On the negative side, the fact that champions can lose their title without being beaten, and the fact that a wrestler can win a championship without beating the champion, takes away the prestige of the title. Also, matches involving more than two (and especially more than three) competitors tend to turn into a clusterf•ck with lots of action going on but no focus or story being told.
In 2008, WWE decided to create a new match type that took all the negatives of multi-man matches (damage to the title, lack of psychology, no focus) and raised them to the power of five. Enter the Championship Scramble. In this type of match, five wrestlers compete for a title, starting with two men and adding another man every five minutes. Falls can be scored at any time, on anyone, by anyone, and result in that person becoming "interim champion." Additional falls can be scored, again by anyone on anyone (interim champ or not), resulting in a new "interim champion." At the end of twenty minutes, the interim champion wins the match and becomes the real champion. Are you following this?
That's whoever, Matt, not whomever.
A few things should be clear by reading those rules.
- The only fall that matters is the last fall before the time limit. Each fall nullifies everything that has happened in the match up to that point.
- If you're the interim champion, the only thing you ought to do is break up pinfalls, since you can't benefit from pinning people when you're already champion.
- If you're not the interim champion, there is no need to break up any pin or submission hold, even if you're the one being pinned or forced to tap out. If you're Batista, for instance, and Kane is pinning Rey Mysterio, there is no point in stopping Kane from becoming interim champion, as long as you're not the champ already. You can just pin someone else right afterward, even Rey, who has just been beaten unconscious by the Big Red Machine. Likewise, anyone trying to escape a submission hold is an idiot, unless they're the interim champion. The smart thing to do is tap out immediately when locked into a hold. Sure, the other guy becomes interim champion, but that doesn't affect you. The rules of the match mean that it's all offense, no defense.
- If you're not the interim champion, it doesn't matter who is. Say big bad Kane is the interim champion. In a saner world, that should mean that you have to beat the big man in order to become champion. In the world of the Championship Scramble, however, you need not alter your strategy regardless of who is the champion. Sure, Kane may be tough to beat, but you don't have to beat Kane, ever, even if he is the interim champion. Just work on Rey Mysterio the whole match and pin him any time you're not interim champion.
- Unlike the Royal Rumble, where the later your draw, the better your odds of victory, in the Scramble match, the earlier you enter the match, the more likely you are to win. If you start out the match and beat your one opponent in the first five minutes, you could win the match if no other falls are scored. Basically, you have twenty minutes to score a fall and then prevent anyone else from scoring a fall for the rest of the time limit. If you enter last, however, you only have five minutes to score a fall or else you lose, even if you're the champion.
The WWE Championship Scramble match starts out with Shelton Benjamin versus Jeff Hardy. In the early going, each tries to pin the other, but they keep kicking out of each other's roll-ups. This makes no sense, since neither man can be eliminated, so if Jeff pins Shelton, Shelton can just pin Jeff right back. The only one who should be resisting pinfall at the beginning of the match should be Triple H, who is the reigning champion, but he is not even in the match yet. On the other hand, if Jeff does manage to pin Shelton in the first five minutes, Hardy could just simply run around the ring avoiding pinfall until the next competitor enters, so there might be some logic in not wanting to lose the first pinfall, but either way, the action is going to be ridiculous.
|Jeff pins Shelton while already champion.|
Jeff is the kind of guy who goes to a restaurant and buys
two all-you-can-eat buffets for himself. I have no idea why he
would be so hungry, though...
Triple H, who was the champion before this match started, enters fifteen minutes into the match, meaning that in order to retain his title he must beat somebody in five minutes' time. Triple H scores a quick Pedigree and pinfall on interim champion Brian Kendrick (though he could have done it to anybody), making him the interim champion and rendering the previous sixteen minutes of action pointless. Jeff Hardy then scores a pin on MVP, becoming interim champion without having to pin Triple H. He then stupidly goes for a high-risk move off the top rope, despite not needing to score another pin. HHH trips Hardy and pins Kendrick, but then takes a breather, allowing Hardy to swanton Kendrick and become interim champion again.
