While a lot of people dismiss professional wrestling as “fake,” the competitors can sustain actual injuries. The story lines may be scripted, but the men and women who go into the ring are often involved in some dangerous and risky maneuvers. Over the years, numerous wrestlers in the WWE and other organizations have broken their necks, sustained concussions, and even lost their eyesight. Check out some of the most disturbing injuries in WWE history.
Steve Austin Broke His Neck And Was Temporarily Paralyzed
In August 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin paired up against Owen Hart in Summerslam ’97. The match would be life-changing for Austin. He somehow managed to win the match but it was tough, particularly considering the major injury he sustained. Hart screwed up a pile-driver, which caused Austin to move the wrong way. Austin wound up with a broken neck and was temporarily paralyzed. Hart stuck to the script and allowed Austin to regain composure and do a roll-up pin to win the match. But Austin suffered from continuous neck problems and retired early in 2003 due to the incident.
Mick Foley Bruised A Kidney After Being Thrown From A Steel Cage
In 1998, during King of the Ring, Mick Foley proved he was the master of pain. The Undertaker pushed the wrestler from a steel cage, and fans were terrified that Foley was really hurt. They had a good reason to be concerned. Foley received multiple injuries. He suffered a concussion, bruised his kidney, and dislocated both his jaw and his shoulder. But Foley not only survived — he kept on wrestling. The Undertaker ended up winning the match using a chokeslam. The match was epic due to Foley’s endurance for pain. Despite being incredibly injured, he didn’t give up.
Brian Kendrick Broke His Nose And Orbital Bone
In December 2017, Japanese wrestler Hideo Itami broke Brian Kendrick’s nose and orbital bone towards the end of their cruiserweight match on Raw on Christmas Day. Itami was in the midst of the Go To Sleep maneuver. However, Itami screwed up the move and kneed Kendrick in the face, causing him an immense amount of pain. Kendrick was immediately transported to the hospital. WWE said in a statement: “We have just been informed by WWE medical staff that The Brian Kendrick has sustained a fracture to his orbital bone as well as a fracture to his nasal bridge.”
New Jack Went Blind In One Eye Following The Infamous Danbury Fall
ECW’s Living Dangerously 2000 is renowned for what has become known as “The Danbury Fall.” Wrestler New Jack jumped off the scaffolding and took Vic Grimes, a 300-pound wrestler, along with him. The two were fighting on top of the scaffolding and made a move to fall together, thinking they’d be cushioned by tables on the ground. Unfortunately, they missed the tables and hit the concrete instead, which was 15 feet below. Grimes’ body fell on top of New Jack’s, whose head hit the ground. Somehow they survived, but New Jack sustained permanent blindness in one eye. They paired up for a rematch two years later with similar results.
Buff Bagwell Broke His Back And Suffered From Spinal Shock Syndrome
In April 1992, Buff Bagwell executed a diving bulldog that didn’t go quite right during his Thunder match with Rick Steiner. A diving bulldog involves a wrestler jumping down on an opponent from an elevated position. He then uses a headlock to take down his opponent. The risky maneuver resulted in Bagwell breaking several vertebrae. He also endured spinal shock syndrome following the incident. Bagwell ended up winning the match with the help of Steiner’s brother, but that little victory did not do anything to help his pain. He was confined to a wheelchair for a long time after the match, but he did eventually go back into the ring.
Paige Was Kicked So Hard She Will Probably Never Wrestle Again
In December 2017, the youngest ever Divas Champion, Paige (whose real name is Saraya-Jade Bevis), was seriously injured after she was kicked by Sasha Banks during a show in New York. The 25-year-old had a hard time standing up and the referee stopped the match. After undergoing some medical tests, Paige was reportedly advised to end her career. In 2016, she failed WWE’s wellness policy. She had neck surgery and was suspended for 60 days after violating it again. She caused more upheaval after naked photos and video of her was leaked online. It’s believed Paige if she returns to WWE, will do so in a non-wrestling capacity.
Brock Lesner Botched A Shooting Star Press And Landed On His Head
During Wrestlemania XIX back in 2003, Brock Lesner was paired up against Kurt Angle. Lesner didn’t hold anything back and tried to do a Shooting Star Press, which is very dangerous and involves perfect timing in order to do it correctly (and safely). Unfortunately, Lesner didn’t do the move the right way and wound up landing directly on his head. Even though he kept wrestling and wound up winning the match, he took a huge risk doing so. He later found out that he sustained a massive concussion from the botched move. A severe concussion can be lethal if not treated properly.
