It's no secret to anyone that most of everything that happens in wrestling is scripted. That is just part of the show, and it takes a ridiculous amount of skill for the athletes who compete in this sport to perform what is expected of them. If any regular person just walked up on that ring and tried to do even half of the stuff those guys do, he or she would most likely get injured. Or even worse, and very likely, they would end up hurting somebody else. And this is a theme that we will keep close as we present to you this list of near tragedies in the world of wrestling.
Just because something is scripted, it doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous or that it’s easy. Anytime somebody’s thrown from a high place, gets hit on the head, or is thrown to the ground head-first; there is a severe amount of danger involved. And there have been instances in which fighters have died during wrestling events.
In wrestling, a slip of concentration or just a tad bit of complacency can mean that somebody will never walk away from that ring. That is a terrible price to pay for entertainment. Nevertheless, since wrestling is not going away anytime soon and, honestly, none of us want it to go away. We’ll bring to everybody’s attention some instances in which the worst was nearly avoided. But we will also keep in mind some terrible accidents that had lingering consequences in the lives of a few professional wrestlers.
21 Joey Mercury
People in the WWE get their faces smashed with all kinds of objects. Chairs, tables, you name it. However, nobody ever suffered a sudden and devastating face injury like the one Jeff Hardy gifted Joey Mercury at the WWE Armageddon in 2006.
Mercury got hit in the face with a freaking ladder. No, we're not saying that Hardy picked up a ladder and swung it towards Mercury, with any control over the damage it could cause. No, this guy literally jumped onto one side of the ladder, and when the other end went up, Mercury’s face turned into a blood puddle. Seriously, by the way it looked, this guy could’ve easily gone blind or maybe something even a worse could’ve happened if that ladder had hit a couple of inches to the side.
Sadly, Japanese wrestling legend Hayabusa passed away a little over a year ago due to brain haemorrhages, but he almost lost his life 16 years ago in the ring. While he didn't pass away then, he did suffer paralysis after a botched springboard moonsault. Hayabusa attempted the maneuver from off the middle rope but lost his footing and landed on his head. He wound up cracking two of his vertebrae and the injury left him wheelchair bound for years. By 2015, Hayabusa was finally able to stand on his feet, with the help of a cane. That made it all the more tragic when he passed away at 47, not long after regaining the use of his legs.
19 Marty Garner
Triple H is a beast. No one needs to be reminded of that, but here is one time where he either went too far or made a terrible mistake. In a match against Marty Garner at a taping of WWF Superstars, Triple H went to perform his signature move, the Pedigree, when something went terribly wrong. Apparently, Garner had never been a victim of the move and made the wrong assumptions when Triple H started the maneuver.
The result was that what was just supposed to look like a dangerous move, turned out to be a nearly deadly maneuver as Garner landed on top of his head and injured his neck. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage, and he managed to return to his wrestling career soon after the Pedigree incident.
18 Mass Transit
It's no secret then when ECW fans went to watch a match, the crowd was yearning for blood. That is just a fact. However, the people who attended an ECW event in 1996 got more than they were expecting. When 17-year-old Erik Kulas entered the ring to try to make a name for himself in the world of wrestling under the stage name Mass Transit, he knew he was in for a beating. But he had no idea it would be as bad as it ended up being.
He found himself in the ring facing off against New Jack, who apparently decided he was going to put up the bloodiest show anybody in that arena had ever seen. Mass Transit was hit with crutches and toasters. The kid even had his forehead cut with a blade. He was bleeding so badly that his dad was screaming from the stands for the fight to be stopped. The whole thing took legal proportions afterward as there was a court case about the event.
17 Big Show
The Big Show has been a veteran of the business for over 20 years now. While he now relies on his experience and savvy to get through a match, not taking many risks, back in his younger days he performed moves off the top rope and took some big bumps. One time in a match against Kevin Nash, Nash attempted his Jacknife Powerbomb on the 7'2 monster. Nash lost his grip and Show ended up landing on his head. With Show weighing well over 400 pounds at the time, he was very lucky not to have suffered some internal and potentially fatal injuries on his head. For his part, Nash hurt his back in attempting the lift and probably never tried it again.
14 Rick McGraw
This is one of the biggest controversies in wrestling to this day. Of course, it’s only a controversy because of fan speculation, but it’s one nonetheless. During a fight between Roddy Piper and Rick McGraw, Piper provided what was considered one of the most savage beatings in the history of wrestling at the time. He defeated McGraw in extreme fashion, but everything seemed fine after the match despite the fans thinking that the beating had been all for real and damaged McGraw.
Unfortunately, the controversy sparked as a few days later McGraw died of a heart attack. Some fans claim it was because of Piper’s beating, but there was no sign of that. Still, no one could ever claim or deny that if his heart was already going through troubles, the intense pace of that fight couldn't have influenced what happened days after the event.
Most of the guys on this list nearly died, a lot of them almost went paraplegic, but none of the injuries was as nasty as what happened to Sean Waltman, a.k.a. X-Pac, back during an event in 2013. He was on his way to perform his signature move, the Bronco Buster, when he missed the maneuver and landed awkwardly on the ropes. At first, it seemed like he was selling, but as it turns out Waltman literally “tore his ass.”
