Stone Cold Steve Austin has said that any match can be a wrestler's last in the business, and if anyone would understand that, it would be Stone Cold. After all, Austin would suffer a neck injury in the ring that almost ended his career. While he was fortunate to still get several years of wrestling out of his neck, other superstars haven’t been so lucky.
The wear and tear of professional wrestling has broken down the bodies of many wrestlers resulting in some minor lingering injuries to other injuries are far more serious. Whether it’s a compilation of nagging injuries or a severe injury in the ring, many wrestlers find their careers shortened or at a shocking end from the abuse they put their bodies through. Because many of these injuries have ended careers, WWE is trying to combat this issue by banning the more dangerous maneuvers. However, many times the injury isn’t from the move but rather the improper execution or taking of the move.
In wrestling there is nothing more dangerous than a botched move. Botching even a routine move can lead to severe injuries. However, not always do injuries result from a botch, or a high risk move. Sadly, it's the nature of the wrestling business in that even a routine move executed perfectly can still cause a career ending injury that nobody could see coming. This article is about these wrestling moves, which includes moves that were botched, taking incorrectly or just an average move that was correctly taken and executed that still caused a career ending injury. In this article we’ll detail 15 of these moves that ended the careers of 15 wrestlers.
15 Kick to the back (Paige)
Just when she made her return to the company after dealing with a neck injury, a WWE wellness violation and a tumultuous relationship with Alberto Del Rio, Paige would suffer another injury at the hands, or rather the feet, of Sasha Banks. Initially believed to be a stinger, Paige became injured after she turned her back to Sasha who was against the corner. Sasha would jump and kick Paige in the back, and Paige would not be able to continue the match.
The injury, which resulted from a simple kick, didn’t look devastating, but the whiplash to an already fragile neck might have put Paige’s promising WWE return to an abrupt end. Paige is still hopeful for an in-ring return, but WWE is taking no chances and keeping Paige out of action indefinitely.
14 Running Powerbomb (Droz)
One of the most devastating wrestling injuries happened to Darren Drozdov, who wrestled for WWE under the ring names, Puke and later Droz. Just when his career was starting to take off, Droz was injured in a match with D’Lo Brown.
During their match on a taped SmackDown event, D’Lo Brown went for his signature running powerbomb. However, D’Lo failed to get a good grip on Droz because of Droz's loose shirt, and Droz admits he failed to jump properly for the move. The two miscues led to Droz being dropped on his head and breaking two discs in his neck. Despite hours of surgery, Droz was initially paralyzed from the neck down, although he has recently regain much of his upper body mobility. D’Lo Brown was emphatically upset and even considered retiring from wrestling after the injury. Droz continues to believe his injury was an accident and has said he holds no animosity towards D’Lo whatsoever.
13 Turnbuckle Powerbomb (Sting)
The unbelievable finally happened. Sting joined WWE. While that should have opened a lot of possibilities for dream matches, Sting’s tenure in WWE came to a crashing end in a match against Seth Rollins. The Architect would hit Sting with not one but two turnbuckle powerbombs resulting in a severe neck injury for The Icon, Sting.
Finn Balor was injured by Seth Rollins’ turnbuckle powerbomb as well, and as a result many fans blamed Rollins for injuring Sting and dubbed the move unsafe. However, Rollins has hit the move before on many other superstars without any incident. In fact, even Sting said that both times he failed to take the move properly by not keeping his head in place. Because of this, his head and neck suffered whiplash both times, with the second powerbomb being worse. The match against Rollins would unfortunately be his last, and Sting would officially retire during his 2016 Hall of Fame speech.
12 Muscle Buster (Tyson Kidd)
Tyson Kidd really wasn’t going anywhere as a singles star in WWE. However, his tag team career showed a great deal of promise. Sadly, his career came to a shocking end after taking Samoa Joe’s Muscle Buster finisher. Joe has hit the move before with no problems, however, this time, Tyson Kidd would suffer a severe spinal injury from the maneuver.
The move looked perfect as both Samoa Joe and Tyson Kidd executed and took the move perfectly. However, Tyson Kidd’s career was over following the move, which was actually the good news all things considered. Doctors have said, Tyson is lucky to be alive and that most people that do survive such an injury end up quadriplegics. While Tyson will never wrestle again, the fact that he can still walk and is still alive is as close to a miracle as one can come.
