Throughout the years, professional wrestling has evolved and garnered tons of fans (and the millions…AND MILLIONS of The Rock’s fans). From the Hulkamaniacs going wild at the sight of an atomic leg drop, to people lovingly holding Austin 3:16 signs while simultaneously flipping their middle finger as Stone Cold Steve Austin chugs a few beers, to the current generation glued to WWE’s John Cena-dominated PG era (and the fans who reminisce the good old days). Hell, we even came up with ridiculous urban legends surrounding wrestling (pare, namatay daw si Ultimate Warrior, pumutok yung ugat nung binuhat niya si Yokozuna!).
It’s common knowledge that wrestling isn’t real in the traditional sense, that the dangerous moves are choreographed, and that the results of the match are predetermined. But just like in real life, nothing can always go as planned. After all, we’re talking about professional wrestling here, a world where half-naked muscle-bound men slam and throw furniture at each other. What can possibly go wrong, right?
Here are a few moments that professional wrestling became a bit too real, moments that would make Jim Ross shout MY GOD! MY GOD! SOMEONE STOP THE DAMN MATCH!
(Disclaimer: I didn’t include Owen Hart’s death in the list. There is nothing “insanely real” with the talented technical wrestler’s tragic death.)
What you gonna do when Hulkamania chokes the life out of you?
Before arresting criminals and all sorts of perverts in the gavel-banging TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Richard Belzer hosted a show called Hot Properties back in the 1980s. Belzer asked the ultra-popular Hulk Hogan along with Mr. T to appear on his show.
And as Hulk Hogan grew increasingly antagonized on the show with the whole “wrestling is fake” issue, Belzer had the bright idea of asking Hogan to do a wrestling move on him. Big mistake. Hogan, with his beefy spray-tanned arms, put the lanky (or in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s words, “sissy girly-man”) Belzer in a front chin lock. Within a few seconds of the hold, Belzer flailed his arms wildly before going completely limp.
Upon release of the hold (which was a few seconds too late), an unconscious Belzer tumbled down with his head smacking against the floor. The audience gasped in shock as to what the hell they just saw and sensing their anxiety, Mr. T tells the audience “he just sleepin’, he be alright.” Belzer then wakes up, dazed and with a stream of blood pouring from the back of his head.
After the incident, Belzer sued Hogan and the WWE (then the WWF) a whopping $5 million dollars before settling out of court.
Vader vs Stan Hansen: Eye-popping action!
Before achieving massive success in the WCW and WWF and taking on the likes of Shawn Michaels, Yokozuna, The Undertaker and Kane while screaming “IT’S TIME, IT’S VADER TIME,” the 450-pound super-heavyweight Vader was power-bombing and moonsault-ing his way through the pro-wrestling scene in Japan.
In 1990, he faced wrestling legend and the equally tough and intimidating Stan Hansen for the IWGP championship. At the beginning of the match, Stan Hansen swung the bullrope that he carried to his matches and hit Vader and broke his nose (it didn’t help that Stansen was blind without his glasses).
And after exchanging a couple of punches, Hansen accidentally poked Vader’s eye, causing the thing to pop. Out. Of. Its. Socket. What’s Vader to do? Manly man that he is, Vader pushed his eye back in its socket and actually finished the match.
After the event, Vader required extensive and costly surgery for a broken orbital socket and to reconstruct his nose. When asked about the match, Vader simply said “a lot of people said, ‘you’re crazy, you should have stepped out of the ring…’ [But] it never crossed my mind not to [finish the match].”
On the other hand, Hansen said “just because Vader’s eye was all busted up, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t beat up and bruised…he beat me up pretty good too!”
The lesson here? Don’t mess around with Vader. And speaking of messing around with Vader…
Cactus Jack: Lend Me Your Ear
One of the greatest feuds professional wrestling has ever seen was when Vader took on Mick Foley, with Foley assuming the character of Cactus Jack. The two had an epic feud in WCW, a feud that saw broken and bloodied noses, concussions, and even the use of a cattle prod, but one night in their storied feud will remain in infamy.
In a house show in Germany, Cactus Jack engaged in a hangman—a maneuver wherein the wrestler’s head gets entangled in the top two ring ropes (making the wrestler look like he’s hanging. Duh). It’s normally a painful but safe spot, but unbeknownst to Cactus, the ropes that time were made out of elevator cables wrapped in rubber and they were tied as tightly as possible. Cactus Jack struggled to break himself free. And in the struggle, he ripped off two-thirds of his right ear.
But despite losing his ear, Cactus Jack continued on with the match. This would be one of the most famous matches in Mick Foley’s career. Well before he was thrown off a 16-foot steel cage by The Undertaker.
Foley’s only complaint? WCW didn’t want to work losing his ear in the storyline.
Terry Funk vs. Sabu: Dude, you’re ripped!
One of the most notorious wrestling organizations in the United States was Extreme Championship Wrestling or the ECW. It was a relatively smaller organization than the WWF and WCW, but the organization thrived through extremely violent matches and the blood-thirsty diehard fans/lunatics/cult that it generated (ECW fans were so insanely into it that they would bring their own weapons to events for the wrestlers to use).
