10 Superstar-centric Specialty Matches
When a typical singles match isn't enough to settle matters between two grapplers, and a standard steel cage won't cut it either, some Superstars have their own specialty bouts designed to favor their specific skills and persona. WWE Classics takes a look at 10 unique such contests, each being claimed by an individual performer, and each more uncommon than the next. You might not see all of these stipulations at Extreme Rules, and for some, that might be for the best. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
The Undertaker specializes in striking fear into the hearts of his opponents. From the moment the bell tolls to signal his arrival, The Deadman’s ability to intimidate is unparalleled. However, in some cases, the peal of a funeral bell and darkness falling over the WWE Universe wasn’t enough to unsettle The Undertaker’s fiercest rivals. For those instances, The Phenom devised a frightening contest sure to unnerve even the most hardened Superstar: the Casket Match.
A darkly twisted bout, one can only be declared the victor by stuffing their opponent in a coffin and closing the lid shut. The Deadman’s foes reluctantly faced him in this macabre match, confronting their fears head on. That reticence gives Taker a major advantage, which has led to countless Superstars, from Kamala ( WATCH) to Kane, having the lid slammed shut on their rivalry with The Deadman.
Indian Strap Match
Many Native American Superstars have brought their traditions inside the squared circle. From elaborate feather headdresses to bone-jarring tomahawk chops, Chief Jay Strongbow, Tatanka and Wahoo McDaniel honored their heritage as they battled for victory. When they had been disrespected by their rivals, however, Native Americans settled things in a very brutal manner — the Indian Strap Match. ( WATCH)
In this contest, the two combatants have opposite ends of a leather strap tied to their wrists. Whoever could get the length of the strap in their hands had ample opportunity to whip their foe with the unforgiving hide. But the bout could only be won by incapacitating your opponent and dragging him to all four corners of the ring. Many have tried to copy the Native Americans’ trademark bout, including Hulk Hogan ( Yappapi, brother!), but none have mastered it quite like the originators.
The Lion's Den
Named after mixed martial artist Ken Shamrock’s training center, The Lion’s Den was WWE’s innovative concept to combine the worlds of MMA and sports-entertainment where the only way to win was via knockout or submission. In 1998, Ken Shamrock faced off against Owen Hart in the first-ever Lion’s Den encounter at SummerSlam. The bout was contested in a unique circular steel cage that was 10 feet high and locked shut. Although SummerSlam was held at Madison Square Garden that year, the Lion’s Den itself was located in a separate theater in the entertainment complex. After Owen’s trainer, mixed martial artist and Shamrock rival Dan Severn, walked out on his pupil, The World’s Most Dangerous Man forced his opponent to tap out to his patented ankle lock.
The following year, Shamrock was shockingly defeated by Mr. McMahon in a Lion’s Den Match on Raw, thanks to interference from the no-good Jeff Jarrett. Shamrock, however, asserted his dominance in the Lion’s Den once again by defeating Steve Blackman at 1999’s edition of SummerSlam. ( WATCH)
Texas Bullrope Match
The clunk of the cowbell is uniquely Texan. That’s why some of The Lonestar State’s favorite sons, when facing insurmountable odds, tied a cowbell at the middle of a bullrope, and latched themselves to their rivals to settle the score. ( WATCH)
The Texas Bullrope Match is somewhat similar to the Indian Strap Match, but the end result is much, much different. While a leather strap will leave your skin welted, the tough fibers of the bullrope will burn its victims, not to mention the bruises the unforgiving metal bell will dole out. While other Texans like Terry Funk, Outlaw Ron Bass and JBL used the bullrope to their advantage, it was WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes who perfected the Bullrope Match, using it to serve up a little Texas-style justice to Superstar Billy Graham in 1978.
Boiler Room Brawl
Upon his debut in WWE, the deranged Mankind quickly engaged in an intense rivalry with The Undertaker, and the matter was arranged to be settled at SummerSlam in a Boiler Room Brawl. The bout was intended to be Mankind’s forte since that is where he made his home. The objective was to escape the boiler room and retrieve The Deadman’s mystical urn from Paul Bearer, who waited in the ring. Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy lived up to his reputation of specializing in these confrontations, dominating with all sorts of foreign objects. ( WATCH) The Phenom recovered and looked certain to win the contest, but was betrayed by his longtime manager when Bearer chose to align with Mankind. ( WATCH)
Following the first encounter, the objective of this unique type of match was altered to simply escape the boiler room. The brawls have been a rare occurrence since, and each affair has featured Mankind. With Mick Foley’s in-ring days mostly behind him, we’ve likely seen the last of these dangerous battles.
