Wrestling fans with access to the internet are likely familiar with the YouTube series, Botchamania. The video often showcases a series of botches that are laughable, explainable or just plain stupid. Yet oftentimes, the reality of such botches has much greater implications than a few boos from the crowd.
Botches have killed gimmicks, derailed careers, and in the worst cases, taken the lives of wrestlers. Professional wrestlers put a wide range of things on the line, from their credibility to their lives, every single time they enter the ring. When wrestlers and promotions say, "Don't try this at home," they mean it. As this list shows, not all botches are a laughing matter. While some are notoriously horrifying and could have ended up much worse, more than one incident on this list involves wrestlers being paralyzed as a result of one simple miscue.
When wrestlers become hurt after botches, their careers face a unique set of challenges that they have to conquer. Can they recover from an injury? How will it affect their in-ring style? What opportunities will there be once an injured wrestler returns? Some wrestlers are able to recover from a botch that left them injured. Yet because of botched moved, some wrestlers will never have the opportunity to step into the squared circle again.
Here are the 20 most horrifying botches in wrestling history.
20 Naomi's Eye Gets Crushed
In 2014, Naomi was one of the fastest-rising stars of the then-named Divas Division. During AJ Lee's unstoppable reign as champion, many believed it would be Naomi's time to finally sit on top of the Divas division.
Two months before WrestleMania XXX, Naomi faced off one-on-one against Aksana. After attempting a sunset flip pin, Aksana crushed Naomi's eye socket with her right knee. Naomi, visibly injured, completed the match and managed to defeat Aksana, but ended up being inactive for the rest of the month. Returning with a Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes-style eye patch, she unsuccessfully took the title from AJ Lee, and wouldn't become a Women's Champion in WWE for the first time until nearly three years later. As for Aksana, she was released from the WWE four months after this botch.
19 Jim Cornette Falls Down A Scaffold
Jim Cornette was never considered a wrestler. However, this botch shows that anyone can get injured, regardless of their role in the match. During a scaffold match between the Midnight Express and the Road Warriors, Jim Cornette went on top of the scaffold structure. Road Warrior Animal pushed Cornette underneath the scaffold, where he hanged.
Big Bubba Rogers was supposed to catch Cornette from the scaffold. However, Rogers was not positioned to catch Cornette, who dropped about 15-feet standing up. As a result, Cornette tore the ligaments in one of his knees and required surgery to repair the damage. No matter how you look at it, this was too dangerous and shouldn't have even been considered in the first place.
18 The Non-Shocking Shockmaster
While a lot of these entries are on the serious side, this was downright hilarious. The man formerly known as Tugboat and Typhoon was one of the many talents that left the WWE for WCW in the 1990s. At Clash of the Champions 1993, The Shockmaster made one of the most notorious and ill-fated debuts in the history of professional wrestling.
Hyped up as the missing partner of Ric Flair, Sting and the British Bulldog for their War Games match, Sting said The Shockmaster would “shock the world.” When The Shockmaster made his entrance, he tripped and fell, losing his silver-painted Star Wars stormtrooper helmet in the process. His face exposed, The Shockmaster was no longer shocking. What a horrifying (and embarrassing) way to debut in front of a national audience.
17 That Jackie Gayda Match
It was clear that many people saw potential in Jackie Gayda. She was picked to win the second season of Tough Enough, despite sustaining an injury during filming. Shortly after the show concluded, she participated in a few televised matches, including a mixed-tag team match. Teaming with Christopher Nowinski, Jackie faced the team of Trish Stratus and Bradshaw in a match often referred to as “That Jackie Gayda Match.”
Full of botches and miscues, the match concluded when Stratus went for a top-rope bulldog that Gayda sold late. Crowned the worst match of the year by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, even Jim Ross couldn’t help but conclude the match’s commentary by stating, “Mercifully, it’s over.” While no one left the match injured, it’s horrifying how the WWE let someone so green wrestle on the main roster. Luckily, Jackie improved as a wrestler.
16 Triple H Nearly Destroys Marty Garner's Neck
This is where this list begins to take a darker turn. Hunter Hearst Helmsley was a rising talent in the WWE in the mid-1990s who just so happened to have one of the most infamous botches of all time. In May of 1996, the future Triple H faced off against Marty Garner, an enhancement talent who had made previous appearances on WWE programming. When Triple H went for the Pedigree, Garner got too much air, resulting in Garner landing directly on his head.
Despite this, Garner would make additional appearances on WWE programming more than a year later, including with the likes of MVP and Vladimir Kozlov. But that Pedigree remains hard to watch to this day. Since then, Hunter's mastered how to do the move safely.
15 A Vicious Leg Snap
According to Internet legend, WCW management felt that Sid Vicious needed to add some variety to his move set. Near the end of the company’s run, management allegedly suggested that Sid try adding aerial moves to his arsenal.
The result? One of the most sickening leg breaks of all time.
