According to WWE Hall of Fame manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, 100% of a pro wrestler’s job is protecting their opponent inside the ring. Sports entertainment only works if everyone involved can trust the other people they’re working with won’t actually hurt them when pretending to do so, either intentionally or by accident. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen, and botches have cost many athletes their careers and even lives. That said, it’s arguably even worse when a wrestler “goes into business for themselves” as it were, intentionally injuring their coworkers during scripted contests for no good reason.
While the illusion of sports entertainment is that the wrestlers of WWE or any other given company hate one another’s guts, they all need to work together like decent human beings if they intend on lasting more than a single show. Well, that’s how it should be anyway, as some wrestlers have bullied their way through history, continuing to find fame and success as they purposefully beat the tar out of their fellow superstars. On the other hand, sometimes wrestlers do get punished for working too stiff in the ring, losing job opportunities and in some cases any chance of working in the business again. Keep reading for 15 examples of wrestlers intentionally hurting their opponents in the ring.
15. Daniel Puder Tries To Best Kurt Angle
If professional wrestling were real, a list like this wouldn’t make any sense. While sports entertainers wouldn’t necessarily look to send one another to the hospital, making the industry legitimate means they would indeed attempt to injure their opponents into submission in proving their physical supremacy. That’s what it’s like in Olympic wrestling, and that’s why when offered the chance at making an Olympic Gold Medalist and former WWE Champion submit live on SmackDown, Daniel Puder decided he wasn’t going to play around. As part of a competition on Tough Enough, Kurt Angle challenged prospective WWE superstars to try and make him tap, and the MMA trained Puder jumped to the occasion by locking the future Hall of Famer in a Kimura Lock. Angle was saved only due to fast thinking by the referee, who counted Puder’s shoulders to the mat, because Daniel later claimed he would have broken Kurt’s arm on TV had that been what it took to win.
14. John Bradshaw Layfield Doesn’t Like The Color Blue
Verbally, physically, and mentally abusive in every sense of the word, it’s almost a given that John Bradshaw Layfield’s real-life villainy wouldn’t even stop when cameras were rolling. In fact, Bradshaw would twice get too rough with one of his opponents inside the ring, once with a partner with slight justification and then again on his own. This list will cover that earlier incident in due time, but for now, we’re focusing on ECW One Night Stand 2005, specifically the show-closing beer brawl instigated by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. During the all-out war, JBL felt like a chaotic scripted hardcore battle royale was the perfect time to legitimately and repeatedly punch The Blue Meanie in the face, leaving the man a bloody mess. Nowhere in the script was it written that Bradshaw should obliterate the Meanie, and their respective places on the card made it a pretty blatant case of bullying.
13. Bubba Ray Dudley Beats Everyone Up
Next to JBL, the biggest abuser in WWE is apparently none other than Bubba Ray Dudley, a man who has had no less than three wrestlers claim intentionally injured them. The harshest accusations against Bubba come from René Duprée, who was quoted as saying he can’t even remember how many concussions Bubba gave him. Duprée also argued Christopher Nowsinski’s retirement, known to be concussion related, was largely if not entirely Dudley’s fault. Then, there’s Duprée’s former La Resistance partner Sylvain Grenier, who said Bubba intentionally punched him in the face and broke his nose. On top of it all, Rico Constantino has told a story about Bubba intentionally targeting his injured hamstring during one of their matches, knowing it how badly he was genuinely hurting the leg.
12. Bruiser Brody Overpowers The Total Package
In sports entertainment, refusing to sell an opponents offense can be just as bad as getting to real with your own. Of course, said opponent needs to be attuned enough to the business to understand what an insult no selling is for the message to stick, which is why the infamous bout between future WCW World Champion Lex Luger and hardcore legend Bruiser Brody was such an unusual affair. Brody was a stern and aggressive performer, who didn’t like losing to up-and-coming stars he found beneath him. For this reason, when Brody was booked to lose to the young Luger in a cage match, he wouldn’t show any pain in response to anything the so-called Total Package was throwing at him. When Luger clearly looked more confused than offended or angry, Brody took things a step further and started legitimately attacking him. Having reached a breaking point, Luger simply ran out of the cage and took a walk, leaving Brody to literally stew in anger like a caged animal.
