Though the WWE is a league largely driven by predetermined storylines and characters personifying stereotypes of various sorts, there is no getting around the fact that it is a sports league and thus contains a set of defined rules. Some rules in professional wrestling are more widely known than others, though. Others, well, they’re only in place to be broken it seems. Whatever the case, there are certainly rules that we forget entirely are there.
In terms of rules, the WWE is in an awkward position. There are bad guys and good guys in the league, and the way bad guys define themselves as bad is by bending or breaking the rules. Sure there are other wars such as breaking social norms or dishing out a hefty serving of smack talk, but when it’s all said and done wrestling heels nearly unanimously break the rules at some point in their career. This begs the question of legitimacy for WWE rules. After all, what good are rules if you know they will be broken regardless?
Thus, there are a few different kinds of rules that populate this list. There are legitimate rules that are not to be broken, and these are largely due to safety reasons or for the integrity of the sport. There are also rules that are “fake” in a sense. Sometimes they are enforced, and sometimes they are merely broken to advance a heel’s storyline. In either case, they are rules that have faded from our minds to such an extent that we forget they are even in place. Here are ten WWE rules we tend to forget all the time:
10. “Falls Count Anywhere” Matches Include Wall Pinfalls
It’s an oddly obscure rule, so we don’t necessarily blame you for not knowing about it. Yet, it has happened in WWE history, and any fan worth their salt should know of this slightly humorous occasion. Typically, superstars can only be counted out, or “pinfalled”, inside the ring. This happens when their opponent pins their shoulders to the ground and the referee reaches the count of three.
The draw of a Falls Count Anywhere match is rather obvious. The wrestling continues outside of the ring, and in fact it’s almost the entire point. It’s not uncommon for these matches to take place in hallways or locker rooms. The most famous example of one of these matches occurred when Big Show discovered an entirely new facet to the ruleset. If pinfalls count anywhere, then how about walls? During his match, he picked up his opponent and held him to the wall. The referee then proceeded to count down and the behemoth won himself yet another match in the process.
9. Choke Holds are Prohibited
Yes, though you see it fairly regularly in the WWE, it’s true. Technically, choke holds are barred from the league. This doesn’t stop many wrestlers from executing them, though. In fact, this rule will start a slight trend in our list of rules that are real, but not entirely enforced. Frequently, it’s a heel who breaks them. After all, what better way to gain some “bad guy” credit than breaking the league’s rules.
The rule is actually geared around impairing your opponent’s breathing. This includes the use of the ropes as well as your hands. It’s an understandable safety precaution, and seen as a dirty move throughout the wrestling world. However, many superstars have patented holds of some sort that blur the lines. More recently, the league has deferred to labeling a clear choke as illegal, defining that as a hand around the throat for an extended period of time.
8. Closed Fists are Illegal
Say what? Pull up just about any video of a WWE match and you’ll probably find an example of a wrestler punching their opponent. That is, if you can manage to see their hands in between the quick cuts the league utilizes whenever someone does begin punching. It’s a common tactic for the WWE to employ. It helps enforce realism, as well as prevents fans from crying foul at the authenticity of the match.
However, a referee actually has the authority to disqualify a superstar that uses closed fist punches within a match. The reason for this is rather simple: it keeps the sport geared towards wrestling. The WWE is a fight-based sport, but it is not the UFC. When it’s all said and done, superstars are wrestlers, not brawlers, and the rules help keep them in line. While this is another rule that’s rarely enforced, and one heels frequently break, it nevertheless exists. Wrestlers are expected to keep their matches clear of actual punches, which actually leads in well to our next rule.
7. Announces Are Not to Call Superstars “Wrestlers”
When watching the WWE on television, you may find the announcers annoying. Many harbor some sort of discontent towards these individuals who simply get to watch wrestling, talk about it, and be paid for it. You may think to yourself, I can do that. In actuality, announcers like Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole have a rather nuanced role to play in the world of the WWE.
Vince McMahon is a man who likes to push a certain brand. He wants to separate himself and his product from other products out there. One way to do this is by placing limitations on what the announcers, the people with the most direct connection to the fans at home, can say. For instance, WWE superstars are to be called such, and are never to be referred to as “wrestlers”. Other examples include announcers not being able to say “backstage”, as they must instead use “locker room” or any other equivalent. The emphasis is in pushing the realism and never admitted this is all for show, as well as distancing the WWE from other similar fighting sports.
