/Triple H/Chris Benoit match at WrestleMania XX, and the rematch at Backlash. No Face-Heel Turn from either Michaels or Benoit, and Triple H didn't win - Benoit did. Both times. The first by making Triple H tap out, and the second by making Shawn Michaels tap out.
- Another aversion was Ayako Hamada vs Sara Del Rey vs Jessie McKay on SHIMMER volume 34, with McKay pulling off a Dark Horse Victory.
- Three Faces: Not as uncommon as you might think, this happens usually when an evil boss wants to punish a face stable. Expect the more vicious face to win, usually by using heel tactics, and like it so much he goes full heel.
- Three Heels: Probably the rarest type, this one usually happens when one of the heels is already hinting turning. Win or lose, the heel in question turns face and goes against the other two heels, usually gaining an ally from one of the established faces in the process. For added drama, the face that teams up with the former heel will be his sworn rival.
- Submission Match - Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a match that can only be won by Submission. At Backlash 2001 this was combined with an Iron Man match, to create the Ultimate Submission Match where the wrestler with the most submissions in the designated 30 minute time limit won.
- One legendary Submission match actually ended without a submission, when a bleeding "Stone Cold" Steve Austin refused to tap out to Bret Hart's Sharpshooter, despite having no way out of it. The match ended when Austin passed out from the pain instead of tapping out, eventually leading to a Heel-Face Turn out of a new respect fans had for his raw determination. At the same time, Bret made a Face-Heel Turn with his ruthlessness in the match, even going so far as to continue beating the unconscious Austin after the match had already been called in his favor.
- The Undertaker has the following signature matches:
- Casket Match: Involves putting the opponent inside a casket and closing it to achieve victory.
- Infamously, when Triple H had one of these matches, it was impossible for him to win, as Viscera was too large to fit in the casket. ('Taker had two such matches against large opponents, and had double-wide caskets made for such a purpose. He beat Kamala, but lost to Yokozuna the first time. He beat him in the rematch at Survivor Series 94.)
- One such match between Undertaker and Kane ended in a draw when the casket was smashed to pieces.
- In one such match between Undertaker and The Big Show, Show deliberately smashed the casket to pieces, declared the match over, and tried to escape. Before he could, a second casket was carried out. Show then lost.
- Buried Alive Match: In this match, the only way to win is to take the opponent and bury him inside a grave.
- While it's no longer exclusively his, he's still linked with the Hell in a Cell match, since the first five Cell matches featured him.
- The original but often forgotten precursor to these was the Body Bag Match which he mostly fought against The Ultimate Warrior in 91.
- Last Ride Match: Put your opponent in the back of a hearse and drive it out of the arena to win.
- Pure Wrestling Rules - Most commonly appearing in Ring of Honor (they actually had a Pure Wrestling title for a while) but occasionally seen elsewhere. Each wrestler is allowed three rope breaks - once they are used up, the wrestler cannot use the ropes to escape pins or submissions. Closed fists are illegal, and using them will cause the wrestler to be penalized a rope break - if he is out of rope breaks, he will be disqualified.
- It should be pointed out that closed fists are usually illegal anyway but rarely enforced. Ric Flair once disqualified The Dudley Boys for their use of closed fists but it happens so rarely in regular matches no one could remember the last time a referee had done so. Likewise illegal holds (including all those involving the ropes) can be grounds for disqualification, but a five count is usually granted. The pure wrestling stipulation simply makes enforcement mandatory. If the commentators are to be trusted, closed fists are now legal in WWE; John Bradshaw Layfield pointed this out while discussing Antonio Cesaro's signature European uppercut.
- Scaffold Match - Two wrestlers or tag teams are on a narrow metal scaffold above the ring. Victory is either by throwing the opponent off the scaffold or some sort of capture the flag situation. Very old fashioned and all-but-obsolete gimmick that has some historical value. Scaffold matches have a reputation of being the worst out of all of wrestling's classic gimmick matches. The scaffold is very narrow and VERY high, making it difficult to have a good match up there. Sometimes wrestlers are so intimidated that they crawl around on it. There's also the risk of the match ending by accidental fall! The risk factor for this terrible match involves taking a fall off the scaffold that rivals Mick Foley's Hell in the Cell dive for danger. Jim Cornette's knee injury from a botched scaffold fall almost crippled him. So, wrestling's worst gimmick match is also one of its most dangerous. The most recent serious scaffold match revival was undertaken by TNA. It wasn't any better or less dangerous than the scaffold matches from decades ago.
- According to Jim Helm, first voice of ICW, they started out in the 1950s in Nick Gulas's promotion as "Carpenter's matches". "Scaffold matches" were codified in the 1970s.
