In the same way that professional wrestling shows on TV often open with “Kids, don’t try this at home,” this article warns, “Not for the faint-hearted.” Yes, professional wrestling is scripted, but on rare occasions, the pain that the actors suffer turns real. And in the case of the ten injuries featured here, they’re sometimes downright horrific.
In putting together this list, only injuries that occurred as matches were progressing have been considered. Thus, Goldberg’s torn forearm from punching through a car window and the fatal entrance accident of WWE’s Owen Hart have been excluded. Instead of assaulting you with graphic images we opted to attach videos of each incident for you curious types to watch at your own discretion.
10. Joey Mercury / Broken Nose
During the WWE’s Armageddon pay-per-view event in 2006, Joey Mercury and partner Johnny Nitro faced three other tag teams — the Hardy Boyz, Paul London / Brian Kendrick, and Dave Taylor / William Regal — in a fatal-four way ladder match. At one point in the encounter, as Jeff Hardy leapt onto a ladder, it see-sawed forcefully onto Mercury’s face, which was broken in three places, including his nose and his orbital bone. Joey appeared visibly stunned, but surprisingly stayed conscious, as he crawled on the sidelines, his face dripping with blood. He then immediately left the match and was rushed to an emergency room where he received fifteen stitches to the inside of his nose and fifteen outside of it.
Asked about how getting hit in the face with a ladder felt, Mercury shared,
I have nothing to compare it to; I’ve never been hit that hard in the face before. I’d have to say it felt like a hundred-pound steel ladder connecting with my face at one-hundred miles per hour, or going head first through a windshield of a car without a seatbelt on. Maybe getting hit in the face with a baseball bat swung by Sammy Sosa.
9. Blood / Deep Leg Gash
The Tournament of Death is an annual professional wrestling tournament that has been organized by Combat Zone Wrestling Blood since 2002. The event is infamous for its use of barbed wire, nails, staplers, and other gruesome weapons, which often result in considerable amounts of blood loss among its performers despite the event’s stunts being staged. However, the seriousness of the injury suffered by Blood during the fourth edition of the event was quite surely unplanned.
In one spot, Blood was clotheslined over the top rope to the outside and crashed knees first into a shopping cart filled with light tubes. Blood’s feet hit the tubes first and caused them to form razor-sharp shards. He then landed over the shards with all of his weight, causing a portion of his leg near the knee to be sliced open all the way to the bone. As soon as Blood put his weight on his legs, he could tell something was wrong.
8. Sabu / Broken Neck
In his match with Chris Benoit at the ECW’s November to Remember in 1994, Sabu was thrown into the air and was supposed to take a flapjack bump. However, Sabu attempted to turn mid-air and take a back body drop bump instead. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do so and landed on his head, causing him to break his neck.
Sabu took a lot of time off to recover from the injury but was able to wrestle again. In fact, in 1998, four years after breaking his neck, he suffered the same type of injury when Taz drove him through a table, landing incorrectly. He was back in the ring in only a little over two weeks after that second broken neck.
7. Hayabusa / Broken Neck Causing Paralysis
Eiji Ezaki, more famously known as Hayabusa, wrestled primarily for the Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling promotion before suffering a career-ending injury in October of 2001. Hayabusa was attempting a springboard moonsault off the middle rope when he lost footing and landed on his head. This resulted in two cracked vertebrae and long-term paralysis.
Ezaki eventually recovered and later pursued a career as a singer.
6. Mankind (Mick Foley) / Dislocated Shoulder, Two Lost Teeth, Ripped Chin, Dislocated Jaw, Bruised Kidney, Concussion, Multiple Other Injuries
In what is widely considered one of the best WWE matches in history, Mick Foley, performing under his Mankind persona, nearly got himself killed when he faced the Undertaker in a “Hell in a Cell” match at the 1998 King of Ring event. The encounter featured several horrifying stunts, beginning with the Undertaker throwing Mankind from the top of the 16-foot steel cage onto the Spanish announcers’ table, the stunt causing Foley to dislocate his shoulder. The match appeared to have ended when Mick was carried away in a stretcher, but he came back, only to be chokeslammed atop the cage. That stunt caused the chain-link mesh to give way and Mankind fell all the way onto the mat, knocked temporarily unconscious. The Undertaker later revealed that the mesh giving way was unplanned and that he thought the fall had killed Foley.
