It took about thirty years of people piledriving their friends on their trampolines for WWE to finally put a mandatory “Do Not Try This At Home” warning before any of their TV programs. They needed to regulate the actions of stupid kids because the fact is that professional wrestling by its very nature is dangerous. WWE superstars are some of the greatest athletes in the world and even they routinely injure themselves while honing and performing their craft. As such, I decided to countdown the 15 Most Gruesome Wrestling Injuries.
These are injuries gruesome enough to turn your stomach, true examples of actual carnage in a pro wrestling ring. Consisting of Hall of Famers as well as no-name talent, this list very much shows that injuries can happen to anyone attempting to perform the intricate task of executing wrestling maneuvers. All facts and dates related in this article are taken from WWE.com.
15. Mick Foley’s Ear
To start out our list, let’s go with perhaps the most famous gruesome injury in professional wrestling history. While many of us have heard Foley reference his lost ear, and personally remember seeing him tossed from the top of the Cell by the Undertaker, we still cannot recall exactly when he lost his ear. A large reason for this is that he lost it in a fairly nondescript match for WCW. As many of us know, Cactus Jack (Foley’s alter ego at the time) does a signature clothesline where he takes both his opponent and himself over the top rope. During a stunt with Vader, however, Foley developed a plan where he would miss the clothesline and intentionally get his neck wrapped up in the ring ropes, causing him to hang by his neck. The ropes were apparently tighter than Foley intended, and he was required to rip himself out (a la a coyote chewing off his own leg in a trap), accidentally ripping off his own ear.
14. Finn Balor’s Shoulder
As a huge Finn Balor fan I was devastated when in 2016 he was forced to relinquish the inaugural WWE Universal Title due to a shoulder injury he suffered the previous night at Summerslam. With that being said, I was further impressed by this superstar and the toughness that he showed following the injury. Balor received the injury when he was thrown back first into the barrier by Seth Rollins, and while some critics like Bret Hart have criticized Rollin’s style as reckless but most of these claims are unfounded. Balor obviously dislocated his shoulder as a result of this move, but as you can see in the photos he was able to pop the shoulder back in himself mid-match and finish the night to win his first ever title on the main WWE roster.
13. Marty Garner Spinal Contusion
When I was compiling this list, I was surprised at the star power of the superstars who were on the receiving end of these gruesome injuries. This entry is obviously the exception to this happenstance as Marty Garner is your quintessential no name WWE wrestler. Garner’s most noteworthy moment, in fact, may be his botched taking of a young Triple H’s pedigree finisher. As the video clearly shows, Garner does an insane dive bomb during the move, causing him to be pedigreed on the very top of his head and leading to severe neck injuries. This of course didn’t stop Garner from trying to sue WWE for injuries received as a result of his mistake. Legal issues aside, this pedigree looks pretty brutal and therefore makes our list as the #13 most gruesome pro wrestling injury.
12. Vince McMahon Tears Both Quads
Probably the funniest entry in our article (I’ll leave it up to debate with the next injury on our list), this gruesome injury was certainly one of the most bizarre. Following the pandemonium at the end of the 2005 Royal Rumble when Batista and John Cena eliminated each other at the same time requiring the match between those two be restarted, Vince McMahon strutted his way down the ring to straighten things out. But he fell coming into the ring and bizarrely seemed unable to get back up. McMahon ended up giving his groundbreaking announcement from his rump, but it was later revealed that while he was entering the ring he had torn both of his quadriceps. Despite the hilarity of this moment, it may not be the most embarrassing gruesome injury to make this list.
11. Goldberg Breaks More Than the Window
If you want to make fun of Vince McMahon for his quadriceps incident at the Royal Rumble, just remember that he was a fairly old man (though one who is admittedly in great shape) at the time. For this entry on our list of gruesome injuries, however, I give you full reign to make fun of Goldberg to your hearts’ content. I think the funniest part of the video above is the fact that the WCW writers had it so Goldberg would break the window with a crowbar. Goldberg, however, thought it would be more badass if he broke it with his bare hand. The problem with this, of course, was that when he pulled his arm out he cut it badly on the fragmented glass. The cut was so bad that Goldberg would have to be rushed to the hospital, thus forever changing the perception of this “badass” moment.
10. Hardcore Holly Gets Dropped On His Head
Due to the sheer size and beastliness of Brock Lesnar, it’s honestly surprising that more superstars haven’t been hurt by this huge star. Aside from the time when he threw a car door (like a Frisbee) thirty feet into the crowd, Lesnar’s most notable flirt with danger (causing danger to others that is) was a botched powerbomb to Bob Holly. Holly was supposed to reverse the move and land on his feet, however, either him or Lesnar made a drastic mistake causing Holly to fall onto the back of his neck and head. Head and neck injuries are featured prominently on this list because of the huge impact they can have on these superstars in regards to not only their careers, but their very lives.
9. Seth Rollins Injures His Leg
One of the saddest facts of this list is that many of these injuries had a hugely adverse impact on the careers of some very talented individuals. Such was the fear when current WWE Champion Seth Rollins injured his leg during a live event in 2015. Prior to this, Rollins was the darling of the Authority and had been the most featured figure on Raw television for much of the past year. However, watching the video above it was hard to believe that Rollins could ever return to become the same superstar he was prior to this incident. It would soon be revealed that Rollins had torn several muscles in his leg, putting his very career in jeopardy. Luckily Rollins returned in 2016 and quickly re-established himself as one of Raw’s top players.
