‘Wrestling is fake’ is a wildly controversial line to use.
On the one hand, of course it’s fake you idiot! Do you question whether action movies are fake too? The difference is that wrestlers perform all of their own stunts (and a lot more of them) while risking their lives nearly every day. One false move could mean sprains, broken bones, or even paralysis. Is there any other job that wears down a body like wrestling? Probably not, but these incredible athletes sacrifice their health for good ol’ fashioned entertainment and the rush of an adoring crowd.
As wrestling ramped up its intensity throughout the 90s, the moves got more acrobatic and the job got a lot more dangerous. ECW pushed the bar and broke a lot of tables and bones doing it. Mick Foley lost an ear and continued wrestling for another 10-plus years. Chair shots and piledrivers were handed out like candy before safety began to take a higher priority. With concussion science making leaps and bounds, wrestling must adapt to protect the noggins of their finest competitors. Bret Hart was an unfortunate victim of concussion ignorance when the WCW forced him to compete with a battered brain, causing severe damage later on.
Throughout the dozens of hours of wrestling per week that the WWE has on video, many accidents have been caught and preserved. Some are gruesome, causing you to wince instinctively, and others are downright hilarious (blown quads anyone?). Injuries are a way of life for the WWE Superstars and wrestlers in general and it’s the best ones that can be laughed at, rather than spoken about in hushed tones.
Bret Hart has mentioned many times that the number one priority is to work safe. The look of worry on a wrestler’s face when they suspect they’ve just hurt their opponent tells it all. The mutual trust and vulnerability is a quality that must be present for a great match to take place. Backstage heat can certainly elevate an in-ring performance but if they don’t trust each other, the true magic will never happen.
So let’s take a look at the top 15 worst injuries caught on camera. This list will only include footage shot, or now owned by, WWE.
15. Hardcore Holly vs. RVD
You don’t get to call yourself ‘Hardcore’ until you’ve earned it.
When WWE revived ECW for some extreme ‘rasslin, RVD and Holly brought the goods. Holly supplied RVD to the outside onto a table but ended up taking the worst of it. As the table split it must have caught his back (ouch), as it opened up a gigantic gash that reached across most of his back. The blood started pouring and didn’t stop as they continued on like good soldiers.
Holly took any more vicious bumps to finish off the match as they planned and didn’t sell his self-inflicted bloody wound until the match was finally over. Medics rushed out to help him and the crowd paid their respect. The cut would take 24 stitches to close up.
The crowd was so impressed with Holly’s sacrifice that he would be turned face a short time later.
14. Rey Mysterio Breaks Undertaker’s Face
Mysterio may only weight about 87 pounds but when he leaps off the ropes and lands ass-to-face he can still do some damage.
Watching the landing made me wince and you can see The Undertaker react immediately. The next minute sees dark blood around his nose rather than the traditional blading spot above the eyebrow. The Undertaker was hurt.
How hurt was he? Well he suffered a broken nose, orbital bone and a concussion! This removed him from a scheduled main event match while his injuries and pride were allowed time to heal.
13. Hogan’s Knee Taps Out
Hogan was involved in a four-way with Sting, DDP, and Ric Flair when he suffered an extremely painful knee injury.
The story is that he was due for knee surgery anyway, and that the figure-four-leglock around the post greatly sped up the process.
DDP slapped on the innocent-looking move but it wasn’t long before Hogan began howling in pain. We’ve all seen Hogan’s terrible acting before so this was obviously not fake.
Hogan was carted off by the medics yelling ‘No, don’t touch it, don’t touch the thing’.
It’s unclear whether his mother was called.
12. Jim Cornette Fell, and He Couldn’t Get Up
Boy the WCW loved those stupid scaffold matches. They were needlessly dangerous yet incredibly boring due to the limited mobility and caution the performers were forced to use. Watching wrestlers gingerly tip-toe around or even crawl on their bellies is not fun. It severely limits their move-set, removes the ropes from use, and reduces the wrestling area to a narrow sliver.
Cornette was involved in one at Starrcade 1986 in a match between The Road Warriors and Midnight Express. He was booked to take the fall and was supposed to be caught by a wrestler below, but that didn’t happen. Cornette swung to and from before letting go and taking a brutal landing that immediately conjures up even more respect for the immortal Mick Foley.
Cornette would wind up with torn knee ligaments and hopefully a nice paid vacation on some strong legal pain killers.
11. Vince Blows His Quads
On Chris Jericho’s podcast he shed some light on this hilarious and confusing end to Royal Rumble 2005.
Apparently the moment where Batista and Cena eliminated each other, hitting the floor at the same time was a botch! Jericho recalls standing at the gorilla position with Vince and encouraging the owner to go out and restart the match. Vince agreed and marched to the ring like he’s never marched before. Sliding into the ring wasn’t so simple however, and he blew both quads upon entry, tumbling onto his rear-end after a failed attempt at standing.
The tyrant was still able to command respect from his seated and vulnerable position and somewhat seamlessly had the match restarted for a Batista win.
Vince is a total badass, even from his ass!
10. Sabu Breaks His Neck
Back in the earlier days of ECW, Chris Benoit was getting his first big time action in North America, while Sabu was an early mainstay in ECW. In this match, Sabu would suffer his first broken neck. After wailing away on Sabu, Benoit threw Sabu and he landed very awkwardly on his neck. Sabu was left temporarily paralyzed. Joey Styles was very candid on commentary, saying “I think he broke his neck”. This wouldn’t be the last time Sabu suffered a devastating injury in the ring.
