Pre planning is something that is in the nature of wrestling. Thus in many occasions while fans feel a surge of anxiety over the outcome of a match, the wrestlers already know who is going to emerge victorious. Furthermore, they even know which moves they are going to use on an opponent and which ones they are going to be on the receiving end of. Most of these moves usually require both parties to play their part in order for them to be executed correctly.
While a lot of matches carry on as expected, some have backfired quite spectacularly on a number of occasions. Wrestlers sometimes execute their moves wrongly while those on the receiving end fail to protect themselves as required. These miscalculations often come with injuries with some of them proving to be quite serious. In fact some wrestlers would have met their demise if it wasn’t for a stroke of good luck. However, not all incidents are completely innocent, for some wrestlers have intentionally hurt their opponents and sometimes things turn out worse than they originally intended.
These injuries have varying repercussions for the wrestlers. While some recovered completely and went back to wrestling, others were forced to give up their career due to recurring problems caused by the injuries. However, the most tragic cases are the ones which resulted in paralysis and even worse, death. The fact is that no amount of pre-planning can help someone when things go awry. Here are 15 incidents where wrestlers almost lost their lives in the ring.
Japan's legendary Hayabusa recently passed away of a brain hemorrhage, but he nearly lost his life 15 years ago in the ring. While he didn't lose his life, Hayabusa suffered a career ending injury when he slipped off the rope attempting a springboard moonsault in a match against Mammoth Sasaki. Elji Esaki would continue to be an ambassador for Japanese wrestling and in recent years, was finally able to walk again after years of paralysis.
14 New Jack and Vic Grimes
New Jack and Vic Grimes belong on this list because any time a stunt like this is pulled off, there's a huge risk involved. This stunt at ECW "Living Dangerously" is known as the Danbury Fall. With both men fighting on top of a scaffold, there were tables set below them, so they could fall through them. New Jack prematurely grabbed Grimes, and the two missed the tables, instead hitting the concrete below, with Grimes landing on New Jack's head.
Both men suffered major injuries, with New Jack suffering brain damage, short-term memory loss, nerve damage and lost vision in his right eye.
New Jack then took things way too far in a 2002 rematch in XPW, where he threw Grimes off a scaffold, onto 12 stacked tables. New Jack admitted that he wanted Grimes to miss the tables and land on the steel turnbuckle, hoping Grimes would suffer a major injury, or even die, as revenge for the Danbury Fall. Grimes managed to catch some of the top rope to break his fall, but suffered a dislocated ankle.
Overall this was a disgusting display.
The first time was off a botched flapjack by Chris Benoit, but the second time may have been even scarier. While taking a Tazzplex, Sabu landed on his head through a table. It was a miracle that Sabu ever wrestled again.
When Darren Drozdov met D’Lo Brown in a Smackdown match in 1999, he had no idea that his life was about to change completely, and not in a good way. As the match was about to finish, Brown messed up a powerbomb finisher, causing Droz to land on his head thus fracturing two neck vertebrae which left him a quadriplegic. In spite of his misfortune, Droz is thankful to be alive and continued working for the WWE by contributing articles for their website.
Despite Droz having no anger towards him and admitting that it was an accident, Brown still had a tough time coming to terms with the incident and even quit wrestling for a while. Footage of the match wasn’t released although WWE used footage of Droz being taken out on a stretcher for their “Don’t try this at home” PSAs.
11 Big Show
The Big Show, formerly known as The Giant met Kevin Nash at WCW’s Souled Out 1998 show. While the match was rather unspectacular, it is still remembered because of Nash’s botched powerbomb which left The Giant with an injured neck. As his name suggested, The Giant was quite large thus making it difficult for Nash to lift him so when Nash lost his grip, The Giant ended up landing on his head. Considering the fact that he weighed over 400 pounds, he was lucky to have survived the impact on his head and neck. Nash reportedly didn’t come out unscathed for he hurt his back while attempting the lift.
During an ECW tag team match in 1995, Taz was the recipient of a spike piledriver from 2 Cold Scorpio and Dean Malenko. Even though he knew what was coming, Taz didn’t have time to properly protect himself thus he ended up landing on his forehead and picked up a neck injury. He then went to the hospital after the match where he discovered that the neck injury was so severe, even the hospital staff were shocked it didn’t have grave repercussions. Due to a verbal agreement, Paul Heyman continued to pay him even though he couldn’t wrestle for a couple of months.
9 Jerry Lawler
During an episode of Raw in 2012, Lawler also known as The King collapsed at the announcers table shortly after taking part in a match against CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. His fellow commentator Michael Cole gave updates on his condition and some of the remaining matches went ahead without commentary. It was later revealed that he had suffered a heart attack and he had surgery to improve blood flow to his heart. His heart attack was deemed to have been caused by an unexplained cardiac arrest and he was eventually cleared to continue wrestling.
