Professional wrestling is never going to be considered 100 percent safe. There will always be a high risk of injury, even with the scripted nature where winners and losers are predetermined behind the scenes. The athletes who enter this stage of competition have to a perfect mix of strength, speed and agility. But pro wrestlers also have to be good at timing.
Not being in tune with an opponent can lead to a potentially life-threatening injury. Through the years, even the most talented wrestlers have suffered injuries through mistakes in the ring. Accidents are bound to happen and it’s hard to put blame on someone like Seth Rollins for injuries to Finn Balor and Sting.
At the same time, there are moments where wrestlers cannot keep things professional 100 percent of the time. Like any other kind of workplace environment, there will always be a few coworkers who want to tear each other apart. The reasons for this can vary from jealousy due to placement on the corporate totem pole to there being an issue about who’s dating one of the female talents outside of the ring.
Regardless, there are moments when wrestlers will actually attempt to intentionally injure another wrestler during a live match. Because of the basis of professional wrestling being scripted, it can sometimes be hard to defer what might be a work and what was the result of a shoot fight.
The following is a combination of wrestlers who were injured accidentally and those who were injured on purpose by another.
15 ACCIDENT – Jesse Sorensen’s Neck Injury in TNA
High risk moves are not only dangerous for all parties involved in the move. So many things can go wrong and it’s hard to do something that would intentionally injure another wrestler. A perfect example of this was during a TNA match between Jesse Sorensen and Zema Ion at Against All Odds in 2012. Ion was going for a moonsault to the outside of the ring. But his knee caught the back of Sorensen’s head.
Sorensen laid motionless at ringside and many were scared. The C-1 vertebrae was fractured and it could have easily paralyzed him. It also took a long time to recover from the injury. Sorensen has commented that any hard feelings with Ion were squashed after a period of time and they are cool with each other. Currently, he’s back in the ring competing on the independent circuit.
14 ON PURPOSE – Daniel Puder Attempts Kimura Lock on Kurt Angle
Daniel Puder was certainly developing a little bit of popularity within the WWE Universe as a Tough Enough contestant in 2004. The former mixed martial arts competitor was hoping to make a major impact at the expense of professional wrestling’s only Olympic gold medalist in Kurt Angle. Puder volunteered to get into the ring with Angle and apparently did not want to lie down as the script indicated.
Puder wanted to show his skills on the mat and actually tried to lock Angle in the kimura lock; a move that could easily break another man’s arm if done a certain way. This obviously didn’t go over well with the WWE veteran, and the referees had to count Puder down for three, even though only one of his shoulders was on the mat. So this quickly turned into the WWE protecting their full-time star after Puder went into business for himself. This hurt Puder’s reputation in the WWE locker room.
13 ACCIDENT – Wade Barrett Dislocates Elbow
Wade Barrett is certainly known for bad news. Not just for the silly gimmick where he was called Bad News Barrett. But because he was often injured at the worst possible time. It might explain why he was never given much of a main event push in the WWE during his final years with the company. Regardless, one of the worst injuries he suffered was back in February 2012 during an episode of Raw.
In a battle royal match, Dolph Ziggler was thrown to the outside of the ring by Big Show into a group of wrestlers that included Barrett. As he came down, he landed on his arm wrong and dislocated his elbow. Barrett was then caught on camera cursing and writhing in pain. Hard to blame the guy who continued to get a number of accidents like this during his WWE run.
12 ON PURPOSE – JBL Beats Up the Blue Meanie
John “Bradshaw” Layfield has an infamous reputation as a bully through several accounts of backstage stories. It also seemed like he didn’t have much respect for the originals of Extreme Championship Wrestling. During the WWE pay-per-view One Night Stand in 2005, JBL was part of the WWE heels who went into an end-of-the-show brawl with the ECW roster. While it was a scripted part of the night, JBL would take actual shots against the Blue Meanie.
The Meanie was noticeably bleeding in the final moments of the event. It didn’t take long for reports to hit the internet that JBL was the one to bust the ECW Original open. In an episode of Talk is Jericho, Meanie said the heat started when he blamed JBL for his release from the WWE in 2000. The legitimate fight actually led to a match on SmackDown where the Blue Meanie actually pinned the former WWE Champion.