Sid Vicious Broke His Leg In A Career-Ending Match
During the 2001 WCW Sin event, Sid Vicious got a bit more than he bargained for. Don’t dare to watch the video if you’re squeamish. Vicious jumps onto his opponent, and when he lands, his leg goes into a position that’s anything but normal. One of the more unfortunate things about the incident is that prior to the match promoters asked him to mix things up a bit by doing more aerial tricks. Vicious wasn’t crazy about the idea because he didn’t think a wrestler his size was suited for those types of maneuvers. He agreed to do so anyway, and as a result, broke his leg.
Jesse Sorensen Fractured His Vertebrae And Had A Spinal Cord Edema
In 2012 during the TNA’s Against All Odds event, Jesse Sorensen probably had no idea the amount of pain he was about to endure. His opponent was Zema Ion, and Sorensen lost the match following a serious injury. The ref immediately stopped the fight. Later it was revealed Sorensen suffered from a C-1 vertebrae fracture with spinal cord edema. His doctors said he would need at least a year to recover from the injuries. He later left TNA and joined the independent circuit. In 2014, he injured his ankle, and a few months later announced his retirement. However, he later decided to fight in several WWE matches.
Brock Lesner Broke Hardcore Holly’s Neck With A Powerbomb
During WWE’s 2002 Smackdown, Brock Lesner went a little too hard with Hardcore Holly while executing a powerbomb, which involves lifting an opponent and then slamming them back-first into the mat. Holly was in a powerless position as he was thrown so hard and with such force that he landed on his neck and it broke. The injury was so severe, that Holly was forced to take a 13-month break from the sport. He had surgery to repair the injury and later challenged Lesnar to a match for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. He lost the fight.
Bret Hart’s Head Injury Ended His Career
During the 1999 Starrcade in Washington, D.C., an inaccurately executed mule kick put Bret Hart’s career on hold — forever. Paired up against Bill Goldberg, Hart was kicked so hard in the head he sustained a severe concussion. It led to post-concussion syndrome and eventually ended his career. This health issue involves headaches and dizziness that can last for weeks and even months. He was forced to retire on Jan. 16, 2000, due to his injury. The one saving grace? During the fated match, the ref went down, and fellow wrestler Roddy Piper took his place. He made the controversial decision to award the match to Hart.
Marty Garner Hurt His Neck So Badly He Sued The WWE
In 1996 during the WWE Superstars event, Triple H was just at the beginning of his career. He was paired up against Marty Garner and wound up injuring his neck pretty badly. At one point, Triple H prepared Garner for his finishing move by lifting him up and throwing him right back down on top of his head. Garner made a miscalculation, thinking it was a different maneuver, so he moved his body in the wrong direction as Triple H delivered the technique. Garner was so upset, he wound up suing the WWE. They settled the case out of court.
Triple H Broke Randy Orton’s Collarbone
Randy Orton retained the WWE championship at Wrestlemania in 2008 against John Cena and Triple H. The following month, he lost it to Triple H in a four-way elimination match. Orton then faced Triple H again in a Last Standing match at One Night Stand. During the battle, Triple H countered Orton’s RKO maneuver, which involves using both arms to crash an opponent’s neck and skull into the mat. Instead, Triple H threw Orton over the top rope and onto the floor. That’s when Orton broke his collarbone. Orton went on hiatus for several months to heal. He got back at Triple H in 2009 by successfully eliminating him during the Royal Rumble.
Chris Benoit Dropped Sabu On His Neck
During the November to Remember event in 1994, Chris Benoit took on Sabu (whose real name is Terry Michael Brunk) — who is known for being a hardcore wrestler. At first, things moved along rather smoothly, and Benoit was dominating the match. He was probably feeling quite confident about the smackdown until he did something that left his opponent temporarily paralyzed. Benoit picked up Sabu and threw him down directly on his head, breaking his neck. Sabu immediately crawled out of the ring to nurse his injury. Fortunately, he made it out okay and is still wrestling today, having competed in Extreme Championship Wrestling, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling and WWE’s ECW brand.
Tommaso Ciampa Busted His Knee While Attacking His Tag Team Partner
In May 2017, NXT wrestler Tommaso Ciampa hurt his ankle at a live event during a tag team match against SAnitY in Highland Heights, KY. While he was taking a dive outside of the ring, his knee buckled. The referee stopped the match, and Ciampa limped away. Witnesses said Ciampa turned his ankle. A few days later he wrestled alongside Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver: Chicago. He attacked his tag team partner Gargano and later it was revealed he suffered a torn ACL. He had surgery on his knee, and it was successful. He’s still recuperating but is gearing up to get back in the ring.
