If Sheamus and Mark Henry need a blueprint for a classic strap match, the Extreme Rules 2013 opponents need to study Sting vs. Vader at WCW SuperBrawl III.
That bloody, intense war was the most engrossing strap match that has ever been wrestled. Vader and Sting set the bar in 1993 and no one has been able to surpass them.
It was a well-hyped match that even had its own T-shirt.
It was during this match that the strap stipulation felt the most ominous. Sting, the valiant fan favorite, had to be tied to the monstrous Vader for an entire match. As Jesse Ventura said as the match began, "The strap changes everything. Nowhere to run."
The Asheville crowd watched as the underdog tried to vanquish the masked beast.
To win, one man must reach all four corners, dragging his opponent along and touching either each turnbuckle or ring post. It's a stipulation that favors the larger man, the one more likely to drag the other—and that's why Vader chose it.
In the match's opening moments, WCW champ Vader dominated Sting in their non-title match.
He tossed him around and chuckled. He drove his elbow into Sting's sternum. He pounced from the top rope and crashed down onto him.
Eventually, Sting gathered some momentum. Every bit of offense that Sting delivered caused the crowd to explode. They wanted so badly to see David defeat Goliath, for good to conquer evil regardless of its immensity.
The strap came into play in a most vicious fashion when Sting began to whip Vader's back. The big man's skin grew bright red and he began to ooze blood onto the straps of his ring gear.
The two men fought on until both were staggered and drained.
When Vader gained the advantage, he choked Sting with the strap, drove forearms into his head and clubbed him like a bear toying with his prey.
The size difference between Sheamus and Henry isn't as pronounced as it was between Vader and Sting. Still, the two WWE rivals can emulate how intense and personal this bout was as well as how it used a grinding pace to drag the drama along to the climax.
The strap was no mere prop; it was an instrument of theater.
Sting yanked Vader down from the top rope with it. Vader almost made his way to the four corners, but Sting wrapped his legs around the bottom rope and clutched that strap like a lifeline.
The enemies smeared blood on the mat and had the crowd sliding to the edge of their seats.
The match finally ended when Vader and Sting fought in a tug-of-war of sorts, with Vader struggling to get to the fourth corner and Sting desperately clutching the ring rope. Sting managed to kick Vader off him, but it caused Vader to fall in the corner for the win.
Vader and Sting is the magnum opus of strap matches.
If Sheamus and Henry generate a quarter of the excitement that Sting and Vader did at SuperBrawl III, WWE fans will be thrilled. Their goal at Extreme Rules should be to extract as much emotion from the welts, asphyxiation and dragged bodies of the strap match as champion and challenger did over 20 years ago.