Contrary to what many people might think, being a pro wrestler is seriously tough. Firstly, there’s the training, just to make it to a decent level, then there’s the travelling, time spent away from loved ones, living in hotels etc. It’s not an easy life. Then comes the realization that once you’ve made it, have gained a contract with some promotion or another and are working with the industry’s top performers, that you’re going to have to rise to their level and up your game and skill set. That’s when things can get dangerous.
People know wrestling is, for all intents and purposes, fake, that it’s scripted, but sometimes things get very real and there can be serious consequences. Whether it’s a botched move or a freak accident, sometimes wrestlers get seriously injured in the ring. They’re putting their bodies on the line for the sake of realism, for our entertainment, and some of what they do is truly amazing. But when things go horribly wrong, it’s anything but, it can actually get pretty scary for those watching, and the wrestlers themselves. There have been some horrific injuries sustained by wrestlers over the years, but nothing's scarier than being knocked out – legitimately knocked out cold and being rendered unconscious. Is he all right, is it fake, are they even alive? Losing consciousness is a seriously scary thing, especially if you’re in the middle of the ring and have thousands of fans around you, cameras pointing at you, and fellow wrestlers wondering what’s going on. These are 15 wrestlers who’ve gone through just that, 15 wrestlers who have legitimately been knocked out cold in the ring.
15 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan is one guy who’s been seriously injured a hell of a lot during his time in the industry. He’s had injuries and also frequently gets concussions – he’s one guy who put his body on the line. The main reason he retired was because of these injuries that were just beating his body down, a beating his body could no longer take. One of these incidences of him sustaining a concussion was after he got knocked out by Alberto Del Rio. It was a total accident, and when he went over to Bryan, he realized that he wasn’t moving, and was unresponsive. Alberto wanted to do the right thing and cover Bryan up, try and hide the fact that he was unconscious, but was told he had to go ahead as planned. Thankfully seconds later Bryan opened his eyes, and not having a clue where he was or what was happening, started asking Alberto questions, and when everything was cleared up, he amazingly chose to continue with the match, which incidentally ended up being an epic encounter.
14 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Even one of the toughest men on the planet isn’t immune to the dangers of wrestling. Stone Cold Steve Austin decimated opponents in the ring during his days as a top competitor, and consequently became one of the industry’s most-loved figures. That’s why everyone was seriously worried when a botched piledriver went horribly wrong. I say a botched piledriver – which is Austin’s move – and most of you are probably wondering how he could get his own move wrong and knock himself out. Well, it was his opponent Owen Hart who used Austin’s own move against him, but he obviously hadn’t practiced the move enough in the rehearsals beforehand, because he caused Austin some serious damage. Austin’s head wasn’t in the right position for him to execute the move safely, it was far too low, but Owen went for it anyway, and consequently Austin ended up out cold for a few seconds and had a broken neck for his troubles.
13 Brad Maddox
Today Brad Maddox is probably best known for his shenanigans with diva Paige, for his involvement in that whole sex-tape scandal, but before that footage came to light, he had actually had a decent run in WWE. That whole incident with Paige certainly wasn’t one of his finest moments, but in wrestling terms, if you’re talking about in-ring action, what happened at SummerSlam has to be one of his worst.
Actually, having said that, Brad wasn’t actually facing up against Big Show for a wrestling contest, but there was still some major action. Brad was the General Manager of Raw at the time of this incident. He strode into the ring to confront Big Show, telling him to get the hell out of the building because he’d been fired by Stephanie McMahon. Big Show then went on to say that because he was fired he had nothing to lose, and proceeded to treat Brad to one of his specials, his signature punch. Brad crashed to the floor in a very realistic fashion – that’s because it was real. Big Show KO’ed Brad with that punch. He was shocked by it, it came out of nowhere, and because it came from Big Show, it definitely came with a lot of force. Big Show connected with Brad sweetly, and he was instantly knocked out. Then, to make it worse, he crashed to the ground and suffered a concussion – not a great night for the General Manager at the time.
12 Sista Sherri
Sista Sherri had a long and successful career in the wrestling industry, and is certainly a deserved WWE Hall of Famer. She wrestled with many different promotions and had plenty of high moments, but this has got to be one of the lowest. On January 29th 1996 when she was with WCW, Sista Sherri got knocked out by Madusa. Sherri was in the ring conducting an interview, turned around and was faced with Madusa’s body hurtling towards her. Madusa was standing on the top rope in readiness, and struck once Sherri had finished her interview. It wasn’t planned as it evidently took Sherri totally by surprise. But this wasn’t the move that knocked her out, although it seemed like she was out of it for a few seconds. Sherri continued the match, got the upper hand and eventually pinned Madusa for the win. But while celebrating her victory, Madusa botched a German Suplex which clearly knocked Sherri out. She was motionless, lifeless as Madusa continued her assault, slapping and kicking her, and Sherri failed to react.
