One of the biggest arguments a wrestling fan may have with someone who doesn’t understand the sport is whether or not the events that occur in the WWE are "real". While it is no secret that the over-the-top storylines are scripted by writers, and professional wrestlers are taught tricks of the trade to stay safe while leaping from the top rope or taking an opponent through a table, the bumps, bruises, and injuries inflicted during a match are certainly real.
Professional wrestling requires athleticism and in-ring skills, and even the best wrestlers who stay in shape and take care to follow all of the rules of in-ring safety have suffered from an injury during an exhausting match. In some cases, the writers attempt to write the injury into a storyline, such as when Rusev recently injured his ankle and broke up with Lana.
Other times, however, the injuries are so severe that they almost kill the wrestler and may even end the person’s career. This just goes to show that while some aspects of wrestling aren’t exactly as they appear, other moments are very dangerous. Here, we look at the top 20 injuries in the WWE that were painful to watch and dangerous for those involved.
20 Joey Mercury Gets Injured…and Released
Joey Mercury made his debut again after a suspension at 2006’s Armageddon event. During a match with the Hardy Boyz, a botched move by Jeff Hardy resulted in a ladder smacking Mercury right in the face. He fell out of the ring, obviously dazed and very injured. Luckily, he only ended up with a broken nose and cuts on his face. After getting stitched up and recovering, he made a return to the ring. However, he came back with a protective face mask, and his personality and wrestling style just seemed different to fans. The WWE noticed, too – not long after his return, he was released by the company.
19 Brock Lesnar Botches His First WrestleMania
Brock Lesnar is known for being a beast in the ring, and at his first WrestleMania, he wanted to make an impression on fans. While battling in the main event, Lesnar gave a pounding to Kurt Angle, hitting him with double F-5s at the end of the match. While this dangerous move takes most opponents out of the match, Lesnar wanted to continue the frenzy by delivering a Shooting Star Press from the turnbuckle. As he leapt onto his opponent, he crashed down on his head and neck. He won the match, but he was dazed afterwards. Only the Beast could recover so quickly from something that would kill or paralyze another wrestler.
18 The Shooting Star Press Strikes Again
The incident that occurred between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle wasn’t the only time the Shooting Star press led to a very dangerous injury that could potentially have been fatal. In 2004, Chavo Guerrero and Billy Kidman were engaged in a match, when Kidman botched the Shooting Star press. While performing the move, he fell right on Guerrero’s head and caused a concussion. Fans had to sit back and watch as Guerrero was taken out of the arena on a stretcher. It took several months of recovery for Guerrero before he was cleared by the WWE to go back into the ring.
17 Let’s Go Cena…Right to the Hospital
In 2013, powerhouse John Cena had a shoulder and arm injury that he shrugged off as a pulled muscle. Days later, a baseball-sized mass formed on his elbow, showing that the injury was much more serious. After being examined by a doctor, it was determined that the mass was fluid caused by a torn tricep. Summerslam was on the horizon, and the championship was on the line. Despite doctor’s orders to get immediate surgery, Cena attended Summerslam and powered through the match before getting surgery and going through rehab. Not surprisingly, he returned much more quickly than anticipated to begin fighting again.
16 Dolph Ziggler Gets Not One, But Two, Concussions in One Year
The WWE’s Wellness Policy is in place to make sure that every wrestler is healthy enough to enter the ring. One of the rules of the policy is that anyone with a concussion can’t wrestle – which was unfortunate for Dolph Zigger, who received a concussion back in January 2014, his second in just one year. After a match with Ryback, Ziggler was sidelined after he sustained a concussion. The previous April, Jack Swagger kicked Ziggler several times in the head, resulting in a concussion that put him out of commission for several months. Concussions are one of the most common – and dangerous – injuries seen in the WWE, and can easily end a wrestler's career, or even their life.