11 Standing Sidekick (Bret Hart)
Bill Goldberg wasn’t known to be the safest worker, which is why he takes most, if not all, of the blame for ending the career of Bret Hart and putting the final nail in the coffin of Hart’s lackluster WCW tenure. Goldberg was always regarded as a passionate worker, who sometimes let his intensity get in the way of the safety of his opponents. After sending Bret Hart to the ropes, Goldberg hit Hart with a sidekick to the head, and Bret Hart received a severe concussion as a result of it.
Bret Hart never recovered from the concussion which ultimately ended his career. Hart at first was critical of Goldberg’s careless kick but has eventually forgiven him. It’s such a shame that the legendary career of Bret Hart would end on a simple kick, with Goldberg calling the incident one of the worst moments of his life.
10 Suicide Dive (Rick Rude)
While Rick Rude had memorable matches in both WCW and WWE, Rude is probably most remembered as for his time as an insurance policy for D-Generation X and manager in the New World Order. He’s the only superstar to appear on both Monday Nitro and Monday Night Raw on the same night as well. Rick Rude was ravishing in the ring, but unfortunately his wrestling days were cut short after an injury that involved The Man They Call Sting.
After Rick Rude was outside of the ring, Sting dove over the top rope for a suicide dive. Rude saved Sting’s life by catching him, but Rude landed awkwardly on a lifted part of the ramp that was in place and severely injured his back. The move was executed normally, and Rude would have taken the move just fine had that raised area of the ramp not been there.
9 Top Rope Big Boot (Sid Vicious)
One of the most sickening injuries ever seen on pro wrestling television occurred to one of the most famous big men in the business, Sid Vicious. Inexplicably, Sid Vicious climbed to the middle rope and attempted a diving big boot. The move sounds ridiculous enough, but it was made even worse coming from a large guy who normally didn't perform moves off the turnbuckle. Sid jumped and all his weight landed on his one leg snapping it in two.
Sid argued that that he was pressured to do the move, and while Sid isn’t always the most reliable source, for him to decide to do such a stupid move on his own seems a bit farfetched also. In any case, his match at the pay per view, Sin, was the end of his full time career in both WCW and WWE.
8 Flying Crossbody (Corey Graves)
Corey Graves had a great look, great in-ring skills, was good on the mic and had all the potential to be a star in WWE. He was tearing it up in NXT, but unfortunately, two concussions ultimately ended his promising career. While the exact move that rendered Graves’ second career ending concussion isn’t certain, it is widely believed that Graves catching Sami Zayn’s top rope flying cross body maneuver caused his final injury.
Even though Graves would wrestle one final match on NXT during a three man tag match, it’s believed that Graves’ previous match with Sami Zayn is the one that did him in. Normally, a cross body isn’t a move that would be considered overtly dangerous, but when Sami dove off the top rope and Graves caught him, Graves appeared to slam the back of his head into the mat.
7 Reverse Piledriver (Steve Austin)
There’s a reason why the piledriver is largely banned in WWE. It’s one of the most dangerous moves in the sport and has potential to cause paralysis or even death if botched. This was the case involving Stone Cold Steve Austin and one of the safer wrestlers to work with, Owen Hart. During their match Owen would nail a reverse piledriver, arguably an even more dangerous variation of the move. Austin’s head wasn’t protected, and he landed on the top of his head.
Steve Austin, the biggest rising star in the WWE, suffered a broken neck and temporary paralysis from the move. Though the move didn’t end Austin’s career right then, the effects from the move eventually caused Austin to retire from the ring.
6 Hip Toss/Pedigree (Rick Martel)
During a match at SuperBrawl VIII, defending his WCW Television Title that he just recently won, Rick Martel would face Booker T and suffer a devastating injury from one of the safer wrestling moves in the business. Booker T delivered a hip toss to Martel, but his leg hit the ropes and Martel tore his knee ligament. Martel was supposed to retain, but the match had to be reworked with Booker T improvising and winning the match instead.
