The 10 Craziest Real Injuries WWE Wrestlers Fought Their Way Through
Concussed? Tore a quad? These wrestlers kept going.
For an athletic endeavor that critics deride as fake, professional wrestling exacts quite a toll on performers' bodies. A body slam onto an unforgiving, hard mat will hurt, no matter how well the victim lands or rolls, and no matter how "ready" he or she is to get slammed in the first place.
Injuries happen—real injuries that require time off, surgery, or a series of concussion tests. Usually, those injuries occur during a match, in front of a live audience and television cameras. And rather than stop the match, most wrestlers would rather finish what they started and work through the pain.
Here are 10 WWE wrestlers who were injured, sometimes severely, and still managed to finish their matches. "Tough" is an understatement in these cases.
John Cena's torn right pectoral tendon
Monday Night Raw, Oct. 1 2007
Sometimes, the moves that injure wrestlers are the ones that are least expected. Cena tore his right pectoral tendon not from lifting the Big Show or from falling off a ladder. He tore it while doing a basic arm drag on Mr. Kennedy. For the rest of the match, Cena fought with one arm, as he cradled and dangled the injured limb by his side.
It was an unfortunate situation, but it was arguably worse for Mr. Kennedy, who was quickly becoming an unpopular presence backstage. Randy Orton would later accuse Kennedy of botching a back body drop, and WWE fired him.
Cesaro's impacted teeth
No Mercy, Sept. 24 2017
Here's an injury that happened quite recently. A month ago at No Mercy, Cesaro started bleeding from the mouth after being flung, face-first, into the ring post. When the camera zoomed in, there saw a gap where his front teeth should have been. Everyone assumed that he had his teeth knocked out. No big deal, in the big scheme of things. Jeff Hardy's lost a tooth. Natalya's lost a tooth. But Cesaro's injury was actually worse.
You see, the teeth didn't come out; the teeth went in, into Cesaro's gum line, which sounds even more painful than the former. This type of injury would later require dental surgery. But after a consultation with the ring doctor and a brief respite in his corner, Cesaro was back in the match, which actually stole the show that evening. And on a fight card that included Cena vs. Roman Reigns and Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman, that's no easy thing to do.
Sting's cervical spinal stenosis
Night of Champions, Sept. 20 2015
Have you noticed that Seth Rollins doesn't do his buckle/barricade bomb nearly as often as he used to? Well, you wouldn't do as much either if it severely injured and retired the legendary Sting.
Sting took the buckle bomb twice in the same match at Night of Champions. His body went numb, and he collapsed in the ring; he had trouble standing back up. After a brief rest in the corner, Sting gathered enough energy to continue. He and Rollins wrestled for a couple of minutes, and Rollins got the improvised roll-up victory to end things early.
Sting would later say that despite his injury, his main focus was to get Rollins over. It's an old school tradition; when a wrestler gets close to retirement, he or she should lose important matches to the younger talent, and pass the torch. He would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the following year, and he announced his retirement from competition during his acceptance speech.
'Stone Cold' Steve Austin's nerve damage and bruised spinal cord
SummerSlam, August 3 1997
This one is a little tough to watch. Owen Hart performs a real piledriver on Steve Austin by accident, driving his head and neck into the mat. The move damaged Austin's nerves and bruised his spinal cord; for a few seconds, Austin was paralyzed. It took all of his remaining strength to crawl towards Hart and roll him up for the improvised win.
This incident led Austin to change his fighting style. He transformed from a more technical wrestler into to an all-out brawler. The incident also shortened Austin's career; his neck and spinal cord would never fully recover.
Finn Balor's dislocated shoulder and labrum tear
SummerSlam, August 21 2016
Almost a year after the buckle bomb sent Sting into retirement, Rollins performed the move again in his title match against Finn Balor at SummerSlam 2016. He threw the Demon King into the outside barrier, dislocating his shoulder.
Balor not only finished the match, but popped his arm back into its socket in order to do so. He became the inaugural universal champion, but during his post-match celebration, you could tell that something was wrong with him. He couldn't lift his arm all the way to do his signature demon pose.