The wrestlers are all finally starting to catch on to the rules of the match, so instead of the match being full of pointless action, it is now full of logical but laughable action, with wrestlers pinning the same guy over and over because they can. MVP takes down Kendrick and Benjamin with a tower of power, powerbombing Shelton, who superplexes Brian. With only a few seconds remaining, Triple H and Jeff Hardy crawl back into the ring. Triple H covers MVP, while Jeff Hardy (who is the current interim champion, does not need to pin anyone, and will win automatically if no more falls occur) opts not to break up HHH's pin but to cover Benjamin instead. Triple H gets the three-count just in time for time to run out. JR declares that HHH is now a 13-time world champion, forgetting that Triple H had retained the title he already had.
In summary, Jeff Hardy won the title with 1:45 remaining, leaving HHH that much time to score another fall and win the match. That means that the first 18:15, or 91.25% of the match, was utterly pointless.
Now let's look at the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble, which saw champion CM Punk replaced at the last minute by Chris Jericho. Presumably, if no falls occur in the 20 minute time limit, CM Punk retains the title. However, with matches like this, it's best not to think about them logically.
JBL and Batista start off the World Title match trying to pin each other and kicking out, even though kicking out is not really that important at this point and will be even less important as more participants enter the match. Once Kane enters the ring, nobody has to kick out of anything; even if Kane wins the first fall, Batista and JBL can still pin each other to become interim champion. Indeed, the Big Red Machine chokeslams JBL and becomes interim champ after a pin, but anybody could still pin the prone JBL to become champion.
Rey Mysterio enters at the ten-minute mark wearing a ridiculous mask with built-in mohawk. Mysterio double-crosses Batista by trying to roll him up instead of executing a double-team on JBL, but the Animal, who is wearing a thong under his trunks to go with his tramp stamp, kicks out. Batista had no reason to kick out here, though, and this wasn't really a betrayal by Rey, because Batista wasn't champion already, nor can he be eliminated from the match. JBL then tries to pin Batista, who again pointlessly kicks out to retain the interim title for Kane. Mysterio, who is at this time engaged in the Wrestling Observer's Worst Feud of the Year with Kane, kicks out of JBL's pin attempt, a kickout which benefits Kane alone.
The final participant is Chris Jericho, filling in for the incapacitated CM Punk. Jericho himself was beaten senseless by HBK earlier that night, but as long as Jericho can get a pin (and three of his opponents shouldn't care if they're pinned, anyway), he can win. Batista tries to pin JBL, who already has his arm clearly under the ropes, but Bradshaw gets his foot on the rope, thus saving Kane's interim title reign and doing zilch for himself. Batista then covers Kane, but it is broken up at the last second by Rey Mysterio for no good reason. Now is when Batista should get angry at Rey Rey. Kane, whose best strategy right now would be to clear the ring to prevent any more falls from scoring in the last 1:30 of the match, instead takes it to Batista and even tries to pin him, despite Kane already being the champion. Batista manages to kick out, thus preventing Kane from becoming even champion-er than he already is, I suppose. Even the announcers, who have only a minute left of this crap to put up with on this night, point out this fact. With 35 seconds left, Batista scores a pin on Kane. While Batista fends off a dive by Mysterio, Jericho (who has not scored any offense tonight) scores a pinfall on the fallen Kane with 8 seconds left, thus proving to all of us what a meaningless match this is.
Let's figure this one out: It took Chris Jericho 35 seconds to unseat Batista and hold onto the title, meaning that the first 19 minutes, 25 seconds of the match were utterly pointless. That's 97.1% of the match which might as well not have happened.
When you factor in the ECW Scramble (which saw Finlay pin Matt Hardy with 3:50 remaining, only for Hardy to unseat the interim champion with a pin on Miz at 3:20 and hold onto the title for the rest of the match), there is shockingly little in any of the matches that had any bearing on the final outcome. A mere 6 minutes and ten seconds (10.2%) of a combined sixty minutes of action that night had any relevance to who would win the match.
After Unforgiven 2008, where three such matches took place, WWE would only revive the Scramble match once more, for the ECW title at The Bash 2009. The fact that the match would not return the following September is saying a lot, considering that in 2009, WWE decided to throw subtlety out the window and rename most of their "B" pay-per-views after gimmick matches. No Way Out became Elimination Chamber, One Night Stand became Extreme Rules, No Mercy became Hell in a Cell, and Armageddon became Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. Unforgiven was not, however, renamed "Championship Scramble," but was instead christened "Breaking Point," a one-time pay-per-view event emphasizing submission matches and reenacting the Montreal Screwjob. If there were any justice in this world, WWE would feed Josh Matthews and Road Dogg one-liners to rip the Scramble match apart on "Are You Serious?"