The life of the professional wrestler is a hazardous one, it’s not a job just anyone can do. It’s a true testament to the skill of the many men and women who work in the wrestling industry that they don’t get injured more often.
It’s been said that injuries can ‘happen at any time’. Performers don’t need to be doing something reckless or all that dangerous to end up injured.
This was evidenced during a 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw. John Cena ended up tearing his pectoral muscle, all because he executed a rudimentary hip toss on Mr. Kennedy. That’s one of the least-dangerous moves featured on this list, one that explores 10 of the most depressing WWE injuries of all time.
It’s important not to discount the serious injuries suffered by Owen Hart at the Over The Edge 1999 Pay-Per-View. Due to the fact that Owen sadly passed away due to his injuries, he will be omitted out of respect. Thankfully, all other parties present in this article are alive and able to tell their story today.
These injuries were depressing for varying reasons, but they all had an enduring impact on the careers of the performers in question. On occasion, some of them weren’t able to wrestle ever again.
10. The Undertaker (Broken Orbital Bone)
Fans watching in 1995 may have noticed a change in look for The Undertaker. There would have been people who didn’t really know what was happening behind the scenes, because the internet wasn’t quite as available as it is today. Therefore, some folks might have been wondering why Undertaker decided to wear a white mask all of a sudden, one that covered most of his face.
This wasn’t a grand aesthetic change for ‘The Deadman’, it was born out of necessity. ‘King’ Mabel can take the blame, clumsily crushing ‘Taker’s face during one match between the pair. A leg drop from the gargantuan big man is often handed the blame, but it was actually a routine clothesline that caused the damage. Mabel’s arm went high on Undertaker, colliding with his face instead of his chest.
Breaking The Undertaker’s orbital bone, the move forced the man to adopt the new mask. Unfortunately, his face was altered by surgery, and the bone was weakened. Years later, Undertaker suffered a similar injury during a match against Rey Mysterio in 2010. On that occasion, he simply elected to take some time off. In 1995, he kept wrestling, albeit with the mask.
9. Mankind (Various Dislocations/Bruised Kidney/Concussion)
The most famous ‘Hell In A Cell’ match of all time still remains the one that took place at the 1998 King Of The Ring Pay-Per-View. In the penultimate match spot, Mankind battled The Undertaker inside the intimidating structure. ‘Inside’ may be stretching the truth a little, because not all of the action would take place inside the ring. Due to this, Mankind suffered some serious injuries.
Hurled from the top of the cage through an announce table waiting below, many in attendance (including some backstage) felt that Mick Foley may be gravely hurt. There were even fears that the man could be dead. Unbelievably, he was able to continue, and even sustained another horrifying bump through the top of the Cell. In the process, Foley suffered a concussion.
The man also lost teeth, needed stitches below his lip, dislocated both his jaw and shoulder, and ended up with a severely bruised kidney. The pain must have been tremendous, but the match has lived on in memory. Nonetheless, it’s still depressing to imagine the very-real physical torture Foley put himself through to entertain. It’s difficult to watch the bout today, knowing the impact it’d have on his well-being.
8. Kurt Angle (Broken Neck)
At the 1996 Olympic Games, Kurt Angle won a Gold Medal. Wrestling with a genuine fracture in his neck, Angle would later join the World Wrestling Federation and embark on a pro career. Rising up through the ranks quickly, Kurt forced his way into the main event mix. His in-ring style was physical, but his neck was weakened due to the previous injury.
By the time 2003 rolled around, Angle was working under intense pain every night. Doctors recommended surgery which would end his wrestling career, but the grappler was having none of it. At WrestleMania XIX, Brock Lesnar suffered a concussion when he botched a Shooting Star Press. He wasn’t the only one under duress, Angle worked the bout in severe physical discomfort.
The pain led to Angle self-medicating with pain pills and alcohol. By 2006, Vince McMahon and WWE wanted him to stop wrestling, but Kurt continues in TNA to this day. By his own admission, he’s still in a lot of pain when working, which is often noticeable. During various podcast interviews, Angle has admitted that he can barely get out of bed some mornings, which is a depressing thought.
7. Seth Rollins (Torn ACL/MCL)
The most recent addition to this list, Seth Rollins only suffered his serious knee injury during the latest WWE World Tour. Competing in Dublin, Ireland, Rollins completely blew out his knee. Unable to finish the match as planned, he looked totally dejected as medical staff and other WWE officials attempted to check on him. It had dawned on Rollins the gravity of the situation.
As the reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth had been set to defend the belt against Roman Reigns at Survivor Series. Due to his injury, that was impossible, and the title was subsequently stripped from him shortly after the Dublin show. It’s estimated that Rollins will miss between 6-9 months of action, which effectively rules him out of WrestleMania.
Tearing his MCL, ACL and Meniscus, Seth Rollins did himself a lot of damage. The injury has been said to be fairly innocuous, just something that can happen inside the ring. This shows the danger that professional wrestlers face on a daily basis, even the slightest wrong movement can cause incredible trouble for their body. As Champion, Rollins was on a roll, so it’s upsetting to think that he wasn’t able to continue as champion.
6. Daniel Bryan (Seriously Damaged Neck)
One of the most popular WWE stars in recent memory, Daniel Bryan was thrust into the main event spotlight due to his own hard work and the rabid loyalty of his fans. There’s a very good chance that the promotion may not have pushed Bryan had fans not demanded it. His story is one of an underdog who has reached the top, but it could also be one that has come to an end.
