The Fantasy Book on Rule Differences (Disqualifications, Count-Outs, ECW, Heath Slater)

Greetings fellow germs and evolutionary advancements. Last week, The Fantasy Book took the bold challenge of trying to imagine a brand new type of championship, the Aggression title. This week, we test our hubris once again and see if we can alter a couple of professional wrestling’s most common “rules” in order to make the product just that much more interesting. These rules are the disqualification rule and the count out rule.

First, anyone who lived through the horrible over the top rope disqualification rule in early WCW knows that these rules are not set in stone anywhere. In fact, different wrestling companies have their own rules and/or focus on them. For example, Ring of Honor and NJPW utilize a 20-count for a count-out while the WWE has a 10-count. Hell, ECW practically built an empire on ignoring disqualifications. Here I am just going to talk about the WWE rules currently in place to make it easier.

As mentioned, in the WWE currently, if a wrestler is outside the ring for a referee’s 10 count, he or she is supposed to be counted-out and lose the match. Similarly, if a wrestler strikes another participant with a foreign object, and the referee sees it, the first wrestler is supposed to be disqualified and lose the match. All well and good, right? These rules actually create an opportunity for specialty matches to take place, like No-DQ matches. Plus, as I mentioned last week, the current “Champion’s Advantage” does not allow a title change to happen with one of these finishes.

But what if we tweaked things just a bit. We could still have a count-out and a disqualification rule, but it wouldn’t be so easy to have a cheap finish. It could even the playing field a bit. It could also add some more excitement to “regular” matches.

First, let’s take the count-out rule. A ten count is just too short (and will be shown to be waaaay too short with another change to come). Let’s immediately switch it to a twenty count. Give the wrestlers time to sell. Maybe they need to make their way back into the ring around a broken announce table. Or maybe they can use that time to have an existential crisis on what they are doing with their lives. Or maybe it could take more time to drag yourself back to the ring with two broken legs than it does to climb a ladder while in perfect health.

I used to love watching heels roll into the ring and back out to “break the count” and continue beating on their opponent outside the ring. It was, and is, a great heel move and a smart heel move. (Like I mentioned a couple weeks ago, in professional wrestling, “smart” = “bad.”) However, we also get weird things like a count happening for both competitors outside the ring and only one makes it back in before the 10 count. That should have broken the count according to the current logic of the rule. A new 10 count should have begun on the one wrestler still outside the ring.

A 20 count, with the count-breaking measures still in place, would work much better in my estimation. The referees wouldn’t have to look so dumb by taking forever to count to ten. Or worse, sometimes just ignoring their counting duties altogether (often explained by announcers as giving the wrestlers some leeway). Just switch to a 20 count and you won’t have to make your officials look incompetent or showing favoritism.

Next, the disqualification rule. My suggestion is really pretty simple. Any foreign object used in the ring makes that wrestler subject to a disqualification loss. However, if you are outside the ring, anything goes. The newly-installed 20 count still applies though, so make it timely. This would add another couple layers of drama to matches.

Imagine The Miz versus Dean Ambrose. Miz throws Ambrose outside the ring. As Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel descend on him, Ambrose realizes he better high-tail it back into the ring or suffer a greater beatdown. Or imagine someone like Curt Hawkins, who can’t buy himself a win inside the ropes, but makes a name for himself by clocking opponents outside the ring with his pimp cane and getting count-out victories. Or even a big-time title match with Brock Lesnar and Finn Balor where Balor just will not stay down for the count. Lesnar gets frustrated and decides to F5 Balor through the announce table and then toss him back into the ring to finish him off. All legal and makes the matches a little more “strategic” in my mind.

There could still be No-DQ matches, where anything would go inside or outside the ring. The count-out rule would also be waived for those matches. The WWE style could still be front and center with these changes.

Next time you watch a match where Heath Slater is getting beat on inside the ring by Braun Strowman, perhaps you could suspend your disbelief a little bit longer if Slater slid to the outside and nailed a low blow on Strowman as he pursued him. Or maybe Bray Wyatt could take a breather on the outside in a match against Roman Reigns knowing Reigns is scared to follow him out there.

Maybe the changes wouldn’t work. Maybe idiotic referees are too integral a part of the show. Maybe professional wrestling audiences don’t want to think that hard about more nuanced in-match stories. Maybe changing the DQ rule and the count-out rule is nothing more than a gimmicky prospect. But I think it could work to shake up things a little in an increasingly stale professional wrestling landscape.

Next week, we will start with a little something I like to call “The McMahon Games.” Sneak preview: it would be a stand-alone PPV event like Survivor Series or Royal Rumble. Just trying to brainstorm a few things to create a spark.

Until next week…


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