Title: The Art and Science of The Curtain Jerk

Purpose(s):To identify the characteristics of an effective opening match at a Pay-Per-View (herein referred to as the "Curtain Jerk" and the "PPV" respectively), and to identify the flaws of Curtain Jerk matches.

Introduction: In my opinion, it is the job of The Curtain Jerk match to excite the audience and set the tone for the evening. After suffering through one of the worst curtain jerks in history at Night of Champions, I decided to conduct this research.

Materials:

One computer, with Internet connectivity, a browser, and word processing software

One writer

Nachos

Method:

1. Watch the Curtain Jerk of every PPV produced by WWE in 2013.

2. Identify the effective and counter-productive features of the Curtain Jerk matches.

Data and Results:

Royal Rumble - Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show, Last Man Standing, World Heavyweight Championship

Effective features of this match:

1. Visual Impact: The PPV opens with The Big Show coming out, whose size alone commands your attention. 

2. High Stakes: Match is for a major title. 

3. Speed: Alberto Del Rio uses speed and aerial tactics to combat The Big Show’s strength (giving the illusion of a much faster-paced match than if they were relying on The Big Show’s arsenal to dictate the action). 

4. Sound: The sounds of their strikes played a big role here, with Show’s smacks and Del Rio’s kicks being particularly loud and drawing a crowd reaction. 

5. An Engaging Stipulation: The match stipulation allows the wrestlers to move around the arena without penalty (giving fans in several parts of the arena a chance to feel close to the action, and react accordingly).

6. Unique (and Legal): The use of weapons and props and Ricardo Rodriguez (again, due to the open nature of the match stip) engages the crowd a lot more because of the heightened violence and element of surprise (such as Big Show pulling Del Rio up onto the entrance set and throwing him down onto a table, and Rodriguez duct taping Big Show’s feet to the ropes for the win).

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Adrenaline Killer: There is a lull between the two wrestlers’ entrances, during which time Del Rio and Rodriguez talk with Bret Hart backstage (a failed attempt at a cheap pop, due to bad timing and Hart not being very charismatic on the microphone). 

2. A Question of Character: The babyface version of Del Rio leaves the crowd a bit confused, as they’re still adjusting to this new persona, and he behaved like a heel towards the end of the match (with overly-violent weapons attacks and the way in which he stole the victory). 

Curtain Jerk Rating: Excellent Jerk

Elimination Chamber - Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show, World Heavyweight Championship

Effective features of this match:

1. Another Big Show: The PPV opens with The Big Show coming out (an interesting choice for its repetitive quality, and one that works because it builds an association between Bell Ringing/Big Show’s Music and a positive PPV start). 

2. High Stakes: Match is for a major title again (I think because their previous match for the title was good, a re-match does not hurt them here). 

3. Less Question of Character: Both Del Rio and Rodriguez have formed a stronger, positive bond with the fans by this PPV (so the crowd reacts more favorably for their entrances and actions during the match, creating a lively atmosphere to kick things off). 

4. Hard Work Pays Off: The wrestlers seem extremely motivated to put on an attention-grabbing, unique match (a challenge given the mature stage of this feud). Both men demonstrate their best attributes (Del Rio’s being a variety of attacks and counters; Big Show’s being a shocking energy reserve and stamina given his size). They took so little rest during this match, and quite simply, wrestled their asses off.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Mood Killer: My heart sank when they missed an integral high spot near the end of the match. The Big Show picked up Ricardo’s aluminum bucket, and made like he was going to throw it at him. Alberto came in for a step-up enziguiri that would ding the bucket against Show’s head. OH SHIT. He missed completely, and Show stayed frozen in time while Alberto immediately did it again, and perfectly. Alberto followed up with two more beautiful kicks, not missing a beat nor his composure. How sadly poetic that the water bucket served to effectively put out the fire of this match. It ended next with Show tapping out, but the fans were already busy forgetting how great the rest of this match was due to one error.

Curtain Jerk Rating: Hopeful Jerk. One mistake does not a bad jerk make.

