Professional wrestling is scripted by nature. The matches' winners are predetermined, as are storylines and other angles. However, that doesn't mean there's no element of reality in the business. Politics go into wrestling like any other business. Tempers flare among workers like in any other environment. Egos also clash and that all leads to disasters.
While all 15 matches you see on this list had a plan on paper, those plans quickly disintegrated once the matches took place. Whether it was one wrestler deciding to beat up their opponent for real, the outcome of the match being changed or serious injuries taking place, all of these matches soon became real after the bell rang.
These types of incidents are far rarer nowadays, as WWE and other major promotions run a pretty tight ship and wrestlers won't take as many liberties as there used to be. When you look at the WWE in particular, a lot of wrestlers seem more concerned about being good employees rather than taking matters into their own hands, so you won't see guys potatoing each other today as often as they used to.
So with all that said, here are 15 wrestling matches that got far more real than were originally intended.
15 15. The Montreal Screwjob
When you're talking about wrestling moments that turn real, there's only one place to start: The Montreal Screwjob. While the story has been spoken about and reported more than any other match in WWE history, it's just as polarizing today as it was in 1997. The story is a simple one — Bret Hart, who had recently signed a 20-year contract with the WWE, was told by Vince McMahon that he could no longer afford his services and that he should sign a lucrative contract with WCW. As the WWE Champion, Hart was asked to lose his belt to on and off-screen rival Shawn Michaels, a scenario that the Hitman refused.
Wrestling in front of his hometown fans in Canada, Hart was put into the Sharpshooter by Michaels — and before he could break out of the hold as planned, McMahon told the referee to ring the bell, resulting in the championship switching hands. McMahon and Hart's real-life feud went on for nearly 13 years before differences were put aside, and it's safe to say there will never be a more tantalizing moment in WWE history.
14 14. Bob Holly vs. Brock Lesnar
When it comes to this moment, there are still some questions surrounding the outcome. In 2002, Bob Holly was a grizzled veteran, was seen as a stiff worker, and wasn't afraid to put someone in their place at a moments notice. At the same time, Brock Lesnar was on a rapid climb to the top of the WWE depth chart, as the WWE strapped a rocket to his back and positioned him as a top player in the company upon his debut.
Because there were many that questioned Lesnar's commitment to the wrestling industry, some believed that Holly wanted to teach him a lesson — and in this case, it's been rumored that he didn't help The Beast in his powerbomb attempt. The incident resulted in a broken neck for Holly and an injury that some online stated that he had coming due to his bullying nature behind the scenes. The former WWE star has gone on record by saying it was an accident but that hasn't stopped rumors from circulating that the injury was Holly's own fault.
13 13. Tony Kozina vs. Ryan Kidd
In what is the first moment that isn't WWE related, we head to the independent circuit where two opponents — Tony Kozina and Ryan Kidd — were scheduled to compete in a match for Magnum Pro Wrestling. There have been two rumors that are believed to have started the unprofessional in-ring act; one rumor is that Kidd disrespected people in the backstage area, and the other rumor has to do with Kozina not liking what Kidd said in his pre-match promo.
Either way, this was a poor display on Kozina's part. Throughout the match, the veteran failed to look hurt as Kidd did his offense. Once Kozina was working his style of wrestling, he appeared to have tried to break Kidd's neck by giving him two unprotected piledrivers and eventually choked him in legitimate fashion with a triangle choke.
12 12. Earthquake vs. Koji Kitao
For those who think that the WWE working with smaller promotions started in 2016, thing again. All the way back in 1991, the Vince McMahon-led promotion and Japan's Super World of Sports held a joint supershow at the Tokyo Dome with dream matches all over the card. Although Earthquake was a heel in the WWE, his history in Japan made him a crowd favorite in his contest against Koji Kitao; unfortunately, however, it all went downhill soon after the bell rang.
Throughout the match, Kitao decided to take the match into his own hands and stop selling Earthquake's offense, which the crowd picked up pretty quickly. Things took a turn for the worse when Kitao kicked the referee to get disqualified and subsequently cut a post-match promo talking about how wrestling is fake. The result didn't work in Kitao's favor, as he was blacklisted from the industry after the incident.