8. Lesnar Botches Shooting Star Press
Before we describe the entry which lands Lesnar’s shooting star press on this list, let’s first take a minute to appreciate someone Lesnar’s size being so athletic that he can pull off a top rope move usually reserved for Cruiserweights and other smaller wrestlers. Most people know about Lesnar’s botched shooting star press against Kurt Angle for the simple fact that the botch occurred on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania. During the incident, Lesnar failed to revolve a full turn, causing him to land squarely on the top of his head. Lesnar is clearly woozy for the remainder of the match, and no one was surprised afterwards when it was revealed that he suffered a concussion on the botch. Pretty gruesome.
7. Stone Cold’s Neck is Broken
If there was ever a move that your parents didn’t want you imitating on your siblings it was certainly the traditional piledriver. It is simply too easy for your victim to slip just a little bit, causing their head to strike the floor, potentially causing immense neck and head injuries. The #7 gruesome injury on our list illustrates this when the botched piledriver by the incredibly talented wrestler Owen Hart led a broken neck being suffered by Stone Cold Steve Austin. WWE has since strayed away from the pile driver, including modifying Undertaker’s version to make it safer, but there is no denying the danger of the move. Especially when you witness a gruesome injury happening to one of the company’s top stars.
6. Owen Hart’s Untimely Death
I debated even including this entry on our list, but if you’re talking about the inherent dangers of professional wrestling, you cannot fail to include the events that led to the death of Owen Hart. During a stunt where Hart was supposed to be lowered to the ring in a harness, the clip holding Hart released, causing him to fall over seventy feet and land on the top ring rope. This occurred during a pay-per-view event, however, it was not yet live on television so it was only viewed by the live audience. Hart would be worked on by emergency personnel before being transported to the hospital, but to no avail. He would later die from massive internal bleeding, thus ending the life and career of one of WWE’s most talented superstars and rising stars.
5. Sabu Gets Neck Broken
Out of all the ECW Originals who were signed by WWE, Sabu is the one who I’m most surprised didn’t gain the fan attention WWE officials were seeking. A longtime pro wrestling veteran, this man was so determined to do whatever it took to give the fans a great show that he would earn the nickname “suicidal”. He certainly showed this in an ECW match against Chris Benoit. We all know the personal demons of Chris Benoit but you can’t deny he’s a talented in-ring performer (as is Sabu), which makes this incident all the more scary. In what is a clear botch, Sabu lands on his head and neck area causing severe damage. The awkward twist of his neck shown in the above video is enough to earn Sab the #5 spot on our list of gruesome pro wrestling injuries.
4. John Cena Broken Nose
I remember back when John Cena was receiving his initial push from WWE, he was billed as a really tough guy who might not necessarily be the best wrestler, as opposed to the super skilled JBL who always managed to take the easy way out. While Cena has become a much better mat worker in recent years, I think that this persona is still somewhat representative of who Cena actually is. It’s certainly hard to argue his toughness, especially after an incident this past year where his nose was broken mid-match. During a televised match with Seth Rollins, Rollins inadvertently hit Cena with a knee, causing a severe break in his nose. You hardly even noticed watching the match live that anything out of the ordinary had happened with Cena, but I think the above picture shows how gruesome the injury actually was.
3. Joey Mercury’s Whole Face is Destroyed
Anyone who has ever been involved in a ladder match would likely tell you that eight men competing in a fatal four-way tag-team match is a recipe for disaster. Disaster would certainly strike at the 2006 Armageddon event when the teams of MNM, the Hardy’s, London and Kendrick, and Dave Taylor and William Regal competed for the tag-team titles. During the infamous spot, Jeff Hardy jumps on one end of a perched ladder (creating a teeter totter effect) causing it to strike both members of MNM as well as his brother Matt. While Matt Hardy and Johnny Nitro would escape unharmed, Joey Mercury would get legitimate struck in the face with the full force of the ladder. Blood would instantly start pouring down Mercury’s face, and he would need reconstructive surgery following the event.
2. Vader’s Eye Pops Out of Socket
We saw the man known as Vader at the start of our list, as he was involved in the incident which famously led to the loss of Mick Foley’s ear, however, for the #2 entry Vader was on the receiving end of the gruesome injury. In a match with WWE Hall of Famer Stan Hansen, Vader’s eye was knocked out of socket, creating the gruesome injury you see above. According to Hansen and Vader, Hansen was simply sticking his finger in the eye hole of Vader in an effort to remove the big wrestlers mask. As they were tussling around, however, Hansen’s eye would get sharply thrust into Vader’s eye. As someone with contacts this is one of my worst fears, and Vader more than earns the distinction of being the second worst gruesome WWE injury to make our list.
1. Sid Vicious Breaks His Leg
Not only is this leg injury to Sid Vicious the most gruesome professional wrestling injury of all time, it is the only entry on this list that is almost unwatchable. Honestly the first time watching the clip above I thought that Sid’s boot merely fell off. Ummm no that’s his actual leg hanging there at a ninety degree angle. For some reason both WWE and WCW thought that Sid was a worthy main event talent; whether you agree with that assessment or not, you never want to see this kind of injury happen to anyone. Luckily this injury wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked (how could it be), but the nature of this injury and this horrifying video causes it to be ranked #1 on our list of gruesome pro wrestling injuries.