Accidents happen in professional wrestling—people have ended up badly injured or even dead after simple moves that normally don’t actually hurt anyone went wrong. That’s not what this list is about. This is a about the times wrestlers threw caution to the wind in the name of their art and did some truly dangerous stunts. WWE and wrestling in general are going through a continued effort at making the industry safer, preventing violent accidents of the past to repeat themselves, but the real issue is when wrestlers are completely willing to nearly murder themselves, whether the company likes it or not.
In the 1990’s especially, with the rise of ECW, being extreme and hardcore were huge selling points in the wrestling world. While that can be done in a compelling, interesting way, sometimes it goes too far, and the returns are nowhere near worth the risks involved. We’ve talked about the times the women got violent, and the men have come even closer to actual attempted murder on television. Some of these moments are the most iconic in wrestling history, but that doesn’t change the fact they were so intensely dangerous it’s arguable they never should have been attempted. Read on to discover 10 times wrestling got a little bit too hardcore for its own good.
10. Sid Vicious Jumps 2 Feet And Breaks Legs
Some of the people on this list jumped or got thrown off a solid twenty, thirty feet and were relatively unharmed. Sid Vicious only needed to jump off the second rope to suffer one of the most disgusting injuries in wrestling history. Sid had been wrestling over 10 years when he decided to go aerial for the first time at WCW Sin in January 2001. Standing 6’9” and weighing well over 300 lbs., Sid didn’t exactly need to be jumping off ropes to beat his opponent. Unfortunately, WCW management allegedly demanded he increase his arsenal and go airborne, resulting in that massive frame all crashing down on his left ankle so powerfully it shattered his leg to pieces. He broke both his fibula and tibia in an injury so graphic networks in Canada refused to air it.
We’ve put this item on the list to attempt to explain context when it comes to danger in professional wrestling: there’s usually little risk when everybody knows what everybody is going to do, and they know their bodies are going to handle it. Sid did something dangerous because he knew his body specifically couldn’t handle the move, but he did it anyway. Most of what the others on this list went through, nobody could handle.
9. WCW Booking Injures Everybody
In 1999, ECW had become the clear number three promotion in the United States by being hardcore, and WWE’s facsimile of hardcore was helping them crush WCW, so it makes sense WCW would try some hardcore matches, too. Unfortunately, they handled it in normal WCW fashion, which is to say with virtually no planning whatsoever. At Bash at the Beach 1999, WCW held the first and only Junkyard Invitational, won by Fit Finlay. The first notable spot of the match saw The Public Enemy actually try to throw a car at a person, who luckily moves out of the way, and it only gets more dangerous from there. If that sentence seemed a little vague, that’s because the REAL problem with the match wasn’t even the danger—the whole thing was so poorly shot and difficult to follow, with no lighting and far fewer camera people than wrestlers (not to mention a very wide open space for them all to run about), fans couldn’t even see what was happening. At least Hak (The Sandman), Ciclope and Silver King suffered serious injuries, with many of the others experiencing minor problems, too.
8. Shane McMahon Falls Off the Titantron
It’s one thing for a professional wrestler to pull off a crazy stunt, but for the owner’s kid to do it? That’s just crazy. But with a dad as crazy as Vince, of course Shane-O-Mac is insane, too, and he proved it almost every time he stepped foot in a WWE ring. One of the most notable examples came at SummerSlam 2000 when he defended the WWE Hardcore Championship against Steve Blackman. Blackman was known as The Lethal Weapon and was giving Shane one hell of a beating, causing Shane to have the horribly misguided idea to climb the Titantron to safety. Blackman climbed up after him though, whacking him with a kendo stick enough times for Shane to lose his grip and fall flat on his back from some 50-plus feet in the air. Blackman dives off after him with an elbow drop, but it’s Shane who did something truly terrifying: he couldn’t see where he was landing and easily could’ve missed the crash mat. It only gets worse after considering Shane is neither a trained wrestler nor a stunt man.
7. Terry Funk Politely Asks For A Chair
The ECW Arena was a violent place, filled with bloodthirsty people. Terry Funk is a WWE Hall of Famer and is generally considered the Hardcore Legend, and yet somehow, one of the most dangerous stunts he performed in his career was asking the audience for a chair. During a match against Cactus Jack, The Public Enemy interfered to attack both Jack and Funk. Funk fought back, eventually making the famous cry “Give me a chair!” Two or three chairs were thrown immediately, followed a few seconds later by almost the entire crowd, who seemingly decided it looked like fun and joined in. There was virtually no way for Funk, Jack, or especially the Public Enemy to protect themselves from getting absolutely buried in chairs. Left between two professionals, virtually any spot can be done safely. Left up to amateurs, simply giving someone a chair can be the most dangerous moment of the night.
6. Mick Foley Gets Excedrin Headache Number 9
Mick Foley made a career out of actually injuring himself through a series of dangerous stunts. One such stunt, which he performed not once but at least twice, saw Big Van Vader powerbomb him head first on concrete. Because it’s Foley, there were no big wrestling secrets involved for how Vader would protect him; he slammed Mick’s head as hard as he could into the concrete, because that’s what Mick wanted him to do. One would think the experience taught Mick something: he was only willing to do it on the belief the announce team would act like it was the biggest moment of the year, when in fact, all he got was Bobby Heenan joking, “That’ll give you Excedrin Headache Number 9.” Given what we know now about head injuries, it’s possible that could actually have given Mick concussion number nine, and considering he performed similar spots regularly, it’s amazing he’s still thinking straight today.