11 11. Mike Bell vs. Perry Saturn
When an enhancement talent goes up against a longtime veteran on a secondary show, there's a good chance something could go wrong. Why, you ask? Obviously, one talent is way more advanced than the other and the older wrestler could be in a bad mood due to being relegated to a jobber match.
In the case of Perry Saturn and Mike Bell, it's a little bit of both. Bell clearly dropped Saturn on his head (the second time in the span of seconds that it happened) and the former ECW and WCW star took matters into his own hands by throwing stiff punches and sending Bell out of the ring and onto his neck. To Saturn's credit, he's admitted that he was wrong in the whole ordeal and has attributed the debacle to being dropped on his head, which caused him to black out for a brief period of time.
10 10. JBL vs. The Blue Meanie
From the time he was an active wrestler up until today as a commentator, it's no secret that John Bradshaw Layfield is considered a bully to numerous people in the wrestling industry. One person that was one the wrong end of JBL's rant was The Blue Meanie, who claimed that the Texan hazed him from when he first joined the WWE back in the late 90s. With ECW One Stand Stand focusing on ECW stars against WWE stars, things got as real as it gets during the brawl at the end of the show.
As both sides were going at it, you can clearly see JBL whaling away at The Blue Meanie, who had stitches from a match that happened days before the event — and the result was a bloody one. While JBL never gave a real answer to why the incident happened, The Blue Meanie claimed that it was sparked because of internet banter that he utilized to hype of the pay-per-view. Fortunately, however, both sides ended up putting their differences aside and wrestled on SmackDown, and eventually became acquaintances down the line.
9 9. Antonio Inoki vs. The Great Antonio
The matchup between Antonio Inoki and The Great Antonio was something that was common in Japan — on paper. After all, Inoki is a cultural icon in his homeland, is considered a legitimate star, set the stage for MMA, created New Japan Pro Wrestling, and even fought Mohammad Ali. At the same time, The Great Antonio was a classic heel from the West that had a significant size advantage over the hero. Unfortunately, however, paper is far different than real life.
Throughout his time as an active wrestler, The Great Antonio was known for taking matches into his own hands, oftentimes shooting on unwilling opponents. Inoki, however, entered the match knowing exactly what Antonio had done before, and it wasn't long before he took matters into his own hands. Were the vicious kicks to the head brutal? Yes. But in some instances, you get what's coming to you.
8 8. Andre The Giant vs. Akira Maeda
Andre The Giant is known around WWE circles as an all-time great and someone who was unparalleled when active. It's hard to deny that sentiment — but when it comes to Japan, some may view him differently. Back in the 1980s, Akira Maeda was one of the country's top stars, as his MMA-like move set wowed the audience on every occasion. But when Maeda wrestled Andre The Giant — who was drunk, no less — things went in the wrong direction.
Some claim that Andre found the attitudes of Japanese talents disrespectful and decided to take the matchup into his own hands. As Maeda put all his might into kicking Andre, The Giant brushed off each and every move, laughing in the process. It was a bad look for Maeda — as mentioned above, he was a top star in those days, and kayfabe was alive and well. The unprofessional act from Andre The Giant led to him never being invited back to the promotion again.
7 7. Kurt Angle vs. Daniel Puder
Throughout the history of the Tough Enough competition, there haven't been many bright spots to come out of it. While Daniel Puder never made a name for himself in a WWE ring, he was a part of arguably the most infamous moment in the history of the show. During the $1 Million Tough Enough Competition, Kurt Angle called out all participants and challenged each to a wrestling match. After defeating the first amateur with ease, Puder entered the ring.
He, of course, was a former successful amateur wrestler and trained in mixed martial arts before trying his hand in professional wrestling. When he stepped into the ring against Angle, he took matters into his own hands and tried to snap the Olympic Gold Medalist's arm with a kimura. In a surprise to no one, Angle was red hot after the incident — and even though Puder won the competition, his stint in the company didn't last long.
6 6. Lex Luger vs. Bruiser Brody
Although this match occurred decades ago, there are still questions surrounding the contest, asking if the match turned into a shoot or if it was just a miscommunication between the two talents. Wrestling in the NWA's Championship Wrestling in Florida, Lex Luger was on his way to Jim Crockett Promotions and was wrestling Bruiser Brody to finish his duties with CWF.