11 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle took part in SummerSlam’s main event in 2000, and it was a memorable match, but probably for all the wrong reasons for Kurt Angle. It was a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship, and along with Kurt Angle, there was The Rock and Triple H – from those names alone you could predict that it was going to be a stellar contest. After a matter of minutes, Kurt Angle was in some serious strife, as he’d been knocked out cold by Triple H. Triple H had Kurt Angle on the announcer’s table and was in the process of executing his iconic move, the Pedigree, but the table broke before he could finish Kurt Angle off. He actually didn’t need to finish Angle off because the table did that for him, and as a result of falling through the table, Angle was knocked out for several seconds. He was stretchered out of the arena but was able to return and commence with the match, which The Rock later won.
10 Candice Michelle
It’s never nice seeing a wrestler knocked out cold in the ring, but when it’s a beautiful diva, one of the most loved divas on the roster, it can be seriously hard to watch. Candice Michelle won the Divas Championship once, but achieved a hell of a fan following due to her antics in the ring and out of the industry. So, when she was knocked out cold, everyone was covering their faces with their hands and were seriously worried. Luckily Candice came to, but only after the match was over.
Beth Phoenix was the Women’s Champion at the time, and she was facing Candice. During the match, Candice got herself onto the top turnbuckle, Beth hit the ropes, and this caused Candice to fall from the turnbuckle flat on her face. Everyone knew that she had instantly been knocked out, and so the finish had to be improvised. The referee had a word in Beth’s ear, telling her to cover Candice, who was subsequently taken to hospital. She was out of action for 14 weeks as a result of that incident.
9 William Regal
At the 2003 No Way Out event, the Tag Team Championship match was the main attraction. But William Regal would want to forget that night, although he did do well to get up and commence the match after being sparked out on the canvas for around ten seconds.
William Regal was battling the menacing figure of Kane in the ring, and Kane quickly got the upper hand. He was playing with Regal before attempting to finish him off with a Gorilla Press Slam. Well, the move did literally finish him off. The move was botched by Kane, and instead of Regal’s body slamming down into the canvas, it was Regal’s head that first made contact, and the full force of the slam knocked him right out. Kane then attempted to get Regal up, lift him from his feet, but Regal was motionless, and it was evident that he was unconscious. So, in a moment of improvisation, Kane went for the pin, which was broken up by Regal’s partner Lance Storm, and amazingly this jolted Regal awake and he was able to commence with the match.
8 Shane McMahon
The Survivor Series in 2016 was a monumental occasion because it was the first since the brand split. It was a much-anticipated event, and everyone was looking forward to seeing Baron Corbin and the other superstar names do their thing. But Baron got injured, so he was ruled out, and a replacement was needed. There were plenty of wrestlers on the roster, but who was chosen to step in? The boss’ son, Shane McMahon. He came in at the last minute, but after what happened, he would probably have been wishing he stayed at home and watched the event on TV. But credit to Shane – he really did put his body on the line and it made for a memorable encounter.
During the match, Shane set Roman Reigns up for his Coast to Coast move, but as he was executing the move, Reigns got up and met Shane while he was in mid-air with a spear. His spear couldn’t have connected any better, which caused Shane to drop to the ground with an almighty thump. His head smacked into the canvas, he was knocked out for a few seconds, and when he came to he was in a ton of pain.
7 The Miz
It’s never great to knocked out in any circumstances of course, but when it’s at WrestleMania, it’s just disastrous.
The Miz and John Cena have had a number of feuds over the years, and it’s made for some memorable encounters. On this occasion, John Cena speared The Miz onto the concrete. This was done twice; on the first occasion Cena speared The Miz into the crowd, and the second time Cena executed his spear, The Miz was smacked straight onto the ground. The move was actually meant to fake knock both wrestlers out, but the problem was that The Miz wasn’t just playing to fake it – he was legitimately knocked right out by Cena after his head smacked on the concrete, and lay motionless for quite some time. Cena, faking it, also didn’t get up, and that called for someone else to enter the ring. Out strode The Rock, he did his thing, and this gave The Miz a few minutes to recover, which he did. He ended up winning, pining Cena for the win, but even after raising his arms in celebration it was evident that he was visibly shaken.
Melina’s been in some memorable storylines and has played her part in some epic matches over the years. One person she’s had a lot of involvement with is Beth Phoenix. Yep, Beth Phoenix features on this list again, and it’s the second time she’s legitimately knocked someone out – she’s perhaps a little overzealous with her moves. Candice Michelle knows what it’s like to bear the brunt of Beth’s moves, and so does another one of everyone’s favorite divas, Melina Perez.
