The Money Match

Posted: March 22, 2011 in Professional Wrestling

In the world of professional wrestling, what we term as the “money match” is the make-or-break match match that any event is sold on. It is the main event, THE match that people rank above others in value, for which they will fork out their cash to see the outcome of. Perhaps they will pay to see how the match unravels, or delivers, because the sales pitch on paper at least promises big things with much vested emotion, and thus the fans buy into it.

The money match is integral to the overall market appeal and value of any show. At this year’s WrestleMania 27 for example, WWE clearly is marketing The Undertaker vs. Triple H as THE match of this year´s greatest spectacle in their world of “sports entertainment”, “on the grandest stage of them all”.

Let´s break down the money match in light of this year´s WrestleMania to understand the reasoning behind the topic.

First of all, for fans to vest great emotion and interest into any said rivalry, there MUST be a definitive, larger-than-life appeal to the main match that in the end, sells the show. If fans do not have enough vested history between themselves and the wrestler(s) involved, they will not perceive the big match to be worth the top spot it is granted. Therefore, at this stage of his career and character development, The Miz vs. John Cena cannot be expected to carry THE show at WrestleMania 27, even though that is the RAW brand´s top match. Miz does not have enough character depth to go on all levels against John Cena, who WWE has established since 2005 as their brand carrier to the public. Neither can Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio, less than a year into his WWE tenure, be expected to carry THE show, for the very same reasons that Miz cannot carry the show (speaking of Del Rio’s character).

The ONLY Trump card for this year’s WrestleMania that Vince McMahon and his WWE have left in the storage tank at this stage of their ballgame is Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Both men are identified as pillars of the WWE trademark, brand and company image, and have been profiled as upper echelon talents over the past 15 years of WWE business. And you must remember, that perception IS reality, especially in the world of professional wrestling.

The reasoning behind Triple H vs. The Undertaker as the money match behind Wrestlemania 27 is thus very simple, and easy to understand. Only top tier talent is reserved for main event roles, and WWE´s revolving roulette of the upper card is mighty thin indeed. Edge, Randy Orton, Triple H, The Undertaker, John Cena and Rey Mysterio are the hallmarks of WWE as it currently stands. The only added proof anyone should require for my argument is found on the covers of nearly every single issue of WWE Magazine, the company’s own direct printed propaganda tool. These elite members have been profiled as main event players over a long period of several consecutive years, and thus the fans perceive them as the top dogs in the yard. The fans also have a long history with these wrestlers, and the success of these men have much to do with how the fans have bought into them, time in and time out. These wrestlers have not only been given the ball, they have carried the ball, over and over again, successfully. In addition, these top tier players have sold monumental amounts of merchandise, and continue to do so.

Just below this aforementioned top six fall the semi-main eventers, stars such as The Big Show, Sheamus, Wade Barrett, CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio and yes, even The Miz, some of which do not have enough time served at the top (read: staying power) to really crack the very upper level, while others simply have not been profiled as the very top dogs in the WWE yard. Close but no cigar, as the saying goes.

Then consider the WWE veterans who have 10 or more years of WWE exposure and experience, but who have not been profiled by their company as top-of-the-card names, nor are they merchandise gangbusters in and of themselves. Men such as William Regal, Goldust, Mark Henry, Chavo Guerrero, Christian and Kane (who only recently, almost out of necessity, was raised to main event status after years of drifting in the mid-card). These names will not draw or have a fighting chance at being in the money match at WrestleMania, due to the fact that they have not been profiled as main event players. They have their place on the undercard, or perhaps even in the semi-main events, but they are not perceived nor bought as main event stars to headline a big card.

Thus, simply by looking at the facts and the WWE roster as it stands currently, the ONLY big money match with larger-than-life appeal, taking all factors into consideration, is Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Sure, it’s a match that has been seen before, but that said, it hasn’t been featured – as in all the bells and whistles and build-up hype – for nearly 10 years. That said, Triple H vs. The Undertaker is still relatively fresh, albeit recycled. The same old coming of the same old cavalry in different packaging, and I’m pretty sure they are going to deliver in the ring, baring injury or mishap, once April 3 rolls around.

However you want to put it, The Streak of The Undertaker at WrestleMania has become one of the hallowed sales pitches of every ‘Mania since WWE really began pushing his string of victories a few years back. Vince McMahon understood that The Streak could easily be turned into a draw and an angle for every year’s biggest show of the year, and so it has become a WrestleMania staple. In truth, I would wager that Undertaker’s Streak will continue up ’til next year’s WrestleMania 28, leaving the “Dead Man” to retire from active competition with his head held high, and WWE gracious for the 20 plus years that The Undertaker has given them. Just my two cents worth, but food for thought nonetheless.

So coming back to the money match concept, WWE really had no other match of colossal magnitude to offer as the highlight bout of WrestleMania 27 other than Triple H vs. The Undertaker, with the single exception of John Cena vs. The Undertaker, which I believe is being reserved for next year’s event.

WWE’s veteran star power is waning and dying out. The Undertaker and Triple H truly do represent the last of their kind in WWE – the veteran top dogs of the time-tested battlefield – and thus they deserve their spot in this year’s money match.

It can be argued that WWE has failed to deliver the kind of emotion and build-up that would be expected of THE highlight match at the biggest show of the year, and much of this has to do with the half-spirited promos of both Triple H and The Undertaker, neither of which I can fathom to understand, given their standing and respective characters. Truly, both men have failed to exude the kind of passion and emotion that would incite an audience to really care on the WrestleMania level about their match, and both men almost seem to be phoning in their promos leading up to the big show, or otherwise failing where they both have succeeded in the past.

Putting this critique aside however, the point remains that on the top of each card – be it WWE or any other wrestling promotion out there – the fans pay for the main match aka the money match. Especially casual fans will not pay to see the undercard, and this is also true in the UFC.

Sure, every wrestler and match has its place on the card, but not every match sells the event. The match that sells every event is the money match orchestrated for each show, and without a meaningful money match, an event is almost doomed to fall flat and fail, at least in some respect.

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