In pro wrestling, matches are roughly scripted out with various moves, or spots, being put into place to get the best reaction from the crowd, with everything connecting those moments usually being done on the fly while the match is going using a combination of signals from the referee and the wrestlers themselves. If the spot is different from the usual in-ring affair or it is particularly dangerous, the performers will practice the spot a few times prior to actually performing it in front of a crowd. Yet there are also moments that happen at the spur of the moment and prove to be almost as or even more dangerous than anything the wrestlers can do in the ring. These are the moments where the danger is the highest for the performers and many times will lead to hospital visits and various cell video clips being put up online to the dismay of fans around the world.
With that in mind, this list is designed to look at the moments that were the most dangerous in pro wrestling. Including both planned and unplanned spots, this list will look at the moments and the stories behind them, along with how they could have or in some cases did go wrong for the performers involved. The moments will be ranked on the actual event of the moment and the danger of the moment. Other things considered for the ranking include how shocking the moments were and the believably of danger for fans watching the moment unfold out in front of them.
So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think down in the comments section. How would you have ranked these differently? Are there other moments that you felt should have made the list or that one of the entries should be ranked differently?
14 Rikishi Falling Off Hell in a Cell (Armageddon 2000)
In the lead up to the main event match six-man Hell in a Cell match for the WWE Title at Armageddon, Vince McMahon made it known that he felt the match should not happen as the match is dangerous enough when only two competitors are involved, let alone six. Early on in the match McMahon, Gerald Brisco, and Pat Patterson came down to the ring with a truck in an attempt to dismantle the cell and stop the match. Commissioner Mick Foley came down to the ring after the door of the cell had been torn off and had the three escorted away by police in order to allow the match to continue, though now all the competitors had left through the open door and were fighting on top of the cell.
Unfortunately Rikishi would find himself too close to the edge of the cell and would be tossed off by the Undertaker, sending the big man crashing onto the back of the truck, which was filled with pine chips. While the chips were there to cushion the blow, with what I am assuming were covering some extra padding on the bed of the truck, there were still a number of ways that this stunt could have gone wrong which could have left Rikishi paralyzed or worse.
13 Kurt Angle Moonsault off Steel Cage (Raw, 6/11/2001)
During a steel cage match on Monday Night Raw, Kurt Angle was set against Chris Benoit inside a steel cage. In the course of the match Angle had Benoit downed and quickly climbed the turnbuckle in order to hit a moonsault on Benoit, yet he felt that would not be enough to stop Benoit so he climbed to the top of the cage to perform the move. As he leapt to perform the move, Benoit rolled out of the way and Angle slammed front-first onto the mat, bouncing off of the hard surface with a thud. The move itself is dangerous enough but with the added height it only becomes more deadly as Angle could have seriously hurt his neck if he was bent forward too much or knocked himself unconscious if his head slapped against the canvas too hard. In the end it was truly amazing that Angle was not more seriously injured after performing the spot.
12 Junkyard Invitational (Bash at the Beach ’99)
At the second-to-last edition of the Bash at the Beach pay-per-view, there was a match created to include some of the wrestlers on the lower end of the card. Titled, the Junkyard Invitational, the battle royal featured such wrestlers as Public Enemy, Mikey Whipwreck, Finlay, Steven Regal, and Ciclope, among others. The object of the match was to escape the junkyard by climbing over the chain link fence at the front of the property. The match was a tornado of crazy as wrestlers pummeled each other with various objects from around the junkyard, while cars were being tipped over and a helicopter flew overhead to get footage.
Unfortunately, the match was not really planned out by WCW creative so the wrestlers were made to come up with spots on the fly, which would have been better if not for the fact that they were in a real, and unprotected, junkyard. Needless to say quite a few of the wrestlers involved were injured and put on the shelf for months, including Whipwreck, and Ciclope.
11 Public Enemy Covered in Chairs (Hardcore Heaven ’94)
There are numerous moments throughout the history of ECW that could have made this list, but some stick out way more than others, one such moment involved The Public Enemy when they attempted to attack Cactus Jack and Terry Funk at Hardcore Heaven. At one point when both members of Public Enemy were down, Funk asked an audience member to toss him a chair to use on the duo. Unfortunately, once the first chair came into the ring, dozens more chairs were tossed into the ring as well. Funk was eventually hit by a chair himself and left the ring with Cactus while The Public Enemy would be literally covered in steel chairs, much to the chagrin of ECW, who had a PA announcer begin to yell at the crowd to stop throwing chairs.
The moment was particularly frightening in hindsight as you have folding chairs, which way on average ten pounds per chair, being hurled at downed wrestlers who have little way to protect their bodies. Even Funk and Cactus were apt to getting hurt as the chairs came flying at them, but the hardcore fans of ECW did not seem to care as they tossed more and more chairs at the wrestlers.
