Neck Breakers: 15 Most Brutal Neck Injuries In Professional Wrestling History

Wrestling sure is fake, isn't it? These "actors" stamp their feet when they're throwing a punch and they even learn how to fall. They are experts at it. Detractors often say this stuff to throw shade on the athleticism and showmanship of a wrestler willing to put his body on the line for the adulation of the fans. But of course no matter how much you've learned over the years and how careful you are, an accident can happen in the ring. Injuries occur and sometimes they're compounded just by the rigors of the road.

The WWE likes to say "Don't try this at home," and they are right to warn people. Sure any fan has pretended they're the Macho Man and dove off their couch with no regard for getting hurt, but again - if these trained professionals can badly injure themselves, no one should try what a trained wrestler does in the ring in their own home.

One of the worst injuries a wrestler can suffer is to their neck. After all, there's no way to truly rehab it except rest and relaxation. The neck injury for the most part takes a guy out for a good edit months to a year once they've elected to have surgery to repair it. But for some, even if they make a fill recovery, they're never the same and their career might be over to boot. If you still think this is "fake" then you're an idiot and you should read about the 15 worst neck injuries in wrestling history.

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15 Tyson Kidd 

via wrestling-edge.com

Clearly it's happenstance and coincidence, but Samoa Joe isn't called The Destroyer because he likes to smell ice lilies. The guy is a freaking monster and his is finally getting the exposure he richly deserves. He debuted on Raw and both in storyline and accidentally in reality, he annihilated The Architect, Seth Rollins. The Samoan Submission Machine ran roughshod over the NXT roster and now he's poised to go through everyone on Raw the only way he knows how to - with a bad attitude and malicious intent. Unfortunately, as he was just starting out his run on NXT, he wrestled Tyson Kidd, who was experiencing a career resurgence at the time helping to reignite the tag team division, as well as groom many guys in NXT like Sami Zayn, Neville, and Joe. During his match with Samoa Joe, Kidd took Joe's patented Muscle Buster finisher but couldn't tuck his neck in far enough and suffered a few broken vertebrae in the process. In today's WWE locker room, the unfortunate incident spelled the end of Tyson Kidd's short career, leaving some fans pondering what might have been.

14 Hardcore Holly

via brocklesnarblogdotcom.wordpress.com

It has long been rumored that Hardcore Holly was a proud locker room hazer. But that doesn't take from the fact that Holly was as J.R. might say "tougher than a two dollar steak." But as just about everyone who lives in this galaxy knows there's tough guys like Holly, and then there's "Brrrrroocccck Lesssnarr!" Back before the God of Violent Retribution was simply The Next Big Thing, the two clashed on SmackDown and unfortunately for Holly, his brand of hazing meant absolutely nothing to Lesnar. In September of 2002 Holly, depending on whose interpretation you'd like to interpret, thought it would be a good idea to try and embarrass the Anomaly by becoming dead weight and not assisting in getting hoisted up for a Powerbomb. Brock, who is very much Brock by the way didn't give two cups of Sugar Honey Ice Tea and lifted Hardcore up anyway and promptly dropped him on his stack of dimes, putting him out of action for over a year. Holly returned for revenge in 2004, but was again soundly thrashed by Mr. Lesnar.

13 Stone Cold Steve Austin

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Along with our number one entry, this one is certainly one the most well known injuries on this list, even outside the world of professional wrestling. In the summer of 1997, The Hart Foundation and everyone they were feuding with was the hottest thing going on in the WWE at the time. One of the big matches at SummerSlam that year was Stone Cold Steve Austin challenging the King of Harts, Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship. Owen was brimming with confidence and even said if he lost he'd pucker up and kiss the Rattlesnake's butt. During the match, Owen would deliver a Tombstone Piledriver to Austin. Only the usually near perfect tactician Owen couldn't get under Austin correctly and Austin was paralyzed for several seconds. As he noted several times in his podcast over the years, all Austin kept thinking about was Christopher Reeve. In Bret's book, he stated his little brother felt terrible about the incident even though he didn't bring himself to apologize for the mistake that could have done far more damage than it did.

12 Droz

via journaldemontreal.com

Another famous injury on this list would certainly be the worst if not for our number one. But this neck injury has to be one of the most brutal and heartbreaking ones ever - a man's career, livelihood, and mobility were all snapped away in an instant. Darren Drozdov, a former football player who the WWE signed has come in with a little bit of hype. Who can remember his memorable cameo in Beyond the Mat, Vince McMahon doing his craziest commentary voice, egging Drozdov to regurgitate, which was a oddball trait of his. He was partnered with Hawk and Animal and became a member of the Legion of Doom. With all of that hype, you'd think he would have been more protected or at the very least better coached. But as we know, accidents can happen regardless of how trained you are. During a SmackDown taping, Droz was taking on D-Lo Brown, who delivered a botched Powerbomb on the outside of the ring, sealing Droz's fate and rendering him a quadriplegic up until very recently when he regained some mobility in his hands.