More specifically saying, this guy suffered from a torn rectum and then lost so much blood that he could have died if he didn’t go to the hospital that same night. You have got to show him some respect though, because even with a torn anus, X-Pac finished the match.
12 Mitsuharu Misawa
Perhaps one of the saddest things to ever happened in the world of wrestling was the end of the career of a man who was arguably the most famous Japanese professional wrestler of all time. It was on June 13, 2009, when Mitsuharu Misawa participated in a GHC tag team fight that would ultimately claim his life. The details are still shady about what really caused Misawa’s death, but the most common explanation is that it had something to do with the belly to back suplex he suffered before losing consciousness and being taken to the hospital, from which he would never return.
In the end, Misawa lost his life at the hospital, but this warrior fought for his life in the ring and survived until there was nothing else that could’ve been done.
This is an incident that seems to have only been revealed more than a decade after it happened. Gangrel was fighting after a handicap match during the February 1, 1999, edition of Monday Night Raw. His stable was squaring off against the Ministry when something that nearly caused Gangrel’s death occurred. Here’s what happened in Gangrel’s own words as he talked about what happened in an interview last year:
“Remember when The Boss Man was going to bring The Brood into The Ministry? He threw me over the rope with the thing. Richie told him, don’t use that rope. Don’t use it. It was a brand new rope and they wanted to do it anyways.They wanted to do that angle. So they threw me over and then…I bounced off the apron but the rope cinched up. I remember sitting there on TV and everything was just going away.”
9 Buff Bagwell
This may be under the category more along the lines of serious injuries you forgot about, but Buff Bagwell suffered a horrible injury after taking a running bulldog from Rick Steiner on the April 22 1998 edition of Thunder. On the fall, Bagwell's head struck Steiner's back, which jammed his neck and gave him vertebrae damage and developed spinal shock. Bagwell could not move his limbs following the injury and was wheelchair bound for several months following the injury. Remarkably, Bagwell made his return just a few months later. The injury could have been a turning point in his career in gaining sympathy from fans as a babyface, but WCW turned him heel again, halting his babyface momentum. But that's a story for another day.
Taz was a big ECW star but neck injuries ultimately derailed what could have been an even better career. Taz suffered multiple broken necks, which is always something that could lead to death. The first time he broke his neck in ECW came when he received a spike piledriver from Dean Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio (and you wonder why the piledriver is banned today). Miraculously Taz finished the match and when he got to the hospital later, he was told by the doctors that they were amazed he managed to survive such damage to his neck. He would be off of TV for seven months following the injury.
7 The Ultimate Warrior
In yet another sad episode for the people who love wrestling, we have to talk about what happened to James Hellwig, a.k.a. The Ultimate Warrior. The official cause of The Ultimate Warrior’s death was a heart attack. But there were rumors that the signs of his impending demise were already showing the last time he entered a ring. Not too long before his death, he had time to deliver a fantastic promo for Raw just 24 hours before he passed away.
The signs people claim they saw were that he was out of breath, sweating too much, his face was severely more red than usual. Apparently, even when he shook the ring ropes, you could see the strain and difficulty in performing the movements. Either way, this legend will always be remembered by that legendary final promo.
6 Brock Lesnar
Most of the guys on this list are here because either they had a health problem, or somebody messed up a move, or any given number of reasons that are outside any wrestler's sphere of control. Well, Brock Lesnar is the one exception on our list.
Somebody had to tell this guy that when you’re about the size of a Minotaur, you can severely injure yourself if you miscalculate a fall. That is exactly what happened to Lesnar. The shooting star press has to be one of the most dangerous moves anybody ever created. And Lesnar proved to the whole world that was watching his fight against Kurt Angle that, seriously, nobody should try this at home. Those were almost 300 pounds slamming into the ground head-first. Many people don't realize just how close to death Lesnar could have been. If not for his incredibly strong neck muscles, things could have been a lot worse.
The fact he didn’t die right then and there is nothing short of a miracle.
4 Mick Foley
Here is a 2-for-1. It's no secret that Mick Foley is one of the craziest SOBs ever to enter a wrestling ring. So it’s only fair that he would have more than one close encounter with death. It’s just the case that this guy managed to almost die twice on the same night when he fought The Undertaker. First, we need to find out who was the idiot who had the idea of putting two guys up to fight on top of a cage like that. Either way, Foley’s first near-death experience happened when The Undertaker threw him from the cage down to the judges' table.
Foley got up from that one only to return to the top of the cage and then fall through it, in what could have been a tragedy if he landed virtually any other way than he actually did.
This is a sad story of what could’ve been a successful career but was cut short ridiculously early. Droz entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1998 and seemed to have some future in the organization. However, his career would come to a close during a taping of a WWF SmackDown on October 5, 1999. During that taping, he was performing in a match against D’Lo Brown when the worst happened. Apparently, Droz was wearing a loose shirt, which made it harder for Brown to get a good grip on him before performing a move. Everything went wrong and when Droz landed, he landed right on his head and fractured two discs on his neck.
Sadly, the injury left the wrestler quadriplegic and he was never again able to set foot on a ring.