Professional wrestling is extremely dangerous. It’s one of those careers that can change your life in a bad way very easily. There’s a very good reason wrestlers warn viewers not to copy what’s done in the ring at home; injuries can be serious, if not downright fatal.
Injuries are a part of wrestling that cannot be avoided. By the very nature of the sport, one can expect to suffer an immense degree of pain while wrestling in a match. Sometimes, however, it’s even the most mundane things that can lead to an injury. Even ducking under a wrestler doing a leapfrog can lead to a muscle tear or a bone fracture.
At other times, it’s more discomforting. Wrestlers injure themselves due to moving or stepping the wrong way during a motion that requires perfect placement and body movement. Wrestlers get too stiff with one another and someone feels the effects through a concussion or a broken jaw. And sometimes, it’s a simple move gone horribly wrong that leads to a devastating injury.
The fifteen images captured here are meant to be somber reminders of what pro wrestling can do to one’s body. When they say that wrestlers “sacrifice their bodies for fans’ entertainment,” that ends up being literal from time to time. Wrestlers lose blood, teeth, and sometimes much more, in the ring and around it.
Some of these images will be graphic…you have been warned.
15. Randy Orton’s Head Meets Brock Lesnar
Blood is seen very rarely in WWE nowadays, and when it’s shown, it’s likely to be fake blood caplets instead of actual blood (because WWE is weird that way). So when WWE asked Brock to make his match with Orton at SummerSlam 2016 feel more realistic, he must’ve taken it a bit too seriously.
What you see here is Randy Orton’s head after being busted open the hard way. Lesnar took off his gloves and delivered several stiff forearms straight into Randy’s forehead. Seconds later, blood poured out of Orton’s head like a fountain, causing the audience to gasp in shock. It might not have been a very deep wound in hindsight, as there’ve been much bloodier wounds in WWE history.
But what makes this more chilling is that Randy got a concussion from those stiff forearm shots, and by now, everyone’s aware of the kinds of things that can happen when one gets too many concussions.
14. John Cena’s Broken Nose
Mistakes happen in WWE, and even the most technically gifted wrestlers can screw up on rare occasions. Such was the case with Seth Rollins, whose errant knee lift broke John Cena’s nose in one of their famous matches.
Cena, being the trooper he’s always been, continued the match with said broken nose, and footage only surfaced afterward showing just how badly it was broken. On camera, Rollins exploited this to make himself look like a bigger threat, and Cena added this injury to their storyline at the time.
13. Eddie Guerrero’s Face At Judgment Day 2004
At Judgment Day 2004, Eddie Guerrero was defending his WWE Championship against JBL. To add to the bitterness and personal nature of their rivalry, Guerrero decided that a little blood was necessary. Unfortunately, what ended up happening wasn’t just a little blood.
Guerrero cut his forehead far too deeply, severing an artery in the process. This led to blood literally pouring from his forehead, and soon his entire body (and much of the ringside area where he was lying supine) was covered in blood.
If you watch the match, you can hear the audience groan loudly when the camera zooms in on Eddie’s crimson-colored face. It’s a chilling image for two reasons. First, this is the extent to which wrestlers would go to in order to entertain fans, and mistakes like this happen as the result of blading going too far or being done incorrectly.
Second, reports emerged that Eddie went into shock backstage after the match due to blood loss. Some have even suggested that this injury contributed to his declining health at the time. Either way, it was an extremely uncomfortable sight, even for most hardened wrestling fans.
12. Finn Balor’s Shoulder
Finn Balor was supposed to be the first-ever WWE Universal Champion. That dream of his and WWE’s creative decision flew out the window less than thirty seconds into Balor’s tournament final match opposite Seth Rollins. Rollins hit a Powerbomb to the barricade outside the ring, and Balor landed incorrectly, which caused his shoulder to separate.
Balor improvised by pushing his arm back into place and completed the match. Alas, his shoulder was damaged to such a degree that he needed to vacate the championship the following night.
Since then, WWE and many other wrestling commentators have shown how Balor popped his shoulder back into its socket, which proved just how tough Balor really is and how important the championship is to him.
11. Joey Mercury’s Face After Being Hit With A Ladder
Joey Mercury was facing the Hardys in a ladder match when one of the most memorable botches in SmackDown history took place. One of the Hardys hit a move off of the top rope, causing the end of the ladder to push upwards, hitting Mercury in the face.
Because it was unplanned, he couldn’t protect himself in time. Seconds later, he was outside the ring, blood gushing from his face. He needed thirty stitches to close the wounds, and both his nose and orbital bone were broken in that match. It’s chilling to watch as Mercury crawls on his knees and his face turns all red.
10. Seth Rollins’ Knee Buckles
This was one of the most devastating injuries in recent history. Rollins was right in the middle of his first world title run and was enjoying immense success as WWE Champion. Unfortunately, all of that came to an end when he suffered a devastating knee injury at a house show in Dublin.
Rollins attempted a Powerbomb, but as he landed from the top rope, his knee buckled and torqued itself gruesomely out of place. Rollins then fell to the canvas, writhing in pain. It was later revealed that Rollins tore three different muscles all at once: his ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus.
9. Triple H Tears His Quad Off The Bone
It takes an exceptionally tough wrestler to continue a wrestling match despite having one’s quadriceps muscle tear off the bone completely. It takes even more superhuman endurance to keep wrestling and get caught in the Walls of Jericho, a submission hold that focuses on the legs, for a good two minutes, with this same injury.
