Wrestling has always been known for the level of entertainment that it provides. It is known for colourful characters, storylines and gimmicks that evoke a response from the audience. While in most cases fans are left in amazement, there are some instances where real risks were taken and have contributed to shortening careers, catastrophic injuries, near death experiences, and even death.
As fans, we cheer our favorites for the effort they give and their commitment in the ring. However, the problem is, in a number of cases, these men and women put their lives on the line and risk everything because they love to do it. In all of these wrestlers’ cases, they understand the risks of what they do. They are also aware of the risks that can come about when your life is in the hands of someone else. It shows a real commitment to their craft that they continue to take on these risks.
When we say tragic, it doesn’t necessarily mean fatal. So while a number of selections on this list do acknowledge an in-ring fatality, that doesn’t diminish the tragic nature of other incidents where lives were changed in an instant. We often only think of the specific wrestler affected, but it is their families, friends and peers that are equally shaken by such an incident. Here are the 10 Most Tragic in Ring Moments in Wrestling History:
T10. Edge & Daniel Bryan’s Career-Ending Injuries
Bryan’s career came to an end earlier this year as he officially announced his retirement due to post-concussion symptoms. He underwent a great deal of testing over the past year, and some thought he simply needed time to recover, but that wasn’t the case. As time passed, Bryan wasn’t getting any better. While his career was cherished, it saddens wrestling fans to think of what possibilities the future held.
In the case of Edge, he required neck surgery, an operation that would ultimately end his career. He fought through pain and achieved a great deal, but much like Bryan, another career was cut short by injury with so much left to do.
9. Sid Snaps His Leg
At 6’9″ and over 300 lbs, Sid was known as one of the biggest and strongest men in his time. So when a guy is known for a specific type of move set, why change it? That was exactly what Sid was thinking during his January 2001 match on WCW’s Sin pay-per-view. Prior to the match, Sid had shared an unwillingness to perform a move off the ropes. He felt it wasn’t necessary, but he accommodated the wishes of the promotion. He jumped from the second turnbuckle while attempting a big boot on Scott Steiner. However, he landed awkwardly on one leg, immediately snapping both his tibia and fibula, the bones breaking through the skin. It is one of the most graphic injuries in wrestling history, and while it didn’t end his career, Sid was left walking with a cane for some time.
8. Bret “Hitman” Hart’s Career-Ending Concussion
He was the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. His career is filled with legendary achievements. He was one of the biggest stars in the WWF in the early to mid-1990s, a former Tag Team, Intercontinental and WWF Heavyweight Champion. However, when he went to WCW, it just never appeared to be the right fit, whether it was how he was booked or who he was in the ring with. And it was in WCW that his career came to an unfortunate end.
Prior to his match against Goldberg, Bret Hart told him ‘Just don’t kick me in the head.’ However, during the match, Hart was kicked in the head so hard that he suffered a concussion and torn neck muscles. The concussion was so severe that it ended his career prematurely.
7. Droz Suffers Paralysis After Powerbomb
One of the most promising wrestlers of the Attitude Era, Darren Drozdov first rose to popularity because of his ability to throw up whenever he wanted. It certainly wasn’t the most notable beginning to a character, but it was a start. Tragedy struck Droz in the form of an accident that cost him his professional wrestling career.
During a match against former WWE superstar D’Lo Brown, Drozdov suffered a severe neck injury that initially left him quadriplegic. Drozdov has stated that he wore clothing that was rather loose, which affected Brown’s ability to get a proper hold of him while attempted to do a running powerbomb. The result was Droz landing on his head and fracturing two disks in his neck. He has since regained use of his upper body, but his career was sadly cut short only two years in.
6. Tyson Kidd Muscle Buster Neck Injury
The last trainee of the Hart Family dungeon, it appears as though Kidd may be fighting for his career. A talented wrestler and terrific character, Kidd has seen his share of obstacles throughout his career, such as a fairly serious knee injury that sidelined him for almost a year.
