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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: A WWE Network Fatal Fourway Playlist To Get You Hyped For Payback
By Maverick
May 17, 2015 - 8:42:13 AM

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A WWE Network Fatal Fourway Playlist To Get You Hyped For Payback

Greetings dear readers! With a high profile fatal fourway match featuring Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton taking place tonight, I thought it was an opportune time to review the prominent fatal fourways to have taken place over the past two decades. Truthfully, it is not a gimmick many are fond of; they smack of lazy booking and are often filled with cliches, unless the elimination version of the gimmick is chosen. Still, I wanted to rewatch the matches to see how true that was. I decided to limit myself to singles versions of the match type and to avoid versions that were combined with another gimmick (ladders, tables, etc). I also avoided TV bouts for ease of use (all of these matches are easy to find on the WWE Network). I’ve gone backwards in chronological order. Enjoy!

John Cena defeated Kane, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns in 21:15 to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Battleground 2014

Following the implosion of The Shield, Roman Reigns was catapulted straight into the main event of his first two pay-per-views as a singles performer; first the title ladder match at Money In The Bank and then the fatal fourway at Battleground. It's easy to forget just how over The Big Dog was back then, and how much more confident he looked in the ring than he would at Summerslam a month later once the toxic booking had sunk in. This match was also overshadowed by the negative reaction to Cena winning the title in the ladder match a a few weeks before, so it's certainly interesting to approach this one with fresh eyes. On the night, I criticised the spotty, sloppy nature of of the second half of the match, and that criticism still stands, but what I didn't give credit for at the time was the smart storytelling that saw Orton protected by by his "minder" Kane, only for the alliance to eventually break down. On rewatching, I also enjoyed the Cena and Reigns exchanges; a singles match between those two someday could be fun. The ending was a lazy flurry of finishers, with an AA of Orton onto Kane ultimately being the decisive move for Cena. Better than I remembered it being.

Sheamus defeated Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio and Randy Orton in 16:06 to retain the World Heavyweight Championship at Over The Limit 2012

The May, June and July "doldrums pay-per-views" seem to be the settings for most of these fourways, and here we have a prime example of a talented cast being thrown together without much of a story so as to entertain the crowd and send Sheamus home looking strong as champion. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it does reveal a lot about how the creative team think at this time of year. Orton and Sheamus wanted to take out the heels and go one on one early on, but they were foiled by some neat double teaming from Del Rio and Y2J. The pace grew more frenetic and exciting once the more traditional "two in the ring, two outside" structure was adopted, with plenty of covers but with a sensible avoidance of early finisher use. Orton was the undoubted MVP of the bout, injecting energy and precision to proceedings; he really was on fire in the ring through 2012. Sheamus on the other hand did very little aside from selling a shoulder injury until he rallied at the end to Brogue Kick Del Rio out the ring and nail White Noise on Jericho for the three. A decent match this one, but nothing particularly weighty.

Sheamus defeated John Cena, Randy Orton and Edge in 17:25 to win the WWE Championship at Fatal 4 Way 2010

The best that could be said for the one PPV experiment known as Fatal 4 Way was the fact that a hot crowd in Uniondale gave the main event a big fight feel. The fans roared for every single spot, and even responded for traditionally lame tropes like a Cena/Orton staredown and the Franchise Player's no pressure STF. They were hugely behind The Viper in his post-Legacy babyface mode and other than the crowd, it was a bout that followed the clichés very closely: Edge and Orton formed one rivalry pair, Cena and Sheamus another and finishers came thick and fast in the second half of the match. Ultimately, a screwy finish occurred when The Nexus arrived and destroyed The Franchise Player, enabling Sheamus to steal the pin and and the belt. Bit of an odd one really. There was no pressure doubt that the Nexus angle was hot as hell, but it made the match itself almost irrelevant and deflected attention from Sheamus winning the strap.

