One of the biggest misconceptions and most tiresome arguments pertaining to the WWE is that it's fake. While the
professional wrestling, um, I mean, sports entertainment business is known to have predetermined outcomes while, for the most part, talents don't dislike each other, all of the moves that go on inside of the squared circle do have an effect on the wrestlers bodies.
Just like in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, among others, injuries are like a domino effect; it affects everything else greatly.
When a wrestler goes down with a certain injury, there will always be a change of plans for upcoming storylines. However, when talents that are lower on the card or don't have a featured program get hurt, it is a bit easier to rebound, simply because the same amount of time isn't invested into their storylines as they are into main event programs.
However, when an injury involves one of the top talents - and, most importantly, talents that are holding championships - it could change the landscape of the business entirely.
When a main event type of wrestler gets put on the shelf for an extended period of time, complete scripts from both weekly shows and pay-per-views over the next several weeks must be rewritten, as said wrestler obviously can't go forward. That is even more apparent when that wrestler is a champion, simply because the title must be up for grabs in a make shift type of way, similar to the tournament currently going on WWE programming for the World Title.
With all that being said, here are 10 wrestlers who had to vacate their respective championships due to injuries.
10 Seth Rollins
The main reasoning behind this list coming together was due to the unfortunate injury that happened to the now former WWE World Heavyweight Champion just last week.
After being the most entertaining in-ring talent during his run with The Shield, Seth Rollins became an emerging heel over the second half of 2014, which saw The Architect capture the Money in the Bank briefcase. His cash in was an unforgettable one, as Rollins was the first person to ever do so at a WrestleMania, which made his victory seem even more of a big deal.
Sure, the booking of his character was questionable at best. However, there is no denying that Rollins was the best performer in the squared circle during his first championship reign. Unfortunately during a live event match with Kane, Rollins tore his ACL, MCL and medial meniscus, putting him on the shelf anywhere from six to nine months. While he was clearly going to be a focal point of WWE programming for the foreseeable future, those plans will be on hold.
9 Daniel Bryan (Intercontinental Title)
When Daniel Bryan had to relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, many thought that was going to be the last time Bryan would compete inside of a WWE ring again. However, after a vigorous rehab, the fan favorite returned in December of 2014, just in time to put him in the thick of things come WrestleMania 31.
After losing in the Royal Rumble match – to the dismay of the live audience – Bryan had a short feud with Rumble winner Roman Reigns before entering the Intercontinental Championship ladder match. With Bryan winning it at WrestleMania while John Cena won the U.S. Championship, it seemed WWE was finally going to bring prestige to the mid card titles.
After putting on a strong performance for the championship on Raw, a returning Sheamus took out both men, thus beginning a program between he and Bryan.
Unfortunately, while wrestling Sheamus on Smackdown, Bryan took many questionable high-risk falls while also getting busted open the hard way. Days after, it was announced that Bryan was medically unable to compete, thus meaning he had to surrender the title in May. Bryan hasn’t wrestled a match since.
8 Bret Hart
Speaking of Bret Hart, he too had to surrender a championship, and it could be noted that it is due to his real life feud with Shawn Michaels.
When the aforementioned backstage tension grew too large, Hart, with the blessing of WWE Owner Vince McMahon, jumped ship to rival WCW, signing one of the biggest contracts in professional wrestling history at the time. Unfortunately, Hart never seemed interested while on WCW television, which led to lackluster moments and matches for the all-time great.
At WCW’s annual Starrcade event, Hart defended his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Goldberg, one of the company’s biggest stars. During the matchup, Goldberg kicked Hart directly in the head, which ended up being a career-ending maneuver due to a severe concussion and post-concussion syndrome. Although Hart finished the match while also wrestling in three other contests, he eventually relinquished the championship due to said concussion issues.
7 Scott Hall
While it is blatantly obvious that Scott Hall possessed every tool to be a wrestling superstar, it is also blatantly obvious that personal demons have affected him greatly. However, in 1999, it was injuries that put a halt to title reigns.
During the WCW event titled SuperBrawl XI in February of that year, Hall took on and defeated Rowdy Roddy Piper for the United States Championship. However, shortly after the win, a foot injury made Hall forfeit the belt, and he was out of action until October.
Soon after his return, both Hall and Kevin Nash won the WCW Tag Team Championships, while Hall recaptured the U.S. title that he had vacated earlier in the year. Unfortunately, a knee injury put an end to the championship reigns, as he had to give up both belts in November.
