The New Big Four
Alright, you all have a good idea of what I mean by “The Big Four”, right? Until 2003 WWE had what I’d consider to be the big five pay per view events, but then they decided King Of The Ring was just too badass so we were cut to four. The Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series. Among the 12-14 annual pay per views, these four are the major ones. That in itself makes me wonder why I should buy the other, “lesser” PPVs, but that’s not what I’m talking about this time.
Why are those four the “big” four? What makes them special, above the other 10? WrestleMania goes without saying, it’s WWE’s pay per view birthday. The anniversary of professional wrestling as we know it today. WrestleMania is, without a doubt, the premier event in all of wrestling. The big one, I guess! Then the Royal Rumble, fair enough, that’s another great event. A once-a-year match, over an hour long, including 30 men to decide the challenger for the world title at WrestleMania. That’s big. Even bigger considering between 2002 and 2007, it was one of the only times Raw and SmackDown talent could potentially clash in the ring. Survivor Series is another obvious choice, the 5 on 5 elimination matches were unique enough to be considered on that next level. And finally SummerSlam, which, to be honest, I can’t really work out. As far as I can remember, SummerSlam has never had that gimmick that seperates it from the lowly likes of Backlash or Judgement Day. What it did always have though, is a solid card. So many classic matches have come from SummerSlam, from Bulldog v Hart from 1992 right up to Michaels v Triple H from 2002. And before, and beyond. SummerSlam has always been my favourite, mainly because it was the first wrestling event I ever really watched as a potential fan, back in 2000. TLC swayed me from “it’s all fake” to “I don’t care if it’s fake, it’s awesome”. Angle v Rock v Triple H and “that” botch…I was hooked from that moment. Personal preference aside, for one reason or another the biggest party of the summer is our fourth.
And, of course, King Of The Ring was the fifth before it was cut. Again, I think it was the gimmick that set it apart. The tournament setup was something no other events had, so instantly it had to be considered “bigger” somehow.
The problem with these big four is that they’ve all deteriorated! None of them are what they used to be. It’s not even like Im one of your run of the mill, down on the WWE smark fans. I just don’t see Survivor Series as the “elimination tag” pay per view anymore, it’s been reduced to maybe one or two of those gimmicks and then the rest is all normal stuff, same as every other PPV. SummerSlam is no different whatsoever, even the quality of matches has been called into question. Khali, Henry and JBL in title matches? No thanks. The Royal Rumble has been cut to 45 minutes instead of 60, and has once or twice been taken off the main event spot. Not to mention, there’s no Fink anymore. Sorry Lillian, you just don’t cut it.
I guess WrestleMania is still WrestleMania. I haven’t been completely impressed by Mania for a while though. Usually there are a couple of great matches on an otherwise lacklustre show, whereas looking back to, say, WrestleMania X-Seven, I was blown away by everything from top to bottom. Either way, WrestleMania isn’t actually the point of this column anyway, there’s still no doubt Mania belongs in any “big four”.
So all that got me thinking…if these shows have been diluted or whatever, do we have a big four anymore? I think we do, we just have to look elsewhere. To me the big four are big because they’re different, as I’ve mentioned. Those gimmicks, be it the rumble match, tournament, elimination tag, whatever, they’re what makes the show stand out. What do we have now? I can think of two excellent gimmick pay per views that can replace the dying SummerSlam and Survivor Series.
One Night Stand. Ok, originally it was supposed to be ECW’s “one night” of the year to come back and be ECW again. That didn’t last long, even it’s second event was – at best – ECW v WWE. But since Vince has taken every opportunity to piss on ECW, we don’t have that expectation anymore. And I’ll add, I think Vince’s complete destruction of ECW is actually a good thing. Not as good as handing the reins back to Heyman and letting him do his thing with a budget, but second best. Half way ECW isn’t ECW. It would be worse to have ECW-lite than this WWE C-show, I can say that with certainty. Anyway, with that ECW link dead, One Night Stand is now the “one night” of the year that WWE goes 100% hardcore. The gimmick is the gimmicks! A lot like TNA has Lockdown, WWE now has an all-stipulation PPV. That makes ONS stand out from Armageddon or No Way Out.
And Night Of Champions. Like One Night Stand, every match is important at NoC. Every match is a title match, and every title is defended. It’s simple, but makes the show a must-see. No other show from No Mercy to WrestleMania can claim to showcase as many championships as Night Of Champions, that’s impressive. And with that comes the excitement (or fear) of a potential title change. I really don’t care about SummerSlam’s Cena v Batista match, but I did care about Jericho defending his intercontinental championship, even before I knew who his opponent was. In only two years, Night Of Champions has proven itself to be another major pay per view.
Quite sad, isn’t it, that we need gimmicks and titles in order to make all the matches feel important? And that importance is the only criterion I’m using to pick four shows out of 12.
Although SummerSlam and Survivor Series have lost what makes them special, and King Of The Ring is cut completely, I still think a shortened Royal Rumble is enough to consider big. The rumble is always going to be the rumble, even the half hour 1995 version. As mentioned, the Raw/SmackDown crossover is great, and however prectable it can be the theory of any one of 30 men being a potential WrestleMania main eventer is going to win my money every year.
So, with all that said, I think there’s a new big four in the WWE of 2008. Gone are the days of hoping we’ll get more Survivor Series gimmick matches, and hoping somehow the phenominal SummerSlam 2002 wasn’t just a fluke (it was), I say we replace them in our minds for a new “big four”. WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, One Night Stand and Night Of Champions.
Now if only they didn’t all take place within like 5 months of each other.