How Does WWE Set Up It's Ring?
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
The video on this topic is featured on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnSauWxvpqA
From A Boxing Ring
Some of the first recorded competitive fights, happened within the simple confines of a chalk or sand circle, crudely strewn on the ground around the combatants.
This is where we derive the name for the modern combat ring.
This tradition continued in many forms around the world, most notably in Japan where beloved Sumo wrestlers fight for pride in one of Japan’s most iconic athletic endeavors.
In 1743 when the London Prize Rig Rules were established, which saw the fighters meeting in a small designated circle to begin the bout.
In 1838 a 24 by 24-foot square ring was first developed by the Pugilistic Society in London and is seen by many as the beginning of the evolution into today’s modern boxing that we see around the world.
This is where the term squared-circle is commonly said to originate. However, some speculate that the phrase ‘squared circle’ comes from Greco-Roman wrestling originally, referring to the construct of the square mat with the combatants fighting inside of a painted or drawn circle.
The Basic Ring
The construction of the modern-day wrestling ring is very much inspired by the sports rings of the past. Take a boxing ring and the two seem almost identical. Some boxing rings vary and have 4 ropes, some of which are connected by another fifth rope, but apart from that – it’s the same thing.
The basic premise for the modern-day wrestling ring consists of a square canvas, foam and wood layered mat, elevated by a steel box construction and stabilised by four metal corner pillars, protected by turnbuckle padding and supported by three concentric ropes either elasticated or made from a cable. The bottom sides of the ring are usually obscured by a skirt or material apron.
While most wrestling companies choose the traditional 4 sided ring for their shows, some have made a name for themselves using six sides of rope – such as TNA, now Impact wrestling with it’s arguably hottest run coming before the company reverted back to four sides in 2010, they even gave it a second run-out from 2014 to 2018. AAA Lucha Libre in Mexico is also known for whipping out the hexagonal bad boy for special events.
Who builds WWE’s rings?
In the case of the world’s most profitable Federation, World Wrestling Entertainment has had the largest market share in wrestling for almost two decades, throughout that entire time, their rings have been made by one man.
Mark Carpenter, The founder of MTJ Manufacturing in Connecticut USA has specialized skills in creating parts for farmers, hardwearing lorry load bearers and most notably WWE’s iconic ring.
“I’m a welder by trade,” Mark Carpenter a man with an almost fitting surname— mentioned during a WWE interview . Carpenter has created more than 50 rings for WWE over the last quarter-century. Everybody slam, piledriver and top rope dive since Wrestlemania 10 has been performed in one of Carpenter’s creations.
“I don’t have a full set of plans anywhere,” Carpenter revealed. “You could reverse engineer it, but only I know how to build one. To have everything laser cut and have the materials in place, it takes about three weeks to build a ring.”
From The WWE Performance Centre in Full Sail, Florida, to the main event of Wrestlemania, the wrestlers learn, evolve and succeed between the turnbuckles welded together by a man dedicated to his passion and driven to improve his craft.
When measured rope to rope the average wrestling ring measures from 16 to 20 feet on each side, Famed 90’s promotions WCW & ECW, for instance, both used an 18-foot ring. World Wrestling Entertainment has used a ring on the larger end of the scale at 20 feet.
Many have commented over the years how when transitioning from other promotions into WWE and it’s an enormous ring, some performers have appeared dwarfed in scale.
And WWE have had their fair share of issues with their decision to use a ring which takes up so much space and is so heavy to transport from show to show.
One of WWE’s long term ring builders, A longstanding WWE veteran who will be recognisable to longterm wrestling fans as a ringside hand and timekeeper in WWE, but who is officially a production manager for the wrestling giant.
Mark Yeaton recalled: “We used to do a tent tour in New England every summer.” “In Rhode Island, we could not use our ring because it was on a round stage that was smaller than our ring. So we’d have to bring in a 16-foot ring. When you watch someone like Sid Vicious who was 6 foot 6, he’d take one step, hit the rope, turn around, take another step and end up on the other side of the ring. You couldn’t do highflying stuff off the ropes, because the lights were so low in these tents.”