All was well until his match against Samoa Joe, a veteran of the ring. As their match was approaching the end, Joe hit Kidd with his finishing move, the Muscle Buster, a move he had used hundreds of times before. However, this time, upon impact, Kidd was hurt severely.
As a result, he had to undergo major neck surgery that has put in doubt whether he will ever compete again. One hopes he can recover, but performers such as Edge and Stone Cold Steve Austin underwent similar surgery and never fully recovered.
5. Chris Candido Dies of Leg Infection
He was considered an ECW original, and earned a great deal of success as part Extreme Championship Wrestling, and to some extent with the WWF. His death was caused by a simple injury that led to an infection.
In April 2005 at TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view, Candido suffered a fractured tibia and fibula, as well as a dislocated ankle, during a cage match. The injuries weren’t anything other wrestlers haven’t faced. The day after the injury, he had plates and screws put into his leg. A few days later, he wasn’t feeling well and felt worse as the day went on. He collapsed that evening and went to the hospital. He was suffering from pneumonia and had his lungs drained, but died soon after. His brother has stated that he died from a blood clot that was caused by complications of the surgery.
4. Mass Transit Cut By New Jack
Wrestling fans that are familiar with ECW know the name New Jack. He took violence to a new level, bleeding and sacrificing himself with insane dives each and every time he was in the ring. However, on one occasion, a little known wrestler named Erick Kulas, who claimed to have ring experience and used the name Mass Transit, competed against him.
Kulas asked New Jack to cut him since he wasn’t comfortable with blading. What he couldn’t have anticipated was New Jack cutting him so deep that the sight of blood caused him to pass out. Kulas’ family charged New Jack over the incident, but it was discovered that he had lied about his age and that he wasn’t in fact 23 years old, but actually 17. The incident is tragic as it changed Kulas’ impression of wrestling after this.
3. Owen Hart Falls To His Death
The youngest of the Hart family, Owen was a special talent, and behind the scenes was one of the most liked wrestlers, which made his death all the more tragic. For a number of years, Owen competed under his own name and proudly represented the Hart family. However, there were times when he competed as The Blue Blazer. He wrestled under a mask, showcasing his high flying moves and technical prowess. In 1999, in Kansas City, his career, and more importantly life, tragically ended. Owen was willing to do what he was asked, and this night was set to descend to the ring on a cable, like a superhero flying in. However, there was an issue with the cable, and Hart fell a great distance and hit his head. He was sent to the hospital, but had sadly passed away, after doing what he was asked.
2. Mitsuharu Misawa Suplex Gone Wrong
Misawa was a wrestling legend in Japan, competing in several promotions, most notably Pro Wrestling Noah and All Japan Pro Wrestling. This tragedy took place in the ring, the result of a move that he had probably taken innumerable times in his career.
During a tag team match for Noah, Misawa was on the receiving end of a belly to back suplex at the hands of Saito. Often referred to as a German suplex, the move often causes wrestling fans to cringe at the impact. After receiving the move, Misawa lost consciousness, and was taken to hospital; he was pronounced dead later that day.
The unofficial cause of death was reported to be a cervical spinal injury that led to cardiac arrest, although the official cause of death was kept quiet at the request of his family. Misawa was 46 years old.
1. Perro Aguayo Jr. Fatal 619
Wrestling fans north of Mexico may not be familiar with Aguayo, but the story of this second generation wrestler is one of the most tragic in wrestling history. A popular lucha libre wrestler, Aguayo Jr was noted for a high flying style that captured the attention of audiences. On March 20th, 2015, a freak accident occurred during a tag team match, as he and Manik faced Xtreme Tiger and Rey Mysterio Jr. During the match, Mysterio dropkicked Aguayo to set him up for his famous 619 maneuver. However, after he fell onto the middle rope. Aguayo’s body went limp. Konnan, who was at ringside, attempted to revive him but to no avail. Aguayo was pronounced dead the following day, a result of cardiac arrest caused by cervical spine trauma. Aguayo lost his life after a routine move done by myriad wrestlers over the years.