Nothing makes a wrestling great quite like a rowdy crowd. You can have the two best professional wrestlers in the world share a ring and put on the greatest display of technical wizardry that the wrestling world has ever seen, but if the crowd isn’t into it, then the match is just never going to be as great as it could be. It’s why the greatest wrestlers of all-time are just as well-known for their ability to put on a great match as they are for their ability to get a crowd into the action.
Sometimes, though, wrestlers and promoters go a little too far when it comes to getting the crowd to become emotionally invested in the action. Most of the time, this just results in some particularly vulgar chants and maybe a few pieces of trash being thrown into the ring. Sometimes, however, it leads to a riot. Now, when we say riot, we’re not talking about a bunch of fans yelling at the ring; we’re talking about a full-scale breakdown that often forces everyone in the arena that night to flee for their safety. They’re incredibly rare, but these are the top 15 insane pro wrestling riots.
15 A Young Luke Harper Knocks a Fan Out and Gets a Promotion Kicked Out of Town
14 It Takes Over 40 Cops to Stop the ECW Riot Bubba Ray Dudley Helped Start
13 Roddy Piper Causes Riots in Puerto Rico and Los Angeles
If you’re not familiar with Roddy Piper’s work prior to him arriving in WWE, you really missed out on some of the legendary wrestler's greatest heel work. Piper was born to infuriate people and he had a special gift for finding that one thing that would upset an audience more than anything else. Piper became a particularly huge heel in Puerto Rico where his racist heel promos led to fans storming the ring one night while Piper was in a cage match with Jos LeDuc and forcing Piper to leave the arena in a speeding car.
12 Stan Hansen and Andre the Giant Trigger a Crowd Stampede
Stan Hansen is a lot like Bubba Ray Dudley and Roddy Piper in that there are many, many legends of him starting riots, but relatively few documented cases of one actually occurring. Hansen was certainly a top heel in both Japan and America where his cowboy persona led to many a drunken fan trying to test him. Other times, it resulted in Hansen doing wild things like swinging a chain above his head.
11 Tulsa, Oklahoma Becomes the Stage For Several Nights of Riots
10 Big Vito Angers 4,000 Nepal Wrestling Fans by Beating up a Local Legend
9 Fans Almost Burn the Arena Down after Vader Beats Antonio Inoki
It’s hard to get a serious push in the wrestling world when you’re just getting started. It’s really hard to a serious push in the wrestling world when you’re a foreigner working in Japan. The Japanese promotions have historically looked to local talent first when deciding who the country’s biggest stars are going to be. Despite this, Big Van Vader rose to the top of Japanese wrestling almost immediately. In fact, he even beat the legendary Antonio Inoki in his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut match.
8 Ten Minutes of Seth Rollins Inspires Chilean Wrestling Fans to Start Looting
7 Blackjack Mulligan Gets Stabbed in the Leg During a Boston Riot
Back in the age of territory-based wrestling promotions, fans really fell in love with their local champions. Fans saw these champions as proof that their local promotion was better than your local promotion and they became attached to them in the same way that some sports fans really become attached to their local team. Pedro Morales, for instance, once managed to achieve nearly godlike status in Boston while he was WWWF Heavyweight Champion. As such, when Blackjack Mulligan came into town and started to lay a particularly rough beating on Morales during their championship match, the Boston crowd started to lose their minds.
6 The Road Warriors Take on An Entire Audience in Virginia
We don’t know why you would ever want to fight The Road Warriors in real life. Even when Hawk and Animal weren’t wearing their trademark face paint and spiked shoulder pads, they still managed to come across as the toughest guys in the room. Yet, the team did work in an era when fans seemed to really want to prove that they were tougher than the wrestlers they hated. This mentality led to The Road Warriors having a few violent fan interactions, but none of them were as crazy as the one that occurred one night in Richmond, Virginia.
5 A Riot in Calgary Leads To a Trampling and the End of Stampede Wrestling
We’ve seen how territory wrestling fans became attached to their champions, but that’s nothing compared to the way they attached themselves to local talent. If you were a professional wrestler who was from the same part of the world as the fans you wrestled in front of, you were automatically a huge babyface. You can imagine, then, just how popular Bret Hart and the rest of the Hart family was in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. They were so popular, in fact, that when Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Sonny Two Rivers took on a team of heels led by Bad News Brown, a riot broke out as a result of the heels playing to the crowd.
4 Joey Ryan and Karl Anderson Close a 2007 Indie Show With a Race Riot
Riots in the modern era of professional wrestling are a pretty rare thing because most wrestling fans are well-aware of the nature of the business, so you don’t really see many of them suddenly decide to rush the ring because of scripted entertainment. Even though true wrestling riots are rare nowadays, they do still happen. One of the worst wrestling riots ever actually happened in 2007 at an NWA Pro show in Houston. When a team of heels led by Joey Ryan and Karl Anderson started hurling slurs at the local Hispanic crowd, the fans soon took to the ring.
3 The Horsemen "Break" Dusty Rhodes’ Ankle and the Crowd Rebels
2 Ox Baker’s Heart Punch Turns Cleveland Into A Warzone
This is arguably the most famous and important riot on this list for the simple fact that it is one of the few full-scale wrestling riots to have been perfectly caught on film. It’s also the riot that made Ox Baker a heel legend. See, there once was this highly-anticipated match between Ernie Ladd and Johnny Powers in Houston. One of the stipulations of this match was that Ladd could get $5,000 if he managed to escape from the heel Powers’ famous Powerlock submission hold.
1 A 1997 WWE House Show Becomes the Site of the Company’s Biggest Riot
Given the level of talent involved in this particular riot, it’s amazing that more people don’t know about it. It all started when fans in Arkansas went to a local WWE show thinking that they were going to witness an episode of RAW. However, RAW had been filmed the week before and the event that evening was just a house show. This fact inspired the crowd to start tossing trash into the ring. Eventually, they calmed down so that the show wouldn’t be canceled. Although they initially calmed down but were soon agitated by the poor quality of the show itself.
Things took a turn for the worse when Shawn Michaels was hit by a piece of trash and told the fans that he was canceling the main event. Shortly after Michaels walked out, the fans in attendance started to fight each other, throw beer bottles, and set things on fire. When it was all said and done, dozens were arrested and many were injured.
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