The term “spotfest” came to be created in the late 1990s in wrestling and has remained since. It refers to a battle that’s mostly built on just a bunch of falls and stunning moves although many bouts are able to rise up more than that. ECW really started the trend but WWF was quick to follow. The original Michaels/Ramon ladder match was sensational as you’d never seen two guys taking such massive bumps on a huge stage. It’s built since then thanks to Hell in the Cell and TLC battles as guys go out of their way to try and provide a terrific show. The Hardys made it their careers and others have followed for feats that really rock you.
Again, ECW had big ones and WCW as well while TNA has offered some too. But WWE is the most famous who have offered major stuff on a huge stage. PPVs are the usual place although regular shows have held a few as well to create some fantastic sights. Whether off a cage, a ladder, through tables or more, wrestlers have taken some seriously wild risks for entertainment and suffered injuries through it all. But they are still fantastic to watch even years later and marvel at the risks these men take for their jobs. Here are 15 of the biggest moments in WWE when guys risked their bodies and even lives to spark a show up more and marvel at the danger inherent in them.
15 Orton’s Tackful
He’d been rising already as IC champion but make no mistake: Backlash 2004 is the match that made Randy Orton a star. Facing Mick Foley for the title, most expected the usual of a young guy trying to do a safe match and avoid Foley’s hardcore moves. Instead, Orton gave as good as he got, even with stuff like Foley placing a barbed wire bat between his legs and doing a legdrop. It built up to Orton spreading out thumbtacks and going for an RKO only for Foley to grab him in mid-air and cause him to land on the tacks. This was a guy unused to hardcore fights and prone to injury but now taking a savage landing that made ECW fanatics wince. The sight of dozens of tacks sticking out of Orton’s back as he screamed in agony was unforgettable and his victory helped push him to true stardom for fans.
14 Morrison’s Ladder Leap
It’s no secret Money In the Bank is home to some wild stuff but even by their standards, this was something. For WrestleMania XXIV, you had a full slate of John Morrison, MVP, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Mr. Kennedy, Carlito and Shelton Benjamin going at it with some nice shots on each other before the regular sight of all the guys fighting on the outside. Morrison grabbed the ladder but rather than try and climb it, he instead rose to the top rope, turned and did a moonsault with the ladder to land on top of everyone. This could have gone quite badly to smash someone the wrong way and a huge risk for Morrison as well but it highlighted one of the best MITB battles to remind you why this match works so well.
13 Edge Spearing Jeff
On his DVD bio, Edge relates how fans ask how many times he and Jeff practiced this and laughs “You honestly think we did this more than once?” The TLC battle of Edge & Christian, the Hardyz and the Dudleyz at WrestleMania X-Seven was one of the most brutal battles imaginable, the addition of Lita, Rhyno and Spike adding to the insanity with savage bumps that had fans wincing. The biggest would have to be near the end as Jeff had climbed the ladder to grab the tag titles only for Bubba Ray to pull the ladder from under him so Jeff was hanging 20 feet above the ring by the cable. From another ladder, Edge leapt and speared Jeff in MID-AIR to knock them to the canvas. Edge half jokes that move alone contributed majorly to his neck problems but it was the highlight of what many still consider the best TLC match ever and elevated Edge big time for fans.
12 Foley’s Flaming Table
There’s only one thing worse than a grudge match with Mick Foley: A no-holds-barred grudge match with Foley as Cactus Jack. That’s the situation Edge found himself in at WrestleMania 22 as he learned the hard way why Foley is a Hardcore legend with some nasty brawling. Highlights included Foley using a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and even wrapping it around Mr. Socko to attack Lita. Tables and chairs were used plentifully as Foley then set up a table on the outside. Lita would low blow Foley, then doused the table in fluid and lit it on fire. As Foley got ready to get back into the ring, Edge charged to spear him and knocked him right through the flaming table. Even for Foley, it’s a wild spot, especially at his age.
11 Undertaker Through Tables
The Undertaker is a guy you really don’t think of doing TLC matches due to his large size and strength. So that made his Extreme Rules 2008 battle with Edge more notable as the two engaged in a vicious brawl with Edge taking some serious bumps. It looked like the spot of the match would be Taker giving Edge the Last Ride off the ladder and through two tables. However, as Taker climbed to the top of the ladder, Edge knocked it over, sending Undertaker over the ropes and smashing through four tables stacked on the outside. Given Undertaker’s history of injuries, risking himself like this was incredibly impressive and how no matter the match, he gives his all to entertain.
10 Vince Off the Cage
It’s been openly joked on WWE DVDs how Vince McMahon thinks he’s a great worker but really a mess in the ring. He hadn’t really done much in there before St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1999 when he and Austin went at it in a cage battle for Austin’s Mania main event slot. Before the match began, Vince climbed up the cage wall to get away from Austin who chased right after him. They fought with Austin slamming Vince’s head into the cage and Vince flew off to smash through the announcer’s table. Seeing the owner of the company taking such a massive bump was stunning and it seemed it was over but Austin pointed out the match had never started so dragged Vince off the stretcher to spend the next 10 minutes beating the hell out of him. It won Vince huge respect backstage as a boss not willing to ask other guys to do anything he wasn’t ready to do himself.
9 Edge AA’d Off Ladder
Edge and John Cena always had a great chemistry in the ring that turned their 2006 feud into a memorable affair. After various brawls, they were set for Unforgiven in Canada in a TLC match for the belt and it was as crazy and violent as their other battles, the crowd behind Edge but Cena getting some surprising cheers as well, especially as he kept coming back from the punishment he was given. After various near-grabs, it finally came to the two climbing up the ladder to belt each other at the top. Ducking a punch, Cena got Edge onto his shoulders into the AA (still called the FU back then) and then tossed Edge off the ladder and through two tables set up on top of each other next to it. The crowd gasped as Cena grabbed the belt to win and even the Canadians had to cheer with respect to his work. Another stunning bump by Edge and a match that won Cena a lot more respect.
