The Most Gruesome Injuries in Wrestling History
The WWE has been at the forefront of sports and entertainment for decades, keeping audiences interested for years. Part of the excitement has to do with the toughness and resilience some of these fighters have demonstrated, enduring gruesome injuries in a way most athletes couldn’t. Here’s our list of the most gruesome wrestling injuries in the history of professional wrestling.
Sid Vicious: Broken leg
The 2001 WCW pay-per-view event featured a Four Corners match that would determine the WCW champion. Among those wrestlers was Sid Vicious, who took a dive from the second turnbuckle to deliver a Big Boot on his opponent, Scott Steiner. But when Vicious launched the move, things immediately took a turn for the worse.
Vicious made his landing in the worst way possible, and he ended up breaking his leg in the ring. The graphic nature of the injury forced the WWE to never again air footage of the serious incident. Vicious would spend the next three years rehabbing his broken leg.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin: Broken neck
Owen Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin clashed for the Intercontinental Championship title in SummerSlam 1997, but they never imagined what would end up happening. At one point in the match, Hart botched a Piledriver and left Austin with a broken neck. At that moment, it appeared like Austin might not be able to pull through and win the match as planned.
But despite the odds, Austin managed to pull off the victory as arranged. However, on the next night on Raw, the wrestler dropped both the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships due to his injury. The broken neck not only caused temporary paralysis, but it would also lead to many neck problems for the famous wrestler.
Joey Mercury: Broken nose
Ladders play a major role in wrestling, and they’re even the focal point of some events. But that can occasionally come with an unfortunate downside. In the case of Joey Mercury, it happened during a ladder match at the 2006 Armageddon pay-per-view event. In that match, Mercury was on the receiving end of a brutal ladder to the head.
Blood poured from Mercury’s face throughout the match, and it’s said that the wrestler had to get 30 stitches after it was all over. When Mercury made his eventual return to the ring, he donned a face mask to protect his moneymaker. Who could blame him for that?
Triple H: Torn quad
The May 21, 2001, episode of Raw Is War (now known as Raw) featured a tag team match pitting Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H. In that match, Triple H ended up suffering a major injury, which would sideline him for a long period of time.
As it turned out, the injury Triple H suffered was a torn quadriceps muscle. The wrestler completely tore his quad in the match, and he was out of action for more than eight months following the incident. On the bright side, Triple H ended up winning the 2002 Royal Rumble match on pay-per-view in his return to wrestling.
Mick Foley: Pretty much everything
The 1998 “Hell in a Cell” match between The Undertaker and Mick Foley has become one of the most famous in wrestling history for many reasons. Most of those reasons involve severe bodily harm, mainly invoked at the expense of Foley. The wrestler’s list of injuries at the end of the fight is staggering.
Foley was at the receiving end of multiple puncture wounds, a hole in his lip, a dislocated shoulder, a concussion, and a dislocated jaw. And as if that wasn’t enough, when the wrestler smiled at the camera at the end of the match, fans noticed one of his teeth was coming out of his nose!
The Undertaker: Broken orbital bone
For a long stretch of time, it seemed as though nothing could even scathe the notorious wrestler known as The Undertaker. The man best known for his legendary streak of victories at WrestleMania seemingly had it all put together. But well before “the streak” became a wrestling phenomenon, the wrestler actually suffered a pretty serious injury.
As he faced off with Mabel in a 1995 match, The Undertaker broke his orbital bone. The injury essentially amounted to a broken eye socket, which could be serious enough to threaten one’s vision. Fortunately, The Undertaker left unscathed. However, when he initially returned to action, The Undertaker wore a Phantom of the Opera-style face mask.
Hardcore Holly: Broken neck
Brock Lesnar is one of the toughest opponents in the history of professional wrestling. He’s one of a few fighters who actually competed — and became a champion — in mixed martial arts. So when Hardcore Holly faced Lesnar and disaster struck, things did not look too bright.
At one point during the 2002 match between Lesnar and Holly, Lesnar Powerbombed his opponent directly into the mat. But unfortunately, he botched the Powerbomb, resulting in Holly being at the receiving end of a broken neck. Neck injuries are terrifying, and Holly is fortunate to not have ended up paralyzed or even worse.
Shawn Michaels: Gruesome back injury
The 1998 Royal Rumble was looking like one of the most exciting wrestling events of the year, with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker squaring off in a Casket Match. But when the two faced each other in the ring, disaster struck for Michaels.
