In the process of planning out this post, I realized something. Wrestlemania is only a week away. Shouldn’t I be writing about that instead? Do not fear, Wrestlemania 31 will be well previewed next week, but with a strange feeling of reluctance. I can’t remember the last time I was this apathetic towards a major wrestling card. But I do not think it is unsalvageable. Next week I’ll go over the card match by match, discussing how I hope things will go down. But for now, let’s ring the bell on tournaments.
A wrestling tournament can be an effective tool to promote wrestlers, titles, and feuds. It can also be a complete waste of time. Fans like to say they love tournaments, as if a tournament for the Intercontinental Title will make the championship relevant. A tournament is just another tool in a promoter’s arsenal, and can go just as poorly as anything else if mishandled. There’s an important distinction between a single-elimination tournament like the King of the Ring, and other tournaments like the G1 Climax. For my purposes, I’m talking about just the single-elimination variety.
A good tournament builds up to the main event, each match playing into the next one. For example. in the most recent New Japan Cup, Kota Ibushi won his semi-final match with a sit out powerbomb. In the finals, he hit the same move, making everyone believe that would be the end of the match. It wasn’t, and Ibushi had to dig deeper into his moveset to win the tournament. Simple things like that create drama, and make having more then one round in a night matter. There’s no excuse for a tournament match ending the same way twice.
There are bad things about having a tournament too. The biggest complaint is that the wrestling is usually not very good. Tournaments have moments, like Austin 3:16 or Randy Savage winning the title. Can you name one great King of the Ring match of the top of your head? I can’t. Some good ones, sure, but great? Even the New Japan Cup didn’t really live up to the in-ring potential that New Japan usually delivers.
Sticking with WWE, none of the King of the Rings, or Wrestlemania 4, or Survivor Series ’98, or any of the other well known tournaments are remembered for their great wrestling. To find my favorite wrestling at a tournament, you have to go all the way back to 1985 and The Wrestling Classic. There are no great matches, but there are a lot of good ones, and feature guys like the Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, and the Dynamite Kid. Most importantly, it tells stories from one match to the other, and that’s really what makes tournaments special.