There is a level of trust in wrestling that must be maintained. Wrestlers need to get along and trust one another in the ring to pull off moves that may look easy but can be very dangerous. More than one guy has spent years surviving massive bumps only for the simplest slam to end their career. For more major fights and maneuver, the wrestlers have to work together and trust is vital. However, a lot of guys are famous for being amazingly stiff in the ring and not caring about the damage they do. Vader can top that list as a terrific worker but also a guy who dished out a lot of pain over the years. He’s not alone as quite a few workers can go way too far dishing out damage.
That was common in Japan where a stiff style is encouraged but continues today. The influence of MMA also helps push it and wanting to make it look good for fans. Some wrestlers sadly go too far and pull off moves that their opponents aren’t ready for which makes injuries common. Some are apologetic about it but others refuse to admit it was wrong which makes it even worse. It’s telling how even in WWE and their “main event style” of today, you still have folks who can be so dangerous in the ring and it can be worse without their training. Here are 10 of the most unsafe workers in WWE and 5 elsewhere whose in-ring work can often be truly damaging to opponents.
15 WWE: Ronda Rousey
It’s her inexperience at wrestling that makes Rousey a risk in WWE. After all, she’s used to MMA, a legitimate sport without pre-determined results. UFC learned that lesson the hard way as they spent a year building Rousey as an undefeated mega-star only for to lose the title to Holly Holm and follow that up with a 47 second defeat in her “comeback.” Thus, Rousey has to adapt to WWE in holding back on some of her strikes and submissions. It’s why she hasn’t been pushed into the ring aside from Mania as there are worries about her. Witness when she fought Absolution and nearly botched a throw of Sonya Deville, she still has a learning curve.
Rousey still looks sloppy and so far Triple H and Stephanie have done a good job selling it and covering for her.
But the woman clearly could use more training in NXT or such to combat the instinct to actually punch or pull an arm hard in the ring. Given her star power and push, having Rousey hurt an opponent for real would be very bad for WWE and she needs to learn how to be more “scripted” to avoid some serious damage.
14 WWE: Shane McMahon
A common bit in WWE DVDs is to joke on how Vince McMahon fancies himself a good worker in the ring but is actually a terrible worker. He has no real training and thus no idea what he’s doing and so can be rough to work with. For the most part, Shane is better than Vince and has shown an absolutely insane ability to absorb punishment. Witness 2001’s King in the Ring where he’s thrown at a glass pane by Kurt Angle only to bounce off it and land on his head. He then ends up thrown through it again. Or his various jumps of the top of cages, balconies and the titantron. His daredevil exploits are legendary in WWE but also very dangerous.
After all, it’s up in the air how much of what Shane does that his opponents know about. Maybe the danger is more to himself but one misstep or miscalculation in moving and a guy can suffer serious damage off a 20 foot leaping elbow. It seems to be affecting Shane with some long-lasting stuff but it also showcases how Shane’s desire to give the fans a good show runs the risk of hurting another guy.
13 Elsewhere: Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio is the perfect example of a guy with all the ingredients for stardom only to never quite achieve them. WWE pushed him hard as an arrogant heel boasting of his “Destiny” for stardom. However, he never quite clicked with fans despite the push and some title runs. The man could also be very rough in the ring, admitting to making harsh blows against Daniel Bryan as well as Christian. He was the last man to wrestle Edge before the latter retired and Christian suffered a concussion in his bout with Del Rio that led to his own retirement. Granted, Del Rio has been hit by the injury bug himself but that doesn’t excuse ending up putting a few other guys through the wringer.
Not helping is the man’s infamous temper. That was exemplified by his being fired from WWE for slapping a guy following a racist joke. Justified or not, it showed Del Rio could easily get riled up and that’s a bad thing for a big star. Then there’s the issues with him and Paige that also lead to his bad reputation as well as ruining his career in TNA. When a guy is capable of riling up someone to the point of getting stabbed, that shows a temper that can cause far more problems in wrestling and thus make a man very unsafe wherever he plies his trade.
