Photo Credit- AEW
Although they’re less common than finishing moves, I enjoy submission finishes. Whether it be Angle tapping out Undertaker, Bryan and Batista at Wrestlemania 30 or Deonna Purrazzo, a tap out win can often be just as satisfying, if not more so than a three count. The wavering arm, the surge of anticipation and the theatrics of the performers can really sell a submission, unlike a big move.
However, I’ve noticed a growing trend in babyfaces not tapping out, but choosing to “pass out,” in a heel’s submission. This is of course in line with the adage that “heels tap out, faces go out.” When done right, as seen with Steve Austin and Bret Hart, this can elevate both performers. The heel is a sadist, willing to punish a beloved hero beyond their limits. The face is a determined warrior, willing to go out on their shield rather than surrender. But, when overdone, this storytelling device is cheapened. That’s the direction I fear wrestling, especially babyface wrestlers, is going.
Take Roman Reign’s Guillotine Choke. Cesaro, Daniel Bryan and Drew McIntyre all refused to tap out in their matches against Reigns. This wasn’t a case of Reigns choking them out after they tapped, but the faces choosing to pass out. Rey Mysterio did tap out to Roman, but 3 of his 4 previous feuds ended in passing out. Meanwhile Drew McIntyre passed out to the Hurt Lock at Wrestlemania. Of all the recent big championship matches that end in submissions, only one has ended on a tap out. If this doesn’t cheapen the “pass out in the submission” gimmick, nothing does. If every babyface is as determined, as driven, then how is it special.
Now, before anyone accuses me of having it in for WWE, let’s talk about how AEW are just as guilty of this. Darby Allin passed out in the Game Over, as did Lance Archer. My issue is that Darby didn’t need to pass out against Miro. Despite being built as a never-say-die babyface, Darby had tapped out to Scorpio Sky’s Heel Hook. Admittedly this was after the match, but it demonstrated that Darby was willing to tap to preserve his wellbeing. As such, him not tapping out against Miro seemed highly inconsistent. The Game Over is a far more protected submission hold than the Heel Hook, but it was the latter that got the tap from Allin.
I understand that promoters don’t want to make their babyfaces look weak. But admitting that you’re beaten is not necessarily a sign of weakness. By overusing the “pass-out-submission” finish, wrestling companies are detracting from what makes it special in a misguided attempt to make faces look strong. Ultimately, I believe that it’s acceptable for babyfaces to admit defeat by tapping out. That’s why I honestly believe that babyfaces need to tap out more.