8 Rikishi Off the Cell
The problem with Hell in the Cell was how guys kept trying to top themselves. That was shown at Armageddon 2000 when HHH, The Rock, Steve Austin, Rikishi, Undertaker and Kurt Angle went at it in a six-way for the WWE title. As you’d expect, it was a messy match with plenty of hard shots and tries at big spots and everyone knew it was only a matter of time before someone took a fall. It turned out to be Rikshi, teetering on the brink of the cage after McMahon and his cronies brought a flatbed truck full of hay to the ring. Finally thrown by The Undertaker, Rikishi took a fall backward and onto the truck. Yes, it was there to break his fall but still have to give props to Rikishi taking it without much protection for his size.
7 Shawn Drops Elbow on Vince
On one of his DVDs, Shawn himself puts over the massive risk Vince took with this move. Again, Vince is by no means a trained wrestler and pretty messy in the ring but he gave it his all for this WrestleMania 22 battle against HBK. It was a brutal brawl going all over the place with Vince getting the worst of it while Shawn took nasty shots too. Finally getting the advantage, Shawn ended up knocking Vince onto a table and placing a trash can over his head. He laid Vince out and took a ladder, milking it for the crowd before leaping off to deliver an elbow onto Vince.
The guy had no idea when the blow was going to come and thus had to be careful when to time it and makes the spot more impressive. Say what you will about Vince, the guy deserves respect for such massive guts.
6 Shane Off the Titantron
You have to wonder about Shane McMahon and his going so wild in his matches. The man does hardcore battles better than most seasoned workers and goes all out to entertain. That was shown at SummerSlam 2000 as he and Steve Blackman engaged in a wild battle with them climbing the huge TitanTron over the arena. After some blows back and forth, Shane was shoved off for a huge fall and even if softened, it’s still taking a flop nearly 30 feet down and a huge risk. Incredibly, Shane did it again in 2001 when he and the Big Show went at it at Backlash. Doing this fall once was wild but twice makes you seriously consider Shane’s mental health and putting himself at risk when not even a regular wrestler.
5 Benjamin Through a Ladder
Shelton Benjamin had stolen the very first Money in the Bank match and continued that for several others with his fantastic athletic ability and high-flying moves. Still, few expected him to pull off such a wild stunt as with the MITB battle at WrestleMania XXIV. Climbing up the ladder to reach the briefcase, Benjamin was close when Carlito and Kennedy grabbed the ladder, pushed it slowly over then tipped it to send Benjamin flying over the ropes and to a ladder propped up on the outside.
You could hear the crack across the stadium as he crashed through it, the crowd wild and even Carlito and Kennedy looking stunned. It's a shame Shelton never won MITB as he always did his best to make it a sight and this was his best moment.
4 Brock Lesnar- Shooting Star Press
This remains one of the downright scariest sights in all of WrestleMania. Going into Mania XIX, everyone knew Kurt Angle’s neck was massively screwed up and the fact he was even wrestling Brock Lesnar was remarkable. The two put on a fantastic match that had fans going wild with Brock putting Angle down and moving to the top rope for his standard shooting star press. However, in a chilling sight, Brock landed directly on his head and was motionless with serious concern he’d broken his neck. He turned out to be okay and won the match but frightening to think how close Brock’s career came to a crashing halt.
3 Shane McMahon, King of the Ring 2001
Shane’s daredevil spirit has been well established but his ability to take punishment was put on full display at this battle. He and Angle went at it in a wild brawl that went over the arena and soon fighting at the stage where glass barriers were set up with the “KOR” logo on them. Picking Shane up, Angle attempted an overhead suplex to send Shane into the glass. However, the glass was far tougher than expected as it refused to break and so Shane landed right on his head on the concrete. Rather than call the spot off, Angle just picked him up and threw him through the glass which shattered this time. Amazingly, the fight continued for a bit longer before Angle got the win but still remarkable how Shane did such a major job to wow fans.
2 Joey Mercury, Armageddon 2006
If anyone can attest to how those “don’t try this at home” warnings by WWE are for real, it’s Joey Mercury. To spice up Armageddon 2006, WWE surprised the audience by changing the planned tag title match to a four-team ladder match with MNM and the Hardyz joining William Regal and Dave Taylor and champions Paul London and Brian Kendrick. As you’d expect, it was a terrific display of styles with MNM double-teaming Matt Hardy with two ladders balanced on top of each other. Getting to the top rope, Jeff leapt down, hitting the back of one ladder and sending the front half swinging right into MNM’s faces. Mercury fell to the outside with the cameras showing blood pouring and his nose an ugly mess. He had caught the ladder full on that shattered half his face and caused him to lose partial vision in one eye. His career was never the same and thus he stands as proof of the dangers these guys put themselves through for their work.
1 Mankind, Hell in the Cell
We’ve become so used to seeing these falls over the years that it’s easy to forget how utterly stunning they were when they occurred in 1998. Yes, Mick Foley had support but still not the icon yet but this King of the Ring battle against The Undertaker changed that forever. Starting on the top of the cell, Taker grabbed Foley and tossed him off and through the table to ignite Jim Ross’ famous “As God is my witness, he’s broken in half!” How Foley pulled himself up is amazing as they fought again for a chokeslam through the cage roof. Foley has been up front on how, if he’d taken the move correctly, he’d probably be dead as he sailed down into that ring for a brutal slam.
That was followed by him dropped onto a bed of tacks and while Foley lost the match, he won the favor of fans around the world. It’s amazing how two bumps can change a man so much and still a remarkable sight.