The high-risk history of Scaffold Matches

The high-risk history of Scaffold Matches

Throughout history, the WWE Universe has seen matches contested in steel cages, Hollywood backlots and junkyards. Yet there is one type of contest so dangerous that it has never been held in WWE. The Scaffold Match is exactly as it sounds — a platform is suspended above the ring and two competitors compete on said surface until one of them throws the other tumbling to the canvas below.

When Mick Foley was infamously thrown off of the top of Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998 by The Undertaker, it wasn’t a stipulation of the match — it was a risk. It takes a special kind of crazy or a very bitter grudge to engage in a contest with the potential to be thrown off a scaffold. WWE Classics examines five of the most memorable — and wildest — Scaffold Matches in sports-entertainment history.

The Road Warriors vs. The Midnight Express

The Road Warriors vs. The Midnight Express - Scaffold Match: Starrcade 1986

The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express clash high above the ring in a Scaffold Match at Starrcade 1986.

The first Scaffold Match was held in Memphis, Tenn., in 1971 between Jerry Jarrett and Don Greene. The match type remained exclusive to Memphis until 1984 when Mid-South Wrestling adopted it for a battle that saw The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express best The Midnight Express.

Two years later, The Midnight Express battled The Road Warriors at Starrcade: Night of the Skywalkers. Until that evening, the Scaffold Match had been a regional attraction, but at Starrcade, it made its debut on a national stage. Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey had experience in their favor, yet still showed a great deal of trepidation. Anytime a duo faced off with the tough-as-nails Road Warriors, it was daunting, but the WWE Hall of Famers made it worse by shaking the scaffold while The Midnight Express climbed the structure before the match got underway.

The four competitors battled in a struggle of power and agility, each trying to push their opponents off the platform. As the contest unraveled, all four grapplers managed to dangle from the support beams under the scaffold. Finally, Hawk and Animal kicked their legs forward into their opponents and forced them to the ground below.

Following the contest, The Road Warriors’ manager Paul Ellering chased The Midnight Express’ manager Jim Cornette to the top of the structure. Panicking on the scaffold, Cornette encountered Animal, who forced the loudmouth to fall perilously to the ring below, resulting in a serious knee injury.

Tommy Dreamer vs. Brian Lee

Tommy Dreamer vs. Brian Lee - Scaffold Match: High Incident 1996

Tommy Dreamer and Brian Lee battle on a scaffold above a plethora of tables.

Arguably the most infamous Scaffold Match in sports-entertainment history occurred at ECW’s High Incident event in 1996.

Throughout much of that year, Tommy Dreamer found himself embroiled in intense battles with his arch nemesis Raven’s bodyguard, Brian Lee. The pair brawled anytime they were in the vicinity of each other and the score would be settled in a Scaffold Match inside the ECW Arena. In true extreme fashion, a new twist was added to this particular battle: a series of tables was stacked up below the scaffold suspended above the ring.

The scaffold, which had been constructed by ECW’s Sandman, rocked back and forth uncontrollably as the two competitors exchanged blows. With the ECW faithful anxiously awaiting the carnage that was certain, the battle — and rivalry — ended when The Extreme Icon delivered a series of punches, knocking Lee off the scaffold and through the stacks of tables below

Shane Douglas & Torrie Wilson vs. Billy Kidman & Madusa

Shane Douglas & Torrie Wilson vs. Kidman & Madusa: Scaffold Match - Fall Brawl 2000

Shane Douglas creates an "Oh My God!" moment when he knocks Billy Kidman from the top of the scaffold at Fall Brawl 2000.

At Fall Brawl 2000, WCW added yet another bizarre twist to the Scaffold Match — two female competitors.

The contest itself is one of sports-entertainment’s riskiest, but the inclusion of Torrie Wilson and Madusa to the mix raised the stakes higher than before. The bitter and personal rivalry between Shane Douglas and Billy Kidman was sparked by Torrie’s allegiance to Douglas, and the highflier recruited Madusa to help him settle the score. At the time, Torrie was not a full-time competitor and showed a great deal of trepidation on the platform. Madusa, however, was a former Women’s Champion and was ready for a fight.

As all four competitors brawled on the scaffold, the dangers of the contest were truly highlighted when Madusa fell from the structure. Seizing the opportunity of two-on-one odds, Torrie helped Douglas fend off Kidman, and then watched as the former Cruiserweight Champion was unceremoniously thrown off the platform to the stage below.

The Midnight Express vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express

The Rock 'n' Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express: Scaffold Match - Starrcade 1987

The storied rivalry between The Rock 'n' Roll Express and The Midnight Express comes to a head during a Scaffold Match at Starrcade 1987.

One year after their battle with The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express ascended the scaffold once more to face The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express at Starrcade 1987. Three years after their first Scaffold Match meeting in Mid-South Wrestling, The Midnight Express — now represented by Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane — sought a better outcome than the loss to Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson in 1984.

As the The Midnight Express climbed the platform, they were hoping the third time was the charm in terms of actually winning a Scaffold Match. This battle was far less one-sided than the match against The Road Warriors as neither duo was able to maintain a clear advantage in the contest.

As the high-stakes bout raged on, Stan Lane made his way under the scaffold, hanging on by the support beams. Morton was able to force Lane crashing to the mat and then joined Gibson in double-teaming Eaton. The combined efforts of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express was too much for Eaton, and once again, The Midnight Express was unsuccessful in a Scaffold Match.

The Fantastics & Steve Simpson vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll RPMs & Eric Embry

The Fantastics & Steve Simpson vs. Rock 'n' Roll RPMs & Eric Embry: Six-Man Scaffold Match - WCCW Parade of Champions May 3, 1987

The Fantastics & Steve Simpson and The Rock 'n' Roll Express RPMs & Eric Embry clash high above the ring at Texas Stadium in a Six-Man Scaffold Match.

Since its inception, the Scaffold Match typically featured either one-on-one competition or a battle between tag teams. At the May 3, 1987, WCCW Parade of Champions event, a new variation was made to the match — six-man action. The Texas supershow featured The Fantastics — Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers — teaming with Steve Simpson against The Rock ‘n’ Roll RPMs — Mike Davis & Tommy Lane — and Eric Embry.

As expected, chaos ensued and each competitor did his best to keep both feet on the platform. The crowd gasped each time one of the six brawlers nearly fell from the scaffold. The battle finally came to an end when Embry tumbled off the scaffold, securing the victory for The Fantastics & Simpson.

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