Originally, this article was going to be about the worst gimmick matches in pro wrestling period, but as I was writing the list in my head, I realized a) this article would be insanely long if I did that, and b) most of the matches that were immediately popping into my head were straight from “The Little Promotion That Couldn’t”. As a result, I decided to focus on TNA. While I’m sure plenty of TNA apologists will be mad at me, saying I’m giving wrestling’s favorite punching bag a hard time, even they can’t deny how bad these matches were and keep a straight face (they’re lying if they say otherwise). Now, before I go to far, I realize that not all of these are from the empty head of Dixie Carter. However, because she’s the president of the company and green-lit those she didn’t come up with, I still place the blame squarely on her shoulders. And now, in no particular order, here they are.
THE REVERSE BATTLE ROYAL
Gotta start off with a “classic”, which first reared its ugly head during TNA’s weekly PPV days. The reverse battle royal basically involves a bunch of people fighting on the outside of the ring, attempting to climb into the ring to win. The result is a bunch of guys punching each other on the floor with no wrestling moves until one guy happens to run away from the rest of the pack and into the ring. There have been variations on this in the past, including one little-known example during the aforementioned weekly PPV days. In this particular situation, the match ended when ten guys had managed to climb into the ring, and those ten would then fight in a gauntlet match to determine a new #1 contender for the NWA World Championship (TNA’s top belt at the time), with the other nine being placed into rankings in regards to the World title, with their order of elimination determining their ranking. As you would expect, the ranking system was forgotten literally the very next week. TNA later revived this concept with the “Power 10”, but that was also forgotten after a week.
THE STEEL ASYLUM
What makes this one even worse is that it’s not even a TNA original, as they ripped the entire concept off from AAA in Mexico. However, thanks to one very well-known example (as well as the fact that the match sucks in Mexico as well due to the ridiculous rules), it makes the list. If you’ve never seen this kind of match, it’s basically a gigantic orange cage that slightly resembles WWE’s Elimination Chamber, and the concept is that a bunch of guys (namely X-Division wrestlers) fight until one guy escapes and is declared the winner. Similar to a standard “escape-the-cage”-type match, but with one glaring exception: the cage is dome-shaped, and the wrestlers have to escape through a small hole in the roof in order to win. Not only does this make climbing out of the cage extremely awkward/difficult, but thanks to the horrible design of the cage, it’s been proven nearly impossible for most wrestlers to climb. The last one occurred a while back on an episode of Impact, and in that match, which featured something like 15 guys, Homicide got disqualified for using a telescopic nightstick. Yes, he got disqualified in a damn cage match! He then proceeded to try to climb out of the cage, only to get stuck at the top. Thankfully, a match that was semi-annual was immediately scrapped after this horrendous clusterfuck.
This match only ever happened once, and after watching it, it’s obvious why. Sting and Abyss faced each other in a variation of a casket match, known as “Last Rites”. Before the match even happened, the braintrust at TNA never even bothered to explain how this match worked, so fans were completely clueless going in. Once it was going down, however, we saw the difference: the casket, called a “Death Bed” in TNA, is lowered from the ceiling, instead of being at ringside. Plus…actually, that was really it. At least there was a decisive winner in this one, though. TNA’s last attempt at a casket match resulted in a disqualification. Yep, again.
Nowadays, on the rare occasion TNA does one of these matches, it’s your standard hardcore/garbage fare, and that’s fine. However, the original concept was beyond stupid. In the first couple of installments, the competitors were reportedly locked away in separate rooms for 24 hours with no food or water. Why? Good question, and one TNA could never really give an answer to. Mike Tenay once claimed it was to make the competitors more intense and more like animals, but once they were released from their rooms and pretended to be blinded by the bright lights for a moment, the match was a straight-up hardcore match. Plus, the human body can’t survive more than 16 hours without water. TNA clearly didn’t bother with research.
FEAST OR FIRED
After WWE’s Money in the Bank ladder match had been around for a bit and proven to be quite popular with fans, Dixie Carter decided TNA needed its own version, but much like all of her other ideas, it would be completely unique. And by “unique”, I mean “stupid”. In TNA’s version, there are four briefcases instead of one, they are held up by chains that are attached to posts that surround the ring instead of a ladder, and the competitors are basically every wrestler not already booked on the card. I think the last time they did this match, there was something like 17 competitors in the match, which is overkill in any match save for a battle royal. Anyway, much like MITB, the idea here is to win the match, a competitor has to grab a briefcase. However, because there are four cases, the match continues until all four have been grabbed, and the wrestlers who have already grabbed cases before the end stay in and try to grab the other ones as well. Inside the cases are contracts for matches for the World, X-Division and Tag Team titles, with the one who wins the last one getting to choose his partner when he eventually cashes in. As for the fourth case…here’s where it gets really dumb…it contains a pink slip, meaning the wrestler gets fired upon revealing the contents. I have never been able to figure out how or why knowing one of the cases contains someone’s walking papers is any kind of incentive to try to win a match. Apparently, someone in TNA agrees with me, and this match hasn’t been done in a couple of years.