15 Marty Garner Almost Kills Himself
In 1996, a relatively unknown wrestler by the name of Marty Garner faced Triple H, one of the most well-known Superstars in the business. When Triple H tried to perform the signature Pedigree maneuver, Garner misjudged his move, threw out his legs, did not prepare for the impact on the mat, and ended up throwing himself down on his head and neck, resulting in a spinal contusion. Even though video clearly shows the error was on Garner, he still chose to pursue a lawsuit against the organization for his injuries. Garner and the company settled the dispute out of court.
14 Tyson Kidd Deals with Undisclosed Neck Injury
Tyson Kidd was removed from the roster in 2015 and put on the injured list. Rumors swirled that the wrestler, who had been riding high with his tag team partner Cesaro, injured his neck in a WWE event that was not televised. The match, against Samoa Joe, left Kidd injured and fans questioning what happened. Apparently, the injury was quite serious, as it was then announced by the WWE and his wife Natalya Hart that Kidd had undergone neck surgery. It will take approximately 14 months for Kidd to recover, in which time, he may be able to make a return to the ring again. Kidd also noted on social media that only 5 percent of people survive the type of injury he had.
13 Lita Gets Injured Outside of the Ring
During the Attitude Era, Lita was one of the most popular female wrestlers, shunning the overly sexy styles favored by other females in the league to show off her own personality and impressive set of moves in the ring. Lita sustained one of the worst injuries, particularly when compared to her other female competitors, but it didn’t even happen in the ring. While filming an episode of the TV series Dark Angel in 2002, Lita performed the Hurricanrana and landed wrong, resulting in a broken neck that kept her on the WWE sidelines for over one year. She returned in 2003, looking better than ever in the ring.
12 Just One Kick Took Bret Hart Out of the Game
In 1999, a match between Goldberg and Bret Hart at Starrcade was one that no one in the WWE Universe would soon forget because it was the match that ended Hart’s career. A botched kick by Goldberg left Hart lying on the mat, and not just because this was a scripted result of the show. This messed-up move resulted in a concussion, one of just a series that Hart would face throughout the match. Hart was left with what is known as post-concussion syndrome, a condition that is both dangerous and deadly, which led to an unexpected retirement to focus on his health.
11 Shawn Michaels Powers Through a Severe Back Injury
At the Royal Rumble event in 1998, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker had a much-anticipated match that almost ended Michaels’ career. For years, Michaels had suffered from back troubles, but all of this came to a head during a casket match with Undertaker. As he was tossed from the ring, Michaels hit his back on the casket. To viewers, it didn’t look like much, but the results were devastating; Michaels ended up with one crushed disc and two herniated discs, an excruciating injury. He continued to finish the match without showing signs of pain, performed in one more match at a different event, and then retired. He did return to the ring after his retirement for one last memorable run in WWE.
10 Kurt Angle Gets KO’d at Summerslam
During the 2000 Summerslam event, the triple-threat match was a highly anticipated show, featuring Triple H, The Rock, and Kurt Angle. Triple H put Kurt Angle in the signature finisher, The Pedigree, through the announcer’s table. Unfortunately, the table snapped, and Kurt Angle struck his head on a piece of the table, which then knocked him unconscious. He was unable to compete for the majority of the match, being taken backstage while Triple H and The Rock duked it out, but he did return at the end. The Rock took the win, while his opponent walked away with a concussion.
9 Daniel Bryan Just Can’t Catch a Break
After WrestleMania XXX, fan-favorite Daniel Bryan suffered from pain in his neck and shoulder that caused numbness, extreme pain, and weakness that prevented him from wrestling. After surgery, recovery was long and hard for Bryan, who went through months of rehab to get himself back in shape for the ring. He made his return to the ring, only to take another leave of absence when he continued to suffer from pain. As of September 2015, he still has not returned to wrestling, and he has announced to fans that he is unsure of whether he will ever return to the ring again.
8 Hardcore Holly Takes a Tumble
Broken necks are one of the most common and dangerous injuries seen in the WWE. This was seen in 2002 when Brock Lesnar and Hardcore Holly competed against each other and an accident left Hardcore Holly seriously injured and on the sidelines. When trying to do a power bomb, Lesnar messed up the move, dropping Hardcore Holly on his head. The results were a broken neck that kept him out of the ring for a full 13 months. Upon his return, he went after Lesnar, who was still fairly new to the world of WWE, in a new storyline.