Melina has executed some fine Powerbombs herself, especially that iconic Sunset-Flip Powerbomb which is a sight to behold. But when Beth powerbombed Melina, there weren’t any fancy flips involved, nothing like that. It was just a straight up powerbomb, one that caused plenty of destruction. She slammed Melina to the canvas incredibly hard, so hard that it caused Melina to bounce off the ground and it knocked Melina out for a few seconds.
5 Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore and Big Cass faced up against the Vaudevillians at Payback in 2016 for the right to be the number one contenders for the Tag Team Championship. It wasn’t the greatest of spectacles, but the match will be remembered for one incident, something that looked like a pretty innocuous incident at the time. Enzo Amore wasn’t knocked out cold as a result of a botched move, a powerbomb, and elbow in the face or anything like that. He was knocked out after being tossed from the ring. Simon Gotch tossed Enzo out of the ring, but as Enzo slid under the bottom ropes, he didn’t go out cleanly. His face clipped the rope as he was making his exit, and because of the force of which Enzo was tossed, this caused problems. His head was jolted back and then cracked against the mat down below, legitimately knocking him out. It was a pretty scary scene because Enzo’s eyes were wide open but he was unresponsive. The referee immediately stopped the match and motioned for the emergency team to get involved. Luckily Enzo’s all well and is fighting fit in the ring once again.
4 Jeff Hardy
There’s never a good way of getting knocked out – those words just don’t belong together – but Jeff Hardy got knocked out in a truly frightening, some may say spectacular fashion. People feared for Jeff’s life when he got knocked out during that cage match.
The incident happened in 2015 when Jeff was wrestling with Impact Wrestling. He was on top of the cage when one of the wrestlers pushed one of the cage’s entrances open. This caused Jeff to drop from the top of the cage onto the entrance which had just opened, cracking his you know what onto the steel cage which in itself would have caused quite a few people to pass out due to the pain. But as he was wincing in pain, he was cracked over the head and had a massive fall. The fall didn’t go as planned, and instead of landing on the ground, he first took a tumble and smacked into the steel steps, knocking himself out pretty much immediately. The doctors were instantly called, checked him out, and he eventually regained consciousness, but was said to be in a ton of pain.
3 Ricky Steamboat
Ok, so this really is a blast from the past, going back to an incident that occurred in 1986 between two wrestling greats.
Before Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Ricky Steamboat even got in the ring to face each other, Roberts had already voiced his concerns about executing some of his moves on Ricky because of the hard concrete floor that surrounded the ring. But his concerns fell on deaf ears, but should have been heeded. The other wrestlers themselves, including Ricky, were also fine about it, so nothing was changed and the match went ahead as originally scripted. But Roberts was right to voice his concerns. What he feared might happen did actually happen, and when he executed his DDT on Ricky, outside the ring on the concrete, Ricky was instantly knocked out. His lifeless body had to be hauled into the ring by Roberts, but even when lying in the middle of the ring, Rickey was still unresponsive. By this point Roberts knew Ricky was knocked out and that the match wouldn’t be able to be continued as scripted, so Roberts got his snake out of the bag – that’s not a euphemism! – and tossed it onto Ricky to signal the match was over.
2 Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Billy Kidman, although a pretty decent wrestler, has gained a reputation among his fellow wrestlers for being a bit of a dangerous performer. He tends to botch a lot of moves, in particular his Shooting Star Press, and on one occasion in 2004, it landed Chavo Guerrero in some serious trouble. Chavo was laid out on the ground, Kidman got himself on the top rope and the Shooting Star Press was all good to go. He executed it – what the crowd thought – perfectly, but it was anything but. He couldn’t keep his body straight and consequently ended up smacking his knee straight into Chavo’s face, knocking him out cold in the process. Kidman tried to hook him for the pin, but Chavo couldn’t even bend his leg – he was seriously out of it. He lay unconscious for several minutes, and was out of action for months because of that botched move.
1 Mick Foley
The 1998 Hell in a Cell match involving Mankind and The Undertaker was a truly epic encounter. It was brutal from the get go and had many memorable moments, but it’ll be remembered more for The Undertaker’s brutality, as during the course of that match he almost finished Foley off several times. One of these times, the worst by far, was when the two were on top of the cage and The Undertaker went for a Chokeslam. He executed it perfectly, sending Foley through the top of the cage, crashing from a great height onto the canvas in the ring. It was probably the fall that knocked him out, but the chair that came crashing down with him and landed on his face may have had a part to play in knocking him out cold. He lay there unresponsive for quite some time, many WWE personnel who saw that incident have said that they seriously thought that Foley had been killed. But Foley is resilient and he showed tremendous spirit to get back on his feet and continue the match for another eight minutes, before The Undertaker finally pinned him for the win. It was a match that has to go down as one of the greatest of all time.