At WCW’s Sin event, Sid went for a big boot off of the second turnbuckle. Landing on his left foot and kicking with his right, his left leg was snapped. WCW, which closed less than three months later, never saw Sid again.
14 Hardcore Holly Gets A Hardcore Neck Breaking
In 2002, Hardcore Holly was seen as a true veteran of the WWE locker room and respected by many as a more than solid worker. While working a match with Brock Lesnar during Lesnar’s first year on the main roster, a planned spot went wrong, resulting in Lesnar dropping Holly directly on his neck.
According to Holly himself, Lesnar never said he intentionally dropped Holly on purpose, contrary to popular belief. The planned spot was supposed to have Lesnar lift Holly for a powerbomb, only for Holly to counter and land on his feet. After the injury, Holly didn’t appear on WWE programming for more than a year. Upon his return, he challenged Lesnar for the WWE Championship, but was beaten soundly by Lesnar at the 2004 Royal Rumble.
13 Candice Michelle Breaks A Clavicle
Once seen by many as “another pretty face,” Candice Michelle worked tirelessly to improve her ring skills, and by 2007, won the Women’s Championship from Melina. Candice would eventually feud with Beth Phoenix, who was receiving a heavy push after returning to the main roster. After successfully retaining her title against Phoenix, Candice would lose her title at 2007’s No Mercy event.
Candice would get her rematch against Phoenix two weeks later in a two out of three falls match on Raw. However, while Candice was on the top rope, Phoenix ran into the ropes. Candice would fall face first while also landing on her neck and shoulders. She sustained a broken clavicle, which she re-injured in her return match, keeping her out of WrestleMania XXIV. While her career never recovered, she will always be known as the first woman from the Diva Search to ever secure gold in the WWE.
12 A Tombstone Gone Wrong, Part I: Akira Hokuto
Piledrivers are only executed by a select few in the WWE. It's likely a variety of incidence, such as the one that occurred to Akira Hokuto, that contribute to that.
Akira Hokuto is one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. She racked up a wide variety of championships early in her career, including the WWWA World Tag Team Championship in All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling. However, while defending those titles in a two out of three falls match, Hokuto suffered a serious injury after taking a tombstone piledriver off of the second rope.
Despite the serious nature of her injury, Hokuto completed the second and third falls of the match, holding her neck in place with her hands at certain points. Hokuto’s careers would be filled with a number of injuries, but her desire to work through them truly made the Dangerous Queen one of a kind.
11 A Tombstone Gone Wrong, Part II: Stone Cold Steve Austin
This injury is often credited for cutting Steve Austin’s career short. At Summerslam 1997, Austin faced off against Owen Hart. During the match, Hart went for a piledriver, yet Austin’s head was positioned too low. As a result, Austin’s neck was broken and he was temporarily paralyzed. Miraculously, Austin continued the match, rolling up Hart for the win and the Intercontinental Title. However, he had to surrender the title as a result of the injury. Austin has said that since that injury he knew his days as a wrestler were numbered.
Austin didn’t take much time off after the injury, waiting two years to receive surgery on his neck. However, Austin’s neck injury would come back to haunt him, and he retired from in-ring competition in 2003.
10 Brock Lesnar's Shooting Star Press
When Brock Lesnar wrestled for WWE’s then-developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, he was respected for his ability to perform a Shooting Star Press. That’s an impressive move for any wrestler to perform, especially a wrestler nearing 300 pounds.
Lesnar would attempt to perform the aerial maneuver on the main roster at the main event of WrestleMania XIX. Instead of successfully landing the move, Lesnar landed directly on his head. Hitting his head and neck on the mat, he sustained a concussion as a result of the botch. Regardless, the 2003 Royal Rumble winner completed the match, pinned Kurt Angle and won his second WWE Championship.
9 Chris Benoit Breaks Sabu's Neck
If you ever wondered why Chris Benoit was referred to as “The Crippler,” this is why. IIn 1994, Benoit faced off against Sabu in a match at ECW pay-per-view November to Remember. At one point, Benoit lifted Sabu for what appeared to be a move similar to a flapjack. Somehow, Sabu landed on his neck, injuring his spinal cord and sustaining nerve damage as a result.
This isn’t the only time that Sabu sustained neck injuries during his time in ECW. In 1998, he took a Taz-Plex from Taz and landed incorrectly. However, despite the nature of these injuries, Sabu continues to wrestle to this day.
8 Vader Pulls Off Cactus Jack's Ear
Mick Foley’s body is no stranger to sustaining injuries. He sustained a dislocated shoulder, a knocked out tooth and a dislocated jaw in his classic 1998 Hell in a Cell bout with the Undertaker. As gruesome as that sounds, his most bizarre injury came a few years prior during a match with Vader.
