AEW Gimmick Matches Ranked By How Ridiculous They Are

Throughout the history of wrestling, many different companies have indulged in wild gimmick matches. Some of these have withstood the test of time, such as the Money in the Bank ladder match, the Royal Rumble, and Ultimate-X. Others, like Elevation X, the reverse battle royal, or the Dog Kennel from Hell match, are so over the top that there's almost no way that they could've become wrestling staples.

In the short history of AEW, Tony Khan and company have gotten pretty creative when it comes to dreaming up fresh gimmicks. A good gimmick match is creatively absurd, but still leaves room for the tried-and-true formulas that make wrestling great. Since its inception in 2019, AEW has toed this line a lot, with mixed results. Some of AEW's gimmick matches have returned multiple times, while others haven't gotten a sequel (not yet, anyway). Still, they all have one thing in common: They're all completely ridiculous.

13. Blood and Guts

The idea behind the Blood and Guts match is not new to wrestling. It's adapted from the WarGames format, which started in WCW, and which has more recently been seen on "NXT." The match takes place in two rings surrounded by a steel cage, and is fought by two teams of five competitors, with a new participant entering every two minutes. The match doesn't officially start until all 10 competitors are in the ring. Once that happens, the only way to win is to get a member of the other team to submit or surrender.

A Blood and Guts match is supposed to be the big payoff to a feud between two factions who loathe each other. The first Blood and Guts match on AEW television came on the May 5th, 2021 episode of "Dynamite" when the Inner Circle took on The Pinnacle. The match was full of brawling, weapons, and blood. It was ridiculous in the same way as a Hell in a Cell match: The giant cage is supposed to keep competitors in, but the finish saw MJF push Jericho off the roof and onto the entrance ramp, giving The Pinnacle the victory. Chris Jericho mentioned in an interview with ComicBook.com that AEW tried to make Blood and Guts distinct from WarGames by tweaking a few rules, but it still looks mostly like the match that inspired it.

12. Lights Out matches

Many times, a "hardcore match" is rebranded as something else to fit the theme of a show or a feud. However, AEW did a little more reinventing when they introduced the Lights Out match to their product. After all, "hardcore wrestling" is a broad term whose definition varies from company to company. WWE's hardcore matches involve plunder like trash cans, kendo sticks, and steel chairs. Combat Zone Wrestling pushes things in a more violent direction, employing barbed wire, glass, and fluorescent light tubes. AEW's Lights Out matches are a happy mix of both. To add to the matches' unsanctioned feeling, AEW also has ring announcer Justin Roberts announce that the show is officially over, and that the Lights Out match isn't condoned by AEW.

AEW uses Lights Out matches sparingly, which commentator Jim Ross talked about in an interview with ComicBook.com. "The more you do it, the more they're not special, the more they're watered down," Ross said. "You want to keep the lights out concept viable and you don't over expose." Lights Out matches are always memorable, and have elevated both careers and divisions. That was certainly the case when Britt Baker took on Thunder Rosa in the signature match type. Hopefully, AEW continues using this match format in small doses. If used on a general basis, it could become too much for a general audience.

11. Dog collar matches

The dog collar match is not a new concept in professional wrestling. However, on paper, the concept sounds ridiculous. In a dog collar match, two competitors are connected via collars linked by a chain so that they can't escape each other. The first dog collar match unfolded in 1979, when John Boyd took on Killer Brooks for Pacific Northwest Wrestling, but this event wasn't televised. It wasn't until 1983, when Roddy Piper faced Greg Valentine at NWA's inaugural Starrcade, that fans first got to watch this barbaric match at home. Since then, it has popped up in many different companies, including AEW.

AEW's first dog collar match took place on the October 6th, 2020 episode of "Dynamite," when Cody Rhodes fought Brodie Lee. In 2022, AEW used dog collars to ensure that CM Punk and MJF could not escape each other at AEW Revolution. CM Punk talked about the dangers the format poses, along with the difficulties of working with the chain, at the AEW Revolution media scrum. "They're hard. I think dog collar matches are stupid dangerous," he said. "Having 10-20 feet of logger's chain attached to your neck — it sucks." 

With the wrestlers chained together, this type of match sometimes comes off as clunky. Often, the competitors get themselves and the chain wrapped around the ropes and turnbuckles. As a result, they have to stop and unwrap the chain, interrupting the flow of the match.

10. Casino Battle Royale

The Casino Battle Royale has been an AEW staple since the company started in 2019. The match involves 21 competitors, each of whom draws a playing card. From there, they're split into groups of five, based on the suit of the card they pulled (hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs). However, that only gets us to 20 wrestlers. That's because one wrestler draws the Joker, making them a surprise entrant. Once the match begins, a new "suit" enters every three minutes, and regular battle royal rules apply from there.

AEW doubled down on the casino gimmick during its inaugural Double or Nothing pay-per-view event by debuting the Casino Battle Royale. In early iterations, it felt a little jumbled, with sets of five wrestlers running out every three minutes without any entrance music, and only a small graphic to let viewers know their names. This made it really confusing for casual fans, and anti-climactic for hardcore ones (via Tilt). 

