There’s a reason that the beginning of wrestling shows often try to warn people watching not to try the moves they see at home. Wrestling injuries are very real, and it’s the reason that people get upset when they are told that wrestling is ‘fake’. You don’t see many brutal injuries in the main products today, such as the WWE, because the safer approach is meant to appeal to a family friendly audience.
Up until ECW was bought out by the WWE, though, extreme wrestling was still very much a mainstream thing. You can still catch some insanely dangerous matches these days, but they are hard to find since they don’t put them on television. Brands like CZW are still trying to keep the hardcore dream alive by shocking audiences with over the top matches.
Throughout the years, there have been plenty of wrestlers that took abuse in their matches in each of these companies, causing themselves long term damage for the sake of wowing a crowd. These men were bloodied, bruised, broken and even burned in some of the most intense matches people have ever seen.
These men are known as hardcore legends and icons, and years of wrestling these types of matches left them with injuries that the average man couldn’t even imagine suffering. 15 of those men stand out as the ones that took the most punishment in their careers, and here they are, starting with the son of a plumber.
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15 Dusty Rhodes
The late great Dusty Rhodes gave everything he had to the wrestling business, and as a result, took a lot of punishment in the ring. The phrase, "gave his blood, sweat and tears" is a common one, but it The American Dream really did give all those to the business. To a lot of younger viewers, Dusty Rhodes was simply the dad of current wrestlers Stardust and Goldust.
If you’re a little older, you remember him as a member of WCW, and WWE before that if you’re a little older. Rhodes wrestled for nearly 40 years and took a lot of abuse during that time. As one of the first people to really start blading on a consistent basis, Rhodes gave himself a lot of scars to make his matches look bloody. The American Dream truly was an old school wrestler.
14 Nick Gage
While wrestling in CZW, Nick Gage was known as “The Future of Hardcore Wrestling” and definitely lived up to that name. Gage wasn’t afraid of getting a little bloodied or injured to put on a show for the fans, and one of his worst injuries came from the CZW Tournament of Death 8 event. In the match against Deranged, it was a No Ropes Barbed Wire Fire Match and then proceed to wrestle two more matches. The bump that Gage took onto a light tube cut open an artery, and Gage had to be airlifted to a hospital. Gage also missed a year when his own brother botched a move that gave him a stinger.
13 The Sheik
Before the Iron Sheik, there was just The Sheik. The Sheik was born in the 1920s, and truly became one of the first people to introduce a hardcore style of wrestling to the public. Sheik’s gimmick might not fly into today’s WWE, but he acted as the Syrian that didn’t speak English and got the tables turned on him when he tried to gash his opponents with a pencil. Between all of the writing utensils and bloodfest matches that the Sheikh put on, he perhaps took more punishment in the early days of pro wrestling than anybody else around.
12 “Sick” Nick Mondo
Nick Mondo is one of the youngest guys on the list at just 35 years old, but he has already had to retire due to injuries with the exception of one match in 2013. During his short run as a professional wrestler (just four years), Mondo took insane bumps that included a 40 foot drop onto concrete. Mondo wrestled with broken bones, and even with open wounds in torrential downpours outside. The death match was his specialty, and many of his most brutal matches were with the man that’s just in front of him on this list.
John Zandig is the founder of CZW, so you know he has to show everyone how extreme he is by doling out some punishment on himself. Zandig has been involved in countless matches that include thumbtacks, light tubes and barbed wire. When you have a hardcore reputation to uphold, you tend to take things all the way to the extreme. Perhaps the most extreme moment that the boss had was when Wifebeater gashed his back open with a weed wacker and had gas and salt poured on the gashes.
10 Necro Butcher
Necro Butcher is a master in the dangerous style of hardcore matches, and one of them against Justice Pain resulted in some shoot fighting that caught people by surprise. Necro has been a part of just about every independent establishment that you can think of, with his most punishment-resulting matches coming in CZW. Necro has even broken his leg during a match that was able to get a crowdsourcing effort completed successfully. You may have also seen Necro in the 2008 movie “The Wrestler” when he staples Mickey Rourke’s character.