11 ACCIDENT – D'Lo Brown Power Bomb to Droz Goes Wrong
The power bomb seems like a simple move in professional wrestling. But it’s also one of the most complex with the different variations that go into the move. In a match back in 1999, Darren Drozdov was wrestling in an unaired match against D-Lo Brown where a power bomb went horribly wrong. Brown’s power bomb move went wrong and more than 500 pounds of weight between both men was on top of Droz’s head.
It led to two fractured vertebrae. A neck surgery saved his life, but he’s lived life paralyzed since then. Drozdov has said that it was a complete accident and even noted that his shirt was loose to a point where Brown lost grip of Droz in the middle of the power bomb. The good news is that he seems to be enjoying life back in his native New Jersey.
10 ON PURPOSE – Perry Saturn Attacks a WWE Jobber
Mike Bell is just another example of a previously unknown jobber in WWE history who was made famous for reasons he didn’t fully intend. During a 2001 match against Perry Saturn, Bell apparently made a mistake during an arm drag by Saturn. Saturn would not let this go without immediate punishment to be dealt in the WWE ring. Saturn then ran right at Bell with fists flying; as well as a kick that even brought him down.
Saturn would then throw Bell outside of the ring in a way where he would fall in a dangerous manner. It was certainly not well received by WWE management as he would be punished for his actions against Bell. As punishment, Saturn then had to go into a character who suffered one too many concussions and had a crush on a mop named Moppy.
9 ACCIDENT – Joey Mercury’s Broken Nose
Joey Mercury has certainly not been the most successful member of the MNM faction. Johnny Nitro has since become Johnny Mundo winning championship in several major promotions. But even during his time teaming up with Nitro, he still couldn’t catch a break in standing out. Except for the one time where he caught the wrong kind of break in the form of a broken nose. It is also considered one of the more memorable botches in recent memory.
During a four-way ladder match for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Armageddon 2006, the Hardys set up both members of MNM where Matt held both near a ladder that Jeff leg dropped to seesaw into them. The end actually caught Mercury’s face as blood poured from his face in a disturbing manner. He has since recovered, but still never reached a high level like his former partner.
8 ON PURPOSE – Bubba Ray Dudley Accused Of Injuring Others
While known for being one-half of one of the most decorated tag teams, Bubba Ray Dudley has also developed quite a reputation for being a bit of a bully and not just for his character Bully Ray in TNA Wrestling. Shortly after being brought back to the WWE in 2015, former WWE Superstar Rene Dupree would make comments about how Bubba Ray intentionally tried to hurt him; causing concussions that have still affected him today.
Another former WWE wrestler in Rico would also go public with comments about Dudley continuing to attack his torn hamstring during a match in Chicago. Rico even said Bubba Ray’s continued offense on the injured leg caused another tear. Rico also noted how Bubba Ray also seemed to throw a fit about being “tired of making the matches.”
7 ACCIDENT – Hardcore Holly’s Broken Neck Against Brock Lesnar
There are fans who believed that Brock Lesnar actually purposefully attempted to injure WWE veteran Hardcore Holly during a 2002 episode of SmackDown. Lesnar picked up Holly for a power bomb, which was stopped midway before Holly was dropped awkwardly on his head. Fans quickly thought it was on purpose, especially with how Lesnar seemed to smirk at Holly right away. Then again, Lesnar was just being a good heel and Holly said it was a complete accident.
The plan was for Holly to do a reversal where he landed on his feet, but he admits it was his fault it went wrong. Unlike other wrestlers who hurt their neck in a similar way, Holly was able to get back up later and complete the scheduled spot and finished the match taking the F-5 for Lesnar to win. Holly has refuted the claims it was on purpose multiple times in shoot interviews.
6 ON PURPOSE – New Jack and His Multiple Offenses
New Jack probably isn’t on any wrestler’s wish list of future opponents. There’s a good reason. The ECW legend has left buckets of blood and broken bones through decades in professional wrestling. With his extensive track record, it’s not fair to put just one moment in this list. New Jack has had a number of incidents where he’s purposefully tried to, and often successfully, injured another wrestler.
