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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Four sides or six? It actually does make a difference

Here are two topics you don’t see combined too often: Professional wrestling and geometry.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the wrestling community since Hulk Hogan banished TNA’s signature six-sided ring and replaced it with a standard four-sided wrestling at Sunday’s Genesis pay-per-view. While some TNA officials, including Hogan and color commentator Taz, both praised the change as a welcome “back-to-basics” move, other TNA loyalists had become quite attached to the six-sided ring, which they saw as a symbol of TNA’s distinctiveness. Many of the latter group of fans made their preference quite clear as they chanted “We want six-sides!” at the start of the pay-per-view.

The majority of wrestling fans likely fall into a third category – those who don’t really care one way or another what shape TNA’s ring is. They believe the company is wasting time and energy spending more than a second addressing the matter – especially when so much else needs fixing. Those fans would argue that, other than aesthetic appeal, there is no significant difference between a square ring and a hexagonal one.

But I beg to differ. While I agree that the six-sided ring did serve to set TNA apart from WWE – if only in a largely shallow way – I applaud Hogan and company for making the change back to a standard-issue, four-sided ring. Besides the fact that they simply look right, wrestling rings have historically had four sides for several reasons. Here are a few of them:

. A four sided ring has more space: Take a couple of slices of hard salami, some pepperjack cheese, and honey maple turkey, put them between two slices of white bread, and you’ve got quite the appetizing lunch. Now, take your knife and cut off each of the four corners. Indeed, the length of the sandwich from the top to the bottom, and from the left side to the right would all remain the same. But the perimeter is quite a bit smaller. In other words, you’d have considerably less sandwich to eat. It’s simple geometry. While the distance between opposite sides on the six-sided ring may be the same as in a four-sided ring, overall wrestlers have lost square footage in their workspace. If you believe otherwise, I’d encourage you to attend a live TNA event. You’d be surprised how small the ring looks up close.

. A four-sided ring has right angles: My fifth grade teacher Ms. Youngs would be so proud of me for what I am about to write. You see, as a square, a standard wrestling ring has four 90-degree angles. However, an equilateral hexagon, as TNA’s six-sided ring was, has six angles of 120 degrees each. While that may mean little to you, right angles actually serve several purposes within a wrestling match. For one, they allow wrestlers to plant there feet in a more natural forward-facing position when standing on the top rope – giving them firmer footing when executing high-risk maneuvers. Right angles are also effective tools for inflicting punishment. Ramming your opponent back-first into a sharp, 90-degree angle during a ringside brawl could do considerably more damage than a wider 120-degree angle.

. A four-sided ring keeps wrestlers further away from the ropes: Nothing takes the suspense out of a potentially perilous submission hold like having the ring ropes just a few inches away – almost ensuring that the wrestler in danger will reach the ropes, and force the referee to break the hold. In a standard ring, a wrestler –in-peril can hope to be within reach of one of four sides. In a six-sided ring, he’s got a 50-percent better chance of forcing a break – making submission moves considerably less suspenseful.

. A four-sided ring allows fans to be closer to the action: While TNA officials may have had no problem in laying out the Impact Zone so fans would be seated facing each of the ring’s six sides, such a layout can present a challenge in most other arenas. And so, while TNA’s ring may have had six sides, ringside fans were routinely seated on four sides. That means that fans seated near the corners would be considerably further away from the ring than fans seated in the middle of the rows. And I bet there tickets weren’t any cheaper.

If I racked my brain out, I could probably think of other reasons to favor a traditional four-sided wrestling ring over TNA’s experimental six-sided one. And, of course, reasonable people could probably find some benefits of keeping the hexagon. Chief among them would be that TNA’s will likely now have to scrap some of the infrastructure that was especially built for the six-sided ring, including its steel cages.

But, I for one, am a firm believer in the old adage about not fixing something that ain’t broke. It’s called the “squared circle” for a reason.

- Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer


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Anonymous said...

I always found the six sided ring to be distracting. As an old school fan, I found it to be very gimmicky. The change may allow new TNA viewers to take the brand more seriously. This is a smart move by Hogan. Hall, Waltman, Nasty Boys; not so much.

Anonymous said...

you know that pro wrestling is fake, right?