Rey Mysterio defeated Jack Swagger, The Big Show and CM Punk in 10:28 to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Fatal 4 Way 2010

Also at the short lived Fatal 4 Way pay-per-view was the SmackDown title match, which pitted an inexplicably pushed babyface Big Show against struggling champ Swagger, inexplicably depushed CM Punk (in a hilarious mask) and perennial underdog Rey Mysterio. The kind of booking you usually see only in Universe mode on WWE '12 led to an oddly likeable match considering, with much made of Big Show's size in the early going, and Punk being as hammily entertaining as he always was during his Straight Edge Saviour days. The heels controlled the middle portion portion of the bout, with Big Show down at ringside and Mysterio playing punching bag inside the ring. The giant eventually came in and cleaned house, but the other three combined to wipe him out again, and Punk was scared off by Kane (who was searching for the man who put out 'Taker at the time) allowing Mysterio to pin Swagger and become a two time world champ. A diverting ten minutes, if nothing else.

The Undertaker defeated Batista, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk in 9:55 to retain the World Heavyweight Championship at Bragging Rights 2009

I don't suppose too many of you remember this one well; as far as the SmackDown main event scene was concerned it was basically filler, with CM Punk getting a final chance to regain the belt he had lost at Hell in a Cell and the Batista/Mysterio axis teasing potential teamwork to give themselves an advantage in the chaos. As a match, it is unremarkable, fairly much a standard pattern fatal fourway with some nice touches (for example, Punk's ability to continually play defense on pinning combinations), but the reason I think it's worth another look as we count down to Sunday is the story that develops within its short duration. From blissful and efficient teamwork, The Master of the 619 and The Animal progress to confusion and strife and finally to a full blown and effective heel turn for Big Dave that would take him all the way to the main event of Wrestlemania XXVI. All it takes is for Rey to break up Batista's pin after a Batista Bomb on 'Taker and trouble starts. In dealing with his frustration with his friend's "betrayal", the future movie star distracted himself from The Deadman and got a Tombstone for his troubles, as the champ retained. Following the match, Mysterio got lawn darted all the way around the ringside area in one of the more brutal beatdowns of the PG Era, to complete a fun story arc that played out surprisingly effectively given the short match time.

Triple H defeated Randy Orton, John Cena and JBL in 28:11 to win the WWE Championship at Backlash 2008

A typically 2008 slice of lazy booking gave Cena and Triple H another shot at ending the Age of Orton after they had been unsuccessful at 'Mania, while JBL added some variety, coming off a strong win against Finlay in the Citrus Bowl. Fortunately, the elimination stipulation made for an excellent match, as it was patterned somewhat on the classic main event of Wrestlemania 2000. JBL was the alpha male of the opening third of the bout, teaming with Orton and using his rough, tough brawling style to dominate the two babyfaces until his axis with The Viper came to an inevitably rancorous conclusion in a big tower of doom spot. JBL was eliminated soon after by an STFU and Cena moments later through a Punt, a great piece of booking that threw the cat among the pigeons by halving the field after only ten minutes and setting up one of the better battles of the long running Evolution vs. Evolution war. A gruelling back and forth affair had both men sell their exertions to perfection and get the crowd invested without the need for endless near falls and finishers; this is professional wrestling as it should be. In their desperation to hold the goal they fight outside the ring, inside the ring, toe to toe, counter for counter, until a sudden Pedigree carries the day for The Game. Essential viewing.

John Cena defeated Shawn Michaels, Edge and Randy Orton in 19:21 to retain the WWE Championship at Backlash 2007

Just a year earlier, the fall out from Wrestlemania XXIII saw the two former Rated RKO team mates added to the Cena/Michaels rivalry to freshen it up a little. The beginning of the match saw the two component rivalries face off one on one but matters soon grew more chaotic with all four men brawling and taking risks on the outside. Structurally, this one took up the usual approach for a good while, with a series of short singles matches within the larger confines of the fatal fourway, until Rated RKO reunited to try and take out the two faces, a tactic which worked only temporarily. A frenetic finishing quarter saw multiple counters, finisher attempts and finishers, until a rather interesting ending saw Cena superkicked right on top of a recently FU-ed Edge for the lucky victory. Truthfully, I found this a difficult watch; 2007 era Cena was sloppy as hell, the action often felt stale, and Michaels over egged the pudding on his "obsession with beating Cena" narrative. Not a great time for wrestling in my opinion.