11 Marty Garner

via wwe.com

One of the biggest reasons a guy can get injured during a botched move is their own fault, with all due respect. Whether you like him or think he's a power hungry madman who pushes everyone down, Triple H is just as he used to say he was - that damn good. Already one of the finest ring generals as a rookie learning underneath Terry Taylor, The Game was able to take the comically bad aristocrat gimmick and make it work. How could someone so crisp in the ring still wind up in this list? Again accidents happen and this one isn't necessarily Hunter's fault (Snitsky long before there was a Snitsky), Triple H was taking on journeyman Marty Garner on an episode of Superstars in 1996 and of course, he would deliver a big Pedigree to the guy. Garner had never taken the move before and assumed that it was some sort of Suplex and tried to flip out of Triple H's knees in order to take that maneuver, landing in his neck in the process. The move was even featured as WWE's Slam of the Week while Garner also appeared on the talk show circuit discussing the incident.

10 Jose Estrada Jr.

via profightdb.com

Perhaps it's ironic, or maybe a coincidence but it just plain sucks on every level. Considering Egde retired due to issues surrounding his neck, his debut match involved the future Hall of Famer and Rated R Superstar accidentally injuring Los Boricuas' Jose Estrada Jr. Can you imagine, weeks of hype leading up to your big debut and you wind up hurting your opponent right out of the gate? The guy who probably worked 100 hard wrote matches during the course of his career and escaped them all for the most part without injury unfortunately delivered a somersault to Estrada on the outside, and landed on him wrong breaking the Estrada's neck in the process. Clearly Edge won his debut match, which went really poorly by countout. One of the brightest careers of the past 20 years had started while Estrada's career was more or less over.

9 Buff Bagwell 

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There could be a column on guys like Marcus "Buff" Bagwell, who were WCW legends but for some reason or another, never got a fair shake from WWE once Vince bought WCW and seemingly had been blackballed from the industry. Bagwell was a young good looking guy who had the physique Vince loves and the kind of experience of a thirty year veteran stuck in the body of a thirty year old man who had been hanging out with NWA legends during his formative years. As the nWo came, Marcus Alexander Bagwell became Buff and shed his squeaky clean image, turning in his American Males tag team partner Scotty Riggs in the process. Eventually, he started running with Scott Steiner, which put him square in the crosshairs of The Dog Face Gremlin, Rick Steiner. On an episode of Thunder, Rick wound up smashing Buff with his top rope bulldog finisher and smash his neck in the process in what was the second worst looking injury caught on WCW television, second only to Sid's leg breaking leap.

8 Lionheart 

via onlineworldofwrestling.com

It's an odd thing to see beloved squeaky clean A.J. Styles as a viscous mean heel, but much like everything else he does in the ring, Styles pulls it off with a panache harkening back to a 1996 era Shawn Michaels - the guy is just pure King Solomon right now, making everything pure gold. But the devastating looking Styles Clash maneuver is not as pure as A.J. is. If not taken correctly, it can break a wrestler's neck. Which is exactly what has happened several times during A.J.'s career. Seemingly the big error is that the wrestler taking the move should be sticking their neck out as Styles comes down instead of tucking it under. Something British wrestler Lionheart did in 2014. Lionheart even wrote a letter to P1, asking, begging him to stop using the move sighting the way to take the move is unnatural to a wrestler's natural reflexes.

7 Yoshi Tatsu

via wrestlinginc.com

There are many wrestlers who have legitimately fallen victim to the Styles Clash, including Corey Graves and Frankie Kazarian. A few weeks ago, The Chinless Wonder, James Ellsworth almost was added to the list as well, had it not been for A.J.'s quick thinking. While a guy the caliber of A.J. could certainly find himself a move that's easier to take and just as dynamic finisher, but if everyone's a professional here then they should all be able to take the move no matter what. Perhaps a debate for another time. One of the biggest reasons to ban the move might be watching a video Yoshi Tatsu taking the move. A.J.'s legs went out, Tatsu's head went down, and all of A.J. crashed down on Tatsu's head, landing the poor guy in a halo for three months afterward. This botch actually helped further cement how scary the move is and how devastating and vicious heel A.J. Styles could be.

