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How WWE Wrestling Rings Are Made


The pro wrestling ring means many things to different people; it's a gladiator's arena, it's a performer's stage, and occasionally, at the highest level of competition, it's literally an artist's canvas. There's plenty of mystique behind the wrestling ring; one of the more common wrestling-related questions we occasionally see popping up on sites like Reddit or Quora is about its architecture and construction.

We've seen spectacular stunts like Brock Lesnar's famed superplex onto the Big Show that literally exploded the ring, leaving it lying in shambles.


We've also treaded tantalisingly close to a near-complete deconstruction of the WWE ring, such as when the Nexus made their infamous 2010 debut, dismantling both John Cena and the ring itself in never-before-seen spectacle.


The WWE has given us some teases as well on the individual components that make up its ring, which has always been designed for quick and compact assembly and transportation for touring.


“When I started in 1984, we made the ring to be transported,” Mark Yeaton says, a man more familiar to viewers as official ringside timekeeper, but had been with the company for three decades pulling double duty both as timekeeper and production manager for live events until his 2014 release. “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.”

And yet the question keeps on popping up every so often: How exactly is a wrestling ring made?

So now, after poring through the various articles and videos the WWE itself has put out, we're here to pull the curtain back in full. Once and for all, we're going to fill our heads with knowledge on the architecture of the pro wrestling squared circle.

Stay woke, fam. This is going to be a long read.

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The man in charge of the pit crew actually assembling the ring for WWE live events is someone perhaps more familiar to wrestling fans as Lil Naitch, referee Charles Robinson.


The standard ring size for most venues is a 20-foot by 20-foot square, which he measures off with his feet.


He then marks off where each ringpost will go with a circle of chalk.


But the 20-foot ring isn't necessarily always sacred gospel, especially when it came to smaller venues.

“In Warwick, R.I., 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," Yeaton muses. "When you watch someone like Sid, 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. When we did Shotgun Saturday Night in Penn Station, we used smaller rings because it wouldn’t fit between the pillars. In regular arenas, it’s always been a 20-foot ring.”

So whether the ring measures 16 feet or 20 feet, the ringposts are then installed above the circles indicated by Robinson.


As wrestlers get bigger, and high-flying tactics emerge more into vogue, the ringposts are often the target for necessary innovation to beef up their strength. 

“This is like version five or version six of reinforcement of the corner poles,” Mark Carpenter says, a man who has been a long-time collaborator with Yeaton and owns his own metal fabrication facility in Connecticut. “With the force of hitting the ropes, the poles used to bend like crazy. Now you need two people to pick ‘em up.”

Yeaton agrees, estimating the weight of a single ringpost to anywhere between 500 to 800 pounds. “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,” he said. “I can’t even lift one pole up now.”

The ringposts themselves are not bolted down to the arena floor per se, but each one is lashed by steel cable to the one diagonally opposite it, allowing the shared tension to anchor it firmly in place.

For stunts like the infamous Brock Lesnar/Big Show superplex spot above, they disconnect these cables, allowing the ringpost to "float" without being anchored.


Once the heavy lifting is done, the finer construction can now begin.

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A ring needs a rigid frame to hold the basic shape in place. So once the ringposts are in place, it's time to set up the cross beam support and frame.

First, the side frames are installed. Fine-tuning of the ringpost locations happens here, in case Robinson's paced-out measurements are slightly off-the-mark.


Support legs are added at the midpoint of each side of the ring, preventing the sides from sagging, especially when a 500-pound Superstar like the Big Show is pacing the apron.


Twelve beams are then overlaid in a criss-cross pattern over the ring, intersecting in perpendicular sections to give a solid base for the actual ring surface.


Each cross beam ends in a specially-designed boot that slots perfectly into a precision-machined bracket on the side frame, eliminating the need for bolts or other fasteners—an innovation which greatly reduces installation time. The weight of each beam keeps it in place as well, and is rock-solid.


With the ringposts, side frames, and cross beams in place, what we're left with at this stage is the basic skeleton of a wrestling ring.


Sometimes, for matches that will involve a greater number of wrestlers than usual, such as the Royal Rumble, where up to 40 superstars could theoretically be in the ring all at the same time, they add extra legs on the interior skeleton. With this set-up, the ring can support more weight, but with the downside of becoming harder and more rigid.

“We use the same thing, but shore it up," Yeaton shares. "A regular ring is put together with 12 beams—four crossbeams and eight beams on top of that and then the boards on top. 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 ring crew is now ready to put some flesh on the bones.

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The first step here is an optional one, which is to lay down an insulating sheet over the cross beams.


When used, this sheet is spread over the cross beams to give extra grip for the wooden planks that will eventually be resting on them.


The wooden planks are then laid on top of mat, each one a single 20-foot length measuring approximately nine inches on each side.


Note how thick and solid the planks are at about 1.5-inches thick. This ain't no cheap, flimsy plywood or particle board, folks—it's good old-fashioned American lumber.


The process continues until the whole frame is covered with its wooden "floor."


Out comes a thin layer of foam padding.


The crew lays this in sections over the boards, providing a moderate amount of cushioning, but not much; the foam is only about an inch-thick, which doesn't exactly make a top-rope superplex painless to take.


Charles Robinson seals each strip of foam with its neighbouring strips with duct tape to help give an even surface for the canvas covering, and prevents them from slipping out of position throughout the show.


Finally, the actual canvas is unrolled on top of the foam layer.


