If you're a wrestling fan, you're probably used to hearing that "wrestling is fake." While professional wrestling doesn't exactly offer the bare-knuckle brawling it often portrays, the damage done to wrestlers is very real.
In fact, injuries to professional wrestlers are extremely common and, given the demanding schedule of a company such as WWE, the amount of times these men and women are constantly being tossed onto the canvas are enough to leave them sore and sorry.
The wrestling mat itself is no jumping castle, with only a layer of canvas and roughly two inches of padding covering wooden boards and steel framing. No matter how you try to twist it, it's not a soft landing.
When you take into account the variable dangers - mistimed manoeuvres, highlight moves, weapons etc - wrestling may not be "real,” but it sure as hell isn't fake.
Despite injuries being common place in professional wrestling, the performers often take it as a point of pride to be able to finish their matches despite injury. While most of the injuries are often minor, there are times when they should just allow themselves to be aided out of the arena and into the hands of medical staff.
Nevertheless, these 15 wrestlers took it upon themselves to complete their matches despite suffering serious injuries during, an incredibly impressive feat despite the obvious dangers to their long-term health.
Commiserations to Stone Cold Steve Austin and Sid Vicious who almost made the list - Austin for a broken neck at the hands of the late Owen Hart and Sid for a broken leg due to an off-balance jump off the second rope - but seeing as both were hardly able to move when the injuries were suffered despite finishing their respective matches, they just missed the cut.
This list should further bathe the original Sin Cara in shame for asking for his match to be stopped due to a broken finger. Way to go, kid.
15 Sting - Night of Champions, 2015
In what was Sting's first match since WrestleMania 31 and only his second WWE match, the Stinger's body didn't have an easy night. Being thrown through an announce table and having your head hit a monitor is bad enough, but being later powerbombed onto the turnbuckle and further aggravating his injuries is a real kicker. At one point, the referee was forced to stop the match as ringside doctors tended to him in the corner and later helped him from the ring. Although Sting caused serious injury to his neck, back and head, his manager Steve Martinez posted to his Facebook that Sting is optimistic about making a full recovery.
14 Brock Lesnar - WrestleMania 19
If you're going to make a mistake, you'd better make sure it's not in the main event of WrestleMania - insert Brock Lesnar. Opposing Kurt Angle for the WWE Undisputed Championship, a young and inexperienced Lesnar decided a shooting star press off the top rope on an opponent who was laid out halfway across the ring was a good idea - yeah, it wasn't (though it was Angle's suggestion). Brock suffered a severe concussion and Kurt Angle recalls Lesnar not knowing where he was, despite the match finishing with an F5 and a victory for Lesnar.
13 John Cena - RAW 10/1/2007
While executing a hip toss on Mr Kennedy, Cena tore his pectoral muscle completely off the bone and was immediately off television. Cena finished the match despite a run-in by Randy Orton afterwards and although he wasn't meant to return for seven months following surgery, Cena made a surprise return at the 2008 Royal Rumble four months later, going on to win it. Double kudos is deserved for Cena, who recently received a knee to the nose from Seth Rollins, leaving it completely shattered. Despite being unable to breathe from his nose, Cena completely the match and picked up the win.
12 Kurt Angle - SummerSlam 2000
While facing The Rock and Triple H for the WWE Championship, Kurt Angle and The Game were brawling on an announce table as Triple H set him up for a Pedigree. As the two jumped, the table broke prematurely and Triple H landed square on Angle's head, knocking him out stone cold. Although he suffered a severe concussion and had to be stretchered out, Angle returned to the match and was involved in the finish that included him taking a bump over the top rope at the hands of The Rock.
11 The Rock - WrestleMania 29
During the long-awaited rematch with John Cena for the WWE Championship, The Rock suffered a hernia, torn abductor and torn abdominal muscle after the first Attitude Adjustment from Cena. Continuing the wrestle the match, the muscle tore from his pelvis and by the time the match had come to its conclusion, both his abdominal and abductor muscles had torn completely off his pelvis. Wrestling is overrated, stay in Hollywood Rocky.
10 Triple H - RAW 5/21/2001
As Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin teamed against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit for the Tag Team Championships, a routine and rather innocuous clothesline to break up the Walls of Jericho resulted in Triple H tearing his left quadricep completely off the bone. The Game rolled to the outside of the ring and began hobbling over to the announce table to set Jericho up for a spot, in which Triple H was placed in the Walls of Jericho on the table, further damaging his quad. Nevertheless, Triple H later managed to use his signature sledgehammer before the finish, but was sidelined for over eight months. At least he missed the terrible Invasion storyline.
9 Bret Hart - Starrcade 1999
The incident which effectively ended Bret Hart's career came at the hands of Goldberg, who whipped Hart into the ropes and delivered a superkick that caught Hart flush on the head. Hart didn't know at the time that he was injured, but once he had discovered he had a serious concussion, he was forced to retire immediately. It is also speculated that the concussion Bret received in this match laid the foundation for the stroke he would suffer later in life.