9. Sabu Breaks His Neck II
Sabu already had his neck broken before, but he stepped back in the ring in 1998 to take on Taz. While taking a Taz-Plex through a table, Sabu was launched a little too far up and landed right on his head going through the table placed in the corner. Unable to get the full rotation on the suplex, Sabu’s neck was broken and the match was stopped, with Sabu being rushed to the hospital. Even Joey Styles knew something was wrong, as his “Oh My God” line was much more somber than usual.
8. Joey Mercury’s Face is Destroyed
Ugghhh. This was perhaps the most graphic injury of any on this list. While many now know Joey Mercury only as one half of J&J Security, Mercury went through just about the most devastating facial injury ever suffered in wrestling. Mercury was struck in the face by a ladder without a chance to brace himself and his nose was broken in three places. His cuts required 30 stitches to close it up. Somehow Mercury was able to return to the ring a few weeks later.
7. Brock Lesnar Botches Shooting Star Press
Brock Lesnar had perfectly executed the Shooting Star Press many times up to WrestleMania XIX back in OVW and very early in his WWE run. However when called up to the main roster full time, Lesnar was convinced by Curt Hennig to stop using the move as a finisher, as it would shorten his career. Brock planned to make an exception for WrestleMania, being that it was his first one and he was headlining. Lesnar miscalculated the jump and landed very hard on his neck. Lesnar somehow finished the match, but the Star Press attempt clearly wasn’t worth the risk. Lesnar suffered a big concussion and was glassy eyed and wobbly following the match.
6. Buff Bagwell Breaks His Back
In what seemed to be a routinely bad episode of Thunder, one of WCW – and wrestling’s – most terrifying moments happened when a running bulldog by Rick Steiner on Buff Bagwell went horribly wrong. Bagwell’s head ended up snapping back when making contact with Rick Steiner. The move resulted in several broken vertebrae and spinal shock syndrome. Bagwell was confined to a wheelchair for several months following the injury but wound up making a full recovery and returned to wrestling.
5. Greenberg rings Bret Hart’s bell
Bret had a miserable time in WCW. The promotion took the most talked about wrestler in the business and treated him like garbage. They severely under-utilized him, stuck him in meaningless feuds, let his leather jackets get stolen, and caused him to suffer multiple concussions that would alter his life forever.
Two of those concussions were suffered at the hands (and foot) of Bill Goldberg. Hart has expressed that there is zero bad blood between the two, and places most of the blame on WCW’s rushing Goldberg to the main event before he was ready.
The thrust kick was just the first concussion of that match, as Hart suffer a second one while performing a ringlets figure-four leg lock. Goldberg failed to catch Hart once the move was locked in and his head swung back violently into the post.
WCW ignored his claims of dizziness and headaches, forcing him to wrestle and sustain even more damage to his severely concussed brain. This would lead to his retirement in 2000 and a stroke in 2002.
The Hitman was in rough shape for a while but battled back and is looking strong and healthy once again.
4. Sid snaps his leg
Yet another reason why the WWE was smarter than WCW.
Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight was an extremely athletic giant who could deliver a top-rope dropkick that would make Cena weep fruity pebble tears. But when he arrived at the WWE, he was told to stop doing high-flying stuff and just be a ‘giant’.
Sid Eudy was another athletic big man who the crowd always loved for his intense intimidation and chiseled look. The WCW, months from their demise told Sid he needed to add some flying moves to his repertoire. Sid gave it a try and regretted it for the rest of his life. The way his leg bent upon landing his flying big boot is sickening. Even more sickening is how many times those WCW fiends continued to show the replay. They just about cost a good man his athletic career and decided to repeatedly show the horrible moment in a pathetic attempt at ratings.
How did they last that long?
3. Brock Lesnar breaks Holly’s neck
Holly makes his second appearance on our list, and he most definitely earned it.
Holly said in a shoot interview that the spot was his idea, but the original idea was to have him land on his feet and counter with a dropkick. Nothing close to that happened as Lesnar appeared to simply drop him straight onto his neck. It was gruesome to watch and Holly said he knew something was wrong as he immediately went ‘numb’.
In the interview Holly went on to say that people on the internet don’t know anything and that him and Lesnar were great friends with zero heat between them.
Take THAT internet!
2. Austin is TOUGH
Austin struggled through WCW politics and an awful Ringmaster gimmick before finally hitting the big time. But as fate would have it, just as he was taking off, he suffered the most serious injury of his career.
He and Owen Hart were having a great match at SummerSlam 1997, but as they hit their clever piledriver-reversal spot, tragedy struck. Austin’s head was a few inches too low and the move caused a devastating neck injury.
Nearly paralyzed, Austin remained on the mat in incredible pain. Owen stalled by egging on the crowd while looking simultaneously nervous and worried.
Austin dug deep into guts that very few people possess and somehow managed to finish the match with the worst/best schoolboy pin you’ll ever see. He won the title and further cemented his legacy as the toughest S.O.B. in WWE history.
1. Foley is God
One of the most infamous matches in WWE history and a landmark moment in the Attitude Era. Foley and Ross have dealt with fans bringing this up for the past 17 years, Foley even joked about it at this year’s SummerSlam.
Ross must go through life with fans constantly shouting at him ‘As God is my witness, he is broken in half!’. According to his podcast, he is not amused.
Through the multiple death-defying stunts of that match, Foley gets knocked out, has a tooth end up in his nose, dislocates his shoulder and jaw, bruises his ribs, and suffers internal bleeding. And he still finished the match.
No other wrestler sacrificed more of their body to entertain the WWE Universe, and for that reason, Foley takes our top spot.
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