Extreme Rules showcased some of the best hardcore wrestling seen in the last five years.
CM Punk and Chris Jericho stole the show with a beautifully crafted match that played with the audience's expectations. Their back-and-forth encounter merged the best of traditional technical wrestling with the explosiveness of hardcore action.
A surprisingly well-executed bout between Brock Lesnar and John Cena showed that limited use of weapons can heighten the emotional climax of a match, while Randy Orton and Kane had a falls count anywhere match that brought back the exhilaration of early backstage brawls.
One element missing from the Extreme Rules pay-per-view was the use of weapons to the head.
The crash of chair meeting skull was one of the most spectacular aspects of hardcore wrestling and it allowed the action to flow more naturally. Too often a weapon is driven into the mid-drift of an opponent, only for the wrestler with the weapon to taunt. This leaves the other wrestler, who was struck by the weapon, bent over in the middle of the ring for an unnaturally long time while they wait for the inevitable second attack.
This is not saying that chair shots to the head should be reintroduced. The medical world's awareness of concussions has been greatly illuminated in recent years. The endless damage caused by weapon impacts has too much of a drastic effect on a wrestler's health to be worthwhile.
No wrestler, promoter or wrestling fan wants to go through another Chris Benoit incident.
However, the solution is not to simply ignore the problem. A compromise could and should be found that takes into consideration the risks. Consulting medical advisers to minimise the real impact on the brain while having a move that looks spectacular is the ideal option.
Stuntmen and women across the world make a living from such practices. Their tools of choice are items with deliberately weakened spots so that the force is dissipated on impact. Chris Jericho used false glass in his recent feud with CM Punk which is another trick used in the stunt industry.
These items could be carefully arranged around the ring so not to be noticeable and then brought into play in hardcore encounters. It would open up the possibility of someone picking up a chair and it just falling apart, but that would be the price to pay for action scenes that are more natural.
Another option is finding equipment that has padding on which can be used as weapons. This could be as simple as having a new chair with a gel-lined inner core surrounded by foam.
This would not make the noise of a metal chair but has a significantly lowered impact that should not cause any harm. It would be up to the commentators to proclaim that a thud rather than a clang showed the real force of a shot.
A more complicated solution would be to introduce something new at ringside that was fundamentally soft but could be sold as hard. Polystyrene makes a great sound when broken but the lightness of the material means that only a small amount of force is needed to break it.
Then there are always the old favourite moves that were designated head-shots but never hit the head. Title belts, ladders, even Triple H's infamous sledgehammer are all from this family of safe but devastating looking weapons.
If the WWE chose to introduce these solutions and mixed them with a series of near misses, then the hardcore match could have a second coming.
Plenty of people like to see hardcore bouts as a change of pace match on a card. The WWE must realise that having a change-up in their programming would be a major bonus for a product that has been accused of becoming stale.
The introduction of a safe head-shot is always going to be a controversial subject. Nobody knows what medical discoveries will be found in the future. However, reintroducing the head-shot would add so much to the ability to tell the best wrestling story.
As long as safety precautions are taken, the reintroduction of the head-shot is a must.
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