Neither man wanted to lose to one another. Brody supposedly taped razor blades on his knuckles and was hung over as he entered the cage. Luger, meanwhile, punched Brody numerous times and Brody no-sold each one. Referee Bill Alfonso called an audible and told Luger to hit him so he can be disqualified. The match led to much confusion from the live crowd as it was highly promoted match. Afterwards, Brody supposedly told Luger that things "just didn't click," but by the looks of things, it appeared that the veteran sabotaged Luger.
5 5. Steven Regal vs. Goldberg
At this time in WCW, Goldberg and William Regal (then known as Steven) couldn't have been on more different paths. Goldberg was just beginning his ascent to the top of the card as he was still raw in the ring but his undefeated streak was already being publicized. At the same time, Regal was on his way out of the company and was asked to put Goldberg over before he left.
Regal took this as an opportunity to test the future of WCW. Did he try and injure the up-and-coming star? No. But the veteran attempted to push Goldberg's limitations inside of the ring, as he was very new to the ring at the time. Throughout the contest, Regal consistently put Goldberg in quirky holds to see how Goldberg responded and even no sold some of the offense. In the end, he took the loss, but it was odd to see Goldberg not dominate like he did many times beforehand.
4 4. Acolytes vs. Public Enemy
During the early days of ECW, The Public Enemy were seen as one of the promotion's hottest acts. Their hardcore style mixed with high-flying ability made for a unique style of tag team wrestling that wasn't seen before them. As the duo chased the money and went to WWE, they ran into some problems. The result was being put in a match with two of the baddest men on the roster, Farooq and Bradshaw, also known as the Acolytes.
It was rumored that Flyboy Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge refused to partake in the planned finish of the tag team match — and whether they took matters into their own hands or were directed to do so, Farooq and Bradshaw beat The Public Enemy down in a severe fashion. The Heat matchup may have been short but it featured a number of thunderous shots with various weapons. Once the match concluded, the ECW stalwarts were released soon thereafter.
3 3. Jeff Hardy vs. Sting
When looking back at Jeff Hardy's career, it's hard to deny the popularity that he possessed over nearly every crowd he wrestled in front of. Unfortunately, demons were a part of his life during a good chunk of his wrestling career and it was put on center stage live on pay-per-view during one of his stints with TNA. In the main event of Victory Road, Hardy was supposed to wrestle and defeat Sting in the main event to retain his Heavyweight Championship.
There was just one problem with the match — Hardy was clearly intoxicated. From his entrance up until the three count, it was blatantly obvious that something was wrong with Hardy. Sting, of course, didn't appreciate the immature act. Eric Bischoff ended up calling an audible by having Sting win in a "match" that disappointed almost all of the paying customers.
2 2. Mass Transit Incident
This match remains one of the blackest marks on not just ECW, but the entire wrestling industry. At a house show, Axl Rotten was unable to perform due to a family emergency. Erik Kulas, a 17-year-old fan, told Paul Heyman he was 23 and had been trained to wrestle. He convinced Heyman he had been trained by Killer Kowalski and fooled Heyman into being inserted into a match with D-Von Dudley, taking on New Jack and Mustafa Saed. Before the match, Kulas decided he wanted to get busted open and asked New Jack to blade him since he'd never done it before. New Jack busted Kulas open with a surgical scalpel but cut too deep on purpose and cut two arteries in Kulas's head.
The Kulas family sued New Jack, but due to the fact that Kulas had asked New Jack to blade him, Jack was acquitted of any criminal charges and escaped the lawsuit.
1 1. New Jack vs. Gypsy Joe
Let's stick with New Jack to finish this countdown off. While he was involved in real life wrestling moments like the aforementioned Mass Transit Incident and also issues with wrestler Vic Grimes, there was no moment worse than what happened in the contest between New Jack and Gypsy Joe.
In a shoot interview, New Jack claimed that Gypsy Joe told him that he would teach him how to be "hardcore," an obvious show of disrespect to Jack who was nationally known as one of the most violent wrestlers in the world. Couple that with the fact that Gypsy Joe was stiff and New Jack took matters into his own hands. Despite a serious age difference, New Jack viciously beat the elder wrestlers, including hitting him over the head with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire multiple times. The match is hard to watch due to its sheer violence and it's the definition of when wrestling goes wrong.
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