However, over time, AEW has refined the presentation and played with the logistics of this match, adding short entrances for each competitor and expanding the match to encompass tag teams and the women's division. Regardless of the variation being used, the Casino Battle Royale is always an entertaining cluster that has become a mainstay of AEW.

9. Casino Ladder Match

The Casino Ladder Match is like the problematic younger sibling of the Casino Battle Royale. The concept is similar in that competitors enter at fixed time intervals based on a "random drawing," and that one competitor is the "Joker," serving as the match's surprise entrant. The Casino Ladder Match first appeared a year after the Casino Battle Royale at 2020's Double or Nothing and was won by a debuting Brian Cage, who drew the Joker card.

However, this type of match opens itself up to some ridiculous plot holes. Since two wrestlers start in the ring and new competitors are added later, technically the match could be won before everyone officially comes out. Of course, this is wrestling. That won't actually happen, but it makes the match feel meaningless until the Joker's music hits. Although the Casino Ladder Match always delivers high-caliber spots and the regular excitement that comes with a ladder match, the logistics can make it feel nonsensical at times.

8. Bunkhouse Match

The Bunkhouse Match was popularized in WCW, where it was known as the "Bunkhouse Stampede." Basically, this was a battle royal-style match where competitors dressed in street clothes and hit each other with just about anything they could get their hands on. This style of match helped give WCW its reputation of having a more southern vibe, particularly when compared to WWF, and quickly became a hallmark of Dusty Rhodes' career. Thus, it is poetic that Dustin Rhodes competed in the first-ever Bunkhouse Match, which took place on the November 11th, 2020 episode of "Dynamite" (via Cultured Vultures).

In the match, Rhodes teamed with QT Marshall to take on The Butcher and The Blade. AEW paid homage to the bunkhouse in the match's name by having all the competitors dress in their regular clothes, with Dustin rocking cowboy boots. In addition, both teams used a wide range of objects found around the arena. Dustin Rhodes and The Butcher took a fall off the stage through a wooden structure decorated with hay bales — after all, what says "bunkhouse" better than hay? Despite the goofiness of this cowboy-themed hardcore match, both teams delivered one hell of an entertaining show.

7. Cracker Barrel Clash

Throughout wrestling history, shamelessly plugging sponsors on weekly television and pay-per-view events has been common. For example, there was no way to miss that one of the major sponsors of the 2019 All Out pay-per-view was Cracker Barrel. AEW went and made an entire match out of it, having Darby Allin, Joey Janela, and Jimmy Havoc face off in a Cracker Barrell Clash.

This was essentially a hardcore triple threat match, but featuring many more barrels. As bizarre as that sounds, the set dressing actually added a great aesthetic to the match. At one point, Darby Allin went for a Coffin Drop from the top rope to the floor, but missed and landed on a "cracker barrel," splintering it all over ringside. This match was as wacky as it was fun. Even Jimmy Havoc joined in on the good times, tweeting, "I'm going to smash a barrel over their heads. I assume this will then result in free food @CrackerBarrel for the rest of my life, which I'm very ok with." Although it is unclear whether or not Jimmy Havoc got his free food or what this did for Cracker Barrel's bottom line, it was one of the more creative ways that advertising has been used inside of a wrestling ring.

6. Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch

Exploding Barbed Wire matches originally gained popularity on the Japanese wrestling scene. Given that AEW is known for adopting ideas from other companies and putting its own spin on them, it comes as no surprise that it has dabbled in this type of match. Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley battled for the AEW World Championship at Revolution 2021 in AEW's first ever Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch (via Sports Illustrated). What really made this match ridiculous, though, wasn't the concept, but the execution.

The hype centered on the "time bomb" that was going to make the ring explode, which was heavily hyped by the announcers. After Kenny Omega won, he ran out of the ring, leaving Jon Moxley lying on the canvas as a countdown played on the big screen. Eddie Kingston ran down to the ring and dramatically covered his friend. When the timer hit zero, however, the "major explosion" turned out to be a few oversized sparklers and smoke billowing from under the ring. 

Tony Kahn talked about the botched finish on "Dan Le Batard Show," saying, "[The pyrotechnics team] totally s*** the bed. I ended up not paying them. It was like $100,000 they ended up refunding for all the expenses of the match." Tony Kahn has said that AEW will do another Exploding Barbed Wire match in the future. Next time, he promises, the payoff will match the hype.

5. Elite Deletion

COVID-19 changed the presentation of gimmick matches. Before the pandemic, the Hardys popularized the "cinematic match," or a pre-taped bout that plays more like a fight scene from a campy movie than a traditional wrestling match. When Matt Hardy joined AEW in 2020, it was clear that he was bringing his creative match ideas with him. It didn't take long to see them, either, because at Full Gear 2020 Matt Hardy faced Sammy Guevara in an Elite Deletion match. The name paid tribute to the Final Deletion match of 2016, for which Matt and his brother Jeff were lauded for their creativity and outside-the-box thinking.