Outside of his long feud with Vic Grimes, he bladed a young, inexperienced wrestler too deep in the infamous Mass Transit Incident back in 1996. In 2003, New Jack would severely attack Gypsy Joe in a hardcore match after he sold in a way that didn't please New Jack. About a year later, New Jack was in a match where he pulled out a knife and stabbed an opponent several times. That one led to being charged with aggravated assault to commit murder.
5 ACCIDENT – Owen Hart Drops Steve Austin On His Head
Whether or not he was a face or a heel, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was one of the most popular wrestlers during the WWE’s Attitude Era. Part of that was because he was one of the toughest men at the time. Whether he had crapped his pants, was severely bleeding or suffered a neck injury, he would still find a way to finish his match. The latter is exactly what happened in one of the more iconic moments at SummerSlam 1997.
When Owen Hart gave Austin a piledriver in their match, Austin was accidentally dropped directly on his head. This led to a severe neck injury where Austin couldn’t get up to do much. In fact, Hart had to feign being distracted as Austin slowly crawled and “rolled” Hart up for the pin. It was just one of a number of moments where Austin earned respect points with the fans.
4 ON PURPOSE – Akira Maeda Targets Andre the Giant’s Legs
Andre the Giant was certainly known as one of the greatest big men in professional wrestling history. However, his drinking was also very well recorded. It was believed that he could drink hundreds of beers before he would start to feel any kind of a buzz. But it was evident that he may have had too much to drink before a match with Akira Maeda during a match in Japan in 1986. It is still considered by many fans to be one of the worst matches for both men.
It is believed that Maeda was not happy about how Andre came into the match. This led to him deciding to kick Andre’s legs repeatedly while trying to avoid being caught. This would go on for a few minutes before the promoter, Antonio Inoki, made the decision to actually put an end to the match. It was a smart move considering there was a stubborn Maeda and a drunk, unpredictable giant in his ring.
3 ACCIDENT – Samoa Joe’s Muscle Buster Injures Tyson Kidd
There have been some people who have commented publicly that they feel Samoa Joe’s Muscle Buster should not be allowed in a WWE ring. However, it has been one of Joe’s signature moves for several years in TNA and other major wrestling promotions. It’s not a move where his opponents are often injured. Unfortunately, it faced a lot of criticism when it injured Tyson Kidd during a dark match in 2015.
It was a severe injury involving his C1 and C2 vertebrae. The kind that only 5 percent of people survive. Obviously, it was an accident where no one blames Joe – although there is a lot of criticism. Despite having used it several times in NXT, Joe seems to have a new finisher on the main roster with a spinning Uranage Suplex.
2 ON PURPOSE – Antonio Inoki Stings Muhammad Ali’s Legs
Yes, the same Muhammad Ali who talked about how he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. However, it was Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki who would actually be the one to sting Ali several times with his kicks in 1976. The two were booked into a match that was touted as “the ultimate test of boxer versus wrestler,” according to the New York Times. Both men received big pay days, although Ali got $6 million compared to Inoki’s $3 million purse.
There was some disagreement behind the scenes about who would win, with Ali refusing to lose to Inoki in Japan. The wrestler would then spend most of the match lying on the mat and kicking at Ali’s legs. In fact, Ali suffered some injuries to both after receiving a reported 100 total kicks from Inoki. The match was considered a flop for fans of both industries and is almost forgotten about by boxing and wrestling fans alike.
1 ACCIDENT – Sid Vicious Leg Injury
There’s a good chance you have seen the clip of Sid Vicious breaking his leg back at the WCW Sin pay-per-view in 2001. It’s often referred to as one of the most gruesome injuries not just in professional wrestling history, but in all of sports. The story behind the injury is that Sid was not too happy about being asked to do the big boot where he jumped from the middle rope. Considering that he’s a big man with a power-based style, this should come as no surprise.
Despite his hesitation, Sid went for the move and it obviously didn’t end well. As he came down, his leg landed awkwardly and snapped due to the weight of Sid’s body coming down on the leg. It wasn’t aired live by chance and it should have stayed that way except it was shown on Nitro the next night. The broken leg needed surgery and he spent three years in rehabilitation.