Pro wrestling has a rocky relationship with the truth. For the first era of its existence, pro wrestling threw shade on the truth by pretending to be real and things have never fully recovered from the initial deception. Even today, there are several conspiracy stories involving WWE "working" the insider fans and newsletters. This will never be an industry free from deception, in other words.
What this long history of lying has done to pro wrestling is created an atmosphere of mistrust so great that when something real happens, there is always lingering doubt in the back of your head. Is this part of the show? Do they want me to think this is real but in actuality, it was scripted? Even Enzo Amore's backstage heat could have been staged as a way to build heat for an eventual heel turn. The only ones who truly know are Vince, Hunter, Steph, and Enzo probably. Are we in the reality era? Or is that what they want us to believe?
There have been other times when reality was all too apparent, however. When the real word crept into wrestling's fictionalized version in such a way that it was impossible to deny. Here are 15 times you knew something had gone terribly wrong in WWE, enjoy.
15 Jerry Lawler's Heart Attack
On September 10th, 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack during the live broadcast of Monday Night Raw. The show was live in Montreal that night and Lawler had wrestled earlier on the card.
Lawler had defeated the team of Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk (along with his partner, Randy Orton) and then returned to the commentary position afterward. During a Prime Time Players versus Team Hell No match, Lawler collapsed. Additional footage WWE later released included the audio coming through Jerry's mic during his heart attack which sounded like loud snoring. Cole would call the next couple of matches himself before announcing to the audience that Lawler was in medical distress.
He underwent surgery to restore blood flow to his heart and returned to the commentary booth on October 29th.
14 Daniel Puder Shoots on Kurt Angle
Daniel Puder was a contestant on the forth season of Tough Enough. Kurt Angle was taking part in the filming of a segment involving the contestants on the November 4th, 2004 edition of SmackDown when something unexpected happened.
Angle challenged any of the contestants to a "shoot fight" which can be taken a few different ways. For an accomplished amateur wrestler such as Angle, a "shoot" would mean an unscripted grappling contest. For Daniel Puder, a "shoot" was a real fight where anything goes.
Angle took his opponent down but Puder locked in a Kimura. He had the submission move locked in when the ref counted Puder's shoulders on the mat (they weren't) and declared Angle the winner. Had the referee not thought on his feet, Angle may have been forced to either tap to an unknown kid in front of a live audience or it may have caused his arm to break.
13 Jake Roberts' Cobra Takes a Chunk Out of Macho Man
For most of us that watched this segment as children, it has stayed with us our entire lives. In 1991, Randy Savage had lost a career versus career match to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania and was working mainly as a commentator. Savage and Elizabeth even got married at SummerSlam '91. Roberts made his impact on the post-ceremony reception, however, as he had planted a snake into one of the gifts for the happy couple.
Roberts would bait Savage to get in the ring with him for a segment filmed for WWE Superstars that October. He tied Savage up in the ropes and had his cobra take a bite out of his arm. The problem was once Jake got the snake to bite Savage, he couldn't get it off of him. Fans watched as the snake took a chunk out of Savage's arm.
12 Butterbean KOs Bart Gunn at WrestleMania XV
According to the dirt sheets, the Brawl for All tournament was supposed to set up a feud between Dr. Death Steve Williams and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
WWE officials believed that Williams would dominate the tournament with his grappling but things didn't go as expected. Instead, Bart Gunn would win the tournament and be declared the toughest legitimate guy on WWE's roster.
WWE was a little too confident in Gunn's ability to hold his own against a professional boxer. Before retiring in 2013, Butterbean won 77 professional boxing matches which is a lot more than Bart Gunn ever won. Gunn did beat JBL, The Godfather, Steve Williams and Bob Holly to win the Brawl for All but Butterbean needed just 35 seconds to knock him clean out. Several wrestlers sustained injuries during the tournament and thankfully it has never returned to WWE programming.
11 Droz's Accident
Darren Drozdov was paralyzed following a neck injury sustained on October 5th, 1999. He was wrestling against D-Lo Brown at a SmackDown taping in Long Island when the pair botched a powerbomb spot.
Droz would later say he was wearing a loose fitting shirt which impacted the execution of the move. Brown couldn't get a good grip on Droz to protect him and he ended up landing on his head. While the accident never aired on SmackDown, footage of medical personnel attending to Droz has been used as part of the company's previous "Don't Try This At Home" public service announcements.
Droz has always stated he holds no animosity towards Brown as a result of the accident. He married his girlfriend just days after the accident but the couple would divorce in 2005.
10 WrestleMania VIII Botched Main Event Ending
The main event of WrestleMania is sort of an important match to get right. WWE and the performers involved in the main event of WrestleMania VIII dropped the ball on this one in 1992, however.
This was the year Hogan would face Sid to close the show while Savage and Flair would wrestle for the WWF Title earlier that night. In typical Hogan fashion, he hit the big leg drop on Sid and went for the pin. To everyone's surprise, Sid got a shoulder up. A few moments later, Papa Shango hit the ring to attack Hogan. Shango was supposed to break up Hogan's pin on Sid but didn't make it to the ring on time.
The botched finish never led to anything either. The great steroid scandal was about to break and Hogan would later take a sabbatical from the company.
9 Mankind vs. The Rock - Royal Rumble 1999
18 years ago at the Royal Rumble, The Rock seemed determined to knock Mankind's head clean off his body. This match was cringe worthy then, but to re-watch it now knowing what we know now about concussions, this match is one of the ugliest in wrestling history.