8 The Miz - WrestleMania XXVII
Early during his main event WWE Championship bout with John Cena at WrestleMania 27, The Miz found himself severely concussed when Cena tackled him from the fan barrier to the floor. As shown in more detail on the following night's episode of RAW, Miz's head bounced off the exposed floor, knocking him through a loop and forcing him to continue the match in a confused state, even completing an altercation with The Rock after picking up the win. Recalling the match, The Miz said "Now, watching back, I can remember it in little bits and pieces. I remember being in it, but I don't remember everything."
7 The Undertaker - Elimination Chamber 2010
Before his Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Taker was the victim of an on-stage pyro mistake as flames shot up directly beneath the Dead Man three times. Chris Jericho, who was also booked in the match, detailed the incident in his book, saying the incident left Taker with second-degree burns and his coat and hat were charred beyond recognition. His whole upper body was beet red from the fire during the match, but the Undertaker competed in and finished the contest as planned.
6 Shawn Michaels - Royal Rumble 1998
Before Shawn Michaels' casket match with The Undertaker had hardly got going, Michaels was back body dropped to the outside, his lower back landing squarely on the edge of the casket. Amazingly, Michaels continued the match, taking multiple bumps on his back in the process. The impact led to two herniated discs in the lumbar region of Michaels' spine, ultimately prompting him to retire after his WrestleMania XIV match before coming back from a four-year absence to wrestle for eight more years.
5 Hardcore Holly - Smackdown! and ECW
Nobody is more deserving of being on this list twice than Hardcore Holly, though that's hardly a great thing. During a Smackdown match in 2002 with Brock Lesnar, Lesnar attempted to lift Holly onto his shoulders for a powerbomb but couldn't complete the action. Instead of throwing him down on his back, Lesnar left Holly dangling in the air before dropping him to the mat head first. The accident left Holly with a broken neck and resulted in him enduring a 13-month hiatus before returning to the ring.
Then, while in WWE's version of ECW in 2006, Holly fought through some more injures to finish a match. Going through a table is a well-rehearsed stunt in professional wrestling, but Hardcore Holly fell victim to a freak accident. Falling through a table outside the ring, Holly landed on a strip of metal and suffered a severe laceration on his back that required 24 stitches. Having finished the match with blood running down his back, Holly received a standing ovation from the crowd despite being a heel.
4 Cactus Jack - WCW Munich, 1994
While wrestling Vader, Mick Foley attempted to do a hangman's choke, which involves grabbing the top and middle ropes and trapping your head in between them like a vice while simultaneously being thrown over the ropes. WCW's ropes were notoriously inadequate, using steel elevator cables wrapped in rubber rather than rope. Other talent had already complained about the ropes being too loose earlier that night, so the ring crew tightened them before Vader and Foley’s match. Cactus couldn't free his head and had to force his way out of the ropes with the help of Vader, tearing off over half his ear in the process. Foley finished the match and when WCW refused to use the injury as part of a story, he vented those frustrations in ECW.
3 Vader - AJPW vs NJPW Supercard Show 1990
During am AJPW vs NJPW supershow held in front of a stacked house, Vader squared off against Stan Hansen in a stiff, bruising brawl, which featured Hansen breaking Vader's nose with the bullrope he carried before Vader even entered the ring. During one of the exchanges during the match, Hansen dislodged Vader's eyeball from his socket, prompting Vader to take off his mask and pop the eyeball back in before finishing the match. As a result, Vader had to get a plate surgically inserted underneath his eye.
2 Mankind - King of the Ring 1998
During a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker, Mick Foley was the subject of numerous high spots in the space of 20-odd minutes. If being thrown off the cell onto an announce table wasn't crazy enough, Foley took an unplanned fall through the cell's ceiling after a chokeslam resulted in the chain link fencing giving way, allowing the chair that was previously beneath him to land squarely on his face. If that wasn't enough, Foley followed through with another planned spot, being dropped onto thumbtacks - twice. Foley left the cell with an injured hip, split lip, missing teeth and a severe concussion - all in a day's work.
1 Sabu - Born To Be Wired 1997
Sabu really should have seen this one coming when he decided that the Air Sabu corner splash during a match that featured barbed wire in place of ring ropes was a good idea. As his opponent, Terry Funk, moved out of the corner, Sabu ended up getting caught in the wire, tearing open his left bicep. The injury was so bad that the muscle was visibly hanging out of the gash. However, like any sane person would, Sabu called for some tape and did an amateur job taping closed the 10-inch wound before finishing the match; both Sabu and Funk required several ring technicians using wire cutters to free them from the barbed wire. Paul Heyman later said the match was "so gruesome, I never ever dared to schedule another one like it."