It’s incredibly difficult for a professional wrestler to make it look like they are trying to really beat up their opponent. While high-flying maneuvers and expert mat wrestling are always a thrill, there is nothing more challenging than making it look like you are simply trying to beat your opponent into submission. It’s no coincidence that guys who were really good at it – like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Terry Funk – tend to be regarded as some of the best wrestlers of all time.
Sometimes, though, a wrestler decides to just ignore that whole “not really supposed to hurt your opponent” part of the job and instead just try to hurt their opponent for real. While this is just about the worst thing one wrestler could ever do to another, you’d be surprised by how many of the industry’s greatest performers have gotten away with doing just that. Sometimes, a wrestler is beaten up as part of a lesson and sometimes it’s done as an act of revenge. Most of the time, though, it’s because one wrestler simply doesn’t like the person they’re in the ring with. Whatever the case, these are the top 15 times a wrestler intentionally hurt someone for real.
15 Bubba Ray Intentionally Targeted Rene Dupree’s Torn Hamstring
Before he was known for repeating a Budweiser commercial from the ‘90s and telling his brother to get tables, Bubba Ray Dudley made a name for himself in ECW as one of the most vulgar and hardcore competitors the vulgar and hardcore wrestling promotion had ever had. In recent years, it’s come to light that Bubba Ray may not have abandoned his nasty ways when ECW folded. While many wrestlers have claimed that Bubba Ray tried to injure them, Rene Dupree shared a specific story during a 2015 interview. Dupree claims that Bubba Ray gave him many concussions over the course of his career due to his rough ring work and allegedly intentionally tore his hamstring during a match in Chicago one time. Dupree claims he tried to tell Bubba that he was hurt, but Bubba continued to target the hamstring throughout the match.
14 William Regal Used Stiff Shots to Teach Goldberg Some Humility
While the nWo helped put WCW on top of the wrestling world over twenty years ago, it was Bill Goldberg that helped WCW remain on top after the novelty of Hulk Hogan’s group of heels began to fade. By 1998, the undefeated Goldberg had climbed to the top of WCW and was primed to take over the wrestling world. The only thing standing in his way was William Regal. See, Regal felt that the young Goldberg needed to pay his dues before becoming the biggest star in the world. As such, he decided to turn a seemingly unimportant Monday Night Nitro match into a pseudo-shoot fight. Regal used his superior wrestling abilities to tie knots around Goldberg throughout the match and even laid in a few stiff shots throughout the contest. Goldberg technically won the match, but Regal certainly made his point known.
13 Stan Hansen's Hard Punches Knocked Vader's Eye out of Socket
Stan Hansen and Big Van Vader are two of the most successful American-born performers in the history of Japanese wrestling. Both came into Japan at a time when Japanese wrestling fans were obsessed with the idea of big men getting into the ring and just beating the hell out of each other. Since Hansen and Vader excelled at that particular style, they quickly developed a following. The problem was that neither man seemed to know when to hold back.
This really became a problem when the two faced off one fateful night in Japan and decided to spend the entire match seeing who could deal – and take – more punishment. While both men absorbed a ton of damage during this contest, it's Stansen that got the final word in as he hit Vader so hard that Vader’s eye came out of his socket.
12 Steve Williams Beats Up Steve Ray for $100
While the match in question involved Dr. Death Steve Williams, the story behind the match is really about two people named Steve Ray and Herb Abrams. According to wrestling legend, Steve Ray either ripped Herb Abrams off during a drug deal, slept with Herb Abrams' wife, or both. Whatever the case was, Herb Abrams decided to offer Steve Williams an extra $100 if he broke Ray’s nose during a match. Williams must have gladly taken him up on the offer as he proceeded to destroy Ray during the course of their encounter.
One particularly memorable moment occurs at about seven minutes into the match when Abrams comes out to whisper something to Williams and Ray tries to punch him. We just hope that Abrams ponied up for the work Williams put in during this match.
