Matches that didn't take place in a ring
Maybe it was the Ganryujima Island Death Match that did it.
In 1987, WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki fought Japanese wrestling legend Masa Saito for more than two hours through the tall grass and rocky beaches of a deserted isle. By all accounts, the bout wasn’t very good (Turns out boring matches are boring no matter where they’re held). But it was so bizarre that wrestling fans couldn’t stop talking about it. Suddenly, the matches that had been confined to rings in arenas and armories for decades were free to go anywhere.
Since then, Superstars and Divas have settled scores in junkyards, swimming pools filled with pudding and, on at least one occasion, a Canadian man’s basement. Here, WWE Classics steps outside of the squared circle to look at seven of these unique bouts that did not take place in a ring. Ropes? Where we’re going, we don’t need ropes. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Owen Hart vs. Ken Shamrock — Dungeon Match: Fully Loaded: In Your House, July 26, 1998
It doesn’t look like much in photographs — just some dusty floor mats, old wood paneling and a few rusted weights — but the corner room in Stu Hart’s basement is as integral a part of wrestling history as New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Dubbed “The Dungeon” by those who were able to walk out of it, this humid little gym in the Hart family mansion was the training ground of Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and countless other ring greats who learned the dangerous techniques of mat wrestling at the powerful hands of the grizzled vet.
The infamous Dungeon played host to its only televised match in July 1998 when Owen Hart battled his rival Ken Shamrock in a Submission Match with fighting champion Dan Severn serving as guest referee. A unique and physical battle, the bout saw both competitors using the solid walls and stiff floors to their advantage as they walloped each other’s heads against the unforgiving structure. In the end, though, it was the underhanded Owen who persevered after clobbering Shamrock with a dumbbell.
Mankind vs. Undertaker — Boiler Room Brawl: SummerSlam, Aug. 18, 1996
Before he adopted the goofy charm of a lovable uncle, Mankind was the type of creep who would hang out in the basements of arenas and carry on conversations with a rat he named George. It was down in the bowels where the deranged Superstar developed his signature match — the Boiler Room Brawl.
A physical, no holds barred fight that favored Mankind’s ruthless style, the bout’s sole objective was to escape, as the first Superstar who made it out of the cellar would be declared the winner. Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy faced Undertaker, Big Show and Triple H in the four Boiler Room Brawls in WWE history, winning two. Not to be outdone, WCW debuted its own version of the bout, which they dubbed “The Block.” Only, instead of the legendary Mick Foley, hirsute kung fu master Jerry Flynn was the man lurking in the concrete dungeon. ( PHOTOS)
Eddie Guerrero vs. John Cena — Parking Lot Brawl: SmackDown, Sept. 11, 2003
Truth be told, William Regal and Finlay did it first. The tough rivals bashed each other — and more than a few windshields — in a parking lot in Albany, Ga., on WCW’s Nitro on April 29, 1996. Seven years later, it was John Cena versus Eddie Guerrero in the bowels of an arena in Birmingham, Ala. The match was an important one for Cena. He already proved that he was cool and cocky. That night, surrounded by nothing but concrete and steel, he faced one of wrestling’s greats and proved that he had guts — even after getting his head slammed in a car door. ( WATCH)
The West Newbury, Mass., native returned to the parking lot against JBL at The Great American Bash 2008. Even more physical than his run-in with Latino Heat, the encounter saw Cena nearly burned alive by the Superstar from Wall Street before being flung off the entrance ramp and through a windshield. ( WATCH) Cena lost both brawls, but he was a tougher man for it.
The Demon vs. Vampiro — Graveyard Match: Bash at the Beach, July 9, 2000
If sports-entertainment didn’t consistently manage to skirt around the legal system, Vampiro would have been jailed a long time ago. Arson, kidnapping and aggravated assault are just a few of the charges you could level against the ghoulish competitor who once set Sting on fire and threw him off a balcony. Screen his Graveyard Match against The Demon from WCW’s Bash at the Beach 2000 in a court of law and Vampiro would be sent away for a long time.
Probably the only match in sports-entertainment history to feature a competitor brandishing a flaming sword, the bout began in a graveyard somewhere near Daytona Beach, Fla.'s Ocean Center and could only be won when a competitor escaped the cemetery and made it all the way to the arena. Whether or not the ensuing match was any good was hard to call as the two rivals battled in total darkness with only the referee’s flashlight providing illumination. The brutality of the ending was easy to see, though, as Vampiro bashed a cement block over The Demon’s head before burying him alive in a casket. Where were the police in all of this?
Ken Shamrock vs. Steve Blackman — Lion's Den Match: SummerSlam, Aug. 30, 1999
Long before Brock Lesnar punched his way to the top of MMA, there was Ken Shamrock.
An unpredictable and highly skilled fighting machine, Shamrock had earned the moniker of “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” for his unique ability to turn the world’s scariest men into quivering pacifists. These talents made him an Intercontinental Champion and King of the Ring in WWE, but Shamrock was always at his most destructive inside his home — The Lion’s Den.
The same type of gated enclosure seen in the world of professional mixed martial arts, The Lion’s Den played host to three Shamrock matches — against Owen Hart at SummerSlam ’98, Steve Blackman at SummerSlam ’99 ( WATCH) and an often forgotten Raw bout against Mr. McMahon. In all three contests, a competitor could only win by knockout or submission.
So who is the only person to defeat “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” in this wicked environment? The Chairman, of course. But that was only after Jeff Jarrett waffled Shamrock with a steel chair.
Dustin Rhodes vs. Blacktop Bully — King of the Road Match: Uncensored, March 19, 1995
The first match of the inaugural Uncensored was also one of the most unique. This bout set the tone for the type of out-of-the-ordinary contests Uncensored would host. In 1995, Dustin Rhodes battled Blacktop Bully in a King of the Road Match that took place on the back of a tractor-trailer.
The trailer on the large 18-wheeler was enclosed with livestock wire and steel fencing and filled with bales of hay and weapons such as shovels and pieces of a large wooden fence. The first competitor to climb to the top of the “cage” and sound the truck’s horn would be declared the winner. The two brawled as the truck sped down a country road, but ultimately it was Blacktop Bully who claimed victory. Although the match was unsanctioned by the WCW Board of Directors, it was deemed too brutal by any WCW standards and both Dustin Rhodes and Blacktop Bully were fired from the company.
Junkyard Invitational: WCW Bash at the Beach, July 11, 1999
Blame it on ECW. In the years after the outlaw Philadelphia promotion popularized the hardcore style of wresting in North America, an epidemic of over-the-top, freewheeling rumbles infiltrated the sports-entertainment genre. There were slugfests on the banks of the Mississippi River, brawls on airport carousels and this forgotten debacle from WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1999 where 14 guys fought in an actual junkyard.
Curiously dubbed a Junkyard Invitational (Were there actual invitations? Did the competitors have to RSVP?), the bout’s rules were simple — the first man to escape the maze of tetanus-covered steel and rusted metal won WCW’s Hardcore Trophy. To do so, the roughnecks engaged in a litany of reckless, criminal activity, including Jerry Flynn electrocuting luchador Silver King with jumper cables and Hak stuffing Finlay in the trunk of a taxi and then attempting to crush it with a compactor.
Commentator Bobby Heenan summed the melee up by saying, “Only here in WCW are you going to see something like this.” That’s a good thing.