The death of Japanese legend Eiji Ezaki in March was a firm reminder of the sacrifices that are made from professional wrestlers. Known to fans as Hayabusa, in 2001, the wrestler botched a springboard moonsault landing on his head. The inventor of the Phoenix Splash was paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheel chair. It wasn’t until 2014 that he showed the world he could stand up with assistance. He died due to a subarachnoid hemorrhage and the tragedy re-hashed feelings of how dangerous the industry can be.
Wrestlers and fans can be symbiotic in many ways. Fans love to be entertained and wrestlers (the ones who care) want to put on a good show. We have seen countless times when a wrestler would go above and beyond to get a reaction from a crowd. For instance, at WrestleMania 32, Shane McMahon offered his body (wasn’t the first time) to the 100,000 fans in attendance and millions watching at home. He threw himself off the 20 foot high Hell in the Cell and landed on an announcers table. It’s possible to think Shane O’Mac could have been eating threw a straw right now because so many things could have gone wrong. Thankfully, the WWE also put a mat under the commentary booth as a precautionary measure.
It’s not just the “big moment spots” like what Shane did, but an injury can take place during the regular routine of a match. The older generations of fans remember when Bruno Sammartino had his neck broken by recent WWE Hall of Fame inductee Stan Hanson. All it takes is a slip up or the apathetic actions of one wrestler to severely injure their colleague. Just like the night when fans witnessed Joey Mercury’s face exploding from a ladder spot. It was purely accidental and will go down as extraordinarily painful. These “spots” on the list can be found floating around the internet but we warn you, they’re graphic.
15 Botched Powerbomb or Ganso Bomb?
Japanese legends Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa were involved in one of the greatest feuds to hit the ‘90s. During a Triple Crown Title Match for All Japan Pro Wrestling in ’99, it looks like Kawada was going to end the match with a powerbomb. Misawa couldn’t lift himself up to land on his back, instead, he landed directly on his head.
The move could be argued that it was intended to be a Ganso Bomb or Kawada Driver. Whether it was a botched powerbomb or an intentional Ganso Bomb, you can feel your own neck snapping when watching the video. In ’09, Misawa would take a belly-to-belly suplex, lose consciousness, and die in a hospital. In respect to the legend, we have to recommend watching Kawada vs Misawa at AJPW Super Power Series on March 3rd, 1994. It’s a magnificent performance and one of best matches of that decade.
14 The Stupidity of Mass Transit
It was pretty much a horror show and one of the biggest F*#@ ups Paul Heyman, the former owner of ECW, has to admit to. At a Boston house show in ’96, Eric Kulas wanted to replace a wrestler for a tag match. He lied to Heyman by telling him he was 23 (he was 17) and was a trained wrestler. Heyman booked him, but the only problem was that New Jack was one of his opponents.
Towards the end, New Jack used a knife on Kulas’ face and cut his arteries in doing so. Kulas passed out from the loss of blood and you can hear his father screaming to stop the match. The wannabe wrestler could have bled out on the floor but luckily received proper medical attention. The Kulas family tried suing New Jack but failed when Mass Transit (the ring name of the minor) admitted to asking New Jack to cut him and lied about his age.
13 That's The Bottom Line
He wasn’t called one of the toughest S.O.B in the business for nothing. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s mud stomping, middle finger raising, beer can chugging character was getting white hot when he faced Owen Hart at SummerSlam ’97. Both guys were very technical and masters of their trade but one mistake would derail Austin’s career for a period.
Owen would botch a piledriver that left Austin with a broken neck and short-term paralysis. You would think the match would be stopped but in Stone Cold fashion, Austin somehow had enough strength to roll-up Owen and win the Intercontinental Championship. The piledriver was a reckless move that later found itself banned from the company.
12 Yoshi Tatsu and the Clash
It’s a move that has already broken the neck of several wrestlers and has been talked about being banned in the WWE. In 2014, Tatsu became another performer who botched A.J. Style’s finisher, The Styles Clash. At a New Japan Pro Wrestling event, Tatsu tucked his head, which you shouldn’t do during The Styles Clash and payed the ultimate sacrifice for it.
It left him with several broken bones in his neck and an 18-month layoff after spinal surgery. To a rounding applause, Tatsu returned to NJPW during Invasion Attack on April 10th, winning the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship with Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
11 New Jack vs Vic Grimes... Chapter 1
At ECW’s Living Dangerously event in 2000, New Jack faced Vic Grimes. If you didn’t know, one of New Jack’s shticks is to find the highest point in any building and jump off it. Well, let's just say things didn’t goes as planned for New Jack and Grimes. Standing on a scaffold and about 20 feet in the air, New Jack and Grimes botched some kind of big fall due to a lack of communication.
Instead they fell straight onto the concrete floor. Grimes ended up landing right on New Jack’s head, causing brain damage and blindness in his right eye. New Jack wouldn’t return to the ring for months.
10 Villano IV and the WCW
Part of the stable, Los Villanos, this wrestler was a popular luchador in Mexico but couldn’t find the same success in WCW during the late ‘90s. Unfortunately, he’s more known for his injuries than his matches during his time spent at Ted Turner’s organization.
During a WCW Monday Nitro match in ’98, Villano IV was going to receive a powerbomb neckbreaker from Raven and Kaynon. The two missed timed the spot, letting Villano IV get destroyed in the process. Everyone broke Kayfabe, Raven tried to stabilize his neck and the match ended. He ended up recovering from the neck injury and started wrestling again in 2000.