8 Terry Funk
Funk adopted a hardcore wrestling style during the latter part of his career so at age 53, he had no qualms about taking part in ECW’s Born to be Wired match in 1997, in which the ropes of the ring were replaced with barbed wire. The match was against Sabu who was known for his extreme wrestling style and had the scars to show for it. As expected, the match ended up being a bloody affair with Sabu colliding into the wire and tearing open his biceps, proceeding to wrap up the wound with duct tape and continuing with the match.
At one point, the two were so injured and tangled up in barbed wire that they couldn’t get themselves back in the ring and needed some assistance from the ref. Funk ended up with a piece of barbed wire wrapped around his throat which could have been disastrous had an artery been torn open. Sabu was then able to pin Funk and he won the match. They both had to be cut out of the wires when the match ended and ECW never had another barbed wire match because theirs was too gruesome.
7 Keiji Mutoh
Mutoh became one of the first Japanese wrestlers to achieve a fan base outside of Japan. He is also known for The Great Muta gimmick which has been emulated by a number of wrestlers. However, he is perhaps best known for taking part in one of the bloodiest wrestling matches against Hiroshi Hase in 1992 which led to the creation of the “Muta Scale” that rates the bloodiness of matches. As payback for a previous encounter, Hase used an object to beat at Mutoh’s forehead which resulted in a deep cut that saw Mutoh lose a lot of blood during the match. Despite their rivalry, the two were actually regular tag team partners and won a couple of titles together.
Early in his career, he was unable to work for a couple of months after an opponent overshot a suicide dive and landed on his head causing a blood clot near his brain. He probably won’t remember that injury as much as the one he suffered in 2013 when he tore his anus apart and had to undergo a sphincteroplasty. During the match, X-Pac went for his Bronco Buster move but his opponent moved out of the way and he landed on the turnbuckle and literally got his ass ripped apart.
An ambulance had to be called later when he noticed that he was bleeding. The injury was as serious as it was embarrassing for he claimed that he almost bled out before the ambulance arrived. Apparently one of his former ring names was The Hardluck Kid, quite apt don’t you agree?
5 Mass Transit
Anyone going up against New Jack in the ECW had to be aware that they were in for some rough stuff. That’s exactly what happened to Erick Kulas, otherwise known as Mass Transit in 1996 for after being beaten by toasters and crutches, his forehead was cut so deep that he passed out while blood sprayed out of his head. New Jack was taken to court by the Kulas family but was acquitted after it was determined that Kulas had asked to be bladed. Furthermore, Kulas was discovered to have lied about his age for he claimed to be 23 when he was in fact 17. Unfortunately for Kulas, his life was cut short early for at 22, he died due to complications from gastric bypass surgery.
4 Mitsuharu Misawa
Misawa’s case is definitely the most tragic on this list because while the rest managed to hold on to their lives, if only for a while for some, nothing could be done for him. In June 2009, he took part in a GHC Tag Team title match, where he lost consciousness after taking a belly to back suplex from an opponent. He was taken to hospital where he was declared dead. Having been a popular figure in Japan, there was a lot of talk regarding the cause of death which was speculated to have been a cervical spinal cord injury which caused a cardiac arrest. However, his family requested the police not to release the official cause of death.
3 Brock Lesnar
Lesnar might have won the WWE Championship match against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX but it isn’t what he’s remembered for. Instead, the honor goes to his botched shooting star press on Kurt Angle. The wet rope caused Lesnar to slip, he then under-rotated and compounded by the fact that Angle seemed to be a little too far in the ring, he ended up landing on his head and suffering a concussion. Lesnar himself admitted that he did not want to do the move but was talked into it by someone. Unfortunately, despite having done the move successfully a couple of times, it’s the botched one that’s stuck on people’s minds.
2 Mick Foley
Mick Foley certainly had a hellish time during the Hell in a Cell match between him and The Undertaker at King of the Ring in 1998. The Undertaker threw him from the top of the cage and he landed on the announcers’ table. Foley was then placed on a stretcher but then got up from it and proceeded to climb back to the top of the cage. Things got worse for after The Undertaker chokeslammed him atop the cage and one of the panels gave way causing Foley to fall through and crash into the ring. He was knocked unconscious for a while and everyone including The Undertaker thought he was dead. Despite all that, he still went ahead to complete the match which he lost. The match became legendary with many future matches trying to copy it.
1 Steve Austin
At SummerSlam 1997, Owen Hart botched a piledriver that caused Austin to land on his head. Austin still managed to win the match but suffered a broken neck and temporary paralysis. This injury brought Austin a lot of issues in the future and eventually forced him to retire after his match at WrestleMania XIX in 2003. Hart however, tragically fell to his death at Over the Edge in 1999 and Austin was among those who paid tribute to him. As for Austin, some of his fans still dream of a comeback. Good luck with that folks.