While wrestling may be pre determined, it’s far from fake. The risk of injury that the superstars that we all know and love put themselves through is incredibly real as we’ve unfortunately seen time and time again. Today we’re going to look at fifteen examples of this harsh reminder. Accidents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so to speak, with some being more gruesome and others coming at the worst possible time for a wrestler. Some are able to fight through the pain and finish their matches while others were left with no feeling in their body or even worse. It’s the unfortunate reality of putting your body on the line night in and night out to entertain the crowd.
It’s whenever instances like these occur that should really make the fans step back and appreciate exactly what it is these guys and gals are doing just to put on a show. They are literally putting their lives in each other’s hands to do something they love and from everything we’ve heard, they’d all do it again if given the chance. That’s what’s really amazing about these stories, not only did the stars that were capable of finishing the contest do their damnedest to do som but they all would do whatever they could to get back into the squared circle and in front of the raving lunatics known as wrestling fans as soon as possible.
These stories will range from a standard move that went terribly wrong to stunts that were incredibly dangerous to begin with. There are some of the safest workers in the industry and there is New Jack. While I hesitate to call anything New Jack does an accident (hence the Mass Transit Incident not being included since he knew exactly what he was doing), an accident is an accident and just like one on the highway you can’t help but keep your eyes on it.
15. Sabu Gashes Arm Open
We’ll start off with one of the nastier looking accidents on the list, but to be fair something like this kind of had to be expected in a match where the ropes were replaced with freaking barbed wire! The accident occurred about halfway into the match following an irish whip by Terry Funk that sent Sabu flying into the barbed wire. Sabu got caught up in the wire so badly that he needed trimmers to get out and also ripped open a roughly 10 inch gash in his bicep. Not to be deterred, Sabu asked his manager, Bill Alfonso, to run to the back and grab some tape (instead of bandages) to close the wound and finish the match. The match that had barbed wire instead of ropes, just as a friendly reminder. Now that’s dedication.
14. Bret Hart’s Head Gets Kicked Off
Following as nasty an accident as the previous one, this incident might look like nothing at all. Goldberg was always known as a stiff and powerful worker, but he took it a little too far on the night of Starrcade 1999 when he went one on one against Bret Hart for the WCW Championship. One wayward mule kick from Goldberg right to Hart’s temple was enough to effectively end The Hitman’s career. Bret suffered a severe concussion that night and several more in the following days, saying he didn’t understand the severity of the injury. Hart was getting up there in age but was still working like a superstar when it all came crashing down thanks to Goldberg’s shiny black boot.
13. Seth Rollins Tears ACL
Much like Hart, this injury is on the list because of timing more than severity. That’s not to say that the knee injury that Seth Rollins suffered isn’t a brutal one, but at least his leg didn’t snap in two (more on that later). The defending WWE Champion was going one on one against Kane at a house show in Dublin when Seth went for a sunset flip powerbomb from the top turnbuckle only to land awkwardly on his right knee. Being the champ that he was, Rollins got back on his feet and finished the match despite tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus.
12. HBK Breaks His Back
All the way back in 1998, Shawn Michaels was the defending WWE Heavyweight Champion heading into a casket match at the Royal Rumble against The Undertaker. HBK took a back body drop over the top rope and was supposed to land on the other side of the casket but nicked his back on the way down, herniating two discs and crushing a third. Again it didn’t look like much and Michaels said he really couldn’t feel anything different at first, but you could tell right away that something was wrong with The Showstopper even though he gutted it out to finish the match and even managed to defend the title at WrestleMania against Steve Austin a couple months later. Shawn thought the injury was career ending as Michaels was hardly able to move, let alone wrestle. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case as he would return four years later and be better than ever.
