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Mat Matters: Fatal-4-Way fatally flawed
By BRIAN ELLIOTT -- SLAM! Wrestling


The feeling of deja vu is one which is common to all of us. It's a notion that often comes when you are least expecting it, and when the mind has a little time to wander, which is why it's not unusual to experience it when you're driving, especially on those much-of-the-same journeys to and from the office every day.

But deja vu stops being deja vu as soon as you recall when and where the original feeling occurred. Once you realize that, having the same feelings again and again become both frustrating and annoying.

And so, on June 20, WWE have a problem. Because on that date, the company presents the Fatal-4-Way pay-per-view, which will feature an entire card -- save, perhaps, one or two matches -- of four-man contests, and if each contest is booked like nearly every WWE multiple-man match, there's going to be a real feeling of repetition throughout the show.

That is because if you go back and watch any of these types of matches from the last ten years, you'll see much the same formula. Take the recent Wrestlemania Money In The Bank ladder match, for example. Throughout the bout, wrestlers would fall to the outside of the ring, leaving two combatants between the ropes to battle it out. Then, one of those would fall to ringside, and someone else would return to the action, with almost seamless timing. By the time another participant would leave the ring, another would inevitably have recovered to take his place. If you are already bored of me repeating the scenario, think how bad it will be to watch come the pay-per-view.

The way these matches are worked is not too overbearing when they are held just a couple of times per year. They may be difficult to suspend disbelief through, due to the "coincidental" nature of how the moves are timed, but for just the odd match throughout the year, it's ignorable in the grand scheme of things. But with an entire pay-per-view of encounters to be held with these stipulations this month, it's going to be a real challenge for the performers -- and the agents who help put the matches together -- not to tire out the audience on the same continuous format.

Those with that influence, therefore, should cast their minds back to 1997's In Your House: Final Four main event -- which featured Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Vader, and The Undertaker battling it out for the vacant WWF title -- for inspiration on how the evening's feature attraction should come together.

That bout -- which, much to its benefit, was not held under first-fall wins the match rules -- set a standard for multiple-man contests in WWE that has yet to be bettered. A fantastic brawl, it truly conveyed the serious nature of competing for the World Championship. What's more, when the action did spill to the floor, it wasn't so that the performers could "wait their turn" to get back into the ring -- the hard-hitting action continued there, as well.

Before anyone points to an unfair comparison between the Final Four and any matches at the upcoming pay-per-view given the WWE's current attitude to blood, the fact that Vader gushed from a cut around the eye added very little to the match in its own right. It was the intensity of the battle and the fact that it was easy to suspend disbelief in it while watching that made it so memorable.

So when it comes to June 20, let's hope that WWE officials have the sense to avoid the clichés that are now a part of every multiple-man contest.

Or, in the words of former Yankees great Yogi Berra, "it'll be deja vu all over again."

RELATED LINKS

  • Past Mat Matters columns

    Brian Elliott is a British journalist covering soccer, mixed martial arts (MMA), and professional wrestling, who has recently written for the likes of the Daily Mirror newspaper, the Associated Press, and Sports Illustrated.