5. Kurt Angle Repeatedly Attempts to Murder Shane McMahon
Okay, so Shane McMahon is a crazy person who jumps down from really high places into crash pads. That’s dangerous, but it’s something called a “stuntman bump”—most of the items on this list are. They planned the spot, considered the risks, and went through with it as planned. At King of the Ring 2001, things went a little bit differently. Shane only fell about six feet opposed to twenty-something, but he landed on his neck against hard cement. Three times. In under two minutes.
The stunt saw Kurt Angle attempting to throw Shane threw two Plexiglas windows. In a relatively tame stunt, Shane had just accidentally broken Kurt’s tailbone, weakening Angle enough that when he attempted to give Shane a belly-to-belly suplex, he dropped him mid-air, throwing him against the glass instead of through it, and causing him to land flat on his head. Shane, proving he has the biggest grapefruits in the family, had one thing to say to Kurt: “Throw me through this motherf***er.” Angle listened to his boss’s son and almost murdered him again. The glass broke this time, but it didn’t break when Angle tried it a third time against another window, dropping McMahon on his head for a third time. Trying and failing once is one thing, but by repeating the stunt twice, Angle and McMahon went to a dangerous and irresponsible territory.
4. The Road Warriors Scare Jim Cornette Off A Scaffold
A scaffold match is a really dangerous idea to begin with, and when you start throwing managers with knee problems and a crippling fear of heights into the mix, things only get worse. The idea was for Hawk and Paul Ellering to chase Jim Cornette up the scaffold, where Animal would throw him off. Big Bubba Rogers would be waiting in the ring to catch Cornette. There are almost too many flaws to mention. First, the scaffold was way too high, and with a person like Cornette who is already afraid of heights, it proved so high he panicked and fell off too quickly. Second, the arena was extremely poorly lit. Third, Big Bubba wore sunglasses indoors. Consider the fact none of it sold tickets or particularly gave the fans what they wanted, and you really need to question what the point was. Cornette ended up tearing all of the ligaments in one of his knees.
3. The Undertaker Throws Mankind Off the Cell
Something being extremely dangerous doesn’t prevent it from being iconic. The King of the Ring 1998 was an iconic Pay-Per-View neither for crowning Ken Shamrock the titular honor nor for marking Kane’s first WWE World Championship ring. The show fell into history the same time Mankind fell 20 feet from the Cell through the Spanish announce table after being thrown off by the Undertaker. The second fall of the match, through the top of the cage, was actually more dangerous, but unplanned. Foley had every intention of diving off the cage on top of Carlos Cabrera, which is what makes it even more stupid. Although iconic, the moment is a clear example of what could go wrong, as Foley doesn’t quite stick the landing. He ends up basically in the crowd. Only a few more inches could’ve seen him torn in half by the steel barricade, or even worse, landing on a fan. The moment made Foley a superstar for life, and the match remains one of the greatest and most memorable in WWE history, but it’s easy to argue it was far too dangerous to allow it to happen.
2. The Rock Handcuffs Mankind And Hits Him In the Head 11 Times
Once fairly commonplace, something fans rarely see in professional wrestling anymore is a true chair shot to the head. Wrestlers still swing chairs at each other, but eagle-eyed fans can tell you they always get their hands up at the last second before it hits them, in order to protect their skulls. Given the Chris Benoit tragedy, Daniel Bryan’s early retirement, and of course many issues with the NFL and CTE, medical professionals are concluding arguably the most dangerous thing a wrestler can do is get hit in the head. At the 1999 Royal Rumble, The Rock handcuffed Mick Foley and hit him in the head 11 times with a steel chair.
The original plan was for Mick to be hit five times, which still would have been absurdly dangerous. Chair shots are considered relatively safe because they’re easy to block without the crowd knowing—of course, that’s impossible when you’re handcuffed. Foley received a concussion somewhere in the onslaught, and was unconscious by the time it finally ended. The fact most of the people on this list got up and walked to the hospital on their own later is amazing in itself, but the fact Mick Foley can even remember his name everyday is nothing short of a miracle.
1. New Jack and Vic Grimes Both Almost Die
Everything on this list is extreme, and ECW revolutionized extreme, so it’s obvious they would be responsible for the moment that ranks at the top. What happened at Living Dangerously 2000, however, was not extreme. It was a terrible mistake that should never have occurred, performed by two men who probably shouldn’t have entered the wrestling business, on the orders of a promoter who obviously didn’t care about the well being of his talent. In what is known as “The Danbury Fall,” Vic Grimes and New Jack climbed about 25 feet up a series of poorly put together scaffolds. They were supposed to fall off and collapse through a large number of tables. They missed. By a lot.
New Jack lands his foot on one table for about half a second before Grimes comes crashing down on top of him, causing both of them to fall head first off the tables onto the concrete. With Grimes’ weight on top of him making his fall even worse, New Jack suffered brain damage from the fall and permanently lost his vision in his right eye. The match is the only one on this list that is unlisted on the WWE network, although it does appear, similar to how they handle Chris Benoit. The carelessness involved in pretty much every member of the ECW roster in allowing this match to happen really makes one question the mindset of hardcore wrestling to begin with.