Professional wrestlers make a living out of pretending to fight each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to actually fight should the situation call for it. Plenty of wrestlers are trained in varieties of martial arts and other fighting techniques in order to help them convincingly pull off what they do in the ring, not to mention the fact most of them are big, tough people in general, and they work out seven days a week. One might think most fans are smart enough to take this knowledge and use it to deter them from challenging wrestlers to real fights. It’s been still done plenty of times though, and sometimes the non-wrestler wins.
We’re going to be clear about something upfront: most of these weren’t exactly fair fights. In wrestling, unless circumstances call for it, only a despicable heel is going to use a weapon, or engage in a 3-on-1 fight, or start a fight by attacking their opponent from behind. As it would turn out though, you have to be a pretty despicable person in real life to attack someone due to a performance they gave on television, so most of these fights fall into that pattern. That doesn’t change the fact the following 10 incidents are all instances where professional wrestlers were challenged by and lost fights to every day people.
JBL is a former WWE World Champion and current broadcaster for WWE. Joey Styles is a former broadcaster for WWE, but despite spending around two decades in the wrestling business, he never once wrestled a match. Though a huge fan of wrestling who clearly knows the names of plenty of moves, Styles is a full foot shorter than Bradshaw, and has none of his training or upper body strength. Regardless of the clear size and occupational advantages, the one time the two came to blows, Styles was the unabashed victor.
In 2008, WWE was touring Iraq during one of its Tribute to the Troops specials. JBL was reportedly drunk and bullying Styles without provocation for the majority of the tour. JBL has a history of bullying in WWE, and outright admits and brags about having hazed superstars in the past. Some former wrestlers simply took the abuse, but Styles let his ECW background shine through by punching Bradshaw in the face, giving him a black eye. JBL apparently didn’t even try to retaliate, instead hiding in his hotel room until the tour was over.
9 Lio Rush
Many of the wrestlers on this list were playing major roles as bad guys in WWE or an equally mainstream company when a fan attacked them, but you hardly need to be famous to have issues with a deranged public. Lio Rush is 21-year-old wrestler with only a few years in the business, but he has already begun making appearances for well-known independent promotions such as CZW and Ring of Honor. In early 2016, Lio won the ROH Top Prospect tournament, showing his star is slowly but surely on the rise.
Barely over a month after winning that tournament and starting to make a name for himself, Rush was attacked by an unknown assailant after a show promoted by Pro Wrestling Empire. As of yet, little has been made public about the incident, but what is known is that Rush wrote a brief message on his Facebook asking if anyone had any information about the man who attacked him. Rush said the attacker “jumped him,” and all he could determine about the assailant’s identity was that they were wearing a burgundy hoodie.
Plenty of fans miss the atmosphere the rowdiest crowds of the 1990s provided in wrestling, but one thing they don’t miss were the morons who would run into the ring and try to attack the wrestlers. For some reason, this was mostly a WCW thing, but it occasionally happened in WWE, too. It was so rampant in WCW, the wrestlers usually caught the attacker before they could do anything, but Raven wasn’t quite so lucky. During an episode of WCW Thunder, Raven was giving a promo complaining about the pain caused by his groundbreaking work in ECW when an unknown attacker pulled him out of the ring and started hitting him.
Raven’s greatest gift to wrestling was his ability to captivate a crowd with an intense soliloquy, and he did so by sitting in the corner of the ring and not paying much attention to anything outside of his words. The attacker knew this and took the vulnerable time to fire off a few shots before Raven could react, or even comprehend exactly what was happening. WCW’s security staff eventually ejected the man from the scene. Fans running into the ring to attack would luckily start to die off with the 90s, but it hasn’t been a complete extinction…
7 Randy Orton
Randy Orton is one of the biggest stars in modern WWE. The Viper is a former 12-time WWE World Champion, and was usually one of the most hated men in the business while he won those titles. Not only has Orton been hated in the ring, but diehard fans have really directed their vitriol towards him as a person. Rumors have run rampant about his personal attitude affecting the careers of Kofi Kingston and Mr. Kennedy, and the feeling his boring personality has permeated through WWE to create a generally boring product is a familiar one to many fans.
Of course, none of that justifies running into the ring and attacking him while he’s warming up a crowd. In 2013, WWE was touring South Africa, and during an event in Cape Town a deranged fan did exactly that. While Orton posed on the top turnbuckle, the fan bolted into the ring, climbed up behind Orton and gave him an intense low blow. Orton was too hurt and shocked to immediately respond to the attack, and the fan was quickly removed from the building and arrested. Some fan videos have popped up on YouTube, but at least the fan didn’t try while cameras were taping Monday Night Raw…like some people.
6 Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman is rapidly ascending the ranks of WWE as the biggest, newest, and possibly scariest member of the Wyatt Family. Although he has the look of a classic WWE superstar, fans resent Strowman on the belief he isn’t at all trained or naturally talented enough for his high position on the card. Most fans portray this feeling by booing him or changing the channel, but at least one fan has taken a more direct, physical approach.