The Elite Deletion match featured many throwbacks to past Hardy cinematic matches, including a janky ring setup in Matt's backyard, roman candles being set off, and a plethora of characters from Hardy's Broken Universe. Hardy eventually picked up the pinfall victory on Guevara inside the Dome of Deletion, and Guevara was thrown into the back of a truck driven by Señor Benjamin. Just reading about the finish of the match indicates how ridiculous Elite Deletion was.

4. Tooth and Nail Match

Britt Baker has made a name for herself by rising through AEW's ranks while also working as a full-time dentist. Thus, it was only a matter of time before AEW capitalized on Britt's other career in the form of a gimmick match. At All Out 2020, Britt Baker took on Big Swole in the first-ever (and probably last-ever) Tooth and Nail match. Prior to the event, Tony Khan went on the "AEW Restricted" podcast to explain that Swole and Baker would "fight tooth and nail" in a variation on a Falls Count Anywhere match that would take place "in and around a dentist office."

Essentially, this was another cinematic match, but this one stepped over the line and was a little too ridiculous. Not only did Britt try to win by injecting Swole with Novocain, only for it to backfire, but Baker and Swole had different ideas for what this match was supposed to be. In an interview on "The Public Enemies" podcast, Swole described how she felt after filming concluded. "I look at Kenny [Omega], I was like, 'Kenny, we haven't wrestled. There's no substance to this. This is just — I don't know what this is,'" she said.

3. Mimosa Mayhem

In the early days of AEW, Jericho was World Champion and paraded around calling himself "Le Champion" while popping bottles of his own brand of champagne, A Little Bit of the Bubbly. Jericho's heel character was just as obnoxious as it was over-the-top, so it made sense for Jericho to face another extravagant character in Orange Cassidy. And what do you get when you mix the bubbly with "Freshly Squeezed" Orange Cassidy? A ring surrounded by big vats of mimosa, of course.

At All Out 2020, Jericho challenged Orange Cassidy to a Mimosa Mayhem Match. The only way to win this match was by pinfall, submission, or throwing your opponent into a tub of mimosa. On each side of the ring were two massive vats, which allowed the wrestlers to tease falling into the drink from the apron and turnbuckles. 

Jericho was the brains behind this ridiculous concept, but had some help hashing it out from Tony Kahn. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Jericho mentioned how the idea for the match came about, "I was thinking about a Last Man Standing, and that would have been fine, but Tony Khan and I had been laughing about mimosas. There's something unique and special about Orange Cassidy and Chris Jericho, orange juice and champagne." Jericho lost the match, of course, meaning we might have to go to a bottomless brunch if we ever want to see that amount of mimosa in one spot again.

2. Arcade Anarchy

Video games and wrestling have had many crossovers throughout the years, with the combat sport inspiring both video games and game characters. However, before the March 31, 2021 episode of "Dynamite," we'd never seen anything like Arcade Anarchy before. In the match, Miro and Kip Sabian faced Orange Cassidy and Chuck Taylor. At this point in time, Miro had a video game gimmick, which differed greatly from his character in WWE, and the competitors didn't hesitate to take all aspects of video game history and mix them with a wild array of other shenanigans. 

First, the ring was surrounded by retro arcade machines, along with a prize wall where you could cash in your "arcade tickets" for anything from spider rings to steel chairs. Cassidy also dropped Sabian through a Whack-A-Mole machine, bonking him on the head with a giant mallet. Another memorable spot came when "The Alien" Kris Statlander returned by popping up through the claw machine, paying tribute to "Toy Story," and slammed Penelope Ford through a mini hockey table. Kip got revenge on behalf of his wife by powerbombing Chuck onto a pile of Legos that was hidden inside a teddy bear. The finish came when Chuck powerslammed Kip off the stage and through tables, giving the Best Friends the victory. All in all, with Arcade Anarchy, AEW truly did give the people what they want.

1. Stadium Stampede

Stadium Stampede may be the most ridiculous match in wrestling history, but it's also a perfect example of how wrestling, when mixed with endless creativity, can result in an absolute masterpiece. At AEW's 2020 Double or Nothing show, the Inner Circle took on The Elite in a Falls Count Anywhere match inside of TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some of the most creative minds in wrestling came together to not only write one of the most absurd matches of all time, but also produce and perform it.

This nearly 45-minute contest featured many spots that called back to past wrestling moments, as well as quite a few sports and movie references. Fans saw the Lake of Reincarnation return in the premium seats. Adam Page dragged Kenny Omega across a bar top. Jericho hit the Jaguars' mascot with a Judas Effect and threw down a challenge flag on a two count. Matt Jackson Northern Lights suplexed Sammy Guevara 100 yards to the end zone and commemorated the achievement with an Alex Wright dance, only to receive a flag for excessive celebration. Naturally, Jackson responded by superkicking the referee. The match concluded with Omega hitting a One-Winged Angel off the bleachers for the pinfall. Stadium Stampede had a sequel at Double or Nothing 2021, which had its own slew of ridiculousness. However, like many sequels, it proved quite difficult to top the original.

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