9 "Sick" Nick Mondo's Canteen Rooftop Bump
Mondo is a God in the underground hardcore wrestling scene. He was in many “death” matches and tournaments. You may recognize him as the guy who got his chest ripped apart by a weed whacker. However, it was the bump at Combat Zone Wrestling’s Tournament of Death in ’03 that solidified his career and basically ended it.
During the semi-finals, Mondo and his opponent Zandig were on a 25-foot high roof when both came crashing down onto a pile of light tubes, tables, and the concrete floor. It’s a jaw dropping, eye popping, holy smokes type of moment. Mondo went on to win the tournament but his back was never the same after the epic bump.
8 Brock Lesnar Drops Hardcore Holly
Holly’s career was like a metamorphosis of a butterfly. One minute he’s a race car driver, long haired styling, spark-plug of an opponent. The next, he has the physique of a silver back guerrilla and is destroying the Hardcore division in the WWE. It took another silver back guerrilla to put his career on hold for 13 months. That man was Brock Lesnar.
The injury occurred when Lesnar broke Holly's neck with a botched powerbomb at a SmackDown event in ’02. Holly said it was his idea for the spot and the timing was off. Want to know just how tough Holly is? Before he found out he had a cracked vertebra, he went on to participate in another match a few days later.
7 Mike Levy's Public Execution
He hyped himself through wrestling message boards in ‘08 and for some reason the promoter of IWA Mid-South, Ian Rotten, decided to make a joke out of him by booking the amateur in a Death Match tournament. Continuing the joke, he was allowed to compete in the female tournament against Mickie Knuckles. Levy threw some stiff shots at Knuckles due to his novice experience.
In a shoot, she flipped out and so did some of the guys backstage. Two wrestlers, Devon and the Tank, attacked Levy after the match. Tank held him down while Devon proceeded to climb the ropes and curb stomp his face into a barbed-wired ladder. It was repeated a second time when Tank (400 pounds) jumped off the middle rope with all his weight. How his head didn’t snap from his spine is beyond me.
6 A Shooting Star
On the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania XIX, we watched The Beast Incarnate battle Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. The Suplex City resident, Brock Lesnar, wanted to end the match with a shooting star press off the top rope but botched his WrestleMania moment.
Even though he had pulled the maneuver off in the past, Angle was too far away from the ring post. The 300 pound beast came crashing down, almost landing directly on top of his head. He was literally split hairs away from potentially ending his life. Angle came out publicly and stated it was his idea for the spot and thought it would be a great way to end the night.
5 ECW! ECW! ECW!
Historical wrestling enthusiasts know that before WCW had a cruiserweight division worth watching, ECW was already ahead of the game. Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Psicosis and Chris Benoit were tearing up the mat before making it to WCW.
During a November to Remember event in ‘96, Benoit looked like he was going for a flapjack while Sabu tried to perform a back-body drop mid-air. The result ended in Sabu falling onto his head and breaking his neck. A missed-timed flapjack can kill, as it happened to wrestler Brian Ong while he was training with Dalip Singh (The Great Khali) in ‘01. Sabu’s bad luck didn’t end there, as he would get his neck broken again in ’98 by ECW’s Taz.
4 Have a Nice Day
It was twenty years ago when Jim Ross helped Foley, known as a hardcore wrestler, make his debut in the WWE as Mankind. That very night, he would start a legendary feud with one of best wrestlers in history, The Undertaker. The two would go on to battle for years in brutal matches such as the boiler room brawl and buried alive contests.
At King of the Ring ’98, Undertaker would brutally throw Foley off a 22 foot high Hell in the Cell onto the announcer’s table. He would then chokeslam him through the Hell in the Cell, leaving him with a concussion, bruised kidneys, a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder. Foley claims in his book, Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, he would have died if he took the chokeslam properly.
3 New Jack vs Vic Grimes... Chapter 2
Infamously called the “Danbury Fall,” an indie organization (XPW) thought it would be a great idea to bring these two together for another match. Not just any match, but a scaffold gimmick match. Basically the ring was set up with a table on top of another table, with 12 tables in total. New Jack blamed Grimes for his head injury from their first tumble. So, he wanted to return the favor.
After he electrocuted Grimes with a taser on the 40 foot high scaffold, he threw him off of it. Grimes missed all but two tables and only the ropes stopped him from landing on concrete. The crazier part is, New Jack admitted to trying to kill Grimes and intentionally threw him towards the floor and not the tables.
2 Stampede Kid's Brush With Death
The man who loved to put his kittens on his tights was a work horse for the WWE before his injury. In 2015, Tyson Kidd was pushed with Cesaro as a tag-team force to be reckoned with but also performed in single contests. In a dark match prior to Raw, Kidd went up against one of the newest additions to the roster at the time, Samoa Joe.
The spot was Joe’s finisher, “The Muscle Buster,” and it gave Kidd a severe neck and spinal injury. The damage Kidd sustained could have made him a quadriplegic and he claims only five percent of people can survive it. When the surgery was finished, he received 16 staples, four screws, and a rod with over a year of recovery time.
1 Darren Drozdov
He was a multi-sport athlete before he became known as Droz in professional wrestling. He competed at a collegiate level in track and field, and was a professional football player. One night in ’99, he barely escaped with his life during a match with D-Lo Brown.
It was your typical powerbomb spot, but something went amiss and he became a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Today, he has a 24/7 home caretaker and is on countless amount of pills for muscle spasms and who knows what else. In an interview with Foxsports.com, he said the WWE is still supportive and he has no hard feeling towards D-Lo Brown, class act.