Look, I get it: steel cage matches are staple of all things extreme wrestling. The dramatic leaps, unrelenting grasp of chain link, a sense of hopelessness that comes with seemingly no escape. Some of the greatest moments in wrestling history took place inside the steel cage, to include title changes, stunning heel turns, and – of course – the incredible crashes to what waited below just outside the cage.
With all the brilliance of the steel cage, it’s incredible – however – how much better this match genre can be. Let’s explore 10 overdue changes:
- Time Limits – Nothing creates a sense of desperation better than, well, desperation. After the fifth failed attempt to climb a cage at snail’s pace, the eventual awkward stumble out of the suddenly opened gate is anti-climactic. 30 minutes sounds about right.
- Corner Cameras – We’ve got 4K TVs and VR, yet it dawns on NO ONE to put cameras at top corners of the steel cage. Endlessly squinting through chain link for visibility’s sake in 2017 is, well, shameful. Also consider a drone.
- Outside Interference – Anyone who wants in…should be able to do so; brave souls dumb enough to climb over and inside creates instant magic and chaos. Imagine the insanity when a would-be 1-on-1 match is now a 6-person battle royale inside a cage?!
- Fix the Damn Door – Decades later, and it’s still a ‘house rule’ when and why the front door opens. Plus, there’s nothing the slightest bit scary about climbing through the front door of anything. Have an inside latch on the opposite corner of the ring, inside the cage, to release it. Risk vs. reward if opponent beats you out.
- Guest Referees – No better format than a steel cage to let a guest ref flex his/her literal muscle. If you’re brave enough to step into a steel cage, you should be equally courageous to pay the price of the physical quotient.
- Mix Up Materials – We all know the cage really isn’t steel…or a very thin version of it, at best. How about portions of it being wood? Barbed wire? On fire?!! The possibilities are near-endless. Somewhere Terry Funk is crying tears of joy.
- Stop Pinning People – For the life of me, I can’t fathom why steel cage matches produce endless attempts to pin opponents in the middle of the ring. You know the rules, you’re in a giant damn cage, yet someone is attempting a school boy roll-up. Oy.
- When in Rome – Echoing point 7, know the environment. You’re in a cage. It’s small. It can be climbed. It hurts when tossed into. Nevertheless, many wrestlers execute the same movesets as if working a traditional dark match. That headscissors…not so useful.
- Dress the Part – A bloody, battle to the death inside an unforgiving cage…and many show up in flashy pants, feathers, and pristine boots. You want to sell the chaos? How about matching prison jumpsuits? Work boots. Dirty shirts. Grrrrrrr.
- Make them Mean Something – Anything short of a true grudge and/or champion match should not result in a steel cage booking. Locking combatants in a no escape, work out your differences inside setting should be just that. I’m dreading the day we end up with a Halloween themed steel cage match featuring pumpkin turnbuckles and bobbing for apples as ring implements.
Good suggestions for improving the genre but it’s still the genre. To us steel cage and hardcore wrestling are outdated gimmicks that detract from what we came to see: Athleticism and Art.
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As always, WP, insightful and poignant perspective. But what about others who legitimately see risking bodily harm as said art form? The symbiosis of risk: reward between athlete and audience?
Hmmm…a lifetime of hepatitis in exchange for gas money and the chance to sell a couple T shirts? Not worth it.