11. HHH Tears His Quad
The leader of The Authority has pretty much seen it all in his career, that’s been filled with championships, unforgettable feuds, sledgehammer shots, and of course, injuries. This particularly nasty one came during the main event of Raw back in 2001 when Hunter tried to run into the ring to save his tag partner, Stone Cold Steve Austin. When he dove to break up a submission hold, his left quadriceps muscle tore completely off the bone leaving him unable to put any weight on his leg. Somehow he would continue the match anyway and even suffer through a Walls of Jericho before being helped to the back!
10. Scott Steiner Crushes His Throat
The Big Bad Booty Daddy found himself in a strange place going through a strange circumstance back in 2007 when an accidental kick during a match in Puerto Rico nearly took his life. After his opponent struck Steiner in the throat, Scott could feel a little bit of blood trickling down his throat but the EMT’s at the arena said that he was good to go and there was nothing to worry about. Back in his hotel later in the evening, Steiner was having trouble eating or drinking and started coughing up blood leading him to go to a hospital, which he says was suited better for a jail. It was there, at the same hospital that Bruiser Body died, that Steiner found out that he had suffered a torn trachea down in his chest and only had five hours to live. Luckily the doctors were able to preform emergency surgery, cutting through Steiner’s muscular chest and save Big Poppa Pump’s life by sewing his trachea back together. Yikes.
9. Joey Mercury Breaks His Face
While Joey Mercury isn’t as big of a star as others on this list and his accident didn’t take as much time off his career as others, but it is certainly one of the most brutal looking. Back on December 17th, 2006, Joey Mercury was teaming up with John Morrison in a fatal four way match for the tag team titles when a ladder spot went horribly wrong. The ladder was set up for a seesaw maneuver with Jeff Hardy flying off the top rope, sending the ladder straight up into the faces of MNM. Morrison was able to take the hit unscathed but Mercury caught the ladder flush on the nose shattering it immediately and turning his face into a fountain of blood. Mercury had to be rushed to the back as his face was swelling up immediately following the spot and he needed plastic surgery to fix the damage that had been done.
8. Sting Suffers Neck Injury
The one thing that everyone in the WWE Universe can agree on, is that finally seeing Sting in a WWE ring was truly a once in a lifetime moment. The Stinger didn’t appear often but when he did it was solely to try and ruin whatever he could for The Authority, from costing Team Authority the match at Survivor Series to goading Hunter, Stephanie, and their golden boy Seth Rollins into a WWE Title match at Night of Champions. Sting was going all out in the contest looking like a man 20 years younger than he actually was before a freak accident following a turnbuckle powerbomb by Rollins. It was obvious straight away that Sting was hurt and apparently he had lost all feeling in his legs at this point. Somehow Sting managed to get enough power back in his legs to finish the match but it was abundantly clear that they came up with the finish on the fly thanks to this incident.
7. New Jack Blinds Himself With Vic Grimes
Tommy Dreamer summed this incident up best when he said “We all saw that fall from the scaffolding on the pay-per-view. I literally thought he was dead.” New Jack isn’t a man known for his safety or care of the well being for the his fellow wrestlers but in December 2000 he took it too far. While working a scaffold match against Vic Grimes the plan was for each man to take the bump from the 25 foot high scaffold down through the tables that were set up on the concrete floor to “break” their fall. Of course things didn’t go according to that plan as according to New Jack, Vic Grimes tried to bail out of the spot at the last minute fearing that the scaffold was too high. Jack wasn’t having any of that though and hung onto Vic as he jumped down, dragging the big man down straight on top of his head. New Jack says that he could see brain fluid leaking from his nose backstage and has permanently lost vision in his right eye.
6. Sid Vicious Snaps His Leg
It’s sad to think that this is a spot that Sid himself had to be talked into. Fearing the worst, and rightfully so apparently, the former Sycho was concerned about performing a big boot from the second rope as that’s wasn’t something he’d attempted before. Mr. People Power John Laurinatis coerced him into it however and the result is something that will singe into your brain for all eternity. During his match for the WCW Championship against Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, and John’s brother Animal, Sid went to perform the big boot off the turnbuckle to Steiner but landed too heavily on his lead foot sending the lower third of his leg in the opposite direction of the top two thirds. Sid needed roughly three years to fully rehab from his injury making one last appearance on a major wrestling brand squashing Heath Slater on RAW in 2012.