Hayabusa has invented some great top rope moves that many wrestlers still do today, but the Japanese wrestler who had a career that lasted for almost 20 years was a bit injury prone. It’s only expected when you’re a high flyer. Hayabusa’s career ended tragically when he botched a moonsault in 2001 when he missed the rope. Hayabusa tried to go through with it anyway, and landed directly on his head. Ever since then, Hayabusa has been in a wheelchair, but he has regained some of his ability to walk.
Sandman took a lot of punishment in ECW, and a lot of that was done to himself before he even got to the ring. Sandman would usually chug several cans of beer and bash full ones on his head until he was gushing blood before the bell rang. Sandman also took a lot of huge bumps after he had already been split open, being thrown off of ladders and through tables, sometimes while being wrapped in barbed wire. He also wasn’t the safest guy to work with since he was pretty buzzed on his way to the ring, which led to a lot of botches that caused himself (and his opponents) real harm.
7 New Jack
New Jack was a guy that people didn’t want to go toe to toe with in the wrestling ring because they knew how dangerous it could get. New Jack was a stiff wrestler whose matches would often turn into shoots where both men would try to knock each other out. The most famous incident of New Jack actually hurting someone was the Mass Transit Incident in ECW, and New Jack took some punishment of his own. During one pay per view in 2000, New Jack suffered brain damage and lost the vision in his right eye when he and Vic Grimes missed the tables while falling from a scaffold in the infamous “Danbury Fall”.
6 Abdullah the Butcher
Despite the fact that Abdullah the Butcher is 74 years old now, he had been wrestling up until a few years ago, still getting into bloodbaths against much younger wrestlers. Abdullah the Butcher earned his name through several decades of blading, which actually ended up being a problem for other wrestlers. Sometimes, Abdullah would blade a wrestler without their knowledge of it coming, and ended up giving some men Hepatitis C after sharing blades. Abdullah even had to pay a settlement of over $2 million because of it. Still, the 360 pound behemoth took as much punishment as he dished out.
5 Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer was known during his time in wrestling as the “Innovator of Violence” for good reason. Dreamer stepped into ECW as the “pretty boy”, which led to him getting booed. To try and get the crowd on his side, Dreamer went pretty extreme with his matches, including a disturbing scene when the Sandman gave him 12 lashes across the back. Dreamer bloodied himself on barbed wire and took enough table bumps to the point where he was struggling to wrestle through back injuries. Tommy Dreamer even took a big bump from The Shield that busted his head open, causing it to swell.
4 Atsushi Onita
Atsushi Onita had pretty much no regard for himself, and helped to innovate death matches in his native Japan. Onita’s career saw these death matches get out of hand pretty quickly, as he has been stabbed and ripped open with barbed wire and other sharp objects. Onita also holds a distinct record in the Guinness Book of World Records for having more stitches than anybody else. You can also say Onita is lucky to be alive after having two major scares. At one point, Onita was thrown into barbed wire ropes and slit his throat. Another time, Onita was cut open badly and still jumped into a lake, where he had several life threatening infections.
Sabu is now 50 years old, and it’s a shock that he’s even made it this far. As a matter of fact, Sabu is currently wrestling for the Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo Championship Wrestling. Most people remember Sabu from his ECW days, however, where he quickly established himself as hardcore when he would break tables with his own body if he couldn’t put his opponent through one in a match. Sabu has had some devastating injuries that include a broken neck and even a torn biceps from taking a bump into razor wire. He literally duct taped himself up to keep fighting.
2 Terry Funk
You either remember Terry Funk as a hardcore wrestling legend, or as the guy that has wrestled seemingly 100 retirement matches. Either way, you have to appreciate how much punishment he took during his career. Barbed wire matches were commonplace for Funk, who lost a lot of blood during these bouts. Funk has also been set on fire, electrocuted and has made leaps off of incredible heights. Funk also took a lot of unprotected chair shots that you probably won’t be seeing again anytime soon.
1 Mick Foley
“The Hardcore Legend” is somehow still alive, and quick witted at that, despite all of the injuries that he has taken in his wrestling career, and his list is ridiculous. Everyone remembers the insane bumps he took against the Undertaker during a Hell in a Cell match, but that’s just a small part of his hospital record. Foley has broken almost every bone in his body, received thousands of stitches, has torn both his ACL and abdominal muscles, had thousands of thumbtacks sticking out of his body and even suffered some serious burns. Foley was willing to take an absolute beating in the name of entertainment, and that’s why fans respect him more than almost any other wrestler.
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