When Randy Orton defeated John Cena in a (botched) Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC) match December 15 last year, it not only unified the WWE Championship with the World Heavyweight Championship; it set a precedent for an over-stipulated series of Pay-Per-View title matches.
Since the title unification was announced, there have been eight WWE PPVs (including TLC 2013, and Sunday’s Battleground). Seven of those featured a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match. (Daniel Bryan’s legitimate neck injury meant no match at Payback.) Each of those seven of those featured a stipulation, meaning that not one of those matches featured a standard singles match. There have been just as many PPV WHC matches under Duchess of Queensbury Rules [Backlash 2001: start at 31:55 on the WWE Network] as one-on-one, singles matches where the champ can be counted out or disqualified and the title doesn’t change hands.
The TLC match is still, at its core, a ladder match. The object is to climb a ladder and retrieve the two championship belts, suspended above the ring. At Royal Rumble, the “pinfall or submission only” victory modifier is actually saying “no disqualification, no countout.” That’s the same thing as an Extreme Rules match. The Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way matches are the same thing: a match involving more than two wrestlers and in which the champion does not have to be involved in the decision to lose the belt. That’s three different match types repeated during the run of this championship. Elimination Chamber is the only non-repeat match type (in its current calendar location, it is possibly the worst use of an interesting gimmick match). Chamber is joined by TLC, Extreme Rules and Money in the Bank as stipulation matches that are the namesake for the PPV.
While EC is it’s own type of match, it’s also a symptom of WWE’s love of having more than two wrestlers in the title match at PPVs.
December and January saw a pair of singles matches (both between Randy Orton and John Cena). From February through Sunday, Extreme Rules’ Daniel Bryan-Kane match was the only one capping the limit at two competitors. That’s four out of the last five PPVs, including Wrestlemania, to feature at least three wrestlers in its most important match. Those four matches average 5.25 wrestlers per match, 21 wrestlers total. While all these matches should lend themselves to a variety of competitors, WWE has kept many of the same grapplers in the title picture.
Orton and Cena are clearly the faces of the WWE. They have 11 WWE World Heavyweight Championship match appearances between them. The next five competitors (the only ones with multiple appearances) have 12 combined. The four wrestlers with only one appearance? Christian, Alberto del Rio, Bray Wyatt and Batista.
Enjoy the precedented match Battleground. Just like Cena-Rock at Wrestlemania, it’s Once in a Lifetime.