No weapon in WWE history is more iconic than the steel chair.
This object’s majesty comes from the fact that it is light enough for anyone on the roster to wield, yet still looks terrifyingly dangerous whoever uses it. The chair’s simplicity allows the weapon to go from vicious punisher to righteous equalizer as the item moves between the different hands in the ring.
It’s ubiquitous presence around the ring means that it is also the first weapon to be used on most occasions. The folding metal chair will always be a huge part of the WWE and any wrestling promotion.
This may seem odd as the opening of this article has extolled the chair as an iconic weapon. But the safety changes made back in 2010—when the WWE banned direct head shots on health advice—has limited the way the object can be used.
No one should doubt that head strikes were rightfully banned. The health of the Superstars—both now and in the future—should be a high priority for the company and fans alike. But the unfortunate side effects of the ban cannot be denied.
Typically, a chair match will see one competitor use the end of a chair to strike the second, his opponent, in the stomach. The second competitor will then double over, and their opponent will take the opportunity to drive the chair down onto the second wrestler’s back repeatedly until the competitor is on the ground. The back strikes will only stop when the floored opponent stops moving, or escapes.
In a second circumstance, the Superstar with the chair may follow the retreating wrestler and land another strike to the back, and the previous cycle to the downed opponent will continue again.
This is fine in a one-off situation—as a way to increase the intensity between two rivals, for instance—but the weapon has such limited usage now it becomes stale when isolated in a match.
There are only so many times someone can be hit in the belly and then wailed upon before even the most dedicated fan starts to question why either wrestler has not thought of a dozen ways to avoid that attack. Sometimes the chair will be wedged in the ring ropes so someone can be thrown into one, but this is not enough to make the gimmick interesting.
Frankly, the monotony caused by the limited ways a chair can be used forces the viewer to recognize the scripted nature of the wrestling.
It's funny that Sheamus and Big Show could be the perfect combination to give the chair match a great send-off in this era. Both men have plenty of power moves that can be used as reversals against the typical chair strike, and this should hopefully add more variation than can be normally expected.
This article should not be mistaken as a call for chairs not to be used in hard-core wrestling.
The weapon is a great way to transition from one big spot to another, and used skillfully can hide any preparations needed for those highlight moments to happen. The chair’s lightness also makes it one of the quicker weapons available to a Superstar, so it is the perfect item to use to switch the momentum in a match.
Yet there is no hiding the fact that the chair is now limited when made the only weapon available. Head shots were banned for the safety of the competitors as their health has to be paramount. But as a consequence, it has to be accepted that chair matches needs to be retired.