11 Paul Roma Put Alex Wright in Danger by Refusing to Work With Him
As we saw with the Regal/Goldberg match, there are few things that veteran wrestlers hate more than a youngster getting pushed to the top of the card without having spent years working their way up through the lower ranks. This concept of “paying dues” used to be a big deal in the wrestling world. Just ask Paul Roma. While Roma was never a superstar, he was a veteran hand that could usually be relied on to show young wrestlers the ropes and make them look good.
For some reason, though, the Paul Roma really hated the push that young Alex Wright was receiving. He was so upset, in fact, that he decided to simply not work with him during their match together. Along with making Wright look stupid, Roma’s refusal to play along led to several instances when Wright was at risk of getting injured. Roma was fired shortly after this match.
10 The Dirt Bike Kid Gets Choked by The Great Sasuke For Not Wearing His Mask
This may just be the most amusingly bizarre story on this list. In 1999, The Great Sasuke invited a young wrestler named Dirt Bike Kid to compete in Michinoku Pro’s tournament of masked wrestlers. Dirt Bike Kid wasn’t’ quite sure why he received an invite, but he was thrilled to wrestle a legend like Sasuke. Because Dirt Bike Kid didn’t usually wrestle in a mask, though, he decided to take off his own mask early into the match. This upset Sasuke who was not only a masked legend but the promoter of Michinoku Pro. He was so upset, in fact, that he decided to start beating up the Dirt Bike Kid. The match ended when Sasuke started legitimately choking Kid, and the referee was forced to declare Sasuke the winner.
9 Hulk Hogan Chokes Out Late Night Host Richard Belzer
This entrant is unique for the simple fact that it’s the only one that doesn’t involve two wrestlers. Instead, this incident occurred shortly before the first WrestleMania when Hulk Hogan and Mr. T were touring late night talk shows to promote the upcoming event. While filming their segment on Richard Belzer’s late-night show, Hulk Hogan became agitated at how Belzer kept mocking the performers and the general absurdity of professional wrestling. After insisting that one of the two put a wrestling hold on him, Hulk can be heard whispering to Mr. T that he was going to make Belzer squeal. Hulk then proceeded to put a front facelock on Belzer. While a relatively simple move, it became clear to everyone that Hulk squeezed him a little harder than necessary when Belzer hit the floor and cracked his head open.
8 The Public Enemy’s Bad Attitude Inspired The Acolytes to Beat Them Up and Call it a Wrestling Match
All due respect to The Public Enemy, but they achieved more in the professional wrestling business than they probably should have. The team of Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock got over in ECW thanks to their interesting gimmick and ability to work a hardcore match, but once the team tested the waters of WCW and WWE, their weaknesses became that much more obvious. Even worse, the two apparently arrived in WWE with a bit of an attitude. Because of this, Ron Simmons and Bradshaw took it upon themselves to set the duo straight. No, they didn’t give them a talking too in the back, they simply beat the two within an inch of their lives during a wrestling match. The Acolytes’ hard-hitting destruction of Public Enemy was intended to inform the young team that they weren’t as great as they thought they were. Given that the duo was out of WWE within weeks, we’re guessing it worked.
7 Harley Race Single Handedly Took Out Two of the Toughest Wrestlers Ever
Don’t be fooled by his afro or slightly unathletic build. Harley Race is legitimately one of the toughest men to ever compete in a squared circle. Race was what you call a “bar fighter.” What he lacked in technique, he more than made up for in toughness. He also had a bit of an attitude as it relates to keeping the youngsters in line. Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody found this out the hard way one night when they took on Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel in a tag match. See, Brody and Hansen decided to tee off on Bockwinkel in order to show how tough they were. Race did not approve. In fact, he asked Bockwinkel to tag him in so that he could almost break Brody’s ankle. After that, Hansen tried to deny Race a suplex by going dead weight. Race still managed to suplex him.
6 Daniel Puder Tried to Make a Name for Himself by Breaking Kurt Angle’s Arm
This is certainly one of the best-known incidents on this list, but it’s too good not to share. Several years ago, Kurt Angle hosted an open challenge. The contest was basically an elaborate way for WWE to showcase Kurt Angle’s actual wrestling skills by allowing him to dominate some young performers. Among these performers was mixed martial artist Daniel Puder. Puder had no intentions of laying down for Angle when he stepped into the ring for him. Instead, he was able to take Angle down legitimately and put him in an incredibly painful looking Kimura lock. It was clear that Puder was going to break Angle’s arm if he didn’t submit. Luckily for Angle, he was able to force Puder into a pin before any serious damage could be done.