Under The Ring
The underneath of the ring is not immune to Yeaton & Carpenter’s innovation: “When I started in 1984, we made the ring to be transported,” Mark Yeaton said.
“It broke down into 10-foot sections. Each piece had four corner poles, four side poles and a spring in the center so we’d make an ‘X.’ Then we’d put the 10-foot beams across, then 10-foot plywood and it fit in a 12-foot cube van truck without a problem. “
The current WWE ring doesn’t utilise springs under the ring like many assume. However, they once did.
“It was the worst thing that could happen to the wrestlers because a spring could bottom out,” Yeaton said. “We don’t have a spring anymore. We had a ring that we kept up in Alaska, and the wrestlers started raving about how nice that ring was. It wasn’t as physically demanding on the body. Vince [McMahon] brought it back down to the continental states, and we used that to build rings that are better for the wrestlers’ bodies.”
Most wrestling companies use some sort of spring or suspension mechanic under the canvas and mats to help absorb some of the impact from a falling or thrown performer.
Wrestling promoters around the world must make a choice when creating their show’s ring. The spring can be looser and softer, creating s much easier landing for the wrestler and absorbing much more of the force, however, the floor of the ring become visually bouncy and some complain of a lack of realism in these circumstances.
The other option is to have a hard, stiff ring that bounces much less but also pushes a lot of the impact back onto the wrestler’s bodies during matches.
Mick Foley said, “Rings built for the WWF before approximately 1998 were particularly "stiff," and one of them contributed to my injury suffered during my Hell in the Cell match against The Undertaker.”
The newest form of ring design uses a specialised beam under the ring, which allows the steel construction which supports the ring to flex upon impact and create an effect where the entire mat can act as a spring, without the ring appearing ‘bouncy’.
The ring’s main designer, Mark Carpenter is solely responsible for the metalwork and construction, focused on making the steel components and strong and versatile as possible, with years of innovation. However, that is not where the construction of the ring ends...
Between The Ropes
Much like its boxing counterpart, the wrestling ring attempts to confine it’s action between a physical perimeter. The 3 sets of concentric ropes that surround the ring and are crucial for momentum when being Irish whipped or bouncing off of the ropes, springboarding through the air.
Some have choked their opponents with the ropes, climbed them to celebrate iconic victories and been tossed over them in some of the most memorable royal rumble moments.
The ring ropes can be a natural fiber, twisted into strong ropes and wrapped in coloured tape the way that WWE have done it for years. However, some prefer the old steel cables covered in rubber hosing, the likes of which are used in many promotions around the world.
“Rope, of course, can break over time if you don’t replace it often enough,” Mark Yeaton explained.
“I remember back in New York when we used to tape three weeks of TV in one night, there was a match with Hulk Hogan where he hit the ropes and the weld on the bottom of the pole snapped. All the ropes went limp and slid down the canvas. We put a bolt in and were able to finish the night of tapings. It’s never happened again, but now we carry a collar around just in case.”
As the nature of wrestling has changed over time, and with the differing needs of athletes between the ropes, the ring posts have needed to be adapted too.
“This is like version five or version six of reinforcement of the corner poles,” Mark Yeaton said
“With the force of hitting the ropes, the poles used to bend like crazy. Now you need two people to pick ‘em up.” “When a big body hits those ropes, it pulls the corner poles continuously and bending them. When I was building the ring, I could carry two poles from the ring truck to the center of the arena without a problem,” Yeaton said. “I can’t even lift one pole up now.”
This goes so far in showing the differences with the modern-day ring improvements. The Posts also now need to support the additional weight of WWE’s use of LED screens for branding and effects around the ring.
Pads & Turnbuckles
The tension of the ring ropes pulled between the posts creates the iconic square ‘ring’ shape. The four corners of the ring are where the ropes are joined to the posts and to one another, leaving otherwise exposed metal links or turnbuckles.
This is where the pads come in. Not only a neat way to advertise your wrestling brand o television and photographs, but crucial to protecting the athletes. The pads and turnbuckle also allow a platform for daredevils to climb up and perform the adrenaline pumping top rope dives, flips and slams.