Along the edges of the canvas are eyelets that the crew anchors with rope to the side frame.


The rope anchors criss-cross the side frame to keep the canvas flat and trip-proof. It isn't always pretty, but it helps keep it anchored like a rock.


It takes a lot of tightening to transform the loose, crumpled canvas from this...


...to this.


The crew knows the canvas is just right when its edges are flush against the foam-and-wood base and the creases are no longer visible.


For TV tapings and pay-per-views, where high-definition broadcasts make blemishes on the mat more pronounced, the crew will usually install multiple layers of canvas on top of each other so if the top one gets stained or soiled, they simply unpeel it to reveal the next pristine layer. This is especially useful when blood gets spilled.


Here's where a long-standing myth gets debunked; there is no fabled spring underneath the ring.


Yeaton explains why the spring—which did in fact exist back in the 1980s—has fallen out of favor.

“It was the worst thing that could happen to the wrestlers, because a spring could bottom out,” Yeaton explained. “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.”

He then collaborated with Carpenter to devise a more competitor-friendly surface to work their art on.

“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. The current ring has no springs.”

As a whole, a ring's surface is tight, flat, and springy like a drum. Since the cross beams are generally unsupported, they're slightly more flexible at the middle, making centre-of-the-ring bumps more pleasant to take since the ring absorbs more kinetic energy. Generally, the closer you are to the edges, the firmer the ring gets, making bumps here more painful.

We can move on to the next stage: setting up the ring ropes.

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Each layer of ropes is pre-bundled into its own individual rope-and-turnbuckle set.


Contrary to what some people think, the ropes aren't steel cable wrapped in hosing; they're natural sisal rope, which is both sturdy enough to bear a wrestler's weight, and elastic enough to give a good bounce when whipped into.


Beforehand, the ropes are doused in kerosene to prevent mildew, which can rot ropes and make them more prone to snapping. They're then wrapped in duct tape in the desired colors to make them kinder on wrestlers' skins and prevent rope burn and chafing.


It's a high-maintenance practice though. The kerosene tends to eat away at the adhesive over time, making the tape peel off and necessitating frequent replacement.


So for TV tapings and PPVs, they generally use freshly-wrapped ropes for maximum beauty when broadcast to a worldwide audience.

“Rope, of course, can break over time if you don’t replace it often enough,” Yeaton demurs. “I remember back in Poughkeepsie, 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.”

At each corner, the ropes are anchored by a screw-tension turnbuckle.


Each turnbuckle is bolted onto the ring post with a simple screw-and-nut mechanism.


When correctly installed, each turnbuckle is virtually unremovable from the ringpost.


Each corner turnbuckle is then tightened by hand until the desired tension is reached.


As long as the thread of each screw is well-maintained and rust-free, the connection to the ringpost is virtually permanent.


How does the ring crew know when the ropes are tight enough? Charles Robinson will personally inspect each rope manually and judge by feel if the ropes are tight enough. 


Foam padding is then used to cover each turnbuckle, which is laced up like a boxing glove.


The exposed portion of the turnbuckle is then wrapped in its own composite foam sleeve, forming the final turnbuckle configuration you're all familiar with.


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The ring components can get dinged up in the process of packing, unpacking, transportation, and assembly, so as one final stage, the ringposts—which are the most visible parts of the ring—get a final touch-up to look flawless on HD television, whether by spray painting them or by applying decals.



The ring apron is then applied—a light garterized fabric on all sides, as well as the newer LED screens for TV tapings and PPVs.


Here's a time lapse video of how all the pieces come together.



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Sometimes, the WWE calls on its roster to perform in venues with extreme weather or temperatures.

When the 2013 edition of WrestleMania, for example, was slated for the open-air MetLife Stadium in New Jersey where wind chill can cause temperatures to drop to a frigid 5-degrees Celsius in April, the WWE once more called on Mark Yeaton to develop an unprecedented solution to help WWE talents perform comfortably.

“They were expecting it to get really cold, so we hung a heater above the ring and there were heated parts of the ring,” Yeaton said. His solution? Inventing a special ringpost with vents laser-cut into them.

“The outer frames were the same, but we had to make special poles to bring the heat up,” Carpenter explained. “We hooked furnaces into the poles so warm air could blow up and out through holes in the poles.”


These vents can shoot out climate-controlled air, depending on what the venue needs. The furnace or air-conditioning units are hidden under the ring in these cases.



The air from the exhaust fans naturally pumps through the ringpost vents, creating either a warmer or cooler in-ring temperature for the performers.


Voila. Five-star wrestling conditions for world-class performers, no matter what the weather conditions are like.

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The ring is one of the most-unappreciated elements of the total theater act known as professional wrestling, but it houses a unique magic and mystique in itself. When the stage is set, and performers know that they're going to be able to unleash their show-stopping moves on a safe, solid, reliable surface, that's when magic happens.


Not bad for a few thousand pounds of iron, rope, wood, and fabric.

Got anything else to add to this story, wrestling fans? Drop us a line in the comments section below, and we hope that the next time you go to see a wrestling show, you'll tip your hats to the men and women who make the whole show possible—the ring crew that builds the rings in the hours before every show, giving the best performers in the world a worthy pedestal on which legends can be born.

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Sources:
  1. "Deconstructing the Origins of WWE's Ring," WWE.com, March 2014
  2. "WWE Warehouse Episode One: WrestleMania Rings," April 2014
  3. "How the WWE Experience Works," HowStuffWorks.com, March 2015


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