11. The Acolytes Set Their Eyes On The Public Enemy
As promised, John Bradshaw Layfield’s penchant for bullying rears its ugly head once again on our list, and this time, he’s not alone. Before he was a self-made billionaire, Bradshaw was simply a big, bad brawler from Texas, teaming up with his friend Faarooq as the Acolytes. Originally demonic minions in The Undertaker’s Ministry, the two soon broke out as comedy characters offering other superstars protection, but before that could happen, they needed to prove their in-ring toughness. To do so, the pair legitimately beat the tar out of ECW expats The Public Enemy on an episode of Sunday Night Heat. Granted, the Acolytes later claimed they only did this because Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock were refusing to go along with the match script, so they took matters into their own hands in proving the WWE newcomers things went more by the book in the big leagues than down in Philly. Either way, the sheer intensity of their match makes it another case suited for this list.
10. Steve Williams Proves Why He’s Dr. Death
Nicknamed “Dr. Death” in and out of the ring, and considered one man no wrestler would ever want to get into a fight with in real life, when Steve Williams decided he wanted to hurt someone, he hurt them real, real bad. As it would turn out, he would do the same thing if his friends wanted him to hurt someone, or even his enemies if a little extra money was involved. Enter one of the scummiest and least respected promoters in wrestling history, one Herb Abrams, who owned and booked the UWF during the early ‘90s. One day, Abrams wrongly believed another wrestler named Steve Ray was engaging in an affair with his wife, and chose to punish him with a match against Williams. In addition to Williams’s trademark stiffness in the ring, Abrams also paid Dr. Death a significant bonus for breaking Ray’s nose, a job he performed with glee.
9. Antonio Inoki Is The Only Great One
To fans of Japanese wrestling, Antonio Inoki is like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair rolled into one, with a little bit of Vince McMahon thrown in, as well. This obviously makes him one of the industry’s preeminent legends, iconic in every way and a World Champion many times over. With all this in mind, why a out-of-shape, past-his-prime small-time Canadian wrestler named The Great Antonio would try and take on the other Antonio’s legend makes absolutely no sense. Making the situation more confusing is when and how the Great Antonio went about doing this, choosing not to sell his opponent’s offense during a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling, an organization Inoki owned and founded. To overcompensate, Inoki began legitimately beating his opponent to the mat, then just about kicked his face in for daring try and make him look bad.
8. Perry Saturn Loses His Head
Most of the time when a wrestler maliciously attacks their opponent in the ring for real, they have absolutely no excuse for their actions. Even when an offender does attempt to defend themselves, few people buy the explanation. This was the case when Perry Saturn legitimately attacked Mike Bell during a match taped for WWE Metal, after having been dropped on his head during a botched snapmare. According to Saturn, from the moment his head hit the mat, he had no idea what was happening, and if he got too rough with Bell, it wasn’t truly intentional in the sense he consciously meant to beat the guy up. Unfortunately, in his potentially concussed state, that’s exactly what Saturn did, leaving Bell a beaten and battered mess for a meaningless match on the company’s least watched show. Rumor has it Saturn’s later Moppy gimmick was punishment for going too far.
7. New Jack Is A Violent Gangsta
If vile and malicious acts were given patron saints, New Jack would be such an icon for this sort of list. ECW’s most violent gangsta has come under fire more than once for intentionally hurting his opponents, once nearly getting ECW kicked off Pay-Per-View for allegedly going too far in a match against the underage Mass Transit. Ironically, New Jack was going completely by the book in his most infamous moment, meaning that particular incident doesn’t necessarily belong here. However, later matches against Vic Grimes and Gypsy Joe would go a little bit different, with New Jack getting way too violent with both men without the promoter’s telling him to. The Grimes incident was particularly severe, as Jack later claimed he was actually trying to kill the man in retribution for accidentally causing him brain damage at Living Dangerously 2000. Not that the match against Joe was any less heinous, as the indie icon was in his late 60s when Jack decided to brutalize him for fun.
6. The Great Sasuke Honors His Mask
In many respects, professional wrestling in Japan and sports entertainment in America are entirely different industries. Sure, they share suplexes, World Championship titles, and big bombastic entrances, but the history and legacy of the businesses are entirely different. For one thing, only a handful of wrestlers wear masks in America, and it’s not that big a deal when they choose to do so. In Japan, a masked wrestler’s facial attire is integral to their very existence, something not all foreigners respect or understand. Former ECW talent The Dirt Bike Kid certainly didn’t get the picture when wrestling The Great Sasuke during a tournament for Michinoku Pro, where all losers would be forced to forever lose their masks. Disrespecting the very point of the tournament, DBK ripped off the mask Michinoku Pro made for him in the early seconds of the match, earning a legitimate beating from Sasuke for daring do so.
