Looking at the WWE's current landscape, injuries are more a matter of if than when. It happens to everyone sooner or later, but sitting on the sidelines doesn't mean one has to keep their mind off of wrestling completely. Some of the greatest superstars of all time have taken the time they were using to rehab whatever injury they were recovering from and used it to not only fine tune their characters, but in some cases to overhaul them completely. For all we know, if it wasn't for these guys being bit by the injury bug at the exact right time, the history of wrestling would look completely different.
Sometimes good breaks come thanks to an injury to one's buddies. Whether it's someone permanently stuck in the shadows or stars who were just waiting for their chance to shine, there are multiple times where an injury to one superstar opened up doors for another. I'm sure no one is happy to see their running mate or good buddy suffer an injury, but it must sting quite a bit less when it opens up a spot on the main stage.
None of this is to say that injuries aren't a terrible thing which could certainly be cut down by scheduling changes, among other things. There are two ways to look at it when your favourite superstar gets hurt: on one hand, it's sad that they'll be off your television for a while but on the other, they could come back with the next groundbreaking idea which will push them and the industry to heights that no one could have though imaginable beforehand.
13 Sheamus Gets A New Attitude...and Haircut
Before taking his time off with an injury, there wasn't a wrestler on the roster as bland and boring as The Celtic Warrior, Sheamus. With his 1-800-FELLA promos and just all around goofiness, the crowd was dying to see something new from someone with so much potential to be a top star. Luckily, we got our wish when Sheamus returned from surgery with a fresh new haircut and a new hatred for the smaller internet favourites like Dolph Ziggler. While their feud led to a very lackluster "kiss me arse" match at Extreme Rules, it was great to see Sheamus finally given something of a character instead of just being the Irish John Cena. Sheamus took the momentum he gained from his new gimmick to regain his spot atop the mountain. However, brief it may have been, he was still WWE Champion for a time, before nestling into his current spot in the upper mid card.
12 Cody Rhodes Gets A New Gimmick
The "Dashing" Cody Rhodes gimmick was a solid heat magnet for a mid carder but Rhodes needed something a little more to truly break through to the upper echelon. His big break, pun intended, came during a match against Rey Mysterio where Rhodes was hit with a 619 that connected a little too closely, sending Mysterio's knee brace into Cody's nose and breaking it in the process. After taking a few weeks off to recover, Rhodes came back with a new protective face mask, turning away from his "Dashing" gimmick into one where he was disgusted by his new look. Cody would come out to the ring with some assistants who would hand out paper bags to the audience so that Rhodes didn't have to see their ugliness and imperfections. This led to him becoming so hated that he was finally able to capture singles gold, winning the Intercontinental Title from Ezekiel Jackson.
11 Nitro Shines While Mercury Recovers
Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro found success teaming together as MNM, winning the Tag Team Championships on multiple occasions -with some outside help from their manager, Melina. The two split up briefly while Mercury served a suspension for a wellness policy violation. Both reunited to answer an open challenge from the new champions, The Hardy Boyz. The teams were half of a fatal four way ladder match at Armageddon 2006 when an infamous injury took place: Mercury found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when he ended up eating a ladder shot straight to the face, breaking nearly every bone in his head. With Joey out of the way, Nitro was finally able to fully break out on his own capturing the ECW Championship before changing his name to John Morrison and cementing himself as an upper mid carder. Mercury would later end up with a backstage role and an on-air role as a member of a joke security team guarding Seth Rollins.
10 Reigns Takes Rollins' Spot Atop The Mountain
After turning on his Shield brethren, Seth Rollins became the future of the WWE, groomed by Triple H himself as the guy to lead us to the next great era of professional wrestling. When Rollins cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 31, he went from being the future to the present, showing off an ability to garner heat that no one thought he was capable of. His title reign was cut unfortunately short when Seth suffered a devastating knee injury at a house show against Kane, leaving the WWE without a champion. A tournament was held to find a new champion in which Roman Reigns finally reached his summit, capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. While it was just a matter of time until Reigns got his hands on the belt, an injury to Seth Rollins put him on the fast track to it.