5 New Jack Tried to Injure Pretty Much Everyone
While ECW got away with some pretty outlandish stuff during the promotion’s heyday, nothing quite compares to the antics of New Jack. While some considered “criminal” to be a wrestling gimmick, New Jack saw it more as a way of life. He was consistently involved in some of ECW’s most outrageous and heinous moments. As such, this is more of a lifetime achievement award for New Jack than a single entrant. New Jack generally didn’t seem to care about the well-being of his opponents, but his most infamous moment came when he stepped into the ring with an underage kid going by the name of Mass Transit and cut him deeply so that he would spill an ample amount of blood. Then there was the time he almost tried to kill Vic Grimes during a particularly dangerous spot. He wasn’t a great guy.
4 Perry Saturn Pulverizes Jobber, Gets Punished
This one is infamous because it led to the Moppy gimmick, which is what Perry Saturn's WWE career is most remembered for. Saturn was in a match with jobber Mike Bell and after Bell delivered a botched suplex to Saturn, the veteran lost it and began wailing away on a green Bell, delivering stiff shots. He even laid a dangerous head-first bump on the young worker. Bell was badly hurt after the match and as a result of this display, Saturn was punished.
He would soon be saddled with the Moppy gimmick, after the WWE ran an angle where Saturn had supposedly lost his mind after suffering a concussion. Saturn's WWE career dwindled from there, as this incident effectively ended any chance Saturn had of getting a push from the company.
3 Akira Maeda Intentionally Broke Riki Choshu’s Nose…
If you’re not familiar with Akira Maeda, you’re about to become very familiar with Akira Maeda. To some, Akira Maeda is a mixed martial arts innovator and one of the fathers of modern MMA. To others, he’s a former promoter and wrestler. Most people, however, remember him as one of the craziest wrestlers that ever lived. Maeda has been involved in quite a few instances involving him trying to hurt his opponent, including the time that he intentionally broke Riki Choshu’s nose. See, for whatever reason, Maeda felt that the best thing he could do to Choshu while Choshu was putting a submission hold on his opponent was to go right up to him and kick him in the nose as hard as he could. Why? Honestly, his reasons are anybody’s guess.
2 …and then Went After Andre The Giant’s Legs
If you thought Akira Maeda was crazy for kicking a fellow wrestler in the nose as hard as he could for no apparent reason, then you haven’t heard about his legendary bout with Andre The Giant. During one of Andre’s tours of Japan, he participated in a match against Akira Maeda. Early into this epic encounter, fans sensed that something was wrong. Andre began stumbling around the ring like he was drunk which, if you know Andre, would have taken quite a lot of pre-match alcohol. The story goes that Maeda was upset at Andre’s condition and decided to fight him for real. What this amounted to was Maeda kicking Andre in the legs over and over while avoiding Andre’s grasp. Eventually, promoter Antonio Inoki called the match before Maeda could break Andre’s legs or Andre decided to kill him.
1 Antonio Inoki Turned the 465 pound Great Antonio Into A Bloody Mess
Just to show you that Antonio Inoki was no stranger to intentionally trying to hurt someone, we bring you his infamous match against Great Antonio. Now, if you’ve never heard of Great Antonio, don’t feel too bad. He was just a really fat guy who won some strongman contests and occasionally got booked as a professional wrestler. Perhaps in an effort to show just how tough he was, Antonio decided to not sell any of Antonio Inoki’s offense during their match. Inoki played along with this until Antonio starting laying in some really stiff shots on Inoki. Inoki could not let this stand. He immediately starting hitting Antonio with some vicious palm strikes before taking him down to the mat. While Antonio was down there, Inoki decided to start kicking his head in until the big man was a bloody mess. Forget intentionally injuring someone, Inoki looked like he was aiming to kill.