The Undertaker used a Back Body Drop to put Michaels over the top rope on to the floor, but unfortunately, he clipped the casket outside of the ring. Michaels suffered two herniated discs and one that was completely destroyed. He would need surgery to recover. The wrestler managed to hold onto his WWE Championship title, but he was forced to drop the title at WrestleMania XIV.
Droz: Paralysis from the waist down
One of the worst days in the history of professional wrestling was October 5, 1999. In one of the most tragic wrestling moments of all time, Droz would lose his ability to walk in a SmackDown match that would never be aired to the public.
In a match against D’Lo Brown, Droz fractured two discs in his back, becoming quadriplegic. Since the injury, the wrestler has regained some use of his upper body, including his arms. However, he remains paralyzed from the waist down. Droz has been loosely involved with the WWE since the accident, and it’s said he even told D’Lo Brown not to blame himself for the accident.
Owen Hart: Death
While he was competing under the name The Blue Blazer in 1999, Owen Hart was set to face The Godfather in a title match for the Intercontinental Championship. For his entrance, Hart did his best to emulate Sting: He would descend into the ring from the arena rafters. But unforgettably for Hart, things did not go as planned.
Hart was hooked up to a harness, but something went wrong with his cord. The wrestler crashed into the ring from way up in the air, and the injuries he sustained proved to be fatal. Hart was just 34 years old at the time of his passing.
Buff Bagwell: Broken back
In an April 1998 match between Rick Steiner and Buff Bagwell on WCW Thunder, disaster struck. Bagwell was unfortunately on the receiving end of several broken vertebrae, which stemmed from a botched Diving Bulldog from his opponent. The injury was very serious, and Bagwell’s future looked bleak after the accident.
For several months following the incident, Bagwell used a wheelchair. But as if a broken back wasn’t bad enough, injuries caught up to Bagwell later on in his career. In 2014, he was involved in a horrible car accident after he had a seizure while driving. The collision forced him into intensive care, after he had broken bones in his neck, face, and jaw.
Joe Thurman: Broken back
He’s a relative no-name in professional wrestling, but Joe Thurman was involved in one of the most serious injuries the sport has ever seen. Facing off against Big Van Vader at the 1992 Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event, Thurman was on the receiving end of a brutal injury.
At one point in the match, Thurman hit the mat — hard. As it turns out, Vader had actually broken the wrestler’s back with a devastating Powerbomb. Amazingly, it reportedly only took a couple of hours for Thurman to recover. However, there’s no word on whether he ever managed to make a return to the ring again after that encounter.
Randy Orton: Broken collarbone
The 2008 One Night Stand pay-per-view event featured a star-studded matchup that would determine the WWE Champion: Randy Orton versus Triple H. But unfortunately, the highly anticipated bout was marred by a pretty rough injury that would sideline one of the wrestlers for quite some time.
During the match, Triple H threw Orton over the top rope, but things went wrong from there. Orton made a hard landing, which resulted in a broken collarbone. The devastating injury would sideline him for five months, until he finally returned to the ring in November 2008. In that match, he managed to get payback on Triple H by defeating him in the famous Royal Rumble.
Jesse Sorensen: Fractured vertebrae
When he faced off against Zema Ion at the 2012 Against All Odds pay-per-view event, Jesse Sorensen had no idea the type of impact that match would have on his career. The wrestler entered the ring as if it were any other match, but he left having suffered some very serious damage.
Sorensen’s diagnosis? Fractured vertebrae with spinal cord edema. Doctors told the wrestler he would need a year to recover from the damage that had been done, but he managed to get clearance to compete just nine months later. Unfortunately, Sorensen was forced to make his return to the ring elsewhere, as he was released by TNA in July of 2013.
Jim Cornette: Torn knee ligaments
A somewhat unexpected name on a list of gruesome wrestling injuries, Jim Cornette is probably one of the last people fans would have ever expected to suffer an injury in the ring. That’s because Cornette was a booker and manager — he didn’t even wrestle. But at Starrcade ’86, disaster struck.
Fans in the arena were shocked, as the booker/manager fell down from the high scaffold, directly into the ring. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t overly severe and Cornette was able to make a pretty quick recovery. Apparently the incident didn’t scare Cornette off, either: He has remained a fixture in professional wrestling for decades since.