5. Mankind Crashes Through The Cell
“It was the first time that I’d ever been knocked out in a match.” That’s quite a quote to come from someone with the history of Mick Foley. Mind you he wasn’t talking about the spot where he was thrown off the top of the cage during his Hell in a Cell Match against The Undertaker, as that went exactly according to plan but something even worse happened later on. The spot called for Taker to chokeslam Foley onto the top of the cell but when they went through with it, the supports gave way causing Mankind to fall all the way down to the canvas roughly 15 feet below. If that wasn’t bad enough, a chair that the competitors were using on the top of the structure fell with Foley and struck him in the face! Mick suffered a laundry list of injuries including a concussion, dislocated shoulder, and internal bleeding. The gravity of the spot is really summed up best by The Undertaker when he simply asked Terry Funk to “see if he’s alive.”
4. Steve Austin Breaks His Neck
Putting two performers with the capability of Steve Austin and Owen Hart together is about as safe as you could possibly get in terms of professional wrestling. Of course anything that can go wrong will go wrong at some point, as was proven in their match up for the Intercontinental Title at SummerSlam in 1997. The story goes that Austin thought Hart was going to deliver a tombstone piledriver but Owen had a different plan performing a inverted piledriver that spiked Austin straight down on his head. Steve knew something was terribly wrong right from the get go as he had lost feeling from his neck down following the impact and was afraid that he may never even walk again. Luckily for everyone, the future mega star started gaining strength in his appendages again and would make sporadic appearances, mainly trying to keep the title on Owen so that he would be the one to take it from him when recovered.
3. Droz Gets Paralyzed
The dangers of professional wrestling are never more apparent than when a simple move goes wrong. In this instance, it was a running powerbomb that D’Lo Brown had executed without incident hundreds of times before but it only takes one to go awry to change everything for both men involved. According to Droz himself it was the loose shirt, he was wearing during their match that didn’t allow Brown to get a proper grip while going for the running powerbomb along with Droz not giving D’Lo a proper jump that resulted in Droz landing awkwardly on his head, fracturing two discs in his neck. Droz was immediately rushed to the hospital where despite the best efforts of the attending surgeons he was left quadriplegic.
2. Perro Aguayo Jr. Passes Away
You can’t get much safer and simpler than performing a simple dropkick but you can’t get any more of a devastating result than this one. Performing in a tag match against Rey Mystero, Perro took a dropkick that would set him up for Rey’s signature 619 move but Mysterio’s kick would be the last wrestling move Aguayo would ever be on the receiving end of. According to the initial announcement from the hospital, Aguayo died from a cervical spine trauma due to severe whiplash trauma that snapped his neck. The cause of death was later announced as cardiac arrest, due to a cervical stroke caused by three fractured vertebrae. Autopsy results showed that Aguayo broke his C1, C2, and C3 vertebrae. The coroner stated that the fractures took place at two different moments of impact and that Aguayo died almost instantly. Truly the definition of a freak accident.
1. Owen Hart Falls To His Death
There truly isn’t a sadder accident in the history of wrestling as the night that Owen Hart was prematurely taken from the world. To try and give his spoof of a superhero gimmick “The Blue Blazer” a little extra pizzazz, Vince Russo decided that they should have him lower down from the ceiling a la Sting from WCW. To save time disengaging from the harness that Owen would be connected to, it was decided to use a ‘natural clip’ that was designed for use on sailboats instead of the standard slow release clip. Allegedly several stunt coordinators refused to attempt the stunt first claiming it was too dangerous and sadly and they were proven right. Owen Hart passed away after the harness clip failed sending him down the remaining 80 feet to the ring and onto the top rope.
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