An Artist's Canvas
Online textile wiki states: “Canvas is an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required, Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, along with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), although historically it was made from hemp.”
The ring uses canvas for it’s, well, canvas. Pulled tight and thin across the entirety of the mat and usually extensively covered in relevant marketing and branding material. WWE even has layers of different branded canvases one on top of another pre-prepared before live television shows, allowing them, for instance, to transition between branding for Smackdown & 205 Live.
The ring floor and mat and approx 3 feet off the arena ground below, allowing a large space under the ring to install speakers and mics so as to allow amplification of the ring noise in an otherwise loud stadium.
Aswell as of course being a place to hide tables, ladders and a whole host of other crazy weaponry and foreign objects to be brought into a match.
This is all hidden by large curtains of material draped from withing the mat and canvas layers, hanging over the outer side of the 4 sides of the ring and allowing for more branding opportunities. In recent years, WWE has used LED boards around 2 or more ides of the ring for further promotion and visual effects.
Constructing The Ring
Mark Yeaton worked on rings for WWE in the USA and around the world for more than 29 years, overseeing many changes in the design and construction of the ring.
On first view, the ring appears to have changed little over time, but very few understand the evolution than Yeaton. Who has referred to the ring as an “ever-evolving entity”.
After the boom of the late ’90s completely re-think the construction and logistics of the ring.
Carpenter explains: “They couldn’t bring the ring to the second floor,” he explained. “It had to go in the freight elevator. We had to design the tube system to come apart and put it together on the second floor. We built that ring specifically for that.”
“I went and took a look at it and designed the new rings,” Carpenter said. “I came up with the structure, the frame, everything that went into that ring.
When the time called for WWE’s first-ever ‘inferno match’ a stipulation which saw the combatants surrounded by a ring of fire, Carpenter was called upon to manufacture a solution as to how best display the flames for most visual impact, whilst also being safe.
“We had to use different poles so they wouldn’t burn and melt away,” Yeaton revealed.
For special events in recent years which have been held in open-air areas, such a Wrestlemania, Carpenter was tasked with the construction of a system that would help warm the wrestlers and performers in the ring, in anticipation for cold temperatures at the MetLife Stadium.
The crew hung large heaters above the ring as to be away from view and allow air to be forced down onto the ring. But his other idea was ingenious.
“The outer frames were the same, but we had to make special poles to bring the heat up,” Carpenter described. “We hooked furnaces into the poles so warm air could blow up and out through holes in the poles.”.
Taking into account large stiff masses and heavy heaving units is second nature to metal worker Mark Carpenter. So allowing precautions to make the ring sound and stable when ham hocks like the big show and Braun Strowman collide.
Even more steps are taken when the ring is set to be put under additional stress, such as in multi-man matches, the Royal Rumble and large battle royals sometimes holding up to 40 men.
“We use the same thing, but shore it up. A regular ring is put together with 12 beams — four crossbeams and eight beams on top of that and then the boards on top,” Yeaton explained.
“If we know we’re going to have a 40-Man Battle Royal, we’d add more beams underneath and above. If we don’t want any bounce to the ring, we put jacks underneath some of the beams and shore it to the ground, like a jack under a car.”
The same crew has worked behind the scene of WWE production for years, overseen by Vincent Mcmahon.
In 30 years, on-screen we’ve gone from the wild Samoans eating roast chicken on their way to the ring, to Roman Reigns proudly showing his heritage whilst being a key figure at the top of the wrestling card.
And women going from bra and panties matches and 1-minute segments amounting to little more than teenage titillation, to modern women’s wrestling main eventing and leading the way.
The ring however in the most part looks the same, reacts the same and sounds the same.
But when you look deeper you can gain a better understanding that has gone into the evolution of the wrestling ring, the hard work, and joy that has gone into them…
“I enjoy it. The rings are in Europe, they’re in Japan, five rings had to be sent to South America to move through customs fast enough,” Carpenter said. “It’s great to have the rings around the world.”
The video on this topic is featured on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnSauWxvpqA