As heard by many old timers in the business, professional wrestling is not ballet. Competitors try their best to not actually hurt each other, but the reality is that accidents do happen. Wrestlers slip up from time to time and cause real injuries, some of which will make you queasy merely by watching them. With the power of the GIF, watching them is exactly what’s about to happen.
Looking back through the careers of some of the biggest names in the squared circle, a collection of the most stomach-turning botches has been compiled. Gruesome moments like when Sid’s leg infamously snapped in WCW, Bob Holly’s back was slashed by a table from ECW, and Jim Cornette’s knee got banged up after falling off of a 20-foot scaffold are featured. Also, a few modern moments like Enzo Amore’s bottom rope concussion have been mixed in.
The common factor among all of these highlights, if that’s the best term, is that many are hard to watch. They showcase entertainers getting accidentally hurt. Sometimes, it’s serious. If you’re clicking through while at work or any public place, be advised that many GIFs in this article are unsettling.
Blood and broken bones lie before you. Several wrestlers suffered career-altering and even career-ending injuries. One even died within weeks as a result of what happened to him in the ring. If you’ve taken this warning to heart and still feel up to the challenge, then good luck. Also, make sure you’re sitting down if you start to feel light-headed.
20. Creating The Crippler
Kicking off this countdown with one of professional wrestling’s most controversial figures, ECW’s 1994 version of their November To Remember series is when Chris Benoit was christened “The Crippler.” In a singles match against the legendary Sabu, Chris launched his opponent high into the air for a flapjack, a move that requires a wrestler to land on their belly.
The problem for Sabu was that he thought he was being lifted for a backbody drop. He rotated without Chris giving him enough momentum. Sabu rolled out of the ring and was immediately tended to for what was a legitimate broken neck. The match did not continue as it was ruled a no-contest. Sadly for Sabu, this would not be his only neck injury while in ECW.
19. Brock Breaks Hardcore Holly
Hardcore Holly fell victim to a botched Powerbomb by a young Brock Lesnar in 2002. He found himself on the disabled list for quite some time because of this. During a singles match on SmackDown, Brock struggled to lift Bob for this power move. Lesnar did his best to follow through anyway but ended up dropping Holly very awkwardly on his head.
This match shockingly continued for a few minutes after this painful botch. Brock even dished out an F5 before scoring the pinfall.
After the final bell rang, Holly was out of action for 13 months. When he finally returned to competition he became a challenger to Brock Lesnar and his WWE Championship. They faced off at Royal Rumble 2004 in a title bid that Bob was not successful in.
18. Stopped By The Bottom Rope
When both The Vaudevillains and Enzo & Cass were relatively new call-ups from NXT, they competed in a match at WWE Payback 2016 to determine the Number One Tag Contenders. In what should’ve been a relatively minor spot, Simon Gotch tried to hurl Enzo Amore out of the ring. This turned out to be way more impactful of a move than The Smacktalker Skywalker could’ve imagined.
Enzo clipped the bottom rope and slid out of the ring, causing his head to bounce hard off of the mat. He was out cold right after this, which stopped the match right then and there. Amore was then transported to a local medical facility for treatment. It was determined that he suffered a concussion from the botched ring exit. He missed several weeks of competition afterward.
17. Stone Cold’s Broken Neck
As far as botched moves on this countdown that affected the trajectory of the wrestling industry, Owen Hart’s wicked Piledriver on Stone Cold Steve Austin ranks pretty high. This is the moment that definitively shifted Austin’s in-ring style away from a more technical approach to that of a brawler. The Attitude Era would’ve looked way different if Stone Cold was bumping more and punching less.
Austin was positioned far too low to take this Piledriver. It’s visible that the entire weight of his body crunched down to the base of his head, causing a broken neck and even temporary paralysis. Perhaps not wanting to succumb to the dreaded stipulation of having to kiss Owen’s hind end if he lost, he fought through his fractured spine enough to perform the slowest roll-up pinfall in history for the win.
16. No Run-In For Sting
At the tenth installment of Clash Of The Champions, The Horsemen took on the team of Buzz Sawyer, The Dragonmaster, and The Great Muta inside of a steel cage. Sting really wanted a piece of Flair, so he ran toward the ring near the end of this match. Ric Flair was waiting up near the top of the cage as if he expected to be slugging it out. That fight never came to him.
The problem for Sting here is that when he got to the cage, his leg got caught in the steel and suffered a torn patella tendon. From the viewer’s point of view, it simply looked like those Steiners were just really good at holding him back. He was likely in a ton of pain while hanging on the side of the cage.
15. The Authors Of Pain Pulverize Their Foes
NXT’s Akam & Rezar are a couple of big boys that are destined for greatness. Not only are they tearing through the competition currently on WWE’s developmental brand, but they’ve also been gifted with the guidance of the great Paul Ellering. Somebody really wants to see these guys succeed.
Two people who might not be so high on The Authors of Pain are Anthony Bowens & Johnny Vandal, a pair that tagged against them during tapings in December of 2016. Akam Powerbombed Johnny on top of Anthony, causing the two to conk heads together. Mr. Bowens took the worst of it, suffering a concussion that forced him to cancel all indy dates for the following month. This was undoubtedly not how they envisioned their big break in an NXT ring to unfold.
14. Ending The Hitman’s Career
Bret “The Hitman” Hart is one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. If you were watching the sport in the early 1990s, there’s a good chance that he might’ve even been your favorite. His fans probably dreamed of a chance for this legend to ride gracefully off into the sunset, but that’s not how his story ended.
While defending the WCW World Championship against Bill Goldberg at Starrcade 1999, Bill connected to Bret’s jaw with a stiff mule kick. Hart suffered a concussion from this strike, forcing him to retire from the squared circle shortly after this. Not only is this hard to watch because of how much pain it caused The Hitman in the moment, if you were one of Bret’s many supporters then it might make you sick to know that it effectively halted his career.
13. Shooting Star Press To The Face
In 2004, Billy Kidman held tag team titles alongside Paul London. The two battled with Jamie Noble & Chavo Guerrero, which lead to this singles match. Billy ended this contest by getting the three count on Guerrero after giving him a signature Shooting Star Press.
By the looks of it, the ref could’ve counted to a thousand here because Chavo was not getting back up. He was visibly knocked out cold. When Billy tried to hook his leg for the pinfall, he was unable to get much of any bend.
Guerrero was concussed and out for several minutes after this botched finisher. This lead directly into the breakup of Kidman and London, who dropped the tag titles the next week to Kenzo Suzuki & Rene Dupree. They then moved on to a feud with each other, leading to Billy hitting Paul London with a Shooting Star Press to him on a stretcher.
12. Lita’s Suicide Dive
Women of today have far more opportunity in the ring today than just a few short years ago. Trish Stratus and Lita helped spur that change. They made history in 2004 as the first two women to ever headline Monday Night Raw. To say that they pulled out all of the stops in this match would be an understatement, because it was a very deserving headliner.
Lita really wanted to win her opponent’s Women’s Championship on this night, exercising a suicide dive far too literally. She took out Trish, yes, but she also folded up like an accordion on the landing.
Unlike many of the other moves on this list, this is a painful spot to watch that didn’t cause any severe injuries to either athlete. How Lita didn’t break her neck can be filed somewhere in the folder labeled ‘miracles.’
11. Jim Cornettes’s Big Fall
Jim Cornette pretty much spends most of his times these days challenging former WWE head writer Vince Russo to shoot fights and talking about how Chuck Taylor is killing the business by being entertaining. It was a different story for him back in the 1980s because then he knew how to go high risk. At Starrcarde 1986, he managed The Midnight Express against Paul Ellering’s Road Warriors in a nosebleed-inducing Skywalkers Match.
After his boys lost, Cornette was chased up the 20-foot high scaffold. He eventually came down the hard way, which proved to be a huge mistake. Big Bubba Rogers was supposed to catch him yet was off in his receipt. Jim needed assistance out of the ring due to a legitimate knee injury.
10. Brock’s Mania Botch
Brock Lesnar’s first ever WrestleMania could’ve very well been his last. Facing off against Kurt Angle in the main event of the 19th edition of the pinnacle of this sport, he climbed to the top rope in the closing moments of this match to try something men of his size don’t normally attempt.
Brock went for a Shooting Star Press and it did not go well for him. He did not get enough rotation and came nowhere near landing on Kurt. He was visibly glazed over after this failed attempt and was concussed, yet was able to finish out this match for the WWE Championship.
9. Seth’s Bendy Leg
There are some ways that legs just aren’t supposed to bend. For Seth Rollins at this Dublin, Ireland house show in 2015, he tested the limits of that joint. Facing off against Kane at an untelevised house show, Seth went for a sunset flip against The Big Red Machine. He hoped to slam him through the table inside the ring. In the process, his knee buckled sideways in an obvious injury.
Amazingly, Seth got back into position and finished his attempt to Powerbomb the seven footer through the table. Due to the damage done to his leg, Seth was forced to vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and was immediately out of action on this European tour. Equally as bad, the man who disbanded The Shield stayed out of action until after the following year’s WrestleMania.
8. A Limo Can Only Take So Much
Bill Goldberg was mad at the nWo at the end of this December edition of WCW Monday Nitro. As the show was going off the air, he decided to go after them inside a limousine like a vigilante. He could’ve used the steel pipe tucked away in his sleeve but no, Bill’s hands were more than enough.
On the last strike through the side window, a stray piece of glass is seen snagging his hand as he pulls it back toward himself. That’s the moment he messed up. He must’ve been in the heat of the moment because he still moved to the front of the automobile to continue striking. He smacked the front windshield a few times with his non-slashed up hand, then gorilla-style beat on the hood. There’s a visible pool of blood left behind on the white paint.