- Strap Match - Two wrestlers tied to opposite ends of a belt, rope, steel chain, or anything similar in order to keep them in close proximity to each other. This can also be referred to as a "Dog Collar Match," when the competitors are shackled at the neck. When these matches don't have pinfall or submission stipulations, the winner is decided by who can touch all four corners of a ring first. If a wrestler is knocked down while in the process of touching the corners, he must start over.
- Tables Match - One wrestler or a tag team must send their opponent(s) through a table to win.
- Some heels cheat by putting their opponents in some table wreckage just as the referee turns around.
- Stretcher Match - One wrestler must load the other on a stretcher and pull it across a finish line to win.
- Ambulance Match - One wrestler must put the other in the back of an ambulance and shut the doors to win.
- John Cena defeated Ryback at one of these by throwing him so hard he crashed through the roof of the ambulance and landed inside.
- Move Match - The first wrestler who uses a particular move on their opponent wins. Usually a bodyslam; if so, usually one competitor is much, much larger than the other. The best known of these was Yokozuna's Bodyslam challenge, which Lex Luger won.
- Another famous "Move Match" was the "$15,000 Body Slam Challenge" between Andre The Giant and Big John Studd at the first WrestleMania. If Andre slammed Studd, Andre would win $15,000, though if Andre was slammed, he would have to retire. Who won? Well, Andre's last WWF match was six years later.
- Variation: In one match between Austin Aries and Senshi, the object was Submission, but the submission would only count if the wrestler used the Crossface Chickenwing to do it.
- Substance Match - The wrestlers fight in a pool of some kind of substance, like mud, chocolate milk, eggnog, etc. Matches end in pinfall or submission. Naturally used with female wrestlers for comedy and fanservice. Notably, Candice Michelle defeated Melina in one of these by holding her head under the chocolate pudding until she tapped out to keep from drowning.
- Match of 10,000 Tacks - The only way to win is to slam your opponent onto a pile of thumbtacks.
- A variation called the Serengeti Survival Match allows pinfalls and submissions.
- Pillow Fight - Two or more female wrestlers begin the match with a bed full of pillows in the ring, and typically come to the ring in a nightgown, lingerie, or pajamas. Matches end in pinfall or submission. Again, it is typically used for comedy and fanservice. Notably, Torrie Wilson once picked up the bed with Candice Michelle on it and threw it.
- Water Fight - The ring is filled with buckets of water, Water Guns and Balloons, etc. Obviously, it is used with female wrestlers to get a Sexy Soaked Shirt trope going. Notably, Jillian Hall once smacked Mickie James over the head with a water gun.
- The Women's title once changed hands in such a match. At Armageddon 1999 this was combined with the evening gown format to create an evening gown in a pool match. The match is remembered for Miss Kitty dropping her top after winning the title.
- Punjabi Prison Match - Signature match of The Great Khali. The ring is surrounded by a bamboo cage with an even larger bamboo cage around that. The inner cage has a door on each side. At a wrestler's request, a referee can open a door, but it will be padlocked closed after 60 seconds and never be opened again. The only way to win is to escape the outer cage.
- Bath House Death Match - The wrestlers compete in the pool of a public bathhouse. Besides regular wrestling rules, if they leave the pool, they are disqualified. The pool is heated by a fire that is regularly fed more logs, making staying in it harder and harder.
As a side note, it has been pointed out that for Vince Russo
, the ultimate gimmick match would be a three round, one fall, submission, or knockout match, with nothing else going on. In other words, a regular wrestling match. The lesson to be drawn here
is that too much gimmickry reduces the value of any given gimmick.
- In the first Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker's debut as Spider-Man takes place in a Steel Cage Match with a pro wrestler (played by the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage). The cage itself was more of a Hell in the Cell, as it had an enclosed roof and escape would not win the match...and of course, in "real" wrestling events, they don't challenge random schmoes to "fight" a guy for money since the winner is decided in advance, let alone springing a stipulation on the random schmoe at the last second. But hey, MST3K Mantra.
- Not entirely true. In the old days of pro wrestling at the carnival, the wrestler would also take on "all comers" for a cash prize should he lose. Of course, should he begin to lose, the promoter or wrestler would resort to cheating to rapidly KO the local tough guy. In other variations of this, people would have to pay to fight the wrestler; after 2 days of said wrestler losing to plants in the audience, word would get round that the wrestler was a pushover, and locals would gladly pay for their chance at some easy cash— the wrestler would then mercilessly batter his opponents, and the carnival would scarper.