Best, Worst Uses of Kendo Stick in WWE History Ahead of Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterMay 16, 2017

Credit: WWE.com

With hate in their hearts, Alexa Bliss and Bayley will continue a WWE tradition of bashing each other with kendo sticks. 

The bamboo weapon used in the martial art of kendo has long been a part of WWE lore. The sticks lay under wrestling rings, waiting to be pulled out and broken against some poor soul's torso.

They have been a favorite of Extreme Championship Wrestling icon Tommy Dreamer, a tool used in silly gimmick matches and the generator of great drama.

Raw women's champ Bliss and the woman she beat for the title will soon have a chance to create more kendo stick-centered history. Raw general manager Kurt Angle booked a Kendo Stick on a Pole match between them for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view on June 4.

This followed The Wicked Witch nailing Bayley with a kendo stick on Monday's Raw.

Going this route for Extreme Rules is a cop-out. The fact that the bout's signature weapon will be hanging on a pole, for the most part, allows WWE to sell this as "extreme" when we're likely to only get a brief violent visual involving the kendo stick.

When used well, that bamboo instrument has been a means to create awe via barbarity.

ECW popularized the kendo stick in wrestling during a rivalry between Sandman and Dreamer, where the two rivals clashed in a Singapore Cane match. Dreamer's loss that night in 1994 meant that he had to take 10 lashes with the cane by Sandman's hands. In true badass fashion, Dreamer took the punishment with no issue and urged his enemy to hit him an extra time afterward. 

WWE later adopted the use of the kendo stick for its own world, sometimes hearkening back to the drama of Dreamer's moment and sometimes falling on its face.

Worst: Limited Use

The kendo stick is at its best as an all-or-nothing element.

Sprinkling it into a match makes it seem trivial. If it's not a major part of the collision where someone jabs into someone's eye, throttles someone red with it or tries to choke his enemy with it, it's not being used to its full effect.

A showdown between Dreamer and Brock Lesnar on Raw in 2002 surprisingly made minimal use of the kendo stick despite being a Singapore Cane match.

Tommy Dreamer winds up to hit Brock Lesnar with a kendo stick on Raw.
Tommy Dreamer winds up to hit Brock Lesnar with a kendo stick on Raw.Credit: WWE.com

Lesnar never once used the weapon. At one point, he picked it up and flung it aside. The story WWE tried to tell was that the beast didn't need the stick.

The logic is understandable, but someone actively not using an item that a match is built around isn't a recipe for excitement.

That's the danger with the Bliss vs. Bayley stipulation. The weapon will hang from a pole for the majority of the match. It will be a normal, everyday bout with an ominous item swinging in the background.

Then when one of the women retrieves it, they will presumably smack their rival around with it.

But that will be it. No multiple spots with it. No revenge moments where the victim turns into the attacker.  

Bliss and Bayley will have to cram all the violence of a Street Fight or Singapore Cane match into a single moment.

Best: An Addition to One's Identity 

At times, the bamboo weapon has been a regular sidearm for WWE stars.

Dreamer brought the kendo stick with him from ECW and used it regularly. It was often his instrument of choice, something that to this day is associated with him.

And WWE often booked him in Singapore Cane matches to highlight his ties to the weapon. In addition to his bout with Lesnar in 2002, Dreamer fought in that same kind of clash against D-Lo Brown, Al Snow and Stevie Richards. The gimmick bout came to be for Dreamer what the Casket match was for Undertaker. 

Dreamer inserted kendo sticks into a number of other battles as well.

When he, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz took on The Wyatt Family at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2015, for example, The Innovator of Violence and his allies not surprisingly whipped out kendo sticks during the fracas.

The frequent sight of the infamous stick in Dreamer's hands was not only a callback to his famous beating in ECW, but a way to indicate how tough and gritty of a performer he was.

For Steve Blackman, the sight of a kendo stick in his hand was commonplace.

The weapon played up his martial arts background. It added to his dangerous aura. It was a lot easier to sell him as The Lethal Weapon as he wielded the bamboo implement.

The kendo stick became a key part of his gimmick, much as the two-by-four was key to the Hacksaw Jim Duggan character.

Worst: A Joke Prop

Inserting the kendo stick into a gimmicky comedy match sends mixed signals.

Is it a dangerous, punishing weapon? Is it a fun prop that's part of a goofy showdown? It's hard to tell when WWE mixes the Extreme Rules match with a series of holiday-themed sight gags.

In recent years, WWE has made a habit of tossing two rivals into Street Fights complete with Christmas items in December or Halloween decorations in October. When a kendo stick is wrapped up to look like a candy cane, as it was when Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt clashed on Raw in 2014, it's hard to take the violence it inflicts seriously.

Ambrose and Wyatt hit each other with Christmas trees and wrapped gifts during the Miracle on 34th Street Fight. When it came time to crack a kendo stick against each other's bodies, the tone of the bout was well into campy territory. 

The Halloween Trick or Street Fight has become a tradition of sorts. WWE has pitted Superstars against each other in a Dublin Street Fight and a Broadway Brawl. Eventually, the kendo sticks come into play and they are inevitably dressed up to fit the match's theme.

That route undermines the seriousness of getting whacked with one of those things.

A man hitting another man with a candy corn kendo stick doesn't create pathos. Instead, these moments feel like live-action versions of a Tom and Jerry cartoon that need a laugh track to go with them.

Best: Emotional Lightning Rod

As we saw when Sandman thrashed Dreamer back in 1994, the kendo stick can be a powerful, dramatic tool.

There is something visceral and unsettling about a human being thrashing another with a stick. The loud cracking sound it emits and the welts it leaves behind help add to the moment.

But the kendo stick is put to its best use when it is more than a means to violence and it's a way to create emotion in a match. 

WWE fans saw a perfect example of that in 2013 during CM Punk's rivalry with his former manager, Paul Heyman. After Punk fought his way through Heyman's crony, Curtis Axel, he was supposed to get a crack at the man who betrayed him. Instead, Axel bound him up as Heyman beat him like a pinata. 

The advocate's anger, sadness and frustration all erupted through those kendo stick strikes. "I loved you! I martyred myself for you! I fathered you!" Heyman screamed.

Had Heyman being tagging Punk with right hands, that scene wouldn't have been half as moving. A steel chair in his hand may have been too much. The kendo stick ended up being the perfect weapon, an extension of his mercilessness, as he left Punk's chest reddened.

A year later, Roman Reigns found himself in a similar spot to Punk.

During a match between The Shield and Evolution at Payback 2014, the heels ganged up on Reigns. They stripped off his vest and laid him out on the ring steps in the center of the ring. Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton took turns whipping him with a kendo stick.

Evolution attacks Roman Reigns at Payback 2014.
Evolution attacks Roman Reigns at Payback 2014.Credit: WWE.com

The attack left red marks across his back.

This was a smart way to create sympathy for Reigns, making him look tough as all hell in the process. It provided the bout with one of its most stunning visuals, as well.

The level of emotion Evolution's beatdown of Reigns created should be the measuring stick for similar moments.

WWE isn't likely to let Bliss and Bayley inflict that kind of brutality on each other, though. The kendo stick will be introduced late in the fight, for one. And even during the women's revolution, there remains a gap in the ceiling for violence in men and women's matches.

Bliss and Bayley will have to create their drama under less savage conditions.

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