WWE and the Lost Art of the 60-Minute Time Limit Draw
WWE fans once watched as two masters of their craft wrestled for 60 minutes, two actors using the ring as their stage, but it's a tradition that has been largely abandoned.
Hour-long matches in WWE have gone the way of the radio drama.
Pro wrestling has changed dramatically since the days of Bruno Sammartino and Giant Baba battling for an hour in 1967. Today's matches rarely go anywhere near that long and the draw has seemingly been left out of WWE's playbook.
Ric Flair earned his "60-Minute Man" nickname via the hour-long draw. He worked a multitude of them over the years. Bob Backlund, Harley Race, Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales all have a number of these matches on their resumes.
Sammartino's lengthy battle with Giant Baba, while slow in spots, still managed to rile up the crowd.
Today, episodes of Raw and SmackDown feature matches that sometimes that go for less than five minutes. The hour-long stalemate is a thing of the past, at least with WWE. Ring of Honor and Japanese promotions have kept the tradition alive.
Worth the Time?
Is the hour-long draw dead because our attention-span has shrunk?
We've gone from reading 800-page tomes like Anna Karenina to reading blogs and magazines. Instant gratification is available through our smartphone.
WWE may question if modern fans have the patience to watch a story unfold over such a long stretch of time. Would Bob Backlund and Greg Valentine's 1979 match get a "Boring! Boring!" chant today?
How would fans react to not having a winner after investing 60 minutes?
While not satisfying in the way that a clean finish is, a draw is an excellent way to make sure both wrestlers look great at the end of it. Neither man has to lose. In the end, both competitors proved how difficult it was to defeat them.
This kind of match can't be used as the capper of a feud, but certainly helps keep a rivalry moving forward.
The fans are meant to feel that their favorite would have won had the match gone on just a minute longer. It delays the resolution of a storyline. It makes the payoff that much more rewarding as well.
Sometimes a tease builds to a better climax.
This Ric Flair and Barry Windham match from 1986 shows just how much a hard-fought draw can make fans only want to see more.
With Raw being three hours and WWE's weekly programming seemingly growing every year, there is available time to insert a marathon match into the mix every once in a while.
The question is who among today's roster could actually perform well in a match of this length?
It requires not only a stock of endurance but the ability to keep fans entertained in a match going for a full hour. A guy like Ryback would struggle in that format. He just doesn’t have a big enough variety of moves to keep a crowd interested for that long.
How many meat-hook clotheslines can a match have before it becomes boring?
As difficult as the task is, there are a handful of guys who could pull it off.
Antonio Cesaro's varied move set, CM Punk's in-ring storytelling ability and Daniel Bryan's technical wizardry make those three men the best candidates to bring back the art form. All three are gifted both in the acting element of matches as well as the wrestling side of things.
Punk has already proven that he's adept at the art form.
He's fought Samoa Joe (twice) and Christopher Daniels in hour-long draws while still working for Ring of Honor. Seth Rollins (then Tyler Black) vs. Austin Aries in 2009 had no winner after an hour either.
Extinct or Dormant?
WWE isn't likely to dust off the marathon draws of yesteryear, though.
Their length leaves wrestlers susceptible to more injury. WWE also has a hard enough time cramming all their narratives into a single show.
This kind of match requires a big commitment to two guys and there's no guarantee that casual fans and kids will stick around for the whole thing.
Maybe things have changed too much. Maybe the world is just too fast-paced now. The 60-minute draw could just be casualty of modernization.
Should WWE ever decide to revisit its past, the equivalent of a wrestling novel is a stunning art form when done at a high level. Radio dramas are apparently making a comeback, so perhaps anything is possible.
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