This is what Triple H did for WWE in 2001. He tried to break a submission hold against his partner, Steve Austin, and in the process tore his quad so badly he didn’t return until almost a year later. Though you can’t see his muscle being torn from his bone, the look on Triple H’s face when this does happen speaks volumes of the excruciating pain it must’ve caused.
8. Mick Foley’s Lost Ear
Underneath that shaggy mane of his is the one ear Mick Foley has left. He lost his other ear in a famous match in Germany against Vader long before he even debuted for WWE. To even look at what’s left of Foley’s right ear is a daunting task, simply because it’s a disturbing reminder of how easily things can go awry in a wrestling ring.
That said, this was one of those sacrifices that helped propel Foley to higher limits in pro wrestling. His reputation as a hardcore legend was cemented by his Hell in a Cell match against the Undertaker, but it was first demonstrated by this incident.
7. Chris Benoit Breaks Sabu’s Neck
This is how Chris Benoit first earned the nickname ‘the Crippler.’
Benoit was wrestling Sabu in ECW and attempted a modified Suplex of some sort. Things went awry for Sabu as he couldn’t rotate his body in time and landed square on his neck. The resulting impact jarred his neck, which you could almost hear when he landed in the ring with a sickening thud.
The ECW audience cheered at first, but within seconds, the commentators stopped selling and turned very serious. They were convinced Sabu had broken his neck, and they were right. Sabu had to spend months out of action and, without a doubt, had his career shortened in this match.
6. The Undertaker Gets Burned For Real
The Undertaker’s gimmick is all about no-selling his opponents’ offense and ignoring pain. But that’s just it; it’s a gimmick, and the man behind it has become a master of making it look like things don’t hurt when they really do.
Then there’s that time the gimmick became too real. At Elimination Chamber 2010, the Undertaker was burned thrice from poorly-timed pyrotechnics. Some fan footage shows the Undertaker literally walking into flames as they burst from below him.
5. Vader’s Eye Pops Out Of Its Socket
This was the ‘hoss’ fight of all ‘hoss’ fights with stiff-as-all-hell brawlers settling the score in the ring all to see which one of them was the tougher fighter. Hansen might’ve proven to be the more determined fighter, but Vader proved that he was the toughest.
At one point in the match, Hansen hit Vader with an errant strike, and one of his knuckles brushed up against Vader’s right eye. This caused his actual eye to pop out of its socket, which halted the match momentarily.
Vader then proceeded to push his own eye back into place and hold it there with his eyelid, while still continuing the match. It was as gruesome an injury as one can imagine, as Vader ran the risk of losing his eye entirely.
4. Katsuyori Shibata’s Headbutt At Sakura Genesis 2017
This is the most recent occurrence on this list, and while it might not look like much, there’s a lot more happening under the surface with this chilling image.
Just seconds before this photo was taken, Shibata (who always wrestled in the stiffest style possible), gave Kazuchika Okada the mother of all stiff headbutts. Okada fell to his knees from the pain this move caused while Shibata looked down at him unflinching as a single stream of blood flowed down his face.
The headbutt was so impactful on Shibata’s own head that it caused him to suffer a subdural hematoma or bleeding in his brain. This, coupled with the dehydration he suffered during and after the match, caused Shibata to become partially paralyzed after the match. As of this writing, it’s still unknown whether or not Shibata will ever wrestle again.
3. The Great Muta Creates The Muta Scale
The Great Muta has influenced pro wrestling in many ways. He was the first Japanese wrestler to develop his own large fandom in the United States. He has created and popularized many wrestling moves, including the Muta Lock, the Moonsault, and the Shining Wizard. He’s also a master of ring psychology, capable of freaking out his opponents easily.
And he created the unofficial scale that measures a match’s bloodiness factor.
In a famous match with Hiroshi Hase in 1992, Muta was hit with a foreign object and bladed to make himself bleed to sell the injury. Alas, Muta cut himself too deeply, causing blood to pour from his wound. Now, at the time, hardcore and ‘garbage’ wrestling were popular in Japan, so the audience wasn’t so surprised to see blood in wrestling.
But even the Japanese crowd were shocked to see Muta’s face completely red within seconds. By the time the match finished, the ring itself looked like a war zone all smeared with the blood that had poured out of his head.
2. Mick Foley’s Fall Through The Cell
This Hell in a Cell match is arguably the single-most memorable moment in Attitude Era history. It marked the most extreme length to which WWE superstars were willing to go in order to entertain the fans… and created one of the most chilling images ever.
Moments before this photo was taken, the Undertaker chokeslammed Mankind through the top of the cage. However, the cage roof wasn’t supposed to break open; Mankind was supposed to fall on the top of the cage as if it were the mat. Instead, Foley fell straight down and landed on his back.
The sound his body made when he landed was gruesome, and commentator Jim Ross was, in all likelihood, sincere when he yelled out, “Enough’s enough! Will someone please stop the damn match?!”
For the Undertaker, looking down at Mankind from this vantage point was especially chilling; he was convinced that Foley was dead and that he was looking at a corpse from that hole in the roof of the cell.
1. Sid’s Broken Ankle
In 2001, Sycho Sid’s career was winding down, and yet, for some reason, this realization compelled him to do something he was not accustomed to: diving off the top rope. He did so, but in the process, he injured himself horrifically.
As he landed, his left leg gave way entirely, snapping gruesomely in the process. The audience groaned in shock, the chilling image of a man’s shattered ankle before them. This marked the end of Sid’s in-ring career, as he could no longer perform due to such a devastating injury.
In hindsight, this decision is actually a microcosm of WCW’s dying days: wrestlers that once made it big in WWE coming to WCW and being misused and asked to do things they knew were stupid and carried too high a risk.