7 Mick Foley Doesn’t Quit
The I Quit match between The Rock and Mick Foley goes down in history as one of the most intense in the organization’s history. Known for going the extra-mile to excite wrestling fans, Foley took it to a whole different level when he allowed The Rock to hit him over the head with a chair an astounding (and painful) 11 times. Foley’s wife and kids left the arena, unable to watch him continue to take such punishment, which resulted in a gash on his head. The ultimate blow came after taking his beating: He lost the championship during the same match, and could have lost a lot more.
6 Bruno Sammartino Pushes On with a Broken Neck
If we go way back in history to 1976, one of the most horrific injuries in the WWE was one sustained by Bruno Sammartino. In a brutal match against Stan Hansen. After a body slam went wrong, Sammartino wound up with a fractured vertebrae in his neck. He continued on with the match, however, and he even got on a plane without visiting the hospital so as not to worry his family. This injury goes down in history not only because it was painful and dangerous, but because it is incredible that a wrestler continued to wrestle for 15 more minutes, hopped on a plane, and went home, all while suffering from a broken neck.
5 Undertaker Takes a Beating from Rey Mysterio
In a 2010 episode of SmackDown, Undertaker went head-to-head with Rey Mysterio. While many fans believed that Mysterio would be the one coming out with severe injuries, the exact opposite was true. After performing the seated senton, Mysterio smashed Undertaker in the face. His injuries from the incident included a broken orbital bone, broken nose, and a concussion. The injuries were so severe, in fact, that the WWE created a storyline that made him a vegetable so that he could recover. The only good thing that came out of the match was that Undertaker plowed through and pinned Mysterio to win the match.
4 Edge’s Injuries Force Him to Retire
During the Attitude Era, Edge was one of the most prominent wrestlers in the ring. However, he was also one that suffered from a lot of physical injuries, including back problems that resulted in a major surgery in 2003. Despite the surgery, Edge continued to compete in matches until 2011. At that time, he was suffering from numbness and trembling resulting from his fused vertebrae. Doctors told him that continuing to compete in matches could result in a tear of the fusion and paralysis. After learning this, Edge stepped down and retired as a wrestler after a long 13-year career in the industry.
3 Mick Foley Gets a Lucky Break
Wrestling fans will never forget the 1998 King of the Ring event that was the setting for one of the worst injuries in the history of the WWE. In the Hell in a Cell match, Undertaker tossed Mick Foley, wrestling under the persona of Mankind, off of the 16-foot steel cage and into a table. The moment stands out in history as one of the most heart-stopping moments in wrestling. The end-results for Foley were a dislocated shoulder, cuts, dislocated jaw, hole in his lip, and a concussion. As bad as it was, however, it’s certainly a miracle that did not break his neck or get killed in this over-the-top, unforgettable wrestling moment.
2 Stone Cold Gets Temporarily Paralyzed
Stone Cold Steve Austin suffered his fair share of injuries in the ring, but the most notable and horrifying of them all was the one sustained during a match against Owen Hart at 1997’s Summerslam. A botched pile-driver resulted in Stone Cold falling on his head and neck, resulting in temporarily paralysis, numbness, and pain. Amazingly, he finished the match and defeated Hart. This could have easily killed the Texas Rattlesnake or even killed him, but he ended up being very fortunate after the event. He did temporarily retire and took months to fully recover from this intense and painful injury.
1 Darren Drozdov’s Career Ends
Darren Drozdov was a mid-carder in the 1990s. While engaged in a match with D’Lo Brown in 1999, Drozdov was hit hard and fell on his head. Sadly, the fall resulted in two fractured discs in his neck and upper body paralysis. This was the end of his career. He remains wheelchair-bound, although as of 2015, he has regained some use of his arms. Because SmackDown is a pre-recorded show, this event was cut from the week’s footage and was not released to the public, but the audience that night were witness to one of the worst and most damaging injuries ever recorded in the WWE.