Masahiro Chono: Gruesome neck injury
Tasked with the objective of defending his NWA World Heavyweight Championship against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Masahiro Chono had a lot of work to do. At the time, Stone Cold still had hair and was known for being completely ruthless in and out out of the ring. And when push came to shove, disaster struck for Chono.
The wrestler ended up winning the fight against Stone Cold, but he walked away with a serious neck injury that he sustained while taking a Tombstone Piledriver. Fortunately for Chono, the wrestler managed to recover from the incident and continue on with his career.
Bret Hart: Post-concussion syndrome
Starrcade ’99 was a great event, but it came at the price of a tragic injury. Bret Hart was looking to defend his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Goldberg, who was going to give it everything he had to become the new champion.
During the match, Goldberg delivered a thrust kick straight to Hart’s head. The kick did more damage than intended, however, and Hart left the bout with post-concussion syndrome. The disorder can result in a variety of symptoms, which include severe headaches and dizziness. In the case of Hart, his symptoms were so serious that he retired from competition immediately after the match.
Sabu: Broken neck
The wrestler Sabu was no stranger to injury. He had a long history of injuries throughout his professional career, which includes breaking his neck two times. The first time he suffered the injury, Sabu was squaring off with Chris Benoit at the 1994 November to Remember pay-per-view event.
In that match, Benoit made a move and Sabu mistakenly turned in the wrong direction. The injury caused temporary paralysis. Four years later, Sabu would break his neck again when his opponent, Taz, slammed his head against a table. Taz was performing his signature move, the Taz-Plex, but the move did not go as planned.
Marty Garner: Gruesome neck injury
Triple H’s pedigree move is one of the most famous signature moves in wrestling history. He’s used the notorious move to win several championships throughout his career, but Triple H never imagined the move would actually lead to a severe injury for one of his opponents.
Marty Garner was on the receiving end of the brutal pedigree. The move was made during a taping of WWF Superstars in May of 1996. Garner didn’t expect Triple H to make the maneuver, and the pedigree nearly broke his neck. Garner eventually sued the WWE due to his pain and injuries, and the two parties allegedly settled out of court.
Chavo Guerrero: Concussion
The Guerrero family has a long lineage of wrestling success. Chavo Guerrero’s father, Chavo Guerrero Sr., his grandfather, Gory Guerrero, and uncle, Eddie Guerrero, were all professional wrestlers. Guerrero became a wrestler as well, and with wrestling comes the risk of injury. That was the case with Guerrero.
Guerrero was set to face Billy Kidman in a big match, but things unfortunately went very wrong. Kidman performed his signature move, the Shooting Star Press, but in this match, he did it all wrong. When the wrestler landed the move on Guerrero, he hit his opponent directly in the head. Guerrero, who suffered a concussion, was forced to leave the arena on a stretcher.
Cactus Jack: Severed ear
Mick Foley went by several nicknames throughout his career. Before he became Foley, the wrestler went by the moniker “Cactus Jack.” And as it turns out, this wrestler didn’t just sustain a ton of damage under the Foley nickname. As Cactus Jack, he suffered what would’ve been the most gruesome injury of almost any wrestler’s career.
In a matchup with Vader, Cactus Jack got caught up in between some ropes, appearing to be on the verge of getting choked. As he untangled himself from the ropes, the wrestler somehow got twisted up in a horrific way. Cactus Jack made his way out of the ropes, but he came out without an ear! Fortunately, he saved the ear and got it reattached later on.
Big Show: Broken nose
It’s rare to see professional wrestlers mix it up with boxers, but Big Show decided to mix things up one day. In a match against Rey Mysterio, Big Show was dominant. But one professional boxer in the audience had seen enough of the towering wrestler’s dominance — he wanted in on the action.
Floyd Mayweather was the mystery audience member, and he slid up into the ring. Big Show, who was feeling really cocky, allowed the boxer to hit him. Mayweather struck Big Show so hard that he suffered a broken nose! It’s said that Big Show actually wanted Mayweather to break his nose, in order to get the crowd emotionally invested in the fight.
John Cena: Torn pectoral muscle
The golden child of the WWE, John Cena has become one of the most iconic wrestlers in the history of the sport. Arguably the most popular wrestler of his generation, Cena has helped wrestling increase in popularity over the years. For much of his career, Cena has appeared to be invincible. But in one fight, that certainly wasn’t the case.