11. Terry Funk Accidentally Lit on Fire (ECW House Show)
Cactus Jack and Terry Funk have become synonymous with hardcore battles, usually against one another. One such moment involved Cactus swinging a flaming chair around the ring which also had Funk in it. This effect was created by wrapping the chair in a towel, dousing it with lighter fluid, and lighting the towel. Unfortunately, during the course of one of Cactus’s backswings the towel came off of the chair and landed on Funk, burning him before he threw the towel off himself towards the crowd.
Mick Foley would almost immediately break kayfabe, which was incredibly rare especially in ECW, to help put out the flames. Extinguishers were let off into the crowd to put out the towel and pandemonium broke out. Funk was okay for the most part and the moment became a part of the ever growing insanity that is ECW’s history, though with an uncontrollable element like fire it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
10 Jeff Hardy Falling Off of Cage Onto Stairs (Lockdown 2015)
At this year’s taping of the annual Lockdown event, Jeff Hardy was to be written off TV for a while with a storyline injury as a way to not have him on the European tour for which he could not travel on. Yet rather than make the injury appear to be a broken limb TNA decided to have it look more shocking. In a steel cage match against James Storm and Abyss, Hardy at one point finds himself on top of the cage door while attempting to perform a move. Unfortunately the door would be moved and Hardy would crotch himself on the top of the door. Then with his opponent immobilized, James Storm would push Hardy off the top of the door onto the floor. Yet as he fell Hardy would hit the steel steps at the base of the ring and appear to be unconscious.
The initial fall was meant to happen as the way to write Hardy off TV for a while but the hit on the steps was not and Hardy was apparently legitimately knocked out cold. In the end it is nothing short of a miracle that Hardy did not die from hitting his head on the steps as he fell.
9 Shane Falling Off Titantron (SummerSlam 2000)
Shane McMahon has long been considered the daredevil of the McMahon family, which is clear when watching any of his matches. This is even more impressive considering that he did not receive much in the way of formal pro wrestling training before stepping inside the ring against men with far more experience than him.
During a hardcore match with Shane’s Hardcore Title on the line, challenger Steve Blackman was aiming to beat Shane in the hopes of regaining the title he lost to him. Eventually Shane tried to escape Blackman’s assault by climbing the titantron, but was followed up by Blackman, who had a Singapore Cane with him. Blackman would strike McMahon in the back, causing him to let go of the Titantron, sending him crashing 40 feet down through the stage. Blackman would then perform a flying elbow drop from that height as well, followed up by pinning Shane for the win. While there was padding in the stage to cushion the moves, it is still a frightening thing to see a person falling that far and the ways that the moves could go wrong are numerous.
8 Goldberg Punching Out a Limo Window (WCW Thunder)
In the course of trying to regain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, Goldberg was faced with the task of now fighting the newly reformed nWo, led by World Champion Jeff Jarrett. After the initial reformation, Goldberg went on a rampage and attempted to attack the group in their limo, breaking some of the windows with the aid of a concealed piece of pipe in his hand to create the illusion that he was breaking windows with his bare hands.
Unfortunately after the first couple of shots, he accidentally dropped the pipe but continued to try and break the windows. He would break two with his hands, but would cut his forearm while attempting to break the third, causing blood to gush everywhere. The injury was so bad doctors claimed he was close to having it amputated. He would recover and return to WCW in May 2000.
7 Edge vs. Mick Foley (WrestleMania 22)
Leading up to WrestleMania 22, Edge and Mick Foley had been feuding after Foley reffed a match between Edge and John Cena, where Cena ended up winning. Many wondered how Edge would fare against the hardcore legend in his namesake match, but those worries were soon put to rest as both men and Lita put on a hardcore clinic. From Lita hitting Foley in the groin with a barbwire baseball bat to Foley wrapping Mr. Socko in barbwire and hitting the Mandible Claw on Edge.
The culmination of the match saw Edge Spearing Foley through a flaming table that was ringside, leaving both men physically shaken. The match had so many variables for how it could go wrong and it was amazing to see both men put each other through so much pain and risk in order to give fans a match that they would not forget.
6 Jim Cornette’s Fall in the Midnight Express vs. Road Warriors Scaffold Match (Starrcade ’86)
Pro wrestling is dangerous when just having a normal match, let alone a match with any kind of special stipulation. Scaffold matches are particularly dangerous as the overall goal is usually to toss your opponent over the edge onto the ring below. During the course of a heated feud between the Road Warriors and the Midnight Express and their manager Jim Cornette, the two teams would eventually meet in a scaffold match at Starrcade.