6 Pitbull Gary Wolfe

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ECW was a world where the anti-heroes were faces, which meant the heels had to be straight up pricks to get any heat. The Franchise, Shane Douglas was the biggest prick of them all. Sometimes the fans loved him for it. But they certainly didn't like when the guy shoved Pitbull Gary Wolfe, who was wearing a halo at the time, to the mat. The ECW faithful were incensed and Douglas was legit scared he wasn't leaving Philly alive that night. What caused Gary to be in a halo anyway was a botched DDT onto the Television title he had suffered at the hands of Douglas himself. Both Douglas and Wolfe have different opinions of what happened that night at Heatwave 1996. Wolfe simply says Shane did the move and therefore caused the injury. Douglas states that Wolfe wasn't listening to his advice on how to take the move, which begs the question - if Wolfe wasn't listening, why'd Douglas even go for the mode in the first place?

5 Sabu 

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When you're billed as a homicidal, suicidal, genocidal madman, you're bound to break a few bones here and there along the way. Sabu is one of the most revered hardcore wrestlers of all time, perhaps only second to Mick Foley in most circles of fandom. Sabu has a laundry list full of scars, injuries, and gluing himself back together. This entry actually celebrates (?) both of the ECW icon's brutal neck injuries. First is against Chris Benoit (which is actually how he got his now eerily correct Crippler nickname). At a November to Remember event Benoit hoisted Sabu into the air for a single leg Suplex barely a minute into the match. Sabu landed horrifically on his neck. If breaking your neck once didn't work the first time, then you might as well try, try again. Several years later, Taz would be the culprit and in similar fashion no less! He delivers a T-Bone Taxplex but without enough torque, Sabu crunched his head on a table and was rushed to the hospital immediately.

4 Masahiro Chono 

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Fate, coincidence, irony, karma, call it whatever you want but the very way that Stone Cold Steve Austin wound up wit a severe career-threatening injury is exactly the way Stunning Steve Austin inadvertently inured Masahiro Chono five year earlier in 1992 when he would challenge Chono for the NWA World Championship Thankfully, the double tough Japanese legend is double tough and actually still wrestles today in Japan. This is just another example of how men shorter and a little less massive shouldn't be trying to deliver Tombstone Piledrivers to their opponents. Besides at this point in 1992, The Undertaker was dropping opponents left and right with the tombstone onot his  thighs and knees. You'd think that this method would have become the industry standard.

3 Hayabusa

via fmwwrestling.us

Any fan who fashions himself as a smart fan who pays attention to wrestling around the world would have to know about Japan's legendary Hayabusa. After all he worked all over the world, including an amazing tag match with Jinsei Shinzaki (Hakushi) against Rob Van Dam and Sabu at ECW Heat Wave 1998. In Japan, he pretty much single handedly put hardcore wrestling on the map for the Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling federation (FMW). He also helped make the cruiser style what it is today. In 2001, during a match against Mammoth Sasaki, he would go for a middle rope Moonsalt but lost his footing and he would land on his head head and crack two vertebrae in the process leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life, which ended last year. His career ending injury also spelled the end for FMW, he was its biggest star.

2 Sting

via wwe.com

The man called Sting was the greatest North American wrestler to have never worked for the WWE (Kenji Mutoh, The Great Muta would be the greatest from the Far East in case you were wondering). That all changed in 2014 when the icon shocked the world and walked into the Survivor Series to deliver some vigilante justice. This would lead to a WrestleMania 31 duel with Triple H and even in defeat, fans couldn't help but continue to salivate at the thought of finally seeing Sting against The Undertaker. But all hopes of that were dashed at Night of Champions when Seth Rollins delivered an errant Buckle Bomb which would shock Sting into briefly being knocked out and provide a broken neck. The  event sadly ended Sting's career as he would announce his retirement during his Hall of Fame induction.

1 Perro Aguayo Jr.

via alchetron.com

Being the son of a Mexican Luche Libre legend, Perro Aguayo Sr., El Hijo del Perro Aguayo or Perro Aguayo Jr. was making a name for himself too. He was the leader of Los Perros del Mal (the Dogs of Evil) and he feuded with legends like Hector Garza and beloved luchas like Mistico (the original Sin Cara). The crew would start their own promotion and return to AAA to do an invasion storyline. But all of the momentum Aguayo was building for himself ended tragically in March 2015. In a Tag match with Manik against Rey Mysterio and Xtreme Tiger. During the match, Mysterio would deliver a Headscissors Takedown sending Aguayo out of the ring. When he came back in, Rey nailed him with a Dropkick to set him up for the 619, but when he was getting up it was clear something was very wrong. Konnan came to try and revive him while Mysterio brought it to the referees attention. It was thought that he was just unconscious, but unfortunately, he would be pronounced dead early in the morning. He died from cervical spine trauma due to the whiplash he felt from Mysterio drop kicking him for the 619. He died almost instantly.

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