On March 21, 2016, a dark match took place after Raw went off the air. Strowman was near the ring as part of the match, and a fan decided to stand up and punch him in the face. Instead of retaliating like some other wrestlers have tried, Strowman simply alerted security and had the fan ejected. Strowman probably made the right decision, especially considering what certain other wrestlers experienced when fans tried to fight them.
5 Ole Anderson
We tried to make it clear up front, but for this next portion of our list, we’ll reiterate the point many of these weren’t exactly fair fights. While our previous entries prove fans are still attacking wrestlers years after the industry secret was revealed and everyone on Earth knew that wrestling was fake, there’s at least one way in which things have improved since back then. Recent fans have run into the ring and attacked wrestlers, but back in the day, at least a couple deranged fans chose to lie in wait in the corridors of an arena to unsuspectingly attack a wrestler, and in a few cases, stab them. It’s the least fair kind of fight there is, but it’s still a fight, and it’s how an elderly man nearly killed one of the future Four Horsemen.
Years before the Horsemen were founded, Ole Anderson was already one of the most hated heels working in the Mid-South region of the NWA. In May of 1976, a 79-year old man named Oscar Ramsey attacked Ole and stabbed him in the chest and arm with a hawkbill knife. Anderson was immediately taken to a hospital and needed four hours of surgery. Though he lost the fight, Anderson proved he was far tougher than his attacker could have anticipated, returning to wrestling a mere two days after the stabbing.
4 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
LL Cool J once rapped if “you said you slapped Roddy Piper and you didn’t get a hassle, that’s a lie,” and the man spoke the truth. With a combative personality that lead to WWE.com naming him the greatest villain in wrestling history, it’s no surprise that if fans are crazy enough to attack wrestlers, Piper would be one of their prime targets. Being such a villain for so long in his career, maybe it was inevitable that a few of his attackers succeeded. According to Piper, he was stabbed three times, and at least one of those stabbings came extremely close to killing him.
Roddy Piper might be a villain on television, but he isn’t an actual monster. During the knife fight that almost ended his life, a 6-year old girl who got way too close to the action distracted Piper. Worried that attacking blindly could hurt the girl, Piper took his eyes away from the knife, and it ended up inches away from his heart. Police later apprehended the attacker and learned the little girl was actually his daughter, who he trained to act as his accomplice.
3 "Classy" Freddie Blassie
On rare occasions, fans will attack a hated heel. On an even more rare occasion, fans will attack a hated heel and somehow end up victorious. In extremely rare occasions, a heel will end up so hated, fans will simply never stop actually attacking them. WWE Hall of Famer “Classy” Freddie Blassie claimed he was stabbed at least 21 times.
Blassie rarely went into detail on any of the stabbings, nor did he go into too much detail about the time an angry wrestling fan threw acid at his face. Blassie always held an old school mentality, so it’s hard to say whether or not any or all of these events even happened, but he died claiming they were true. Because the full stories were never made public, maybe we can’t definitely say Blassie lost any of these fights, but knowing most wrestlers, if they got stabbed and won the fight anyway, there’s no way they would leave that out of the story.
2 The Messiah
Maybe it isn’t fair to say indy wrestler The Messiah lost a fight against every day people, insofar as those people were hired to attack him without his knowledge. Several people trying to kill you isn’t particularly less fair than one person unexpectedly trying to stab you, though, so it stands in tradition with those past few entries. In early 2002, The Messiah joined the “ultraviolet” CZW after spending the first few years of his career in the much-maligned hardcore promotion XPW. Later that summer, two men entered his apartment alleging to be friends of his roommate, but later revealed themselves to be hit men when they attacked The Messiah and cut off his thumb.
Most rumors at the time pointed towards XPW’s owner Rob Black hiring the men, but nothing was ever proven. The Messiah actually seemed to have held his own in the fight, considering they tried to cut off a more personal organ of his, too, but he successfully prevented them from doing so. Unfortunately, the fact he lost any appendages at all is a sign things clearly didn't go his way.
1 Shawn Michaels
Unquestionably the most famous story on our list, in October of 1995, Shawn Michaels, the future Justin Credible, and several other wrestlers were partying at a bar in Syracuse, New York. Michaels was up to his usual drunken antics and began hitting on a woman they had just met. It turns out the woman didn’t really appreciate HBK, and she was also dating a Marine, so that Marine and a few of his buddies decided to give Michaels such a vicious beating he needed time off TV and couldn’t even walk out and lose the Intercontinental Title to Dean Douglas.
The story has been disputed in many ways, from why exactly the Marines felt the need to attack Michaels, to how many of them there were, and most importantly how bad the beating actually was. HBK didn’t press charges, so nothing concrete has ever been determined, but it’s clear he suffered a pretty serious beating at the hands of some normal people, or at least he wanted us to think he did.