King Booker defeated Batista, Bobby Lashley and Finlay in 19:36 to retain the World Heavyweight Championship at No Mercy 2006

On paper, this one doesn't sound too promising from a rewatch point of view; Lashley was a big lunk without much ability between the ropes, while Batista in 2006 wasn't near the worker he would later become. However, the veteran presence of Finlay and Booker ensures that the match is actually a lot of fun. The tropes it uses, it uses well, such as the teamwork of the King and his Irish henchman that later turns into tension, and the face off of the two behemoths mid match. Batista gets some colour off a chair shot, Lashley flashes potential, Finlay holds the whole thing together and the King Booker gimmick was wildly entertaining. The finish is typical of the genre, with a huge Batista Bomb on Finlay leading to Booker stealing the pin. Worth a look this one; it may surprise you.

JBL defeated The Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero and Booker T in 25:36 to retain the WWE Championship at Armageddon 2004

WWE went all in on the lucky heel champion narrative with JBL, and his sins came back to haunt him in kayfabe when three of his former adversaries were booked against him in a fatal fourway where any Cabinet interference would result in him losing the gold. This very much played into the narrative of the match, with the hated champion getting an absolute shoeing from his challengers, who combined to exact retribution. Eddie and Booker also had an arrangement that they would unite to take out The Deadman, which allowed Layfield to worm his way back into things, playing the opportunist to perfection. The violence level suddenly picks up in in a major way half way through, with Booker and JBL both going through tables and Eddie cracking the title belt off 'Taker's skull, hitting a pair of frog splashes on him and then a final splash off a 15 foot ladder. Tremendous action. The usual flurry of signatures and finishers followed, along with a Heidenreich run in that stopped the momentum of a rolling American Badass, allowing the crafty JBL to hit the Clothesline From Hell on Booker to retain his title. Right up there with the best fourway matches; a great combination of talent telling an effective story.

Chris Jericho defeated X Pac, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero in 12:17 to retain the Intercontinental Championship at No Way Out 2001

This match is, for me, one of the best midcard matches of the entire Attitude Era, pitting four of its most elite workers against each other in a fast paced, frenetic, hard hitting battle. Jericho had put Eddie and X Pac out with injuries in the previous autumn, while his epic rivalry with the Rabid Wolverine was already legendary, so this was always always going to be great. I think it's the pace and stiffness of the wrestling that makes this such a magnificent spectacle; the speed is such that it's almost impossible for JR to call the action! The teamwork of the two Radicalz is extremely fun to to watch, but the point where they fall out over a pin is even more so, as they duke it out in the middle of the ring while X Pac and Y2J brawl outside. Tonnes of exciting near falls follow as they break up each others' pin and submission attempts and Justin Credible makes a fun cameo helping out his buddy X Pac. Jericho manages to get the opportunistic roll up for the win and retention, ending twelve of the best minutes of wrestling you'll see.

Triple H defeated The Big Show, Mick Foley and The Rock in 36:31 to retain the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 2000