5. Hiro Matsuda Tests The Hulkster
Though his name may not be entirely familiar with most WWE fans, it could be said Hiro Matsuda was one of the most influential men in company history. Matsuda achieves this status not for his accomplishments in the ring, which were indeed numerous, albeit outside of the WWE Universe and thus irrelevant to Vince McMahon. However, Matsuda did something else McMahon must be highly thankful for in training a number of future superstars, including the biggest sports entertainment icon of the 1980s, Hulk Hogan. On the other hand, Matsuda very nearly ended Hulkamania years before it began by purposefully breaking Hogan’s leg the very first day of his training. Strangely, unlike today, where such a move would get someone banned from the industry, back then this was considered a reasonably normal way for a trainer to test a student’s resolve. Hogan passed the test by returning to his training as soon as medically cleared, and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. Cody Hall Hides Behind His Dad
When a wrestling legend has a son or daughter who in turn wishes to enter the industry, comparisons between the two are typically instantaneous regardless of their accuracy. This trend continued as usual with Cody Hall, the son WWE Hall of Famer Razor Ramon, real name Scott Hall. Just like his dad, Cody is big, strong, and has a good mind for wrestling, yet also like his dad, he has a short temper and can go too far when ticked off. This was the case during a match against indy wrestler Vinnie Massaro, when Cody allegedly decided to break his opponent’s hand. Initially, Massaro believed it to be a mistake, until Hall refused to apologize or even speak to him after the event. From there, Cody started calling Massaro out on Twitter for walking away from the incident without retribution, making a bad situation even worse. Throughout it all, Massaro remained steadfast Hall only got away with it because of who his father was, and that anyone else would have been blackballed over it.
3. Stanislaus Zbyszko Struggles For Power
Before anyone goes thinking professional wrestlers taking things too seriously and actually hurting their opponents is anything new, take a look at the story of Stanislaus Zbyszko. Nearly a full century ago, Zbyszko was wrestling’s World Champion in the early 1920s, an ox of a man and well-trained in the technical aspects of the sport, legitimizing his reign. The industry’s governing body at the time was the Gold Dust Trio, who were in the midst of a power struggle with former champion and extremely popular star, Joe Stecher. After Zbyszko lost the belt to Ed Lewis, the Strangler in turn relinquished it to Wayne Munn, a popular athlete, albeit one who wasn’t that great in the ring. Zbyszko, Stecher, and plenty of others had problems with Munn’s reign, leading Stanislaus to legitimately and repeatedly outwrestle and pin him in one of their high-profile matches. Ultimately, the referee had no choice but to award Zbyszko the title once again, destroying the Gold Dust Trio’s plans of making Munn a superstar.
2. Tony Kozina Hates Kidds
As with just about every entertainment medium, timing is essential in professional wrestling, especially in terms of how it gets viewed by the public. While the idea of a wrestler beating up their opponent for real has recently become a huge point of controversy in the business, it wasn’t even five years ago when legions of supporters rushed to defend a wrestler/indy promoter named Tony Kozina after he intentionally and malicious beat the hell out of his 16-year old opponent. The idea of the two having a match was flawed from the start, as Kozina was in his 40s and a trained athlete, while Ryan Kidd was, again, a 16-year old. Questionable as it was to have an untrained teenager in the ring at all, Kozina made things much worse by choking the kid out, a move they did not plan in advance. Apparently, Kidd had said something in his opening match promo to “disrespect” Kozina, hence his friends in the industry, including Bullet Club member Bad Luck Fale and current WWE superstar Kyle O’Reilly, defending the beating.
1. Sexy Star Goes Crazy On Rosemary
It wasn’t all that long ago Sexy Star was one of Lucha Underground’s breakout performers, wowing fans in the rings while spreading the message that every woman is beautiful and every woman is a star. Apparently misunderstanding the meaning of that latter word, or missing the irony given WWE’s Be A Star campaign, nowadays Sexy Star is better known as the woman who purposefully dislocated TNA Knockout’s Champion Rosemary’s arm during a match at AAA Triplemania. Star had allegedly believed another competitor in their four-woman match for the AAA Reina de Reinas Championship had in turn intentionally hurt her, and went overboard in her reaction, targeting everyone in sight. Since the incident, Star has been stripped of her title despite winning the match, and many fans and officials alike have been calling for her to get banned from the sport. Things don’t look good for Sexy Star right now, yet almost everyone on this list still had a career after their infamous incident, so she might not be without hope.
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