Big Ban Vader Broke Joe Thurman’s Back
During 1992’s Halloween Havoc, Big Van Vader (real name Leon Allen White) got a little too rough with his WCW opponent Joe Thurman. The former professional football player is considered one of the greatest super heavyweight wrestlers ever. He is also a legend in Japan. Vader is known for aerial maneuvers such as the Vadersault. He was quite a bit bigger than Thurman, and trying to end the match he executed a powerbomb and threw his opponent to the ground. Unfortunately, the force of the impact broke Thurman’s back. Fortunately, Thurman recovered from the incident. Vader still appears in occasional matches.
Triple H Tore His Quad
In 2001, Triple H squared off in a tag team match with Stone Cold Austin versus Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho during Raw. Triple H had a difficult time completing the match because he tore his quadriceps muscle. The injury was so bad, he limped around during the majority of the battle. He sustained it while trying to stop Jericho from putting a submission hold on Stone Cold. His plan backfired. The injury was so severe, he was forced to go on hiatus for several months. He made his return at the 2002 Royal Rumble, in which he dominated.
Rey Mysterio Broke The Undertaker’s Orbital Bone
During 2010’s Smackdown, The Undertaker was pushing 50 years old. He had been wrestling since the ’80s and was getting on in years. It’s unclear whether he was still in the ring for the cash or because he still loved the work. His opponent at the time was Rey Mysterio. They were qualifying for the Fatal 4-Way. At one point, Mysterio hit the Undertaker directly in the face, fracturing his orbital bone. The good news is that the Undertaker won the match. The bad news is his injury prevented him from competing in the 4-Way. Who took his place? Mysterio, of course.
Hardcore Holly Cut His Back And Bled All Over The Ring
During 2006’s ECW Extreme Rules, Hardcore Holly was matched up against Robert Van Dam. He lived up to his namesake during this particular battle. At one point he suplexed Van Dam through a table, but he cut his back pretty significantly. Rather than discontinue the match, he kept going even though he was leaving blood all over the ring. Holly didn’t hold back as he kept attacking Van Dam to finish the fight. He ended up winning the match. It must not have been as easy as it looked because Holly appeared slightly out of it when all is said and done.
Steve Austin Injured Masahiro Chono’s Neck
Back in 1992 during the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Steve Austin pretty much knocked out Masahiro Chono and seriously injured his neck. In the chilling video, you can see where Austin just drops his opponent directly on his head. It’s a little tough to watch, particularly if you’re squeamish. Fortunately, Chono survived the incident and is still wrestling to this day. Austin got his payback, however. In 1997 during Summerslam, he sustained a neck injury at the hands of Owen Hart, who drove his head into the ground. In this business, it seems like you get what you give.
Marc Mero Tears His ACL
Marc Mero was yet another superstar in the making undone by his own bad luck. After transitioning from the WCE to the WWE, Mero won his first title, defeating Farooq. His next big move was to start a feud. The move worked and Hearst Helmsley quickly became his nemesis. Unfortunately, Mero tore his ACL shortly after the feud started. It took six months to rehab his knee. In the wrestling world, six months can be a lifetime. Mero was able to come back, but the league never viewed him the same and he ended up in dead-end storylines with mid-level fighters like Goldust.
Yokozuna Lets His Weight Be His Downfall
This wasn’t exactly an injury, but extremely shocking all the same. Correctly billed as the largest wrestler the WWE has ever seen, Yokozuna weighed in at a 500 pounds when he debuted with the WWE in 1992. He was surprisingly athletic and agile for a man of his size and quickly became a league and fan favorite. Overpowering his competition, Yokozuna won fight after fight. Sadly, the one fight he could not win was with his weight, after gaining 160 extra pounds in a just a few years, the WWE could not justify having the giant be a featured player anymore. His health was just too much of a concern. The gave him the ultimatum to lose weight or retire. He forced the company to release him in 1998 and died two years later in 2000. Still, he will always be remembered by the public for the life he shared in the ring.
Owen Hart Has A Safety Harness Malfunction
Owen Hart was a Canadian-American professional and amateur wrestler. He worked for several different promotions including Stampede Wrestling, New Japan Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Confederation. He wrestled by his own name and also went by the Blue Blazer. Unfortunately, on May 23, 1999, during the pay-per-view event Over The Edge, he was being lowered from the rafter with a harness and grapple line for a match against The Godfather when the unthinkable happened. He unintentionally hit the early release and fell to his death. Luckily, television viewers did not witness the incident.
