I Miss Steel Chair Shots To The Head
“It’s like a metallic gunshot.”
EDIT: This was written before the chair shot by Shawn Spears on Cody at AEW Fyter Fest.
I was rewatching one of my favorite Wrestlemanias of all time recently: Wrestlemania 22. This pay per view was amazing. The card was stacked with classic match followed by classic match. Edge vs. Mick Foley. Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus. The triple threat between Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle and Randy Orton that gave Rey his first world championship.
Taking that entire incredibly stacked card into account, there is still one match that stands out as my favorite, and that is Shawn Michaels vs Vince McMahon. The match was a culmination of nearly four months of buildup, and would lead to the infamous McMahons vs. Shawn Michaels and God, and eventually the reformation of DX.
Rewatching this match, I realized it holds up very well. The body language from both men, the pacing of the match, the high spots; they all served to tie together a story that still takes my breath away to this day.
However, this is a spot in the match that stands out more than anything else to me. Shawn stands across from a dazed Vince with a twinkle in his eye and a steel chair in his hand. After a brief pause, Michaels zips over and delivers the loudest chair shot in the history of the universe to Vince McMahon’s cranium.
It’s like a metallic gunshot. It fills every open space in the Allstate Arena, and the crowd loses their minds. This is far from the end of the match. Shane runs in, there’s a ladder. It gets crazy. But speaking with a friend of mine about this match, the same point in the match stands out: that steel chair shot.
Now, I want to make something perfectly clear: I miss steel chair shots to the head, but I don’t want them to come back.
Steel chair shots to the head, no matter if the wrestler puts his hands out to soften the blow, are extremely dangerous. With all of the advancements going on in the world with brain damage, concussion, and CTE research, we are still probably decades away from truly understanding how each and every trauma inflicted to the head.
The repeated trauma inflicted to the head and brain of Chris Benoit is likely what led to the murder-suicide of him and his family in 2007.
The very physical style of flying headbutts, repeated high speed dives, and receiving unprotected stiff stikes is what led to the early first retirement of Daniel Bryan. You can even go back and watch his April 2, 2015 match with Sheamus on youtube where Bryan suffers a blow to the head and begins to have a seizure. Granted, he returned, but that is all the more a testament to how mysterious the brain is.
Rewatching the scene from Beyond the Mat where The Rock gives Mick Foley multiple chair shots to the head while Foley’s hands are handcuffed behind him makes my stomach turn.
Chair shots to the head were a staple of professional wrestling for a very long time. Your friend is getting beaten by five dudes? Don’t worry, this chair should even things out. Really want to hammer home that you hate the guy that stole your girlfriend? A steel chair can help. Right behind Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin, steel chairs are the biggest stars in the history of professional wrestling.
But the chairs are only one part of the equation. You see, by themselves chairs are harmless. It’s connecting them to someone’s head at a high rate is speed is the dangerous part.
I’ve known that wrestling was “fake” since I started watching in 2003. But that’s never been the point. The point is that the performers are doing a choreographed, highly dangerous dance that’s made to look like real, physical competition. There’s give and take. They actually hurt each other, sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose, sometimes with consent, sometimes not. There are all these factors rolled together to make the beautiful mess that is pro wrestling.
Now we introduce the steel chair. It’s not often that a guy will try to legitimately run away from a steel chair shot he may not want to receive. I’ve never seen it personally. For the most part, they are always agreed upon by both parties. The trust that wrestlers give each other is astounding. But there’s not really much you can do to protect the other guy from the chair shot. They have to put their hands up to protect themselves.
On Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast, he mentions that some guys would refuse to put their hands up to protect themselves. This was feeding on the “tough guy” line of thinking from old school professional wrestling. Stone Cold reasons something along the lines of “if some somebitch is swinging a chair at my head, imma put my damn hands up.” From a human, reactionary point of view, someone would naturally try to defend themselves.
This shows the evolution that was taking place from the generation before Stone Cold’s, to Stone Cold’s, and now to the present, where there are no steel chair shots to the head.
Some fans think they should come back. That’s insane. With the number of people who had their careers shortened or altered with neck problems, including: Sting, Edge, Paige, Jason Jordan, Tyson Kidd, Droz, Nikki Bella, and many others, it’s evident that the very act of wrestling is dangerous to one’s body. Let alone factoring in severe head trauma.
I look back on the matches with hard shots to the head with some nostalgia. I won’t lie about that. The steel chair shot to Vince from HBK makes my heart jump. It shows me how much those characters hated each other. Eddie Guerrero and JBL’s pair of chair shots to each other in 2004 added a lot to those matches. But now it’s up to the wrestlers to find an alternative way to tell a story that is just as gripping.
The current alternative to the steel chair shot to the head, in WWE at least, is a chair shot to the back, stomach, or basically any other part of the body. Steel chair shots to the head results in real life disciplinary action, including fines and possible termination. In a time where the kayfabe reason that people can’t strike officials is to avoid being fined, and people still strike officials, why wouldn’t people also hit people in the head with a steel chair.
This is a loophole I can’t fill. The only thing I can tell you is that it certainly takes me out of the moment, which is a bummer. Part of that might be due to me growing up on steel chair shots to the head, which is just something I have to deal with, because as they say “the times, they are a changin.”
Man I miss headshots; I hope they never come back.