In the course of the match, Cornette would be chased up the scaffold by the Warriors’ manager Paul Ellering before attempting to climb down from the top of the scaffold after being cornered by the Warriors. Cornette was supposed to drop and be caught by Bubba Rogers, unfortunately Rogers misjudged where Cornette was falling due to wearing sunglasses in the arena so Cornette fell straight to the ring canvas, tearing the ligaments on one of his knees and breaking one leg.
5 Shane McMahon Tossed Through Glass (King of the Ring 2001)
Another moment featuring Shane McMahon is next from when Shane faced off against Kurt Angle in a street fight at King of the Ring in 2001, but instead of the moment being dangerous because a stunt could go wrong, it is a dangerous moment because the stunt DID go wrong. During the match both men eventually made it to the stage where they continued to brawl, but Angle would get the upper hand against Shane. Then while he had Shane wrapped up for a belly-to-belly suplex, Kurt went to slam Shane through the plate glass that was a part of the entrance design. While this would mean that the glass was breakaway stunt glass, something did not go right and Shane simply slammed against the glass and the glass did not break and Shane fell head first onto the concrete floor. Angle would attempt the move again, this time sending Shane through the glass. Angle would then repeat the move to send Shane through another glass pane, but would again fail on the first couple attempts, basically slamming Shane’s body against the unforgiving surface.
Shane would be a bloody mess after the moves and would help push Shane to wrestling even fewer matches than he usually would.
4 New Jack Tries to Kill Vic Grimes (XPW)
The following event stems from a prior incident between New Jack and Vic Grimes at ECW Living Dangerously in 2000 where the two took part in a scaffold match and they were injured after missing the tables that they were supposed to land on, which left New Jack permanently blind in his right eye and with brain damage.
Since Grimes had fallen on Jack’s head in that incident, Jack blamed him for the injury and attempted to get revenge when they met again in another scaffold match for XPW. At the end of the match, New Jack would throw Grimes from the scaffold onto the ring below, though Grimes would miss the majority of the tables and end up injuring his ankle. In the documentary Forever Hardcore, New Jack would admit to throwing Grimes more forcefully than necessary in the hopes of injuring or killing him, though in both cases there is evidence that both men played a part in the botches. Either way, wrestling is dangerous enough as it is, but adding a man with the intent to harm the other performer could make it outright deadly.
3 Terry Funk/Sabu Barbwire Match (ECW Born To Be Wired)
At the ECW event Sabu was set to take on wrestling icon Terry Funk in a no-rope barbwire match, which is as nasty as it sounds with ring ropes replaced with barbwire. Sabu would slice open his bicep on the barbwire after a failed move from the top rope, causing Sabu to ask Bill Alfonso for tape so that he could seal up the cut and continue the match. Eventually the two would get entangled in the barbwire so badly that a group of ring technicians had to rush to the ring and carefully cut the two men free, while making sure the barbwire did not get into either guy’s eyes or mouths during the untangling.
On the DVD Bloodsport – ECW's Most Violent Matches, Paul Heyman would state that the match was so gruesome and dangerous that he refused to ever do one again and that if he did, it could not top the first match. At that point you know it is dangerous if even ECW will not do the match again.
2 Mankind Thrown Off and Through Hell in a Cell (King of the Ring ’98)
In the history of the Hell in a Cell match, there is no more famous a match than the third match of that kind, which was between the Undertaker and Mankind at King of the Ring in 1998. The match would start on top of the cell, and Mankind would shortly be tossed off the top of the cell onto the Spanish announce table sixteen feet below, which was apparently a suggestion from Terry Funk when Foley asked how he could top the first Cell match between the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Medical crews came to the ring to aid Mankind and put him on a stretcher, but he would come back to the ring moments later. Unfortunately, the weight of both men fighting on top of the cage caused the fasteners on the cell to loosen, so when the Undertaker chokeslammed Mankind on top of the cell, Mankind unexpectedly fell through the roof and landed flat onto the ring below, knocking him unconscious temporarily.
These two moments helped solidify the match as a classic and Foley’s heart shown throughout the match helped push him towards the main event scene in the WWE, yet the damage done was evident as Foley was a bloody mess in the match and both men suffered various injuries in the course of the match. The chokeslam through the roof could have been especially dangerous as it was unplanned and Foley was lucky that he was not hurt more in that moment.
1 Owen Hart Falling To His Death (Over the Edge)
At the Over the Edge PPV, Owen Hart was scheduled to face the Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship under his gimmick, the Blue Blazer. Unfortunately, a stunt involving Hart descending from the rafters in a harness malfunctioned and Hart fell 70 feet into the ring and off the turnbuckles. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead only an hour later. The incident itself was incredibly shocking and went to prove how dangerous pro wrestling and the sometimes stunt work the performer had to do can be.
The way the situation was handled told fans at home that something was definitely wrong when the camera cut away to a vignette for the match and then Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler looking somber and horrified only emphasized that this was not part of the program.
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