Better Know a Gimmick Match: Cage Match

We here at the 1/8th Nelson enjoy a good gimmick match as much as any other somewhat-obsessed wrestling fan.  However, we feel that in today’s sports entertainment environment, the gimmick match has become overused to the point of rendering it nearly meaningless.  Looking at you, TNA.  So to remind ourselves of the original purpose, we’re proud to introduce the semi-regular feature Better Know a Gimmick Match in which we analyze just what a gimmick match entails, its original purpose for existing, how its widely used now, and how TNA has managed to screw it up.

The Cage Match
One of the oldest and most widely used gimmick matches, the steel cage match is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  The ring is surrounded on each side by a steel cage, set on the ring apron.  One side of the cage has a metal door, latched from the outside.  The rules differ per match, but usually can be won when a competitor either pins or makes his opponent submit, or manages to escape the cage, be it over the top or through the door, with both feet touching the floor.  A referee stands outside the door to open it when a competitor comes near.

The Setup
Traditionally, the steel cage is the go-to match for one of two situations.  First, an ongoing feud between two wrestlers sees one of them (most likely the heel) escaping matches through count-out losses.  This is often prevalent with a heel champion, who can take the count-out loss while still retaining their championship title.  The steel cage is brought in to make sure that the wrestler cannot escape the match and therefore must confront his opponent.  The other situation is to keep outside interference from affecting the outcome of the match.  Usually involving wrestlers aligned in a stable, a series of matches are continuously interrupted by outside interference (which also can allow a champion to retain his belt), so the steel cage is introduced to force the wrestler to compete without the help of his allies.

How it’s used now
Today, the steel cage is used as a means of punishment for one of the competitors, usually the heel.  Shifting focus towards the damage that the steel sides can do to a wrestler rather than how it confines them to the ring, the steel cage is seen as one of the more vicious matches offered regularly.  Usually when a feud has extended into a series of matches, the cage will be introduced as a means to settle a feud once and for all.

It’s rare nowadays to see a cage match in which the rules do not allow both pinfalls/submissions as well as escaping the cage to decide the match.  The most common finish for a cage match is the close call finish in which one competitor climbs over the cage while the other either crawls through the door or climbs another side.  One will drop to the floor an instant before the other does, just barely squeaking out a win.  There are a couple ways to allow a character to save face while losing the match, most notably physically forcing their opponent through the cage and to the floor, accidentally giving them the match. 

How TNA Screwed It Up
To its credit, TNA has managed to keep from screwing the cage match up too badly.  Their main problem, as is the case with all gimmick matches, is blatant overuse.  TNA will toss a cage match onto Impact for no reason whatsoever, between participants who are not feuding with each other at the time.  Their annual PPV Lockdown has nothing but cage matches in it, many of which coming across as forced.  TNA has also been noted to end cage matches in disqualification, with one competitor smuggling in a foreign object before the match.

For further Reference, see…
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart: SummerSlam 1994
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind: SummerSlam 1997
Triple H vs. Ric Flair: Taboo Tuesday 2005