After regaining consciousness, Mankind was shown smiling through his profusely bleeding mouth and lips, a loose tooth hanging beneath his nose.
The match eventually ended with Mick receiving the Tombstone Piledriver after being slammed by the Undertaker onto hundreds of thumbtacks, which Foley had himself strewn across the ring canvas.
5. Vic Grimes and New Jack / Brain Damage, Permanent Blindness in Right Eye, Broken Ankle, Concussion, Multiple Other Injuries
This entry is actually two matches in one, combined because of their relevance to each other. The first one involves the infamous “Danbury Fall” incident that took place in March of 2000 during an ECW Extreme Rules match. The encounter’s conclusion came when Vic Grimes and New Jack climbed onto a 15-foot scaffold and came hurdling down. A table was supposed to break the performers’ fall, but only Grimes landed on the table and suffered a concussion. Jack, on the other hand, hit his head on the concrete, had brain fluid running down his nose, and suffered permanent damage to his brain and blindness in his right eye.
The feud would continue in 2002 with a scaffold match in Xtreme Pro Wrestling. There, Jack appeared to break from the script by legitimately shocking Grimes with a taser before throwing him from a 40-foot scaffold. Twelve tables were stacked on top of each other to break Grimes’s fall, but he missed all but two of them, dislocated his ankle, and suffered multiple other injuries.
New Jack later admitted that he had intentionally thrown Grimes too hard with the intention of killing him as revenge for the “Danbury Fall” incident, but some contend that the statement was only made as part of kayfabe (sticking to the wrestling act).
4. Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) / Detached Portion of an Ear
Mick Foley is the only wrestler to be featured twice on this list, and it’s with good reason. During the WCW European tour in March of 1994, Foley, wrestling as Cactus Jack, lost a portion of his ear after performing a hangman — a scripted move where a wrestler’s head is tangled between the top two ring ropes. The move is actually quite common, but unbeknownst to Mick, another wrestler had earlier complained that the ropes were too loose, causing ring staff to tighten the ropes to the maximum. This resulted in two-thirds of Foley’s ear being torn off.
Surgery was performed to reattach the cartilage so that a total reconstruction could be performed in the future. However, later that year, Cactus Jack chose to wrestle instead of having the ear reattached. In fact, Foley was very frustrated by WCW’s refusal to run a storyline revolving around the loss of his ear.
3. Jim Cornette / Torn Knee Ligaments
Jim Cornette shouldn’t have been injured when the Midnight Express and the Road Warriors met at Starrcade ’86 since he was only the former’s manager. However, when Cornette was offered to feature in a spot that would have him dangling from a 20-foot scaffold, he gave his consent despite his fear of heights. Jim felt that performing in front of such a large audience was more important than his own health.
Actually, the stunt shouldn’t have been very dangerous since Big Bubba Rogers was assigned to catch Cornette to cushion his fall. Unfortunately, because Rogers was wearing sunglasses, he misjudged his position in the ring. As a result, one of Jim’s knees buckled inward due to the fall, causing the ligaments within the knee to be torn.
2. Vader / Eyeball Displaced from Socket
When Vader removed his mask during his brawl with Stan Hansen during their February 1990 match at the AJPW vs. NJPW supercard show, it seemed to be nothing more than part of the act. However, Vader actually got rid of his facial covering to pop his right eye back into its socket since Hansen had unintentionally poked it with his thumb. After pushing the eyeball into place, Vader held it in by keeping his eyelid closed.
Surprisingly, the two continued wrestling until the match was rendered a no-contest. The damage had been done, though, and a metal plate had to be surgically placed under Vader’s eye.
1. Sid Vicious / Leg Broken in Half
Sid Vicious suffered what is considered by many to be the most sickening injury in professional wrestling during the 2001 WCW Sin pay-per-view event. The accident occurred when Sid leapt from the second turnbuckle in an attempted big boot on one of his opponents. This resulted in Vicious landing awkwardly, snapping both his tibia and fibula, with at least one of the bones breaking through the skin.
A 17-inch rod was placed into Sid’s leg during a two-hour surgery. Later, he sued the WCW for forcing him to perform the stunt even when he wasn’t comfortable doing aerial maneuvers.
Vicious would eventually return to wrestle in 2004.