During the match, Rock handcuffed Foley and nailed him in the head with a chair all the way down the entrance aisle. Backstage footage which would be revealed later would show a calm but somewhat frustrated Foley attempting to explain to The Rock that he was trying to stop the attack during the bout. Foley would also mention in his book years later that he felt some bitterness towards Rock for what happened that night. In total, Mick Foley received 11 unprotected chair shots to the head that night.
8 Kurt Angle Suplex On Shane McMahon Through Glass
Nowadays both Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon are GMs of opposing brands. Back in 2001, however, they were rivals and faced off at King of the Ring.
Angle and Shane were pitted against each other in a Street Fight which involved brawling all over the arena. As the two were by the stage area, Angle attempted to suplex Shane through a panel of breakaway glass. The problem is the glass didn't break as planned and Angle needed to suplex him multiple times before the glass finally broke away. Thanks to the glass not breaking, Shane landed directly on top of his head in what looked to be quite the dangerous accident. In an interview he would give years later, Angle said that Shane kept insisting Angle throw him through the glass even though Angle said they should give up on it.
7 Brock Lesnar's Botched Shooting Star Press
When you look like Brock Lesnar, there really is no need to be doing a shooting star press. When you're in the main event of WrestleMania, however, you can't blame a guy for wanting to create a spectacle.
It was the main event of WrestleMania XIX and it was a time of transition in WWE of sorts. The Monday Night Wars were over, and names like The Rock and Steve Austin were making way for the likes of Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar. On this night, Angle and Lesnar would close the show while The Rock versus Steve Austin would go on before them.
Perhaps believing he had to do something big to coincide with the importance of the event, Lesnar attempted a shooting star press but landed squarely on his head. A dazed Lesnar then gave Angle the F5 for the win, one he likely doesn't recall.
6 Owen Hart Breaks Steve Austin's Neck
SummerSlam 1997 was an exciting event. Bret Hart beat the Undertaker to win the WWE Championship and the USA versus Hart Foundation feud was in full swing. Austin was on his way to becoming the company's top babyface as well. Putting Austin in the ring with a guy as technically sound as Owen was a situation that shouldn't have seemed like a risk.
Owen completely botched a piledriver, however. Apparently, Owen and Austin got their lines crossed on whether Owen would be dropping to his knees tombstone-style or his backside Jerry Lawler style. The end result was Austin being dropped directly on top of his head. The injury could have been career-ending for Austin but there was nothing that was going to stop Austin or the WWE from making the kind of money they knew they could with his popularity.
5 The Ending To The 2005 Royal Rumble Match
Fans watching the 2005 Royal Rumble match knew something wrong had happened at the end but they weren't sure just how much of what happened was a complete botch.
Cena and Batista were the two last men in the match. As Batista went for a Batista Bomb, Cena countered it into a head-scissors and both wrestlers tumbled over the top rope. It looked planned but it wasn't.
The botched finish caused Vince McMahon to come storming out from the back. He was marching his way to the ring when suddenly he tore both his quads and had to sit while he gave the order for the match to be redone. All fans knew was that the match was being restarted and Vince's legs no longer worked. Batista would eventually eliminate Cena to win the re-started match.
4 Undertaker Chokeslams Foley & Breaks The Cell
Some fans saw this and thought it was part of the match. Other fans realized that medical personnel charging into the ring during a cage match is never part of the show, however.
The cage was not supposed to give out at that point in the match. Of course, Foley had already jumped off the cell and through the announce table prior. This was also before WWE switched to a ring with more give to it so the landing was that much harsher. A chair which had been on top of the cell fell with him as the cage gave way and landed squarely on his face.
While this match was iconic for many years, it is not something we'll ever see again. WWE is far more careful these days when it comes to protecting their stars.
3 The Montreal Screwjob
Fans in Montreal knew things didn't exactly go as planned during the Survivor Series '97 main event but few realize how little most fans actually knew at this point in wrestling history. While the curtain had been pulled back on the industry, the internet and wrestling insider news was not nearly as popular in 1997 as they are are today or even what they would be just the next year.
Fans knew the finish did not look like a normal finish to a match. Hart was reversing the sharpshooter as the ref was calling for the bell. HBK didn't act like he just won the title either. Still, most fans at the time wouldn't have been able to tell you exactly what had happened or why. Hardcore fans knew, but they were the minority at the time. The documentary Wrestling with Shadows which focused on Bret Hart during this period shed much light on all the dealings which led up to the infamous night in Montreal.
2 Raw Tribute To Chris Benoit
After taking criticism for continuing on with a PPV after Owen Hart died, WWE decided against going ahead with their planned episode of Monday Night Raw on June 25th, 2007. That was the day it had been confirmed to WWE that Chris Benoit and his family had been found dead.
WWE had not been notified, however, that it was believed Benoit had killed his wife and son. They opted to air a tribute show to Chris Benoit which included statements from several WWE roster members.
The problem was that during the airing some facts began coming to light about the tragedy. Some of the wrestlers' comments on the show in hindsight sound as though they knew what news was about to drop concerning Benoit's involvement in his family's death.
1 Owen Hart's Demise
Owen Hart died on May 23rd, 1999 in Kansas City. He was scheduled to ascend from the rafters that night in his comedic Blue Blazer gimmick. Sting had been using a similar entrance for years at that point but without a quick release mechanism like the one Owen would be using for his stunt.
Owen fell 78 feet from the rafters and landed on the ring ropes. He was later declared dead at the hospital. The official cause of death was internal bleeding as a result of blunt force trauma.
In a move which would be heavily criticized, WWE would choose to continue on with the PPV that night despite fans having just witnessed a man plunging to his death and their roster having learned of their colleague's passing.