12 WWE: Jeff Hardy
True, he’s gotten better but most still hold Jeff Hardy as a risky guy in the ring. To be fair, most of the risk is taken on himself. The man has been notable for pulling off high-risk bumps no sane person would ever attempt. That includes his countless leaps off a ladder through a table and other wild bits. But what also makes Hardy a danger is his rather infamous “recreational activities.” More than once, it’s been clear the man is one something during a match, which can make him rather sloppy and thus a danger to his fellow workers. The most famous case is Victory Road 2011 when Hardy came out in utterly no shape to compete and Eric Bischoff had to order a 30 second match to avoid a major injury to Hardy or Sting.
Hardy seems to have recovered from that but still hampered by his reputation. The fact he can still get into some legal trouble and such shows he’s not totally free of his past. He can still pull it together in the ring with his run as U.S. champion but worries can abound on how bad he comes off in the ring and some of his bumps too extreme. It’s thanks to his addictions that Hardy sadly has a rep as being not the safest guy in the ring.
11 WWE: Daniel Bryan
Here’s a case where most of the danger is to the guy himself. Daniel Bryan has long been loved for his “0 to 60” attitude in the ring, able to go right from the bell and cutting loose majorly. Whether in a brawl, a cage match or a technical masterpiece, Bryan is loved by fans, a great seller who has taken massive damage in his career. But all those rolling dives and flying headbutts took its toll as evidenced by his bad neck and forced to end his in-ring career for a time due to his concussions.
He has made a famous return this year and seems ready to go right back to his old ways…which can be a serious danger.
There are still doubts as to whether Bryan is truly cleared as CTE doesn’t just heal up. That he seems to want to go back to the way he was pre-injury a few years ago isn’t close to reality and that could lead him to take too many risks in the ring. As much as fans love having Bryan back wrestling, he has to be extremely careful not just with himself but others as one bad slam or move could cause a more horrific injury, making Bryan quite the risk in WWE today.
10 Elsewhere: Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger was a guy who really could have benefited from NXT. He had a good build and skills but never quite the proper training to put it together. WWE tried to push him as a main eventer and champion but it never quite took despite various title runs. Of course, a key reason he also failed was that Swagger was not just sloppy in the ring but downright dangerous. He put Bad News Barrett on the shelf with a bad blow, forcing Barrett to give up his IC title just as he was taking off. An errant kick from Swagger also injured Dolph Ziggler and forced him to bow out of a PPV. That’s not to mention various others that Swagger would injure via sloppy work.
Finally released from WWE, Swagger is plying his trade on the indie circuit and Lucha Underground. He's also signed to Bellator in an attempt to pursue a mixed martial arts career. Swagger has bad-mouthed WWE a bit on his release, ignoring how his reputation wasn’t exactly sterling. He continues to show off in small arenas and seems to be getting sloppier without WWE covering for him. Maybe training could have helped him avoid these issues but the “All-American American” is seen as too much a danger for others to handle.
9 WWE: Sheamus
You’d think a guy who suffered a concussion himself would be a bit more careful with others. However, Sheamus seems to take the “Fighting Irishman” character way too far for his co-workers to put up with. His very first RAW match had him hitting Jamie Noble with a powerbomb on the pad that was so extreme that Noble retired not long afterward. That’s continued as more than a few guys have felt the “Brogue Kick” for real to the point of black eyes and a few (Jeff Hardy) losing teeth. They had to ban his old “Celtic Power Bomb” finisher because of the damage it could do and Sheamus still keeping up with his hard work.
Fans are still partly blaming him for the brutal kick that (for a time) ended Daniel Bryan’s in-ring career.
He can still do stuff like bust open Matt Hardy in a match and be harsh in his shots on others, leading to more injuries. It’s amazing he’s worked so well with Cesaro who most consider one of the safest guys in WWE as the “Celtic Warrior” takes his name way too literally for his fans to really support him.
