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With wrestling fans unlikely to be permitted to attend shows anytime soon, the companies that are still producing new content are going to become more interested in outside the box match ideas. WWE has been trying many different aspects to produce matches that are entertaining without the live audiences, some of which have been successful and some have not.
Although it would seem extremely unrealistic for this kind of match to take place in the US, let alone in WWE, now is the perfect time to try and bring back the exploding ring match. A true, major exploding ring match has not taken place since 1997, and most fans are probably unaware of the concept in general, so it would be something new and surprising to viewers.
What is the exploding ring match? It is pretty much exactly as it sounds. There have been a bunch of different variants, but the most basic format is that the match starts with a timer, such as 15 minutes, and at the end of the 15 minutes, the ring explodes. Ideally the explosion looks something like this:
Obviously the ring isn't actually exploding, but the match does involve a lot of danger and risk. If a company like WWE were to do it, they could afford better special effects than some of the Japanese companies that did the match in the past, but basically it is like being really close to a fireworks display. Perhaps most fans are familiar with the concept from Mick Foley's first book, "Have A Nice Day" where he talked about participating in an exploding ring match against Terry Funk, which led to Funk getting burned badly after a misplaced spot.
The match was first popularized by Atushi Onita in the early 1990s and would become his specialty match. Frequently, the final explosion would be at the very end of the match, and there would be "exploding" panels and ropes that would go off if someone was thrown into them, all leading up to the grand explosion when the timer goes off. A great example of this is a match between Onita and Terry Funk, which is featured at the top of this article
Onita and Funk take turns getting tossed into the exploding barbed wire ropes, and as the time expires (complete with the crazy bomb alarm) Onita, after beating Funk, attempts to save Funk by dragging him out of the ring, but he is unable to make it and the ring explodes with both men still inside. Of course, they ended up not being seriously injured because it was all a work, but it is great drama.
Under normal circumstances, this kind of match would never be attempted in WWE. There is a reason no major promotions have attempted to do the match since FMW hosted Onita vs Kintaro Kanemura in 1997, and although smaller promotions like CZW have hosted matches that involved explosions, there hasn't been a true major detonation since 1997. The match involves a ton of security measures, fans need to be further away from the ring and the detonation would likely violate building codes in arenas.
However, the crowd-less wrestling atmosphere has lent itself to the unique opportunity of being able to pull off this kind of match in a company like WWE, or AEW. WWE easily has the resources to produce a visually spectacular match, and they could do it outside at some closed off venue, and could take all of the precautions necessary to make it as safe as possible. Heck, with no live fans in attendance, they could use sensible edits to make it look more spectacular than it really is.
I think this could really help generate some interest, either for RAW or SmackDown or one of the upcoming PPV shows. Viewership for WWE right now is not very good, but if they wanted to create a main event that would get people to tune in, to give them something never seen before in WWE. With enough time and energy, and perhaps a good feud, dedicated to building up the match, I think it would be more interesting than anything else WWE has attempted to do.
It may turn out that the project just isn't feasible for WWE for legal reasons, but I think it is an avenue worth exploring and would be one the most interesting matches WWE has done in years if they were to actually pull it off.