Cinematic Matches within the world of professional wrestling has sparked debate among fans and I can understand both sides of the argument.
On one side you have the wrestling purists who don't see cinematic 'matches' as matches at all. Alternatively you have fans who embrace cinematic matches which lean further towards the sports entertainment aspect of pro wrestling.
Without meaning to sit on the fence I sit somewhere in between as despite being a huge fan of cinematic matches I don't want to see them become the norm. Cinematic matches should be used sparingly in order to create the maximum impact and entertainment without alienating the wrestling purists.
The current circumstances have forced WWE to think outside the box in recent months which has seen cinematic matches play a huge part in keeping fans engaged. On the subject of cinematic matches it was interesting to see Triple H offer some credit to former WWE Superstar Matt Hardy who now plys his trade in AEW.
There has been six significant WWE cinematic matches in recent years and with the help of the Wrestling News World team I have looked back at each one and ranked from worst to best.
#6. Bray Wyatt versus Randy Orton, House of Horrors Match, WWE Payback
Born out of an alliance broken by betrayal, Wyatt looked to seek revenge on his former partner who burned down the Wyatt Family Compound and took his WWE Championship.
This feud and match had real promise however the execution left fans with the overriding feeling of disappointment. Considering the unlimited possibilities, the driverless tractor, black lit house and physical brawl weren't enough to appease expectations with the only real memorable moment coming when Orton was flattened by a Fridge Freezer.
Bray hitched a ride back to the arena in Randy's car only to find his opponent had somehow recovered from his encounter with the Fridge Freezer to beat him there.
The match would end when the number one contender for the WWE Championship Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers would ambush the champion allowing the Eater of Worlds to get payback on the Viper.
The WWE should be applauded for their attempt to give fans something new however their efforts did not translate to the final product which if I was grading would earn a grade C, unfortunately average.
#5. Woken Matt Hardy versus Bray Wyatt, Ultimate Deletion Match, WWE Monday Night Raw
Broken Matt Hardy and Deletion matches proved hugely successful in TNA but how would his broken brilliance transfer to the big stage that is WWE?
My first experience of Matt's Broken character honestly had me torn as I wasn't sure whether to laugh or appreciate the creativity? In time the gimmick certainly grew on me and it was refreshing to see a wrestler given so much creative freedom.
The match itself began in the Hardy Compound with action soon spilling into the Dilapidated City. This was the first sign of psychological torment in the match as the surroundings reminded Bray of the burned down Wyatt Family Compound.
As Hardy took advantage with a Kendo Stick they continued the battle in the Land of Obsolete Men. Despite resembling a comedy sketch this was an entertaining segment that had the Eater of Worlds chasing shadows.
After a brief trip to the Dome of Deletion and run-in with the Mower of Lawn Bray thought he was about to delete the Woken One only to be distracted by Vanguard 001, Senor Benjamin and Brother Nero. The Hardy family's rendition of He's Got The Whole World In His Hands diverted Wyatt's attention and Matt hits the Twist Of Fate for the win. The final act was to dispose of his defeated opponent by dumping him into the Lake of Reincarnation, DELETION COMPLETE!
WWE's first attempt at producing a Deletion match proved popular with many although some fans struggled to share and enjoy Hardy's vision for professional wrestling. If anything it should be deemed a success following Bray Wyatt's reincarnation as well as influencing WWE's use of cinematic matches during the 'Empty Arena Era'.
#4. Corporate MITB Ladder Match, WWE Money In The Bank
Of all the cinematic matches to date this was possibly the most anticipated of them all as the 2020 Money In The Bank Ladder Match would take place at WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
This first time ever match would challenge the superstars to navigate their way to the roof of the building and retrieve the Money In The Bank briefcase. The endless possibilities and potential cameo appearances had fans excited and intrigued but did it live up to the hype?
The entrance segment from the men was great, there was good interaction and plenty of trash talk which was a fun start to this highly anticipated contest. Not so much interaction from the women as they lined up in the lobby only for Asuka to seek an early advantage by taking them out from the balcony and escaping via the elevator.
There was plenty of highlights from floor to floor as Otis trapped AJ Styles with gym weights and became Daniel Bryan's cheerleader for multiple Yes Kicks on King Corbin.
The phenomenal one seemed haunted by The Undertaker as he suffers flashbacks and is locked in a room containing a coffin by Aleister Black.
There was mayhem in catering as Paul Heyman's lunch is interrupted by the superstars ending in a mass brawl and food fight!
Hot favourite Shayna Baszler was taken out by an Asuka kick, a Women's Right from Lacey Evans before being slammed into a wall by Nia Jax leaving the women's match wide open.
Cameo appearances from Brother Love, Doink, Stephanie McMahon and John Laurinaitis added to the match however Vince McMahon's appearance stole the cameo show.
The rooftop action was bizarre yet slightly underwhelming. Asuka cost King Corbin victory before retrieving the women's briefcase, Corbin threw Rey Mysterio and Aleister Black off the roof like it was nothing and Otis became Mr Money In The Bank despite being too heavy to climb a ladder.
Overall this was a fun match, first part was great, second part bizarre and despite each cameo making sense as WWE HQ employees, I couldn't help but want more.
#3. Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa, One Final Beat Match, WWE NXT
After one of the greatest long term feuds of all time two of NXT's top stars would finally write the final chapter in this epic storyline. Unfortunately injuries and circumstance resulted in a loss of momentum for the final beat however this match was still highly anticipated by the WWE Universe.