WrestleMania 29 - Sheamus, Randy Orton, The Big Show vs. The Shield

Effective features of this match:

1. MVP Player: Sheamus stands out as the only Big-Event Capable guy on his team. He comes out looking truly happy to be at WrestleMania, then sets his fists to Disrobe & Jackhammer, leaving The Shield tattered and battered.  

2. A Proven Team: The Shield has a much stronger showing, with Reigns bringing a lot of hoss and Rollins bringing fearless ingenuity. The crowd is hot for them and they did the best with what they had…

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Not A Lot To Work With: What they had was a disparate mess. The babyface team was thrown together and had no synergy whatsoever. Orton wildly gestures for fan approval, which comes off as unnatural. Big Show overcompensates for his recent, haphazard face turn by also acting half-cocked and strange. It ends, to no one’s surprise or dismay, with Show punching out his partners.

2. Delayed Gratification: The crowd was expected to react to this after two long video segments (one for Hurricane Sandy, one for WrestleMania) and this match didn’t have enough going for it to capture their attention.

3. Location: The large stadium setting for WrestleMania has its impressive qualities, but so much of the wrestlers’ (and fans’) energy gets lost in the massive open space. This is why Money In The Bank ladder matches have been an excellent way to start stadium shows: they are BIG.

Curtain Jerk Rating: All-Over-The-Place Jerk

Extreme Rules - Fandango vs. Chris Jericho

Effective features of this match:

1. Flashy Entrances: the audience in attendance (in St. Louis) is SO stoked to see Y2J. The dark arena, his pyro, and “Break The Walls Down” are like crack for nostalgic types and people who dig Christmas. Fandango also draws a big reaction with his entrance, featuring a giant tinsel curtain, prolonged dancing, a flaming silhouette, and a very scantily-clad Summer Rae.

2. Capitalizing on a Character: There is no better time to use Fandango for the Curtain Jerk, as he is still basking in the glory of his viral theme song. Chris Jericho has been around long enough to maintain a steady legion of fans, coupled with his ability to refresh the fans’ appreciation of him by taking breaks. He is rock n’ rolling all over the place with his usual pandering for cheers, and St. Louis does not disappoint.

3. Brevity: Even though I found this match boring, at least it was only 8.5 minutes long, and the crowd adored Jericho’s mid-air Codebreaker for the win.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. No Flow: the wrestling felt so start-and-stop, with no oomph whatsoever.  

Curtain Jerk Rating: Flashy Jerk

Payback - The Miz vs. Curtis Axel vs. Wade Barrett, Triple Threat for Intercontinental Title:

Effective features of this match:

1. Location: Chicago is known for having a hot crowd, as evidenced by their raucous cheers and the sea of homemade signs in the opening shot. A town like Chicago is going to be a lot louder (but not necessarily more forgiving) in general.  

2. Threesome: Triple Threats are a dependable route to fresh action in the ring. You can play around with different talent combinations, and give each participant his chance to rest. This stipulation is a great choice for a Curtain Jerk, especially when a title is on the line.

3. Baffling Recent History: I remember thinking Curtis Axel was fantastic here, and I am surprised to discover that was only a few months ago. Wow. Chicago thought he was fantastic too, as he got a huge pop-by-association for the Perfect Plex, and everyone cheered for his victory. 

4. Play on Emotions: the announcers did a great job of plucking at our heartstrings when Axel won the title (that his late father so famously held) and it being Father’s Day. Axel seemed very moved by the moment as well, which was a wonderful way to kick-start the show.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Absence of Character: As soon as Lillian Garcia announced the match, the crowd died. Clearly even Chicago failed to care about any of these guys. It took them over half the match to win everyone’s attention, as if they needed to get into the groove of the match before busting out some 3-way shenanigans.      

Curtain Jerk Rating: Decent Three-Way Jerk

Money In The Bank - Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship contract

Effective features of this match:

1. Balls-Out: Teddy Long called this a match full of “future playas”, who I would argue put on the most entertaining match of the night. It was far from perfect in terms of execution, but it was also brutal and a lot of fun. The perfect choice to jerk the curtain!