Russian Chain Match
While not commonly seen in today’s landscape of sports-entertainment, the Russian Chain Match was once the trademark bout in a long line of Soviet Superstars. A variation on strap matches, these brutal contests instead used a chain made of cold, hard steel in place of a leather strap. As was the case with more traditional strap matches, the objective was to touch each turnbuckle surrounding the ring while chained to your opponent.
The undeniable master was Ivan Koloff, who resolved matters using a chain against legendary performers including Ricky Morton ( WATCH), Bruno Sammartino and fellow Russian Nikita Koloff. Ivan and Nikita even joined forces to take on The Road Warriors in a tag team version at NWA Great American Bash in 1986. It was Nikita who eventually held the Soviet mantle of the Russian Chain Match, facing off with Sting at The Great American Bash in 1991.
Hog Pen Match
When Henry Godwinn, a hog farmer from Bitters, Ark., found himself the recipient of derision from blue-blooded Hunter Hearst Helmsley, he looked back on his days down South to figure out how to teach the Superstar who went on to become The Game a lesson. Ahead of In Your House: Season’s Beatings in 1995, Godwinn had the filthiest pigs imported from his hometown and set up a hog pen in the arena, slop and all. To be victorious, a Superstar had to send their opponent over the fence and into the pen. Triple H won the match, but it was Godwinn who had the last laugh, as he grabbed Helmsley and pulled him into the Hog Pen, tossed him around the muck and left the aristocrat to slip and slide around, to the amusement of the WWE Universe. ( WATCH)
In 1997, Kane arrived in WWE to confront his long-lost brother, The Undertaker. To say the rivalry was heated would have been an understatement. One month after clashing in an epic bout at WrestleMania XIV, the siblings’ animosity reached a boiling point in the form of the first-ever Inferno Match at Unforgiven. With the ring surrounded by scorching flames, the objective was as intense as they come: set your opponent on fire. ( WATCH)
Due to the brutal high-risk nature of these contests, there have been only four Inferno Matches in WWE history, and Kane has competed in all of them. While the very concept of the Inferno Match might be seen as symbolic of The Big Red Monster’s persona, he was unsuccessful in the first three encounters. It wasn’t until battling Montel Vontavious Porter in the most recent Inferno Match at Armageddon in 2006 that Kane was victorious in the so-called “ring of fire.”
Boot Camp Match
Sgt. Slaughter, the former Marine, overflowed with pride for his country, often leading the WWE Universe in the Pledge of Allegiance. He took any affront to the American way seriously. His 1984 rivalry with The Iron Sheik became heated very quickly, as Sarge strived to prove that the American spirit could overcome The Shiek’s Iranian power. Blood boiled over between the two to the point where the rules and regulations of sports-entertainment got in the way. Slaughter knew there was only one way to end the rivalry, and that was to go back to basic training. He devised the Boot Camp Match, where there were no rules. Sarge and Sheik brutalized each other, but in the end, it was the proud patriot who came out on top. ( WATCH)
After retiring from regular in-ring competition, Sgt. Slaughter returned in 1997, bringing back the Boot Camp Match to teach DX member Triple H a lesson in respect.
Buried Alive Match
Few encounters in WWE are quite as ominous as the rarely contested Buried Alive Match. ( WATCH) Designed for The Undertaker, who always seems at home in a graveyard, the objective was very simply to toss a competitor into a six-foot-deep grave, and bury him alive under a mound of dirt. After innovating sports-entertainment only two months prior in the first-ever Boiler Room Brawl, The Deadman and Mankind battled once again in the first-ever Buried Alive Match, in which The Phenom gained a measure of retribution against Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy.
The vicious concept wasn’t seen in WWE until more than two years later when Mr. McMahon forced “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to compete in one against The Undertaker. The Texas Rattlesnake was required to be victorious in order to gain entry into the following month’s Royal Rumble Match, which he ultimately was, handing The Deadman his first Buried Alive loss. Mr. McMahon himself even defeated Taker in a Buried Alive contest in 2003 thanks to assistance from The Phenom’s brother Kane.