Best friends turned fierce rivals, Gargano and Ciampa created one of the best, most emotional series of matches I have witnessed as a fan so could they create yet another classic?
Johnny Wrestling arrived with his wife Candice LeRea who hands him package, but what's in the package? He and Ciampa then meet Triple H in the centre of the ring as The Game lays down the law and tells both men that it starts here and ends here, the whole production just felt right!
In what was more a fight than a match Gargano played on his heel tendancies as he attacked the surgically repaired knee of his opponent, mocked his signature pat on the back and was dishing out trash talk at every opportunity. Ciampa retaliated with some brutal offense and trash talk of his own as the bad blood was evident from the get go.
Throughout the match reference was made to past matches and moments with use of the crutch, exposed ring boards but most notably Tommaso's compassion for his former DIY partner.
The double cross from LaRea and her husband to end the match was fantastic as they took advantage of Tommaso's weakness. Candice hit both men with a low blow only for her husband to be wearing a protective cup and he finishes off Ciampa with a fairytale ending on the exposed ring boards.
Despite a lengthy match interrupted too often by commercials both men made the best of a final match which deserved to main event an NXT Takeover or even one of the big four PPV's on the main roster. The ending to this match not only gave birth to a new Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRea but it also set the stage for the debut of Killan Kross and Scarlett who set their sights on their first victim.
#2. 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt versus John Cena, Firefly Fun House Match, Wrestlemania 36
Following his so called buriel at the hands of Goldberg it was up to John Cena and the Firefly Fun House Match to bring "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt back from the dead.
The build to this match was near perfect and if anyone needed a reminder why Cena is one of the greatest of all time then this was it. He and Bray put on a promo masterclass throughout the build which was built on Wyatt's redemption story following his defeat to Cena at Wrestlemania 30.
The match begins as Bray Wyatt invites his opponent to join him at the Firefly Fun House where he will face his most dangerous opponent yet, himself. Cena then enters the Fun House and it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't really a match at all however what they did produce was nothing short of bizarre but equally as spectacular.
Bray proceeded to torture Cena by forcing the sixteen time champ to relive some of his biggest failures, regrets and the moment that started all this six years ago when he refused to put the then 'Eater of Worlds' over on the grandest stage of them all.
Appearances from 'Ruthless Aggression' Cena, 'Johnny Largemeat' Cena, 'Doctor of Thuganomics' Cena and even 'nWo' Cena produced what were bizarre yet equally entertaining segments which will live long in the memory of the WWE Universe.
The psychological torture got all too much for Cena as The Fiend took advantage to avenge his defeat against the same man six years previous.
Understandably this 'match' split opinion among fans however what cannot be denied is the creative genius which produced a Wrestlemania moment that we will never forget. It was also the match that erased the damage caused by Super Showdown and reintroduced The Fiend as one of the hottest acts the world of sports entertainment.
In the words of 'Fun House' Vince, "This is such good s**t!"
#1. The Undertaker versus AJ Styles, Boneyard Match, Wrestlemania 36
What would Wrestlemania season be without an appearance from The Undertaker? Well, fans were given their wish as a surprise appearance at Super Showdown set up a mouth watering Wrestlemania match with leader of the OC AJ Styles.
After being robbed of the Tuwaiq Trophy by the Deadman, Styles made this real personal, real quick. The final straw for Taker was when his wife Michelle McCool was used to goad the veteran who duly accepted AJ's challenge to a Boneyard Match on the grandest stage of them all.
With fans in the dark on what to expect from this match the fact it was main eventing night one of Wrestlemania 36 hinted that it could be something special?
The intros alone got the excitement levels racing as we witness an epic swerve from Styles. As the Undertakers music hits, a hearse pulls up to the Boneyard containing a coffin, then out pops AJ Styles to surprise everyone. The sound of a roaring motorcycle engine coupled with a Metallica soundtrack set the stage for the return of the American Badass and at this point I am struggling to contain my excitement.
The Undertaker gained the upper hand early on as he looks to make AJ pay for disrespecting his legacy and his family. With the help of the Gallows and Anderson plus some Grim Reaper like henchmen Styles hit back and at one point looked to have Taker dead and buried.
The Undertaker however would rise from the dead to regain the advantage and references the Holy Trinity on his way to laying wake to Styles and the OC. With nowhere to run and no where to hide the American Badass showed no mercy to his grovelling opponent and put himself on the brink of victory with a Chokeslam off the roof.
He proceeded to bury AJ, reclaim his yard and cement his Wrestlemania legacy in a match which saw The Undertaker reborn as he looked the best he's looked in years.
Without doubt this deserves to be number one, the production quality was almost movie like and despite the cinematic feel it still felt like a proper match that had me gripped from start to finish. You only have to look back at the House Of Horrors Match in comparison to see how far the WWE has come as the production quality is night and day.
This match has also created a lifeline The Undertaker who could perform in a setting which doesn't pose a threat to his legacy. In saying that after such an impressive performance could this be a fitting end to the career of one of the greatest performers of all time?
Ahead of tonight's NXT Takeover: In Your House, Adam Cole defends his NXT Championship against Velveteen Dream in a Backlot Brawl, could this be the next cinematic installment from WWE?
Also ahead of next weeks Backlash PPV I can't help but think we may see some cinematic influence on the match between Edge and Randy Orton. In a match built as the 'Greatest Wrestling Match Ever' its hard to imagine WWE would set themselves what seems an impossible task without having something up their sleeve?
Let us know what your thoughts on cinematic wrestling and favourite cinematic matches on Twitter @CresswellDJ and @wnwnews.
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