2. Star-Making: Cody Rhodes fans savored the justice of their man looking like a star after this match, and new Cody fans felt like they’d discovered treasure in plain sight.

3. Element of Surprise: The winner of this match was anyone’s guess, all the more reason to pay attention to the action in the ring.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Nullified: I could pick on the production team for opening the show with two of the match participants already in the ring, or on Zeb Coulter for cutting a promo on the way to the ring, but the positive qualities of this match far outweigh the negative.

Curtain Jerk Rating: Stupendous Jerk

SummerSlam - Bray Wyatt vs. Kane, Ring of Fire

Effective features of this match:

1. Anticipation: Bray Wyatt! The man got such a marvelous build, and we were yet to see him in singles action on a major program. I did not expect to see him jerk the curtain, and felt very intrigued by this choice.

2. Gimmick: Ring of Fire! Normally the gimmick matches go on later, as a palate cleanser between intense bouts or as a secondary main event. I suspect they did the Ring of Fire first because it would take too long to set up the ring mid-program, but having a gimmick match first certainly sets the tone for a unique evening.

3. Mercifully Short: It didn’t take long to realize that this match wasn’t hitting the right notes, and I can’t believe it clocked in at only 7.5 minutes. It felt longer.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. Tone Deaf: After trotting out The Miz as the evening’s host, who was then interrupted by Fandango, we are serenaded by JoJo with the anthem. If all of this was meant to warm up the crowd and set the tone for the night, I’d hate to see them TRY to annoy the shit out of us.

2. Unintentionally Goofy: Here’s a little science experiment you can do at home: Put on the Ring of Fire match. Mute it. Now play a kazoo as the play-by-play. This Three Stooges debacle is why people make fun of us for watching wrestling. Bray Wyatt was wearing his own merch just to twist the knife. 

3. Gimmick: Ring of Fire! Not a copy-and-paste error, but a double-edged sword that hindered the men from doing much in the way of wrestling.  

Curtain Jerk Rating: Fiery Circle Jerk

Night of Champions - Curtis Axel vs. Kofi Kingston, Intercontinental Championship

Effective features of this match:

1. Most Improved: Kofi wrestled a lot more impressively when I saw him this week at RAW and Night of Champions, than a few years ago when I saw him at WrestleMania 25 and the Royal Rumble. This fact probably isn’t a true feature of a Curtain Jerk, but I would have cheered ANYONE if it meant Triple H shutting his carb hole and the PPV actually starting.

Counter-productive features of this match:

1. It’s Not a Match: For the first time in 2013, the PPV does not start with the sweet sound of the ring bell, but Triple H droning on about what’s best for business. He monopolizes precious time usually reserved for igniting the crowd, who paid good money for a special event. Under the guise of being a corporate heel - and even with the sad-sack performance of Paul Heyman - Triple H sucks the last ounce of good will from a city that had none to offer. I’m talking about Detroit, where the beautiful, historic architecture sits derelict with shattered windows, and the glitzy, glassy conference center is as quiet as a tomb. Everyone we met there was so friendly and kind, so don’t give us a promo, give us a match, you awful SUIT, and make it better than some afterthought picked out of a hat. There was no element of surprise, no delight. I respect that Curtis Axel and Kofi Kingston put on a match for us, but there was no vested interest and what a terrible uphill battle for them.

Curtain Jerk Rating: Triple H Self-Jerk

Discussion: In this section, I would discuss any mistakes I might have made while conducting the investigation, and describe ways that the study might have been improved. That’s what the Comment section is for!

Conclusion: A good Curtain Jerk should feature people that make an impact, engaging wrestling, and a finish that either empowers or enrages fans.

Figures & Graphs: I considered charting the quality of each Curtain Jerk match relative to the overall quality of its PPV, to determine whether the opening match affects the show as a whole. First of all, I did not have time to assess 8 PPV shows in their entirety. Second of all, I do not necessarily believe, especially after this research, that the Curtain Jerk is representative of the PPV.

References:

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My half-Irish temper, to which you can gain access by commenting below, tweeting me @kickyhick, or emailing me at heatherhickey@live.ca.