The View From Down Here – Suspension Of Disbelief

Columns, Top Story



Night of Champions has been and gone, but I wrote this BEFORE the PPV, so, here you go…


One of the many jobs I’ve had over my time has been as a school teacher. In this capacity I taught all subjects, but had a special love of English and Science. And in science I used professional wrestling to explain basic physics concepts. The title of the series of lessons was “Why doesn’t wrestling hurt as much as they say it does?” Now, I didn’t say it doesn’t hurt. And as part of PE, to tie in with the science lessons, I taught some basic bumping. I also brought in one of my fellow wrestlers and we wrestled in front of the students. (Under Australia’s new national curriculum, this sort of lesson is no longer allowed, for what it’s worth, because making school interesting is apparently not what the education departments want.)


The most common comment I got, though, was along the lines of, “Now I can’t watch wrestling properly any more!” (Or in the case of one young lady, “Now my brother can’t watch wrestling any more.” You see, what she did was go home, watch wrestling with her little brother and tell him why some of the moves were rubbish. Yes, using school and physics to annoy your little brother – there’s something special in that.) I did explain that to watch wrestling as sports entertainment meant that they could still enjoy it, but I think they enjoyed it on a totally different level. I think I turned them all into “Smarks”.


So that brings us to this fortnight’s column. Here is a list of some of the things wrestlers do that leave people with even a basic knowledge of physics scratching their heads going, “Really? I mean, really?” And yet we, as wrestling fans, just look at them and go, “Oh well, that’s just wrestling. Looks cool, though!” So, at the risk of offending the “it’s all real to me, dammit!” demographic, here goes…


Oh, one last thing before I begin, I’m not going to look at things here like Jeff Jarrett’s stroke, which, technically, should deliver the same damage to both the giver and the givee even without looking at the physics because Jarrett propels his opponent face first at the mat while also propelling himself face first at the mat. That’s not physics – that’s common sense. Or a lack thereof. This involves suspending belief in the rules of physics.


(1) Going through a table makes a move more damaging.
We’ve all seen it. Some big powerful brute of a man wants to make a statement, and so he powerbombs some one They lie there for a little while and then slowly get up, knowing this guy means business. But then he powerbombs the guy through a table and the guy does not get up, because going through a table has made it that much worse. It’s what the Dudley Boys (Devon & Bubba-Ray… or whatever names they have this week) have built a career on. Tables add that element of danger to a wrestling move. And, by Gawd, it looks cool.

So, why is it crap?

The table is actually a good thing to be landing on. There is a reason why Mick Foley went through a table from the top of the Cell and did not just land straight down on the concrete. You see, when you hit the floor, the majority of your momentum and kinetic energy is transferred to you all at once in a split second. The deceleration is huge because it acts over this small time (final velocity subtract initial velocity, all divided by time), and force equals mass times acceleration (deceleration). And this equals: Ouch. However, throw a table in and two things happen. One, it slows the final velocity without stopping the person going through it. Two, the table then acts as a part of the person falling, because it falls with them. This does mean mass increases, but also that the area over which the force is acting increases, so force per square metre decreases. So, yeah, I’d prefer to go through a table.


(2) Adding a twist makes a move more dangerous.
All right, so you can do a moonsault. You stand there and hurl yourself backwards, using rotational momentum and your own bodyweight to land on your opponent and crush the air out of him, stunning him long enough to get the pin. You know, having been hit by a few nice moonsaults, I can believe that. And, yes, it can hurt more than a splash, especially by a skinny guy. But if you *really* want to hurt some one, you need to throw a twist into it. Not only does it look more impressive, it must hurt one hell of a lot more. Because it’s got twists in it, dammit!

So, why is this crap?

Well, where to start? When you hit a moonsault, it is essentially the Force thing again – mass times acceleration. But the acceleration is not only linear, but also rotational (the arc effect of the moonsault part). This rotation is in the direction of the desired force – towards the opponent. Now add a twist. More rotational velocity, right? Well, yes, but in the wrong direction. In fact, it is perpendicular to the direction of the force you want. It really adds nothing. Sorry. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good. Because it does.


(3) A vertical suplex is a devastating move.
It looks so damn effective. You hook your opponent around the neck, grab their tight and lift them up. And you stop there. They are held upside down and, as Gorilla Monsoon told us, the blood rushes to the head. You wait. And then you drop backwards, having delivered an awesome delayed (or stalling) vertical suplex. And, of course, your opponent stays down and sells it like death while you parade around the ring and revel in your victory because you’ve clearly deserved it.

So, why is this crap?

To start with, the fact that you’ve managed to hold your opponent upside down like that is quite an impressive move (and I’m not saying that because it was a part of my own rather limited moveset). There is strength and co-ordination involved. And then there is the core strength and co-ordination of your opponent to be able to hold themselves up there like that. But the main problem is that when you finish this move, the vast majority of the time you go down with your opponent. You both land on your back in the ring at the same time. What this means is that it is not two people landing like that. It is, in fact, one very long person. The mass is combined, the momentum is combined, everything is combined. They become an isolated system, not two isolated entities. The only thing that is different is the angular velocity at the top of the suplex is greater than at the bottom. But considering that’s the legs, and the majority of the impact of the move is taken by two backs and sets of shoulders, the difference there is minimal. Both men take the same damage. That does not stop the fact that the move still looks really cool. Oh, and for the record, all of this applies equally to the backdrop suplex as well.


4. Wrapping a figure four leg lock around a ring post increases its devastation.
The physics of the figure four is really sound. The forces applied against the opponent force the knee to hyperextend. This involves the person applying the figure 4 using a lever action of their body against the mat to increase the forces through the joint. And this is painful. It has the dual advantage of not only hurting the opponent whilst in the hold, but also leaving that leg (the straight one!) sore. In fact, it seems the only way to stop this is to roll over and reverse it (because clearly gravity has a hand in the figure 4… and that’s probably something else that could be added to this list). But to stop this from happening and to increase the pain effectiveness, you can wrap it around a ring post. Ouch! That must be intense!

So, why is this crap?

Well, first and foremost, the person taking the move has to help. If they don’t… well, ask Bret Hart about that. If he can remember it. They need to grab the foot of the person applying the move to hold them in place. The attacker then leans backwards and pulls down hard. But the attacker is hanging in the air. He has nothing to lever against in order to force the knee into a hyperextended position. In fact, the angle the victim’s leg hangs down makes it very hard to get straight in the first place, let alone beyond straight. Apart from groinal abuse against the ring post, it probably wouldn’t be that uncomfortable, really.


5. The Canadian Destroyer.
Now, come on… this is just silly… But it looks REALLY cool.


So what blatant ignoring of the rules of physics did I miss? Sound off in the comments section below. I still can’t use Disqus to respond, so I apologise.


Now for this edition’s piece of Australiana. Zoot were an early 1970s Australian band, and their greatest hit came in 1970 with this cover of the Beatles’ classic ‘Eleanor Rigby’.


And that’s this View!


Australian. Father. Perpetual student. Started watching wrestling before Wrestlemania 1. Has delusions of grandeur and was known to regularly get the snot beaten out of him in a wrestling ring. Also writes occasionally in other Pulse sections.Thinks Iron Mike Sharpe is underrated.