9 John Cena Gets A Deafening Pop
It's been a long time since everyone in attendance was happy to see John Cena, since many fans have found him to be dull after his rise to the top of the card back at WrestleMania 21. Those fans were able to take a breath of fresh air back in 2007 when Cena tore his pectoral muscle on an episode of RAW forcing him out of action for months. Being the warrior he is, John returned to action several months before he was expected to, entering the Royal Rumble as the surprise final entrant. For once, the crowd wasn't divided upon seeing the leader of the Cenation, showering him with applause and universal love as soon as his music hit. Cena took the momentum from the crowd and used it to win the Royal Rumble match, going on to headline WrestleMania against Randy Orton and Triple H. He hasn't since received quite the same reaction to this day.
8 Christian Finally Wins Title After Edge Retires
Christian has long been considered a fan favourite of the Internet Wrestling Community, and many feel his hard work and dedication to the business have gone unappreciated. Christian was hanging around the main event scene back around WrestleMania XXVII, appearing in Edge's corner for his World Heavyweight Title defense against Alberto Del Rio. After Edge successfully defended his title, he came out the next night on RAW to shockingly announce he was forced to retire due to neck injuries leaving the World Title up for grabs. It came as no surprise that Edge's best friend, Christian, was the one chosen to take up the mantle of Champion, finally given the spotlight and defeating Del Rio in a ladder match at Extreme Rules 2011 to claim his spot on top of the blue brand.
7 Ric Flair Becomes The Nature Boy
If you look up pictures of Ric Flair from when he broke into the business, the results may surprise you. These days, everyone thinks of Flair as a scrawny heel who would have to resort to dastardly tactics to win his matches when overpowered and outclassed by his larger opponents -but that wasn't always the case. Flair was initially one of the powerhouses, built like a machine but still a rather standard, run-of-the-mill 'big guy' in a industry filled to the brim with them. So how did Flair go from that to being The Nature Boy? Ric was involved in a terrible plane crash back in the early 70s and doctors told him he would never set foot in the ring again. Robbed of his power, Flair had to make adjustments to his in ring style just so he could survive, thus the dirtiest player in the game was born.
6 Shawn Michaels Finds God After Back Injury
Michaels' issues with substance abuse during his Hey-day in the WWE have been well-documented. Name a painkiller and The Heartbreak Kid has downed it at some point. This lead to serious friction with fellow wrestlers and management backstage. Shawn was never able to overcome his bad habits while he was still wrestling, but a back injury he suffered during a casket match against The Undertaker turned his life completely around. Michaels was forced to step away from the squared circle after crushing several discs in his back. Out of the spotlight, Shawn was finally able to take a good look at himself in the mirror. Michaels decided that it was time he was in control of his own life, not his demons. He turned to a higher power (not Vince McMahon) to get his life headed in the right direction. As we all know, Shawn was successful in his journey and was able to return to wrestling back in 2002 as a new man, proving he was one of the best of all time in the ring. His injury may have robbed him of four prime years, but in terms of his life, it's the best thing to ever happen to him.
5 Edge Turns Face After Tearing His Achilles
Edge had already cemented himself as one of the best heels in the WWE, accomplishing everything that one could as a 'bad guy'. He was as hated as any man could be, going on an incredible main-event heel run kicked off by becoming the first man to ever cash in the "Money-in-the-bank" briefcase, thus proving he truly was The Ultimate Opportunist. It was time for a change for the Rated R Superstar though and that's when the injury bug struck at just the right time. With Edge out thanks to a torn achilles tendon, Chris Jericho took it upon himself to badmouth his fellow Canadian and downplay everything that Edge had accomplished in his career. The stage was set and Edge returned from injury at the Royal Rumble to a huge ovation to confront Jericho. This set up his final run with the company, transitioning from one of the most hated supserstars to one of the most loved, until his abrupt retirement.