Foley fell out of the ring after his head was stuck between two years. After Foley got back into the ring, Vader grabbed Foley’s ear and ripped it off. According to Foley himself, the referee of the match was French, didn’t speak English and couldn’t tell Foley that his ear had been ripped off. To this day, his ear doesn't look the same.
7 Joey Mercury's Face Gets Smashed
As a member of MNM, Joey Mercury took part in a fatal-four-way match that included the likes of the Hardy Boyz, Brian Kendrick and Paul London at WWE’s 2006 Armageddon event. In other words, there was plenty of potential for high-risk spots. Yet no one expected to see Mercury’s face to be filled with as much blood as it was.
Jeff Hardy hit both Mercury and his partner, Johnny Nitro, with the ladder. Yet Mercury’s injuries were so serious, including temporary blindness, that he could not complete the match. It took a total of 20 stitches to repair the damage done to Mercury’s face.
6 The Danbury Fall
New Jack and Vic Grimes are no strangers to hardcore wrestling and the dangers associated with it. So, how could a Scaffold Match go wrong with either one of these men involved?
As these two men showed, one wrong bump can be devastating. At ECW’s 2000 Living Dangerously, New Jack and Grimes took a 20-foot high scaffold bump directly onto the concrete. New Jack suffered brain damage and temporary blindness in his right eye. The two would engage in another scaffold match, where New Jack would throw Grimes more than 40-feet to the ring below. Twelve tables were set to break the fall, yet Grimes hit two. Jack would claim in a documentary that he wanted to throw Grimes as hard as he could off the scaffold as retaliation for the initial fall.
5 The Mass Transit Incident
An underage, untrained wrestler, a blade and New Jack are never a great combination, especially in ECW. Eric Kulas, a 17-year-old convinced Paul Heyman that he was an adult and was trained by the man who trained Triple H, Killer Kowalski. Kulas would participate in a match for the promotion as Mass Transit.
During the match, Kulas was bladed by New Jack with a scalpel. However, New Jack cut too deep and two arteries in Kulas’ forehead were severed. Bleeding profusely, Kulas was escorted out of the arena. As news of Kulas’ age came out, the company’s Barely Legal pay-per-view had to be canceled, although Paul Heyman was able to get the cancellation reversed.
4 Charade's Double Moonsault
As modern-day wrestling evolves and becomes more high-risk, we see more performers going to unexpected risks to entertain the crowd.
The indie wrestler tried to perform a double moonsault. Instead of getting two complete rotations, Charade was a quarter shy of his target. The result was a shattered skull and Internet infamy. Somehow, he managed to kick out of a pin attempt that followed the move. Luckily, fans donated more than $1,000 to the wrestler to help pay for his medical expenses.
It's a scary reminder that sometimes wrestlers would be better off relying on storytelling rather than doing a dangerous spot that could go horribly wrong. Hopefully Charade is able to avoid serious injury in the future.
3 A Powerbomb Gone Wrong: The Case of Darren Drozdov
Darren Drozdov was seen by many as a future star during the Attitude Era. The former NFL linebacker’s career came to an end during a WWF Smackdown taping during a match with D-Lo Brown. During the match’s finish, Brown didn’t have enough grip of Droz, resulting in Droz breaking multiple vertebrae and becoming a quadriplegic.
Footage of the match was never aired, as at the time, Smackdown, was taped prior to its broadcast. Despite the nature of the injury, Droz and Brown hold no ill will towards one another for the incident. As a matter of fact, Droz has since regained use of some of his limbs. Brown said that he was never quite the same as a wrestler following the injury to Droz.
2 Hayabusa's Moonsault Ends His Career
One of Japan’s greatest wrestlers of all time, Hayabusa had all of the makings of a star. He was also no stranger to performing high-risk moves and wrestling in dangerous matches. The world-renowned high flyer’s career was prematurely ended after he attempted a springboard moonsault off of the middle rope. Hayabusa lost his footing and landed on his head. Two of his vertebrae were broken as a result of the botch, resulting in his paralysis.
Hayabusa died in 2016, but made it clear that he hoped to walk and wrestle one day after his injury. By 2014, he was able to stand and walk with the assistance of a cane. Although Hayabusa never wrestled again, his legacy lives on through the high-flying style of many of today’s wrestlers.
1 Mishap During Owen Hart's Entrance Costs Him His Life
This may be the most heartbreaking botch of them all. On May 23, 1999, Hart, wrestling as the Blue Blazer, was set to compete against the Godfather for the Intercontinental Championship. Hart was making his entrance to the ring from the roof of Kempers Arena via harness and grapple line when he fell more than 70 feet while being lowered to the ring, with his chest hitting the top rope.
Luckily, this incident wasn’t shown on television. A pre-taped promo aired prior to his planned descent, followed with crowd shots. Jim Ross stated that Hart was legitimately hurt badly, only to confirm his death later on the broadcast. This is one botch that should have easily been avoided, as it was an unnecessary stunt to attempt.