Goldberg was sidelined at a time when WCW needed his name value in the Monday Night Wars. Even more important, doctors later told him that his slice was mere inches from potentially causing him to lose his entire arm.
7. Lionsault Botch
Many wrestling fans in the western hemisphere probably know Hayabusa best from his stint in ECW. He was the creator of many exciting moves, including the 450 Splash and the Falcon Arrow. He even challenged RVD & Sabu alongside Jinsei Shinzaki in the 1998 Heatwave pay-per-view.
In 2001, this FMW wrestling legend tragically ended his career after this botched lionsault. He slipped off the second rope, cracking two vertebrae. He was paralyzed and due to this, his career was over.
Despite the severity of his injuries, Hayabusa regained some use of his legs. He later found the strength to rise out of a whellchair and even take steps with the aid of a cane, a true sign of his fighting spirit. His death was mourned heavily by the wrestling community in March of 2016.
6. When Tables Fight Back
This is Hardcore Holly’s second appearance on this list, which is a testament to his toughness. During a rivalry with RVD on the revived ECW in 2006, he proved how fitting his name was.
During an Extreme Rules Match, Holly suplexed Rob out of the ring through a couple of tables. Bob easily got the worst of the bump, suffering one of the longest gashes ever seen by many who viewed it in the first run. Taz speculated on commentary that the cut had to have been at least “14 of 15” minutes.
Proving his worth, Hardcore Holly wrestled an additional 10 more minutes or so until the match conclusion. The ring had evidence of his bloodshed all over it and he later required over 20 stitches to get closed back up.
5. Smile For The Camera
This list wouldn’t be complete without this infamous Chokeslam by The Undertaker from devilish heights. Facing off against Mankind in the Hell In A Cell Match from King Of The Ring 1998, an unpredictable accident occurred during the second biggest spot of the night.
After being thrown off of the top of the cell in one of the greatest highlights in wrestling history, Mankind performed a huge babyface rally as he climbed back up to the top for some more. The scuffle on top ended with a Chokeslam through the roof of the cell, causing a dangerous fall to the ring below.
What wasn’t accounted for in this spot was the chair that also came down with Foley. It smacked him directly in the face, causing a tooth to dislodge and puncture through his nose. The cameras later got right in his face to showcase a morbid smile, caused involuntarily by the dental disaster.
4. Keeping A Close Eye On The Lariat
There are few people to walk planet Earth who are as tough as Vader. He was a monster inside of the wrestling ring and in this match in Japan in 1990, he proved how tough he truly was.
The formidable Stan Hansen was trapped by the arm by the big man, so he grabbed at his face as he tried to get out. Stan must’ve thought he had Vader’s mask, but he had far more than that. One of Hansen’s fingers got caught in his eye socket, popping an eyeball out.
Vader got to his feet and removed the mask, manually placing his eyeball back where it belonged. With an obviously swollen eye, Stan amazingly charged without hesitancy with stiff strikes toward Vader right after the eye was reinserted. Those guys were insane.
3. Candido’s LockDown Injury
Chris Candido was part of the first ever TNA Lockdown, and his time in the ring was nothing short of tragic. Almost immediately, he fell awkwardly off of a simple kick, breaking his leg. He was carried backstage while his tag team partner, Lance Hoyt, finished the match without him. Later in the show, the announcers replayed the injury and warned the viewers that the all-cage match concept was every bit as dangerous as was hyped.
Candido showed up to manage The Naturals when they won The NWA Tag Team Championships a week later, but it would be his last appearance. While in hospital care for pneumonia, Chris unexpectedly died after it was discovered that he had a blood clot in his leg due to this injury.
2. Bloody-Faced Mercury
The blood was gushing everywhere on this botch. In a 4-team Ladder Match for the WWE Tag Team Championships at Armageddon 2006, Jeff Hardy dove off of the top turnbuckle to pull off a see-saw spot to the faces of Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro. It was a spot that had been done numerous times before, but never creating such disastrous results.
Mercury held his face a tad too close to the ladder, taking a very real ladder strike full on to the face. He wore a literal crimson mask within seconds. Several bones in his face were shattered and he eventually received about 20 stitches in total. His team lost this match, but would transition directly into a rivalry with The Hardyz after this.
1. Sid’s Gruesome Snap
The biggest botch here has to be that anybody backstage thought it was a good idea to get Sid to perform anything resembling a high-risk maneuver. Even though he initially resisted the requests by creative to incorporate this kick off of the middle rope, he relented during this WCW Championship challenge at Sin and went for it.
Champion Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, and Road Warrior Animal were the other competitors in this four corners main event match. To make things even worse for Sis, Animal was a mystery opponent who wasn’t supposed to enter the match until the very end to betray Sid. Even with this gruesome leg snap, everyone did their best to stick to the original story, which meant that Sid had to lay in the ring for several long minutes until Animal finally arrived in the ring for the attack.
To this day, Sid’s broken leg at WCW Sin is the standard for stomach-quenching botches.
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