6. Royal Rumble Participants Cannot Use Foreign Objects
For many years, especially in the Attitude Era or in extreme versions of the sport like the ECW, foreign objects seemed to be a staple of professional wrestling. It could be a chair, a baseball bat, a ladder, or virtually anything else; fan’s wanted to see someone clobbered over the head with it.
One would assume that a Royal Rumble match would be no exception. After all, it does seem like a No Holds Barred match in the way the league simply throws a bunch of wrestlers together to see what happens. Alas, we will no longer see a legal use of a foreign object in a Royal Rumble after the rule was enforced in 2008 when Finlay used a shillelagh, which is basically a cudgel. From then on, it was clear there would be no tolerance for such objects.
5. Outside Interference is Illegal
Any WWE fan reading this is probably listing the thousands of times they’ve witnessed some outside party interfere inside the ring. Yet, it is still technically illegal. The rule is put in place in order to be broken, essentially. Heels find it as a great way to sneak out with a victory when they had no right to win, and gain some heat on their own character in the process. A heel who is hated is a heel who is doing his job right.
Oftentimes, the league finds loopholes in the rule to avoid a break in realism. After all, they still want the illusion that they are a legitimate sports entity with a strictly enforced set of guidelines. So what do they do? Perhaps distract the referee with some other occurrence, only for people to sneak up behind the opponent. A more frequent maneuver is to utilize blaring intro music that distracts the ref and the opponent alike only for someone to sneak in a dirty hit.
4. Superstars Only Have 5 Seconds to Hold Opponents on the Rope
The most famous example of this rule to this day occurred with Daniel Bryan wrestling Sheamus. With Sheamus worn out and tired from Byran’s brutal onslaught, he grasped the ropes in desperation. Bryan then began holding Sheamus, at which point the referee began counting. Apparently, Bryan became annoyed at the ref, and then shouted “I have till five” in his face.
Like others on this list, this rule is in place as a way for heels to give themselves some heat. Nobody likes someone who bends the rules, and heels are notorious for doing so. Yet, they also realize that in order to advance their character they must become hated. So, you have examples of rules simply put in place to be broken, and thus we nearly forget about them altogether.
3. Piledrivers and Powerbombs are Illegal
What’s one way to ensure that your move has a deadly reputation behind it? Well, ensure that it is actually banned from the league for starts. Let’s be real here, the only reason these moves are technically illegal is because banning them generates hype for superstars who utilize them. It’s a common tactic, and one you’ve probably gotten used to on this very list.
Yet, there is some legitimacy behind this rule. Both these moves result in serious risks of injuries, and wrestlers have actually begun to tone them down a bit, perhaps even alter them to make them safer. If anything we are sure the routine is discussed behind the scenes to ensure the “victim” of the move is prepared to protect themselves when it happens live on air.
2. The G.M. Can Restart an Entire Royal Rumble Match
Alright, admittedly this comes with some very specific stipulations, but still, how cool is this? Imagine watching an entire Royal Rumble match go down, only to be privy to an entire rematch in the very same night! In order for this to happen, though, the very last two contestants must be eliminated simultaneously.
For those unfamiliar, a Royal Rumble match is an event in which a large number of wrestlers take on one another at once. The only way to be eliminated is to be thrown from the ring, which begs the question, what if the last two touch the ground at the same time? It’s extremely rare, but has happened on two occasions. Once in 1994, Bret Hart and Lex Luger were declared co-winners after touching the floor simultaneously. Later in 2005, John Cena and Batista were forced to restart their final-two match after they both touched at the same time. Neither G.M. at the time decided to restart the entirety of the match, but they certainly hold the authority to do so.
1. No Throwing Opponents Over the Top Rope
Obviously, this excludes events like the Royal Rumble, where it’s basically the entire point of the match to throw your opponent over the top rope. In other regular matches though, this move is illegal to intentionally perform. Fans may wonder why they’ve seen it in recent years then, and the answer is because the league rarely enforces it any longer.
Back in the “good ol’ days” this was actually a rule that was enforced quite frequently. It was seen as a safety precaution, as a fall from that height could end in an awkward landing, and thus cause injury to the superstar. In today’s day and age, wrestlers are used to flying from the top rope, and throwing opponents outside the ring generates excitement. The rule has really been fading away, yet we wonder if there will be a return someday soon, especially with the recent focus on safety across all major sports. Fans may forget that it’s actually a rule, and the league may seize upon the opportunity to name a surprise victor to advance a feud’s storyline. It would certainly add some fuel to the fire!