Tools of the Trade
From stop signs to mannequin heads, just about any item you can imagine has made its way into a WWE ring. Here's a look at the most classic tools of destruction, and the lives they led before entering the squared circle.
Also called "Devil's Rope," barbwire (or barbed wire) was invented in the 1860s by New Yorker Michael Kelly to keep cattle off other people's land. It was dubbed Devil's Rope by opponents who thought cows would die from barb wounds. "Cattle generally stayed away," says Harold Hagemeier, author of the Barbed Wire Identification Encyclopedia. "But if a horse gets caught, it will generally hurt itself so bad it could die." That's why, in the tree-scarce West, horses were penned in by wood fences.
Born To Be Wired 08/09/97
With the ring ropes replaced by barbwire, this match was hyped as being "Too Extreme" even by ECW standards. So the only two men truly fit, both mentally and physically, to enter this ring were Sabu and Terry Funk. The bloodbath turned into a blood pool as Sabu tore his bicep, and both men had to be cut from the ramshackle ropes with wire cutters. The sheer brutality of this display has yet to be matched.
The Japanese Kendo fighting stick, Shinai (pronounced "she-nigh"), is made of four strips of bamboo held together by leather straps. "Starting in about the 17th century, Samurai began developing the Shinai to enable a safe training implement that would permit them to mimic the speed of actually fighting," says John Donohue, PhD, author of Complete Kendo.
Hardcore Heaven 08/13/94
In the summer of 1994, the sound of a kendo stick crashing against flesh and bone rung throughout the streets of Philadelphia louder than the Liberty Bell. ECW instituted a bevy of Singapore cane matches, all inspired by American Michael Fay's corporal punishment at the hands of Singaporean authorities. And if you were an ECW wrestler named Tommy (Cairo or Dreamer), that noise heralded the Sandman...and a subsequent ass-whooping.
The step ladder was in use long before Dayton, OH,
carpenter/inventor John H. Balsley was awarded his patent on January 7, 1862. But Balsley is still credited with the innovation, which employed round rungs with steps for increased safety, and hinges for easy folding…and easy maneuvering around a wrestling ring.
No Mercy 10/17/99
There was a time when the managerial services of Terri Runnels were fought over by the Hardys and Edge & Christian. The culmination of the Terri Invitational Tournament saw both teams battle in the first ever Tag Team ladder match, with $100,000 hanging in the balance above the ring. At one point during the match, all four competitors were scaling the ladder. The Hardys prevailed that day, but both teams received standing ovations the following night on Raw for taking the ladder match to new heights.
During World War I, the British Army didn't provide soldiers with a standard issue trench knife, so grunts were forced to buy their own. One of the most popular choices was the Clements Knuckle Knife—a short blade that extended out of what we now call brass knuckles. The blade was designed for hand-to-hand combat, and was especially useful for cutting a Jerry's sauerkraut-filled throat. By World War II, though, Clements ceased production of the blade and began selling just the knuckles. Oddly enough, most wartime knucks were not made of brass, but aluminum.
Royal Rumble 01/20/02
As a southpaw, William Regal's left hand is his most deadly weapon. But sometimes the sinister Brit enjoys sliding on some shiny brass knucks for extra stopping power. Just ask Edge, who lost the Intercontinental title to a brass-knuckled Regal, or any of the dozens of other victims who have succumbed to the bloke's sucker punch.
The thumbtack evolved from the pin; its existence pre-dates history books, and it was originally made of bone. In 1835, John Ireland Howe of New York invented a cost-effective machine to manufacture straight pins, which were used to fasten papers. Then in 1888, Heinrich Sachs improved on the pin with the invention of the thumbtack. Corkboards never saw it coming.
In this Hardcore Rules match for the Intercontinental title, Randy Orton stole a page from Mick Foley's unwritten book when he brought a sack of thumbtacks to the ring. While trying to hit the RKO, Foley ducked and Orton turned himself into a human pincushion as hundred of tacks pierced his back. Orton ultimately won the match—and the respect of hardcore wrestling purists.
"Sledgehammers are the most basic type of striking tool," says Bob Bachta of Vaughan & Bushnell Manufacturing, the world's largest maker of hammers. They were originally used by Vikings to drive large rivets into the ground. Today, in WWE, they're primarily used for destruction. "They have a high impact for demolition and extra weight for power," Bachta says.
Where Triple H goes, so too goes his trusty sledgehammer. Unfortunately for Edge and the reigning WWE Champion John Cena, Mr. Sledge was ringside at this April pay-per-view. "The Game" wasn't able to grab the title, but he would be the last man standing after leveling the referee, then the R-Rated Superstar and, finally, The Champ.
The above article can also be found in the August edition of WWE Magazine. Pick up your copy on newsstands today. Or subscribe to WWE Magazine.