Ring Architect 3.23.14: Triple Trouble
Posted by Obi Justice on 03.24.2014
Triangles, three-way dances, three-way eliminations, it's 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 and only one can win. But is more always better? Obi Justice takes a look at triple threats in storylines and as matches.
"Ring Architect" is a format I've come up with to break down wrestling topics. The 20' x 20' is the main idea that I'll be talking about in the column. Red Corner/Blue Corner are two opposing takes on it that I see. Of course, it'll just be my thoughts on it, so I'll leave it to you guys in the comments to see how valid they are. And the last bit, the Main Strands, are three key pieces of information that I think should be kept in mind when considering the topic. It'll definitely help me sort out my thoughts and hopefully it makes things easy for you guys to read.
The whole deal, the main idea.
The stage is set. At WrestleMania XXX, by definition the most erotic WrestleMania of all time, we'll have a triple threat in the main event. Three men will fight over two championship belts to be the one left atop the mountain. Randy Orton, the champion, the anointed face of WWE. Dave Batista, the challenger, he just got back so deal with it. The third guy? Undecided. It'll either be Triple H, the chief of WWE, or the eternal underdog Daniel Bryan. It's riveting stuff, and knowing the guys involved, it should be a very fun story to follow.
Triple threat matches are sure to have a lot of heartstopping moments, last-minute saves, kickouts from nowhere, surprise attacks, the works. They're full to bursting with chaos. It's naturally tougher to structure a good story with three opposed elements. There are some devices that can be used but essentially, the basic good/evil (or whatever opposites you like) dichotomy is thrown off. Without that to act as a guide, the emotional flow of the match is much more about spikes of excitement, then waiting for the next.
Matches like that can definitely be exciting. For WrestleMania, though, I wonder if it's the absolute best main event to put on. Mania's always felt like the place for classic matches, matches that stick in the memory. Speaking for myself, at least, a triple threat match will be forgotten long before a singles match, no matter what spots were involved or who was in it or who won. This year the chance is gone, but especially for a prospect such as Daniel Bryan perhaps embarking on his first true championship reign, I would have liked to see him do it one-on-one where he could take the crowd on the whole ride.
Red corner is pro. Blue corner is con.
RED CORNER: Triple threat matches can add a level of tension and unpredictability you don't get in a singles match. In a triple threat match, you don't have to be pinned to lose. Everyone knows that. But in a match with something on the line, that fact is the elephant in the room. It makes every save that much more urgent because it's almost like you have to save yourself. With all the various combinations of players to work with, you can explore just how far each rivalry goes. In a singles match, it's pretty clear cut: you against them. With three people in the ring, you have to decide if you hate one person enough to not work with him to get the other.
At WrestleMania, the two guys in a lock for the title match are Randy Orton and Batista. Both have a long history with each other, and since Batista's come back, he's been gunning straight for Orton's title. At the same time, they were also in Evolution together and have a lot of similar experiences. They'll be joined by either Triple H or Daniel Bryan, both of whom are likely better enemies to both of them than friends. At the same time, Orton holds the title. Batista and Bryan don't have enough history to be that far at odds. Mr. H's allegiance to Orton is deeply in question, but Batista doesn't seem to have any loyalties at all. No matter what grouping ends up in the match, simply having a third element makes the outcome much less predictable because there are so many ways it can play out.
BLUE CORNER: Three-way matches are much less likely to resolve storylines. When I got back into wrestling, I latched on to Ring of Honor. This was just about the time that Tyler Black (Seth Rollins in WWE) finally defeated Austin Aries (Austin Aries in TNA) for the ROH World Championship. The third man in this conflict was the increasingly whiny Roderick Strong. They eventually went to a three-way elimination match which Black won. Roddy, who'd been pinned by Aries, said that it wasn't fair because he didn't get a proper one-on-one shot. Aries, who was pinned by the champ, said that he could have won if Roddy hadn't been there. Both kind of have a point. The thing is that, even in a match where both losers have to be pinned, a three-way match is always going to feel a little bit unfair. Everybody still wants to fight after it. Any "big finish" feel that the match might have had is tainted by the knowledge that it isn't really finished.
Now, obviously, wrestling never "ends" so in some sense it's wrong to talk about having a big finish at all. On the other hand, I think storylines do deserve strong conclusions. WrestleMania is a great place to end a big feud, and right now there's not a bigger storyline in WWE than the Authority/title fracas. It's gone on quite a while and it does seem like a good time to have a big finish, close this chapter of the story. There's no way to know what will happen at WrestleMania, but no matter which way it goes, it will have to be untangled on Raw the next night. That's always an unsettling feeling to me. Especially with so much at stake, on such a big stage, I'd prefer to have a more guaranteed finality.
Important lines of thought.
TOP ROPE: Having a triple threat match can make for more complex amd interesting feuds. Most of the time, triple threats come out of different storylines colliding, and it can have enjoyably anarchic results. The everybody-against-everybody nature of the current WWE title feud has made for a lot of good segments. There are quite a lot of different ways to hate people, and with the crux of a strong face to work with, they can all be explored. Sometimes you do get a story with two faces but it's a lot rarer. No one wants to have to choose between two guys they like.
MIDDLE ROPE: Triple threats give chickenshit heels a great, heat-inspiring exit. Like I said before, three-way matches are always a bit unfair. That means that even if a heel gets a relatively clean win, it will still be suspect. Especially in a place that emphasizes clean victories like Ring of Honor does, it allows the bad guy to get a credible win while still never truly satisfying the idea of winning a fair fight. Plus, if the heel does decide to cheat, that's doubly shitty. And if the heel loses they've got something to crow about. Basically, it's everything a bad guy could want.
BOTTOM ROPE: The inevitable "two in, one out" system makes them seem a bit pointless. The fact of the matter is, until we get a wrestling octopus, pro wrestlers will only effectively be able to perform holds on one person at a time. People can do moves on both opponents at once but not all the time. Usually, it'll have extended periods of one guy on the outside while the other two fight, then a trade, and so on. Personally, I always find myself a bit bored by this progression, especially as every spot is in part a waiting game for when the other guy will jump in. It takes the tension away from the story of the match. They can provide for fun finishes and tense near-falls, but overall I think the match tends to suffer from the extra body.