THE LOCK BOX CHALLENGE
Just when I had thought match ideas couldn’t get worse, this hell was unleashed on us. This match was similar to Feast or Fired in that there were four boxes, each with a prize inside, and in order to get the boxes, the competitors (in this case the Knockouts division) had to win a match with an extremely mind-numbing set of rules. The Knockouts were put into two teams of four, and the match started under standard tag team elimination rules. However, once a woman got pinned, the woman scoring the pin not only got a key to a lock box, but they too were eliminated from the match. The match ended after four eliminations, and that’s when the four winners got to unlock their boxes and reveal their prizes, which were 1 – Tara’s pet tarantula, which had been kidnapped in storyline, 2 – A shot at the Knockouts Championship, 3 – A striptease in the middle of the ring (not as dumb as being fired, but still ranked right up there), and 4 – The Knockouts Championship itself. Remember prize #4, because it’s going to be important in a second. Tara, who had scored the first fall, unlocked her box first, revealing her pet tarantula, which was now back in her possession as a result. The next box, which was won by Angelina Love, revealed the Knockouts Championship which, up until this match happened, had belonged to Tara. Although Tara was happy to have her pet back, as soon as Love pulled out the KO title, it finally dawned on Tara that she had just lost her championship. Yes, Tara, who actually was a winner in this match, still lost her championship thanks to one of the worst match concepts in history.
S&M: SADISTIC MADNESS
Now, before I explain this one, I’d just like to point out how awful the title is. Really, just one of the worst names for a match I’ve ever heard. Anyway, I had actually forgotten about this one until I started writing this article. This match happened during the weekly PPV days, and was essentially a play on War Games, minus the cage. The match was a 4-on-4 affair, and all eight men had to be bleeding before a pinfall or submission could occur, with the added caveat that the bleeding had to be the result of an offensive move by an opponent, otherwise it didn’t count. This later morphed into the Doomsday Chamber of Blood, yet another awful match title. Back when the S&M match occurred, TNA was under a lot of scrutiny from both fans and wrestlers for unnecessarily large amounts of blood appearing on their tapings week after week. I don’t know if this was TNA’s way of saying “Screw you!” to their detractors, or if they were simply too blind to see what everyone else did.
CUFFED IN THE CAGE
There were so many things wrong with this match. This was a variation of a tag team match, with the stipulation that it not only took place in a cage, but you had to actually handcuff both your opponents to the cage to win. So, it also had the elimination stipulation added as a result. That alone would be bad enough, but it gets worse. Instead of just two teams facing each other, this one featured six different teams, for a grand total of twelve men. Twelve guys, inside a cage. Inside TNA’s “Six Sides of Steel” cage. Attached to TNA’ six-sided ring, one of the smallest rings in history. Twelve guys, in a small ring, surrounded by the confines of a cage. Let all of that sink in.
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
And we finally get to the king of crap, one of the most notoriously convoluted matches in history. Wrestlecrap once did an entry on this match concept, and the amount of words to describe the rules came somewhere in the vicinity of the 1000-mark. I am going to attempt to keep my explanation under that, but I can’t make any guarantees. This match would feature five competitors, and the prize at stake was either the NWA or TNA World title, depending on the year it took place. First, a competitor had to either pin another competitor or make them submit in order to “qualify”, which meant they could go after the title. Going after the title here means taking the belt and climbing a ladder, with the first person to get the belt to hang from a hook from the ceiling wins the match and the belt. However, if the belt was dropped or otherwise knocked out of the “qualifying” wrestler’s hand, the belt is back out of play, and they have to retrieve it from the referee. Only qualified wrestlers can attempt to hang the belt up. Then there’s the penalty box. If a wrestler is pinned or forced into submission, they have to spend two minutes in a penalty box, which is a small cage located outside the ring. More than one wrestler can be in the penalty box at a time, too, despite the fact that it’s just big enough to really only hold one wrestler. In essence, it’s a reverse ladder match with unnecessary stipulations added, and the reverse ladder match concept alone is bad enough, since you have to climb a belt up a ladder and hang it to win it, only to immediately remove it once you’ve been declared the winner. Funny note: during the very first installment of KOTM, the hook attached to the cable broke off and hit the ring. Jeff Jarrett, who was the winner of the match, had to not only hang the belt from the ceiling to win, but before he could even do that, he had to jury-rig the hook back onto the cable first, then hang the belt up. The match was doomed from the get-go.