Bryan has always wrestled an incredibly rugged style inside the ring. Injuries aren’t a new thing for the man, who once finished a match with a detached retina in one of his eyes on the independent scene. Sadly, various neck and shoulder issues have built up over time, and there’s a chance that he may never be able to wrestle again. That’s ultimately depressing.
In May, 2015, Bryan was forced to vacate the WWE Intercontinental Title on television. Looking solemn, the wrestler wasn’t the only one upset. Fans were looking forward to seeing what Bryan could do with the belt, but reality decided to bite everyone hard. There are still fears that Daniel Bryan won’t return to the ring, which would be a real shame for one of this generation’s best.
5. Shawn Michaels (Herniated/Crushed Back Discs)
During the mid-to-late-1990’s, it’s well-documented that Shawn Michaels wasn’t an easy dude to get along with. There are numerous statements – some from the man himself – which back this up. An obnoxious kind of guy, Michaels was nonetheless one of the finest wrestlers to ever grace the then-WWF. Riding high as WWF Heavyweight Champion, January, 1998 would throw a serious curve ball his way.
Working a ‘Casket Match’ against The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble, Michaels suffered an almighty bump that would change the course of his career. Taking a back drop from inside the ring, Shawn tumbled outside and thumped against the coffin sat at ringside. The corner of the solid wood prop instantly caused a pair of herniated and crushed discs in his back.
Struggling on with the pain, Michaels was around long enough to drop the title to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV. Afterwards, he had to undergo surgery. That operation kept him away from the ring for just over 4 years. For a long time, the general consensus was that Shawn’s career was firmly over, before he remarkably returned in the Summer of 2002. It’s a good thing he did, because this would have been a cruel end.
4. Triple H (Torn Quadriceps)
It’s accurate to say that Triple H was never the same again after the serious injury he suffered in May, 2001. Working a tag-team match with Steve Austin against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit on Raw, ‘The Game’ tore his quadriceps muscle in his leg. Later, he likened the feeling to a set of window blinds rolling up quickly. The muscle had literally detached from the bone and torn.
Stunningly, Triple H was able to finish the match as planned, and even grimaced through a ‘Walls Of Jericho’ submission move on the announce table. After the bout, he simply couldn’t walk up the ramp without aid, and there were real worries about the severity of the injury. The leg trouble would keep the man out of action until January, 2002, meaning he missed the entire ‘Invasion’ debacle.
Even though Triple H was a heel when he suffered the torn quadriceps muscle, he was still one of the better ones on the roster at the time. When he returned, he struggled to get his body back in the same shape it had been. Eventually, he would, but he wasn’t quite as fast or nimble as he had been before the injury. There’s no doubt about it, this one really hampered his in-ring career.
3. Steve Austin (Broken Neck)
Speaking of injuries that changed careers forever, that’s exactly what happened to Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1997. Working with Owen Hart and contesting the Intercontinental Title, Austin would leave the show with a broken neck. An ill-advised sit-down-style Piledriver from Hart caused the damage, crushing vertebrae in ‘Stone Cold’s’ neck.
For a few moments, Austin lay paralysed on the mat. Genuine fears were rushing through the man’s head that he’d never walk again, but he was somehow able to regain his composure and crudely roll up Hart to end the match as planned. Looking at Owen’s face as he played to the crowd after the move, it’s obvious that he knows something is badly wrong with his peer.
Austin would recover from the neck injury, but he’d be forced to drastically alter his wrestling style going forward. A technical worker beforehand, he was now more limited in how he could move around the ring. This particular injury directly caused Austin’s career to be shortened by years, which is a dreary thought.
2. Edge (Cervical Spinal Stenosis)
The ‘Tables, Ladders And Chairs’ matches from SummerSlam 2000 and WrestleMania X-Seven may have been spectacular, but they had a huge impact on Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland’s life. At the time, hardly anyone involved was thinking about what would happen in the future. Instead, Edge was simply focusing on stealing the show, taking immense punishment in the process.
Unfortunately, those bumps were always going to cause problems further on down the line. By 2011, Copeland’s neck was in a terrible state. Previously, he had suffered a serious neck injury in 2003. Those problems would continually re-occur, until doctors told him without argument that he should definitely retire from the ring. The other option was continuing, but that would have been risking Edge’s ability to walk in later life.
Diagnosed with Cervical Spinal Stenosis, Edge could have ended up paralysed and confined to a wheelchair had he continued to wrestle in the manner he was. Deciding that his life was more important than proceeding as a WWE star, Copeland retired in 2011. His retirement speech was clearly emotional, and it looked like a hard moment for someone who should have had years ahead of him in the ring.
1. Droz (Fractured Neck/Paralysis)
This year, Darren Drozdov regained some feeling in his arms and hands. The entire wrestling world excitedly shared the news on social media, recognising how huge a moment it was for the man himself. D’Lo Brown even personally posted messages relaying how happy he was for his ex-colleague. Brown had been involved in the match that caused Droz to be wheelchair bound.
In October, 1999, D’Lo and Droz were working a routine match that was being taped for Smackdown. Towards the end of the bout, Brown hit Drozdov with his trademark Running Powerbomb. Slipping out of his peer’s grasp, Droz landed awkwardly on his neck, resulting in a break and the loss of power to all of his limbs. From the neck down, the man ended up paralysed.
Clearly distressed, D’Lo Brown went to hospital with Darren and offered sincere apologies. To his credit, Droz refused to blame his co-worker, citing the fact that he was wearing loose clothing to the ring as the reason for the slip. Confined to a wheelchair, Droz has incredibly never lost his zest for life. Even so, it was a wholly depressing moment in wrestling history.