The last time the WWE Universe saw Batista, he was getting booed out of each building he wrestled in. I guess some fans didn’t remember just how dominant The Animal was during his original run.
Batista was never hotter as a performer than he was in 2005. Just a year removed after winning his first ever World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21, Batista was on fire as the leader of the Smackdown brand. After feuding with the likes of JBL, Big Show and Kane while also creating a popular tag team with Rey Mysterio, Batista entered his next championship feud with Mark Henry at the start of 2006.
However, similar to that of Seth Rollins, Batista was injured by Henry at a live event, in which he tore his triceps muscle. Just two days after surpassing Triple H as the longest reigning World Heavyweight Champion of the era, Batista was forced to give up his title. He returned six months later.
5 Daniel Bryan
It was an unprecedented time for the WWE. The faithful fans were tired of seeing the same old thing week in and week out, and demanded that Daniel Bryan be put into the WrestleMania main event. Because his rise to the top was so improbable, his win for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the biggest show of the year made it even greater.
That was, however, until Bryan ran into injury issues with his neck and triceps.
Little did the WWE Universe know, Bryan was actually dealing with that issue long before his victory at WrestleMania 30. However, with the Yes Movement in full swing, plans couldn’t be changed yet again, so Bryan received his shining moment.
After a forgettable feud with Kane, Bryan retained his championship at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, which ended up being his last match during his title run. After not being able to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for two months, The Authority officially stripped him of his title in June.
4 Shawn Michaels
Okay, okay, this section of the list could very well use an asterisk. However, for the sake of the countdown, I’m going to take HBK's word for this one, although that is a curious decision in and of itself.
Back in 1996, there was no better in-ring wrestling taking place than when Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart went one-on-one, which culminated in the Michaels winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XII.
With the WWE returning to San Antonio – Michaels home – for the 1997 Royal Rumble, creative decided to have him drop the title at Survivor Series, thinking it was best that he regain the championship in his hometown, leading to a rematch between Michaels and Hart at WrestleMania 13. Unfortunately, soon after his victory, Michaels claimed that he needed surgery and had “lost his smile,” so he had to give up the championship. With backstage tension rising between the two men, many believe Michaels did it just so he didn’t have to lose to Hart.
3 John Cena
Much can be said about John Cena, his status as the face of the WWE and his 15 separate WWE World Championship reigns. However, arguably his best time as champion started in 2006.
After putting on a great tables, ladders and chairs match against Edge for the championship, Cena was able to pull through with the victory. For more than a year, Cena went on to face the wrestlers like King Booker, Big Show, Umaga, Kevin Federline, Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton, among others.
However, in October of 2007, the reign came to an end – but unfortunately, it wasn’t due to a lost match. Wrestling Mr. Kennedy on Raw, Cena legitimately tore his pectoral muscle, thus sidelining him for the rest of 2007. Vince McMahon had him forfeit the championship just one night later.
2 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Before Stone Cold Steve Austin became one of the most popular WWE superstars in the company’s history, he was well on his way in 1997 after feuding with Bret Hart, which culminated in one of the best matches in WrestleMania history.
After winning the Tag Team Championship with both Shawn Michaels and Dude Love, Austin feuded with the Hart Foundation, which ended up branching off with Austin taking on Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 1997.
Towards the end of the match, a botched tombstone pile driver from Hart legitimately hurt Austin; and although he was able to (somewhat) finish the match, it was clear something was wrong – and it ended up being a broken neck.
Right after his first crowning moment in the WWE, Austin had to give up both the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championship due to the neck injury. Austin returned in November, regaining the title from Hart at Survivor Series.
Similar to Bret Hart’s situation, fellow Canadian Edge had an injury that led to his retirement. Why does he rank no.1? Because he had to quit wrestling right after a WrestleMania title match.
Throughout his entire career – and especially in the TLC encounters with Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz – Edge was always a risk taker who put his body on the line for the good and betterment of the business.
However, what the audience didn’t know was that Edge had a recurring neck injury that was more serious than anyone could have expected.
While he had a scheduled match against Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 27, Edge was also getting multiple tests read on his neck issues.
After a successful title defense at the spectacle, Edge entered the ring eight days later on Raw, with plain clothes and his championship in tow. While it didn’t seem genuine out of the gate, the tears in Edge’s eyes made it clear that the retirement speech was real. However, with a win at WrestleMania and the belt still around his waist, there was no better way for Edge to go out.
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