8 WWE: Shinsuke Nakamura
It seems bizarre than Nakamura seems a lot more dangerous in WWE than he was in all his years in Japan. He took off in All-Japan with his sensational mix of technical, hard striking and high-flying moves that made him a multiple champion. His wild presentation was also a hit, leading to the “King of Strong Style” being seen as one of the best workers Japan ever presented. WWE signing him on was a risk but it’s paid off with his fantastic work as NXT champion and his recent heel turn elevating him more on SmackDown. However, adapting to the American style of wrestling may have affected Nakumra’s skills.
The biggest case was his match with John Cena where Nakumra dropped Cena right on his neck which could have been a serious injury. Vince McMahon himself was livid over it even though some blamed Cena for taking the suplex wrong. There’s also how Nakumra cracked Austin Aries’ orbital bone with one of his kicks. He’s adapting well now but the risks he takes with his hard shots can mean Nakumra is a danger for other workers to face in the ring, “Rock Star” or not.
7 Elsewhere: Ryback
It’s harder to find a better case today of “small name, big ego” in wrestling than Ryback. Even in a business where guys like to paint themselves as a bigger deal than they were, this guy is amazing. After a forgettable run as Skip Sheffield with the Nexus, he was repackaged as basically a complete Goldberg rip-off. The huge build, bald head, crushing opponents, the “Feed me more” catchphrase, it was as blatant as you could get. The fans never took to it as he bounced around with some bad runs. Not helping was his ego and how he was pushing guys hard in the ring. He’s been reported as causing some concussions and hard shots and CM Punk singled him out as a bad worker in a podcast.
Finally released, Ryback has trashed WWE for holding him back when the company was pushing him hard.
He’s also been criticized for tales from how he was outselling John Cena in merchandise to creating The Shield angle and main event pushes everyone else says were never discussed. He’s now in the indies and if anything has gotten worse in the ring, making him sloppy. That athletic work is bad but the way the guy acts like he’s a major deal also means it’s harder for workers to get behind and trust him thanks to how much damage he can do.
6 WWE: Hideo Itami
Like many a Japanese star, Itami was brought up in a culture where ultra-stiff work is pretty much a requirement. A huge worker in Japan for nearly 20 years, Itami was a top hire for NXT in 2014. His lack of English may have hurt his drive but he still impressed quite a few with his terrific ring work. He’s now in the Cruiserweight division and doing well there but word is that he’s not a guy most like to get in the ring with. That’s because his kicks and blows are legitimately painful as the man is in the camp of “to look real, it has to be real” and many of his opponents aren’t ready for it.
The most famous case is when Itami slammed CM Punk on how he had a rather lame version of what’s known as the GTS. When facing Brian Kendrick, Itami hit his version of the move with his knee cracking Kendrick in the face to the point of a concussion. Itami wasn’t punished but he has led to a reputation as a hard-fighting guy to the point where some feel that Itami’s own desire to look real in the ring runs the risk of really harming his opponents.
5 WWE: Nia Jax
When you’re bigger than two Divas combined, you have to be more careful. Nia Jax’s size has led to her success as she certainly stands out among the crowd. Her huge build led her to be built as a monster and lots of “David and Goliath” battles against the likes of Bayley, Charlotte and others. WWE has taken the unique turn of having Nia be a face, with the rather genius idea of how it’s the hulking brute being bullied by the five-foot tall Alexa Bliss. That paid off with their great Mania match and Nia winning the title and it looks like she’s on top in WWE.
However, Jax’s size has led to some bad moves in the ring. The most notable was in 2017 when she caused an injury to Bayley that put her on the shelf and ruined the planned Bayley/Alexa SummerSlam match. She also did a splash on Asuka that could have done serious damage if Asuka hadn’t been able to dodge enough. Jax is a great worker but the fact she’s so much larger than her opponents means it’s easy for her dish out some dangerous stuff if she’s not careful.
