Post-Battleground and a killer week of Raw, Smackdown, NXT, and G1 action, it’s time again for Explain Like I’m Kayfabe, the only wrestling column where we try to explain the unexplainable. This week’s column focuses on the mysterious land underneath the wrestling ring. Who lives there? What horrors lurk beneath its canvas surface? And, most importantly, why is that metal trash can under there? Answers to these questions and more just below this picture of regular underring denizens, The Young Bucks.
First, let’s establish what items can regularly be found under the ring. Here’s a mostly complete list:
- Steel folding chairs
- Wood folding tables
- Fire extinguishers
- Kendo Sticks
- Steel ladders of varying sizes
- Other wrestlers
For some of these items, there is absolutely a valid reason for them to be under the ring each and every week. For others, we’ve got to get in the Wayback Machine to suss out why these dangerous items are readily available for nefarious grapplers to use against their opponents.
First, the easy ones. Fire extinguishers are clearly a safety item. Pyrotechnics have been a major part of wrestling events for many, many years, including literal flames jetting up from the ring posts during much of the Attitude Era and beyond. Even though WWE has recently done away with their indoor pyro, having a fire extinguisher handy isn’t just good safety procedure, it’s most likely mandated by the fire marshal.
While not standard procedure for setting up a ring, sledgehammers can be used to firmly adjust the frame of the ring, should things be a bit off plumb. With the size of many wrestlers and the force at which they crash into the ring, it may – on occasion – get a bit wonky. A few whacks from a 10 lb sledge can go a long way towards fixing this. Ladders can also be used in setting up not only the ring, but for lights or other necessary equipment prior to a show.
Folding tables and chairs? These have been stored under rings for literally generations. How else would you easily get a new chair to seat a ringside guest? Or a new table to replace the one recently turned into toothpicks by a pair of 300 lb grapplers? The best storage place available is literally right under their feet.
If we’re just talking ease of access to these items for the crew that makes wrestling events happen, the volume under the ring is most likely the largest space available to smaller promotions, and certainly the easiest for the larger ones. While WWE has the largest rings in the industry, at 20’x20′, even the smaller 16′ rings can give plenty of storage space. In a 20′ ring, the mat surface is 400 sq. ft. With the ring an estimated 4′ off of the ground (based on Alexa Bliss’ height of 5’1″ standing next to the ring apron), that gives the WWE 1600 cubic feet underneath the ring. There are apartments smaller than that. Even taking into account the space needed for the steel girders that hold the ring together, one could comfortably use that space for anything required.
Speaking of apartments, how many people have crept under the ring to hide in wait, ready for the chance to strike at an opponent? Hell, Hornswoggle lived under there for a time. The Singh Brothers must have snuck out to the ring early on before Battleground this past Sunday to lie in wait for the perfect moment to help Jinder Mahal retain his WWE Championship.
Now, the one thing that does not have a clear and immediate explanation as to why it is often found under a wrestling ring is the infamous kendo stick. The martial arts practice weapon, also known as a shinai, has been used for decades in wrestling to inflict bodily harm on opponents around the world. The shinai itself was created in 1801 to reduce injury during practices from the use of bokuto, or solid wooden swords. It is made of four strips of bamboo tied together at the hilt. The first use of this practice sword as a weapon in professional wrestling was in ECW in 1994. Tommy Dreamer lost a “Singapore Cane” match to Sandman and was forced to endure shots to his back with the dreaded weapon. Since then, the kendo stick has been a feature in hardcore matches and even as recently as 2017’s pay-per-view Extreme Rules, where Raw Womens Champion Alexa Bliss defeated challenger Bayley in a “Kendo Stick on a Pole” match.
Truthfully, there is no functional reason that a kendo stick should be stored under a wrestling ring. It only has one purpose: to inflict pain. But, what if we considered that as the reason for hiding them under the ring? No one goes looking under the ring apron, hoping that a kendo stick or barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat will be under there at random. If we look at who uses certain objects, we can see who plans ahead for mayhem and who just hopes it will occur.
This past week on Raw, Finn Bálor and Elias Samson fought in a rough “No DQ” match after the former Drifter destroyed his guitar on Bálor’s face the week before. In a fit of rage, Samson grabbed a chair from under the ring. He wasn’t looking for a specific weapon, he just wanted something to use to bash Bálor’s brains in. Contrast that with every time Triple H has ever pulled a sledgehammer out from under the ring. Or Mick Foley with his barbed wire baseball bat. They don’t go searching, they know exactly where those weapons are. Why? They are the ones who plant them! The Cerebral Assassin and the Hardcore Legend plan ahead for violence and make sure they know exactly where these dangerous items are kept. That is what the great ones do: plan ahead. Improvisation is fine, but making sure that a ten pound sledge is at hand can make all the difference in a title match.
Now, lastly, there is one thing that happened under a WWE ring that I have no explanation for unless I get into some serious wibbley wobbley, timey wimey stuff to explain why the underring is suddenly bigger on the inside. I leave you with: Little People’s Court.
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