Perro Aguayo Jr. Never Recovered
Perro Aguayo Jr. was a Mexican luchador as well as a professional wrestler. He was the real-life son of the lucha libre legend Perro Aguayo and was best known as the leader of the Los Perros del Mal Stable. On March 20, 2015, Aguayo Jr. was in the middle of a tag team match with Manik against Rey Mysterio Jr. and Xtreme Tiger. During the match, Aguayo was dropkicked by Rey Mysterio on the back and was knocked unconscious. Although Aguayo was taken out of the match to regain consciousness, he was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead due to spinal trauma from the match.
Mitsuhara Misawa was a Japanese professional wrestler who made his debut in 1981 for All Japan Pro Wrestling. He wrestled as a second generation Tiger Mask following the death of Giant Baba in 1999. He was an eight-time world champion in Japanese promotions and won the Triple Crown heavyweight five times. He is still known as one of the best heavyweight wrestlers of all time. Then, in 2009, Misawa teamed up with Go Shizaki against another GHC Tag Team. During the match, he was taken down by a belly to back suplex and lost consciousness. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead after going into cardiac arrest from a spinal cord injury.
Plum Mariko Was The First Wrestler To Die In Japan
Plum Mariko was a Japanese professional female wrestler that wrestled fro Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling from 1986 to 1992 and then for JWP Joshi Puroresu from 1992 until her death in 1997. During her wrestling career, she experienced many injuries in the ring which eventually resulted in brain abscess. Although she had already experienced numerous concussions, she continued to wrestle anyway. After being hit by a Ligerbomb during a match, it triggered a pre-existing condition causing her brain to begin bleeding and ultimately causing her death. She was the first professional wrestler in Japan to die from injuries during a wrestling match.
Luther Lindsay Went From A Football Player To A Wrestler
Luther Jacob Goodall was an American professional football player and wrestler that went by the ring name of Luther Lindsay. He competed in the National Wrestling Alliance as well as for Stampede Wrestling and various Japanese promotions. He was one of the first African American wrestlers to become a star and during the 50s and 60s was referred to as the U.S. Colored Heavyweight Champion. On February 21, 1972, Lindsay was wrestling a local opponent named Bobby Park. During the match, Lindsay pinned Park with a diving belly-flop and had a heart attack during the pin and died on top of his opponent.
Oro The Masked Wrestler
Jesús Javier Hernández Silva or better known as Oro (Gold) inside of the ring was a masked professional wrestler. He was a second-generation wrestler with many of his cousins and brothers also partaking in the sport as well. He made his wrestling debut in 1990 at the age of 18. he took the ring name of Oro, and his brother took his as Plata (silver). They soon were joined by another wrestler named Platima (Platinum), and their tag team was known as Los Metalicos (The Metals). During a match in 1993, Oro was clotheslined and landed on his head. He collapsed and became weak and died of a brain aneurysm before the ambulance could arrive.
Gary Albright the Stampede Wrestler
gary Albright was an American professional wrestler who was closely associated with Stampede Wrestling in Canada with UWF International and All Japan Pro Wrestling. By marriage, he was a member of the Anoa’i wrestling family along with Rikishi, Yokozuna, the Tock, and numerous others. From the 1990s on, he participated as a talent for almost exclusively Japanese promotions. Then on January 7, 2000, he collapsed in the ring after receiving a three-quarter facelock bulldog from his opponent. He passed away minutes after being removed from the ring with the cause of death believing to have been a heart attack.
The Son of “The Million Dollar Man” Iron Mike DiBiase
Michael DiBiase or “Iron” Mike DiBiase was an American -Italian professional wrestler who followed in the footsteps of his own adoptive father “The Million Dolar Man” Ted DiBiase. His mother Helen Hild was also a professional wrestler, and he is the grandfather of Mike, Ted Jr., and Brett DiBiase. He made his professional wrestling career debut in 1950 but unfortunately passed away during a match on July 2, 1969. He had a fatal heart attack while inside of the ring and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Vince McMahon Loses Control Of His Legs
During the Royal Rumble pay-per-view fight on WWE, Vince McMahon, the chairman, and CEO of the WWE experienced leg failure during the big match between John Cena and Batista. As he was climbing into the ring, he completely lost control of them and his legs go limp underneath him. he was originally supposed to help decide the outcome of the match but ended up having to sit there helplessly until it finished. As it turned out, he had torn his quads in both legs and tries his best to hide the pain he is clearly experiencing.
Droz Gets Permanently Paralyzed
During a 1999 WWE Smackdown show, wrestler Droz was up against D-Lo-Brown. It was during this match that his wrestling career came to an end. During a taping of the show, he survived a severe neck injury when Brown tried to perform his signature powerbomb, however, was unable to get a proper grip on Droz. Droz ended up landing on his head and fractured two disks in his neck. He immediately went into surgery. Even with intensive medical care, he was initially left quadriplegic but has since regained some movement in his upper body. He has no hard feelings against Brown although Brown feels awful.