Although the booking leading into 'Mania that year had all the Attitude Era hallmarks, the build actually made a tonne of sense. Triple H had proven himself as champion against Cactus Jack, while The Rock and The Big Show had squabbled over who really won the Rumble. With Steph backing storyline hubby Trips, Vince rooting for The Brahma Bull and Shane training up The Big Show, Linda decided to use her authority as CEO to bring back Foley from retirement rob fulfil the Wrestlemania main event dream he'd seemingly been denied by his defeat in the Cell at No Way Out. The McMahon in each corner gimmick added extra intrigue as three of the best to ever lace a pair of boots (and Show) duked it out on the grandest stage. A triple team saw Big Nasty exit early on, sound psychology that ensured that the most physically dominant man was dealt with first. An uber slimy Hunter was beaten from pillar to post by Foley and Rock, satisfying the crowd's desire to see the most hated heel in the business at that time get his just desserts, but The Game was able to hold his own by ducking, diving, hitting on the run, dividing and trying to conquer. In an unlikely turn of events, Foley and Helmsley united to double team The Great One, showing that expediency can make strange bedfellows. Mick’s unsuccessful leap to the Spanish announce table led to his elimination off a pair of Pedigrees, leaving the top two young stars of 2000 to decide the destiny of the gold and allowing for a standing ovation for the incomparable Foley. A truly energy sapping duel followed, with the two gong through the crowd, through the remaining announce table and back into the ring, showing enormous will to win in kayfabe. The McMahon drama is sensibly left to the end, with Vince and Shane brawling with TV monitors and Vince taking up a steel chair and nailing The Rock right between the eyes with it, turning heel in the process and handing the championship retention to The Game. The fact that Triple H was the first heel to walk out of Wrestlemania with the belt will always be huge for his legacy. The elimination fourway from 2000 has proved divisive over the years, but I love it. Great drama throughout.

Bret Hart defeated Vader, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker in 24:05 to win the vacant WWF Championship at In Your House: Final Four

This is, to my knowledge, the first prominent four corners match in WWF/E history. How strange that in the few years that followed there would be so many multi-man matches, culminating in the creation of such gimmicks as Elimination Chamber and Money In The Bank in the early Brand Extension era. As we have just seen, a four way also closed out Wrestlemania only three years after this. The fact that this one is so fantastic goes a long way to explaining that, and it’s also a perfect example of using a gimmick to advance the story rather than vice versa, a common problem today. With Austin cheating to win the Rumble despite having been eliminated, and with Shawn Michaels’ forfeiture of the gold, the final four of the reverse battle royal were booked in a match where pinfall, submission or going over the top rope would cause elimination, with no DQs or count outs. The last man standing would be champion, facing Sycho Sid the next evening on Raw for the title they’d only just attained. You have to applaud the way they were able to change plans on the fly when HBK dropped his bombshell. What you essentially have here is everything that’s fondly remembered about Attitude taking place at the end of the New Generation time period; there’s gore, brawling, outside interference, swearing, breathless pacing and four terrific workers with the sort of chemistry that allows them to create an intensity that matches anything you’ll see. This is, to my mind, the best elimination fourway ever, and the best fourway period. The unique rules, the combustible situation heading into Wrestlemania XIII and the brilliantly told story all combine to create an overlooked masterpiece. If you do one thing this afternoon, watch this match. At the end of it all, Bret Hart stands tall, holding up the WWF Championship for the fourth time. What would happen to him the next night would set in motion a chain of events that birthed the Attitude Era, but that’s another story that Mazza and I told you all last year!

My experiment confirms what I thought going in; the three highest rated fatal fourways were the elimination matches from In Your House: Final Four, Wrestlemania 2000 and Backlash 2008, with the one fall to a finish versions from No Way Out 2001 and Armageddon 2004 closing out the top 5. The others were all much of a muchness, and kind of demonstrate how hard it is to elevate a fatal fourway above the bog standard three star level. What that means for tonight, who knows, but if anyone can help make a fourway great again, it’s Ambrose and Rollins, who completely reinvigorated the Lumberjack Match at Battleground last year and showed that a PG Era Cell match can still be wildly entertaining back in October.

Well everybody, that’s all from me. I’ll be back tonight to review Payback, but until then, let me know what you think of these previous fourway matches in the comments below. What was your favourite? Do you prefer elimination or sudden death stips? Who is the master of the fatal fourway?

Until then, this is Maverick, requesting flyby!