A phenomenal lesson in ring physics

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October 27, 2011

At Vengeance, the gargantuan World Heavyweight Championship Match between The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry and The World’s Largest Athlete, Big Show ended in a shocking no contest when the ring collapsed as the result of the 412-pound champion superplexing the 485-pound challenger. (PHOTOS)

Exactly how much force does it take to collapse a WWE ring that has contained some of the most colossal collisions in the history of hand-to-hand combat? We don’t have a physics department here at WWE.com so we were forced to seek elsewhere for answers. Luckily, members of the WWE Universe come from all walks of life and we found a physics professor who is also a proud WWE fan.

Dr. Matthew Cathey of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. was kind enough to take time from grading exams to provide WWE.com with these calculations:

Mark Henry and Big Show weigh a combined 897 pounds. Assuming their combined center of gravity fell six feet, their combined mass hit the mat at about 20 feet per second, or a bit over 13 miles per hour. That impact created a release of kinetic energy of 7253 Joules, which is equivalent to:

  • Rey Mysterio (175 pounds) leaping onto his opponent from the top of steel cage hitting 30 feet, seven inches high, approximately twice as high as his SmackDown debut

 

  • The detonation of approx. two grams of the explosive, trinitrotoluene (TNT).

 

  • The energy at the muzzle of four rounds fired from an M16 rifle (WWE.com double-checked this fact with our friends at NationalGuard.com).

 

 Big Show and Mark Henry destroy the ring at Vengeance
I think it took a little (bad) luck to break the ring. Different parts of the ring would handle that stress differently, as the shock waves created by the impact would be propagated differently. Notice how the opposite ring post is the first to collapse; that’s exactly the opposite of what you would expect.  It was also not instantaneous. It took a split second to collapse. That’s the really fascinating aspect thing about of this incident.  Again, this is speculation, but I think the energy imparted into the ring by the impact bounced around for a second, seeking a way to get dissipated (it usually does this mainly by oscillations in the ring surface doing work by lifting the Superstars and Divas an inch or two; you can see them bounce after a big impact), but the energy was too much for the corner that collapsed. 

This was my first thought:Bad luck similar to this caused the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to collapse in 1940.  The wind that took it down was well within specifications that bridge was built to withstand but the angle and speed of the wind created a resonance that caused the energy which was trying to dissipate to actually reinforce itself and destroy the structure.

It’s the same phenomenon that causes a crystal glass to shatter when a soprano hits exactly the right note.

After entering Professor Cathey’s studious scientific explanation into my personal proprietary intellectual to extreme language translator, I offer this reaction to the structural subsidence: “OH MY GOD!”

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