4 Elsewhere: Scott Steiner
It’s remarkable to look back at 1990 and the athlete Scott Steiner was. While muscular, he was also quite light on his feet and could mix hard shots with high-flying. His “Frankensteiner” move was unlike anything seen by U.S. fans at the time and led him and brother Rick to being the best tag team out there. It was after his heel turn in the late 1990s that Steiner took on the more jacked “Big Poppa Pump” persona and the problems started. He’d already been known for busting a few lips with clotheslines but now, what care he’d had was vanishing in place of a power-driven attack that could cause serious damage thanks to his strength.
Not helping was Steiner’s attitude which can come out borderline insane and egotistical to the extreme.
He can go into a rage and that leads to sloppy work. Today, Steiner is not only back in TNA but a tag team champion to boot. Needless to say, a 55-year old man embarking on serious matches is a big danger to others as Steiner is not as fast or capable as he used to be to protect others. Maybe he’s slowed down but that actually makes Steiner more dangerous in the ring today than he’s ever been.
3 WWE: Seth Rollins
Maybe it’s not too much of a surprise as Seth Rollins rose up as Tyler Black in ROH, a company known for some stiff work. FCW/NXT helped him adapt to the “WWE style” but Rollins still carries a lot of that stiff work with him. It’s gotten to the point where Bret Hart has called out Rollins on not being careful enough in the ring. It’s not like he doesn’t have evidence to back it up. After all, Finn Balor was supposed to have a long reign after becoming the first RAW Universal Champion. But in that same match, he sustained a brutal shoulder injury after Rollins hit him with a Buckle Bomb on the outside. Balor completed the match but had to give it up the next day and never bounced back.
He’s not the only case as Rollins had caused injuries to others like John Cena and WWE had to basically ban his Curb Stomp because of the damage it could cause. Plus, there’s how a powerbomb to Sting basically ended the man’s in-ring career. Thus, more than a few thought it was karma when Rollins himself was badly injured and had to give up the title. That may not sound right but given how Rollins doesn’t seem to be apologetic for the damage he’s done, more than a few aren’t happy about having to work with him.
2 WWE: Brock Lesnar
No one can deny the fantastic success of Brock Lesnar in WWE. With his build and amazing abilities, Brock took off huge in 2002. He could take off the ropes, be skilled and show his stamina in an Iron Man match with Kurt Angle. However, Lesnar was also noted as incredibly stiff and Hardcore Holly found that out the hard way. During a match, Holly took a power bomb that actually broke his neck, putting him on the shelf for months. This led to Lesnar pushed as more of a monster en route to winning the title. But that stiffness remains in his various feuds and if anything his UFC tenure has made him even more dangerous than before.
Triple H commented his matches with Lesnar in 2013 were some of the hardest he’s been in. WWE played on that with the finish of Lesnar bloodying Randy Orton so badly that the match was halted. But given his age and how he’s a bit sloppier now, Lesnar can often not know his own strength and thus getting into the ring with The Beast is just as dangerous as WWE makes him out to be as he could hurt you without even realizing it.
1 Elsewhere: Dulce Rivas
For a brief time in late 2016 and into 2017, Sexy Star was high on the list of ladies fans wanted to see in NXT. With her gorgeous frame, her great masked attitude and terrific ring work, she was a sensation in Mexico. Fans loved her style, how she could work some terrific matches and look fantastic. There was a serious push for her to get signed for WWE thanks to her work in AAA and winning the Lucha Underground championship.
Fans will remember the now infamous match against Rosemary a TripleMania that transformed Star from an indie darling to a hated figure.
Star slapped on her armbar submission to win the bout as planned. At first, it just looked like Rosemary was doing some excellent selling but it was soon clear she wasn’t acting as Star was pulling the hold on for real and refusing to let go. Rosemary suffered a severe injury because of it and wrestlers from Cody Rhodes to Road Dogg ripped into Star for her actions. Choosing to deliberately hurt an opponent is a line few in wrestling want to cross and this has led to more accusations of how rough Star is, showing the ladies can be as dirty as the guys.