A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
Few things are more subjective than judging professional wrestling matches. One person’s five star classic is another’s snoozefest of the year. One reason is the lack of criteria to judge them: some people use scary terms like “psychology” and “workrate,” while others are impressed by flashy moves. Then there are those who base how good a match is by the number of people in attendance. (Because how many people see a match somehow equates to quality.)
Wrestling history is filled with matches that split opinions. When Dave Meltzer gave a Kazuchika Okada/Kenny Omega match six stars, some fans were aghast. (These fans forgot that star ratings are one person’s opinion and that the scale started with four stars before being increased to five.) I have heard younger fans call the Randy Savage/Rick Steamboat WrestleMania III classic boring. Wrestling matches are like movies: you have to be open to hearing other people’s opinions or you are setting yourself up for frustration.
This is just one reason I do not staunchly defend my stance on the most polarizing match type ever. Ever since I can remember, I have loved battle royals. Regular, two ring, bunkhouse, it did not really matter. If there was a battle royal on the card, I was a happy fan.
I don’t remember the first battle royal I saw. The Mania 2 one with NFL players sticks out, but that was a huge show I watched constantly. I also remember Nelson Royal sitting around a campfire a lot. The Bunkhouse Stampede was held at house shows though. I saw lots of clips, but to this day I cannot remember seeing a full bunkhouse battle royal. (Well, the 1988 finals in a cage, but it did not scratch the battle royal itch.)
I may not remember the first battle royal I saw, but I know why I loved them so much. Almost everyone on the card would fill up the ring. Usually, there would be one or two of the top stars, a few jobbers, and the rest was filled with the midcard. Despite the lack of major star power, it was very exciting. The bell would ring and everyone would start to brawl. The final moments were a fun guessing game. You never really knew who was going to win a battle royal.
I always held out hope that two good guys or two bad guys would go at it. There was always random team ups – such as someone from the Heenan Family working with one of Mr. Fuji’s stable — but you would rarely see two people from the same side of the locker room fight. If they did, it was very briefly in blink-and-you-missed it moments.
The reasons I liked battle royals were the same reasons that made others dislike them. Putting 20-30 people in one ring made it a cluttered mess. The biggest names were rarely included, leaving the match with a lot of dead weight. Until the ring cleared out, the action was slow. The win usually required the last person thrown out doing something stupid like charging at someone who was standing against the ropes.
Worst of all, the faces always fought the heels. It was supposed to be a winner-take-all battle, yet people carefully decided who to go after. This made sense for tag partners and friends, but why would a selfish heel care who they beat up?
That’s why the Royal Rumble is one of my favorite gimmick matches. You get the winner take all mentality and all the biggest stars take part. It’s filled with surprises and picking a winner can be very difficult. If only they didn’t let the ring fill up with so many geeks.
Next Week: Makin’ a difference.