John Cena Ripped His Muscle Mid-Match
John Cena is easily one of the biggest names in WWE and has been for numerous years. He came onto the scene in 2002 and is still considered one of the most popular wrestlers today. However, he has also been known to be rather accident prone while in the ring and it was no different in 2007. During an episode of Raw against Mr. Kennedy, John Cena ripped the pectoral muscle in his right ar, early in the match yet managed to finish the match. Now that’s good showmanship. This wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time Cena has been injured during a fight.
Joey Mercury Took A Ladder To The Face
Adam Birch or better known as Joey Mercury and Joey Matthews is an American professional wrestler. He made his wrestling debut in 1996 and wrestled in the ECW Extreme Championship Wrestling, Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation, and the MEWF Tag Team Championship. He also signed with WWE in 2004 yet announced his retirement after an injury in 2010. However, one injury that stands out was during the Armageddon pay-per-view event during the fatal Four Ladder Match. During the match, he was hit in the face with the ladder and received a broken nose and a fractured orbital bone.
Shawn Michaels Crushed His Back
Shawn Michaels is an American actor, professional wrestler, and professional wrestling personality. Although he has since retired from wrestling, he used to be one of the biggest wrestlers in the WWE and is regarded as one of the best performers in the 1990s and the 2000s. In 1998, Shawn Michaels was going up his “arch-enemy” The Undertaker during a Royal Rumble show when he was seriously injured. The Undertaker planned to throw Michaels out of the ring into a coffin below. This was a routine move, yet but Michaels missed and landed on the lower part of his back crushing a disc and leading to numerous other injuries throughout his career.
Sting Obliterated His Knee
Steve Borden, better known as Sting in the ring is a retired professional wrestler, actor, author, and former bodybuilder. Currently, he is signed under the WWE under a Legends contract. Sting has been regarded by many as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time and headlined the highest-grossing pay-per-view event in 1997. During the Clash of Champions Ten, Sting attempted to interfere in a cage match that featured the Four Horsemen. As he was being held back by security. he attempted to climb the cage and tore his patella tendon. Ric Flair had no idea he was injured and proceeded to then jump on him.
Wade Barrett Dislocated His Elbow
Stuart Alexander Bennett or Wade Barret was an English professional wrestler, bare-knuckle boxers, and actor. He made his Raw debut in 2010 and rose to become the leader of The Nexus. he also headlined five pay-per-view events and challenged for the WWE Championship three times. In 2013, he became Bad News Barrett and was the 20th King of the Ring Winner in 2015 and therefore changed his name to King Barrett. However, during the February 20th Raw, he suffered a dislocated elbow after big show threw Dolp Ziggler out of the ring. Barrett tried to catch him, and would later need surgery to repair his elbow.
Jim Cornette Undergoes Knee Surgery
Jim Cornette is a former professional wrestling booker, commentator, manager, and occasional professional wrestler. Throughout his career, he worked for a variety of different wrestling platforms and was the owner of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He also worked as the “Commissioner” of the Ring of Honor and “<anagement Director” for Total-Nonstop Wrestling. However, just because he worked in upper-management didn’t mean he didn’t get his hands dirty. During a scaffold match at Starrcade in 1986, he climbed to the scaffold and dropped down 20 feet onto the ring. When he landed his knee buckled inward and tore all of the ligaments that attached his knee to the femur. he later had to have surgery to repair the immense damage.
Cactus Jack Gets His Ear Ripped Off
Mick Foley, or better known as Cactus Jack was a former professional wrestler and color commentator currently signed to the WWE. Over the years, he worked for many wrestling promotions including the WWF the WCW, the ECW. TNA, NWA, and GWF. He’s regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the WWE and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. During a match in 1994, Cactus Jack was up against Vader when he accidentally rubbed the side of his head on the ropes and severing two-thirds of his ear from his head. This is because the WCW was known to use steel ropes and they seemed to be extra tight during this match.
Mankind Gets Worked By The Undertaker
Mick Foley who went by Cactus Jack also wrestled under the persona of Mankind. At the King of the Ring pay-per-view even in 1998, Mankind suffered more than one injury. In a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker, Mankind was thrown from the top of the cage down onto the floor. Although this was a high-impact slam, he managed to carry on with the match and was next thrown through the top of the cage down onto the floor below. Although h should have called the match over, he refused and continued to get pummeled by The Undertaker.