After taking several months off to heal, Martel would return and face Booker T’s brother, Stevie Ray. Stevie Ray would hit his Slapjack finisher, which is a variation of the pedigree, but in an effort to protect his knee, Martel took the move awkwardly and landed on his head, injuring his neck. Rick Martel said that’s enough and retired immediately after.
5 Rocker Dropper (Chuck Austin)
Chuck Austin, no relation to Steve Austin, was a star football player in college and decided to train to be a pro wrestler. After only six weeks of training, he was offered a role in WWE as a jobber to put over The Rockers. As the match was wrapping up, Marty Jannetty prepared to hit his finishing maneuver, The Rocker Dropper, a leg drop bulldog move that even Kelly Kelly could perform. Instead of taking the move appropriately and landing flat on his belly, Austin decided to imitate a lawn dart and jump as high as he could and land on the very top of his head. As anyone other than Austin would expect, he broke his neck and was instantly paralyzed.
Needless to say Chuck Austin’s career was over, and he sued the WWE and Jannetty for failing to protect him. Now, WWE uses only contracted wrestlers who have more than six weeks of training. Good call.
4 Piledriver (Paul Orndorff)
One of the most bizarre injuries ever witnessed happened to Paul Orndorff, and it also involved a piledriver. Yes, a piledriver ended Mr. Wonderful’s career, but the career ending move didn't come from him taking a piledriver, it came from him administering one.
Orndorff’s career was just about over from a nagging untreated bicep injury. He had lost almost all of his muscle mass and was regulated to jobbing in WCW. In a match involving the Filthy Animal and The Natural Born Thrillers, Paul Orndorff hit his patented piledriver on Mark Jindrak and suddenly went limp. He suffered a neck injury, and Orndorff was immediately pinned, marking the rare occasion in which a wrestler eliminated himself after performing his own move.
3 Dropkick to the ropes (Perro Aguayo Jr.)
One of the saddest injuries came from a simple dropkick which not only ended a career, it ended a life as well. Perro Aguayo Jr. was wrestling a tag team match involving Rey Mysterio. Mysterio would attempt his 619 finisher where the opponent would drape himself over the middle rope. Rey hit Aguayo with a dropkick which sent him to the middle rope as planned, but Aguayo lost consciousness. The medical staff was unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The cause of death was ruled as cardiac arrest due to a cervical stroke after three of his vertebrae broke resulting from the whiplash against the ropes. Mysterio had set up his 619 finisher in similar fashion to plenty of wrestlers without anyone ever being injured before. Still, there is debate on whether Rey was responsible, or if Aguayo simply hit the ropes improperly or too hard. The incident is a tragedy none the less and one that many wouldn’t expect from a dropkick into the ropes.
2 Belly to Back Suplex (Mitsuharu Misawa)
Mitsuharu Misawa may not be well known in The States, but he is a legend in Japan and in professional wrestling. Unfortunately, his career came to an end the same night as his life after receiving a routine belly to back suplex. After landing, Misawa lost consciousness and was unable to be revived as medical staff performed CPR in the ring. Misawa was pronounced dead at a local hospital, but the official cause of death was not released by Misawa’s family.
Misawa was believed to have died from cardiac arrest after suffering a cervical spinal injury, and a police report verified the shattering of the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae. Essentially, the head and neck were no longer connected and had Misawa survived, he likely would have been a quadriplegic. It’s hard to believe a simple belly to back suplex could cause an injury much less a death, but supposedly Misawa already suffered from a cervical sprain and probably should not have been cleared to wrestle.
1 Somersault Senton (Jose Estrada Jr.)
Most people probably don’t remember Jose Estrada Jr., but they definitely should remember Edge. In what should have been a great debut for a future WWE Hall of Famer like Edge instead came to be rather bittersweet.
In his debut match against Jose Estrada Jr., Edge would attempt an over the top rope somersault senton onto Jose Estrada who was outside the ring at the time. The move was botched, and Edge’s leg came down on top of Estrada’s head instead of around it. Estrada failed to answer the ten-count, and Edge won his debut match albeit not in the way he wanted to. Even worse, Estrada would suffer a broken neck from the senton maneuver which would ultimately cause him to retire from wrestling about a year later.