The following day, the worst was confirmed; Balor needed months to recover from his injury, and Raw General Manager Mick Foley stripped him of the title in the middle of the ring.
Eddie Guerrero's massive blood loss
Judgment Day, May 16 2004
Blading is when a wrestler intentionally cuts his forehead, usually with a razor blade, so that he can bleed during a match. Done properly, blading creates a slight trickle of blood, resulting in a "crimson mask."
But at Judgment Day in 2004, WWE champion Eddie Guerrero bladed too deeply, and the blood came pouring out of him in a massive gush. There was so much blood that pools of it collected in the ring. And after the match, Eddie went into shock and had to be rushed to the hospital, where he received IV bags to replenish his fluids.
Mick Foley's concussion, dislocated jaw, dislocated shoulder, bruised kidney, and broken teeth
King of the Ring, June 28
Mick Foley's Hell in a Cell match versus The Undertaker stands in a category of its own. There is no other match like it, and that's the way it ought to be. Any average man would have died in this match, but Mick Foley is no ordinary man.
First, he fell off the roof of the cell, Then he fell through the cell, after climbing back onto the roof for more punishment. The latter fall was the worse of the two, because it was not planned. Foley went unconscious after hitting his head on the steel chair in the ring, and he aspirated a tooth into his sinus cavity. And that was before he got choke slammed onto a pile of thumbtacks. To this day, Foley says that doesn't remember most of the match. He didn't even remember getting slammed on the thumbtacks until he got backstage, and Undertaker pointed out that they were stuck in his arm.
Triple H's torn quadriceps
Monday Night Raw, May 21 2001
On Raw in 2001, Triple H was involved in a tag team match that pitted him and Steve Austin against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. During the match, The Game tore his quadriceps muscle off the bone. He hobbled about for the rest of the match, trying to keep weight off of his leg. Despite this, he still allowed himself to be locked into the Walls of Jericho submission hold, which put even more strain on his already injured leg. Talk about a pain threshold.
Triple H needed physical rehabilitation, and he faced the idea of early retirement. But when he finally returned on Raw eight months later, the audience went crazy, and Triple H fed off that energy. He won the undisputed championship at WrestleMania X8 later that year.
John Cena's broken nose
Monday Night Raw, July 27 2015
Cena has always been physically resilient, with an incredible threshold for pain. And when Seth Rollins' knee broke Cena's nose during their main event match on Raw, he showed the WWE Universe why he's been The Guy for so long.
After holding his nose and shaking off the pain for about a minute, Cena completed the entire, lengthy match without losing a single step. And in between every major spot, the ring doctor was there, mopping up blood and trying, in vain, to stop the bleeding. The following week, Rollins, who was playing the heel, showed a photo of Cena's broken face on the Titantron to mock him. It only served to emphasize how tough Cena truly is.
Brock Lesnar's concussion
WrestleMania 19, March 30 2003
Brock Lesnar was, and is, a freak of nature. The man is the size of a Buick, but he moves like someone who is 150 pounds lighter. He's mostly known for his incredible strength, but when he was still training in developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), he mastered the Shooting Star Press. Yes, you read that right. A 250+-pound heavyweight was able to do a mid-air backflip off the top rope and land in a face-down splash. If you haven't seen Lesnar pull it off successfully, you should. He flies halfway across the ring. But he stopped doing the risky move once he moved up to the main roster in 2002.
Fast forward to WrestleMania XIX, where Kurt Angle was fighting Lesnar in the main event. And Angle, eager to create a "WrestleMania moment," suggested to Lesnar that he finish the match with the shooting star press. Lesnar agreed. And on the biggest stage, in the biggest match of his career, Lesnar botched the move for the first and only time. He slipped on the rope, under-rotated, and landed on his head, giving himself a severe concussion in the process.
From there, a glassy-eyed Lesnar improvised the finish. He got to his feet, delivered an F-5, scored the pin, and collapsed in the corner. It's a small miracle that Lesnar didn't paralyze himself from the neck down. But Lesnar retained consciousness, so it worked out in the end. The Beast became WWE champion, and his missed shooting star press became the subject of multiple highlight reels for years to come.