In a bout with Mr. Kennedy, Cena suffered a catastrophic injury. The wrestler went for a Hip Toss, but the move didn’t go as planned. As he was performing the move, Cena tore his pec muscle so bad that it hung on his chest. Despite the intense pain he must’ve felt, Cena finished up the match. He missed several months after the match due to the severity of his injury.
Hardcore Holly: Back gashes
There have been several gruesome injuries in the history of professional wrestling, but one of the most unique came in a match between Hardcore Holly and Rob Van Dam (otherwise known as RVD). During the match, Holly set up a table, hoping to smash his opponent over the object and do some damage. Unfortunately, Holly ended up the victim.
Holly managed to set the table up, and he even smashed his opponent over the table. But to everyone’s surprise, as Holly stood up, his back revealed a nasty injury. The wrestler had suffered deep gashes across his entire back from the table. Fortunately, Holly is still active in the wrestling circuit.
Kurt Angle: Knocked out
The 2000 SummerSlam event was highlighted by an enticing match between Triple H and Kurt Angle. Triple H got off to a dominant start in the fight, imposing his will unto Angle. And when Triple H began to set up his finishing move, it appeared to be all over for Angle. But somehow, things managed to get even worse.
Triple H began to execute his finishing move, putting Angle through the announcer’s table and even making it snap. But to everyone’s surprise, Angle hit his head on a piece of the table and went unconscious. The wrestler had to be taken backstage immediately after the match. Fortunately, the injury was minor enough that Angle managed to return to action later.
Brock Lesnar: Near-death concussion
Plenty of wrestlers take damage in the ring, but few face death. Brock Lesnar is one of those few. In a match with Kurt Angle, Lesnar was dominant throughout the fight and began looking to put his opponent in a body bag. But when Lesnar looked to finish the fight, disaster struck.
Lesnar attempted to execute the Shooting Star Press from the turnbuckle, but he botched the landing. The wrestler landed directly on his head and neck, suffering a concussion which looked like it could’ve been fatal. Despite being dazed, Lesnar managed to make the pin and end the fight. The Shooting Star Press has been the cause of multiple wrestling injuries and has since been banned.
Mankind: Serious head injury
Another of the famous wrestling names of Mick Foley: Mankind. In an “I Quit” match with The Rock, Mankind took a pummeling few fighters could’ve possibly sustained. The human crash-test dummy allowed his opponent to do something few fighters have ever done: repeatedly hit him in the head with a chair!
When the damage was all said and done, The Rock had pummeled Mankind with a chair 11 times in a row! Mankind left the match with a huge gash on his head which was so nasty that some fans decided to leave the event early — perhaps with hopes that the beating would stop.
Taz: Gruesome neck injury
Known around professional wrestling as the king of the suplex, Taz was strangely on the receiving end of neck pain in one of his biggest fights. In a bout against Scorpio, Taz received a brutal Piledriver. But while he would usually see it coming, Taz was caught completely off guard. As expected, disaster hit.
Unable to prepare for the move, Taz suffered a serious neck injury and was immediately rushed to the hospital after the match. Apparently, hospital staff were surprised the wrestler was even able to walk with his own strength. Fortunately, the wrestler was able to recover and later made a return to professional wrestling.
Vince McMahon: Torn quads
In one of the most hilariously embarrassing performances in wrestling history, WWE’s own Vince McMahon gave himself a very serious injury while trying to impress fans in the arena. The CEO was set to announce the winner of a match, but a little bit of showmanship cost him his dignity.
McMahon attempted to slide into the ring to help decide the winner, but something went terribly wrong. The CEO managed to slide, but when the slide ended, he stayed in a seated position. As it turned out, he had torn both of his quad muscles while trying to slide! That’s pretty embarrassing.
Nikki Bella: Broken neck
One half of “The Bella Twins,” Nikki Bella is known not only for dating WWE superstar John Cena, but also for being one of the most exciting women to grace the ring in quite some time. Bella was a rising star for quite a while, but unfortunately, a major injury forced her to end her career early.
As it turned out, Bella had suffered a herniated disc behind her vertebrae. In other words, she had a broken neck. At first, it appeared as though Bella may have dealt with paralysis, but fortunately, she seems to have regained all of her movement. Nonetheless, it’s a devastating and frightening injury.