4 Triple H Tears Quad, Becomes Mega Star
Hunter was on his way to becoming a wrestler who would be talked about for years to come - a far cry from his rocky start as the 'Connecticut Blue Blood'. Reborn as 'The Game', Triple H slowly moved to the top of the card, getting over as one of the most despicable and hated villains the WWE has ever seen. However, Triple H's career took a sharp turn during a match where he was teamed up with Steve Austin as the 'Two Man Power Trip' against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. He tore his quad completely off the bone and miraculously finished the match. Hunter needed surgery and subsequently required months off for rehab and repair to his destroyed muscle. When he did eventually return, Triple H was no longer considered to be someone the fans loved to hate. The grit and determination he showed, not only in recovery but by somehow finishing the match in which he suffered the devastating injury, transitioned him into one of the biggest 'faces' in the company. This set his place in stone at the main event level for years to come.
3 Austin's Broken Neck Makes Him Company's Biggest 'Face'
While many will attribute Austin's infamous "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!" speech as the event which catapulted him from perennial mid-carder to the biggest star in the history of the company, it may be a little more complicated than that. After winning King of the Ring, Stone Cold was still a mid-carder, feuding with the likes of Owen Hart over the Intercontinental Title. This turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to him. During their feud, the two met at SummerSlam, where a miscommunication about a move resulted in Austin being dumped on his head and breaking his neck. Austin spent time on the sidelines, observing his prey and making sure Owen Hart kept the IC Title, only so he could be the one to take it from him. This established him as someone fans would pay to see whoop some ass.
2 Mick Foley Nearly Kills Himself For Fame
Never throughout the history of the WWE has there been a more unlikely champion than Mick Foley. Debuting as the demented Mankind, Foley quickly made a name for himself feuding with The Undertaker but he was never really seen as a main event player. Sure, he filled in at smaller pay-per-views, challenging for the WWE Title, but no one seemed behind his character enough to justify putting the most prestigious title in wrestling on 'Mrs. Foley's baby boy'. That all changed during the infamous Hell In A Cell match between Mankind and The Undertaker. In the first spot of the now legendary match, The Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of the cell into the announce table. Believe it or not, this wasn't the spot which would cause the most injury for Foley. He not only got up but climbed the structure again, dislocated shoulder and all. 'The Deadman' then sent Mankind crashing through the roof into the ring below with a chokeslam, causing a multitude of injuries. Foley then marked fans forever in a moment where appeared to smile with a broken tooth protruding through the skin of his mouth. While The Undertaker wondered if Foley was legitimately dead, Mankind got back to his feet, despite the multitude of broken bones and internal injuries. He kept fighting, finished the brutal match on a sea of thumbtacks and cemented a permanent spot in fans' hearts for the original lunatic.
1 Rocky Maivia Hurts Knee, Comes Back as The Rock
As much as it seems like everyone these days hates on Roman Reigns, it's not nearly as rough as the backlash his "cousin" got as a white-meat 'babyface' being shoved down the fans' throats relentlessly. Rocky Maivia debuted to a lukewarm reaction which later turned into sheer hatred and fans chanting things like "Die, Rocky, Die!" at him, despite the company's efforts to push him toward its forefront. A run with the Intercontinental Championship (back when it actually used to propel guys to the top), did nothing to quell the backlash Maivia received on a nightly basis, so something had to be done. After injuring his knee, Rocky came back a changed man: he was no longer pandering to the crowd, pleading for adoration. He used his time off to hone his in-ring and especially his promo skills becoming an arrogant, headstrong and ruthless competitor while joining The Nation of Domination and later The Corporation. In one of the biggest transformations we've ever seen, upon his return from injury Rocky Maivia was gone and in his place was The Rock.