In one of the organization’s first pay-per-view matches, hardcore wrestling legend Terry Funk took on the homicidal, genocidal, death-defying Sabu in a barbed-wire match (a match where the traditional ring ropes were replaced with barbed-wire. Duh).
At one point of the match, Funk was positioned in one of the corners of the ring. Sabu then runs full blast at him, jumps off a chair for altitude and attempts a leg drop. Funk dodges Sabu and Sabu then quickly tries to grab onto the barbed-wire to cushion his fall. The barbed wire then rips his bicep open.
At around the 10:10 mark of the video, you could see Sabu in shock and then screaming OH SHIT (probably at the sight of his arm ripped open squirting a cartoonish amount of blood).
Did the match end? Hell no.
This is the homicidal, genocidal Sabu we’re talking about. He asks for duct tape from one of the organization’s managers and taped the rip up…while Funk administers a neckbreaker to Sabu onto some steel chairs.
The carnage reached an all-time high when the two wrestlers got entangled and intertwined in barbed wire, which pierced their skin every time they moved. Both fighters needed wires to cut through and break free from their bloody barbed-wire prison.
Was this the worst injury Sabu ever got? Think again.
“That wasn’t the only bad one I’ve had. I’ve had a lot of them in Japan. I cut my stomach so bad you could see my muscles underneath…it opened up like a grand canyon.” He’s not the homicidal, genocidal, death-defying maniac for shits and giggles.
Here, have a seat. Or two. Or ten. And a concussion.
Hardcore legends and bitter rivals Cactus Jack and Terry Funk squared off against each other at ECW’s Hardcore Heaven pay-per-view in 1994. It was one of ECW’s highly anticipated matches. As the two were busy whooping each other’s asses, the tag team Public Enemy interfered in the match, forcing Cactus and Funk to team up.
In order to fight off the intruders, Terry Funk asked the audience to throw him a chair. What he didn’t expect was for the ravenous audience to throw dozens upon dozens of chairs into the ring, hitting Funk in the head in the process.
As event organizers screamed and pleaded for the audience to stop throwing chairs (which was like asking a fat kid to stop eating cake), it was too late. Public Enemy lay motionless under a mountain of steel chairs.
Remember when I said that ECW fans were blood-thirsty? That’s an understatement. ECW fans were borderline homicidal.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs “The Macho Man” Randy Savage: You’re a damn snake, Jake!
For professional wrestling newbies, Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ schtick was to carry a few snakes to the ring and said snakes would be thrown onto his opponents during matches. One of his more memorable feuds was the one he had with the late, great Macho Man Randy Savage (OOOOOHHHH YEAAAAAAAHHHH).
Savage had enough of Roberts’ bullshit, so he charged to the ring hoping to open a Macho-sized can of whoop-ass on Roberts. Savage got the losing end of their struggle, with Savage getting entangled in the ropes. Roberts then got one of his king cobras to bite Macho Man on the arm. Of course, the WWF won’t let a deadly snake into the ring, so the cobra was de-venomized and he bite was planned.
The problem? The cobra didn’t want to release its bite on Macho Man, making Macho Man’s arm a bloody sight to behold. Randy will have the last laugh, though.
“When [Roberts’] King Cobra bit me…oh my God. (Laughs) For days later my arm blew up like a balloon—they had to rush me off to the emergency room and get some hospital attention.But then 12 days later his snake died…so, you know, I think the snake got the venom from me!”
At an ECW house show in November 1996, an overweight aspiring wrestler named Mass Transit (real name Eric Kulas) convinced ECW president Paul Heyman to allow him to fill in as a replacement wrestler to take on wrestler New Jack.
But Kulas lied about his age (he was just 17) and his alleged wrestling training.
After smashing Kulas on the head with crutches, a guitar and a toaster, New Jack whips out a surgical knife and then cuts Kulas on the head much deeper than it should be, like a hot knife through butter (except the knife was a lot sharper and the butter is your forehead). Kulas started freaking out as his forehead became a gory waterfall of red with pools of blood forming on the ring’s canvas.
New Jack didn’t stop there, as he grabbed a chair and drove it in Kulas’ head. It took paramedics to rush to the ring and come to the aid to Kulas to unofficially end the match. Kulas and his family filed a lawsuit against New Jack and the ECW soon after, with New Jack getting acquitted.
But New Jack’s notoriety didn’t end there. He once brutally and legitimately assaulted a sixty year old wrestler named Gypsy Joe, and stabbed William Jason Lane in the neck and back during a match. The guy also has four justifiable homicides under his belt.
Clearly, New Jack is out of his mind.
The Montreal Screwjob
Back in 1997, the WWF was involved in a very fierce ratings war with rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW), with the latter in the lead. To make things worse for the WWE, longtime WWE veteran superstar and champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart signed a lucrative contract to join WCW by the end of the year. Vince McMahon didn’t want the belt to leave his company, so he asked Hart if he can lose the belt in the pay-per-view event Survivor Series to “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.
The problem was Hart signed a contract granting him creative control in his last months in the WWE. The Survivor Series was set in his home country of Canada and he didn’t want to lose the title to fierce in-ring and real life rival Shawn Michaels (they absolutely didn’t like each other, and none wanted to lose to the other).
Frustrated, Vince McMahon hatched a plan. Hart went into the Survivor Series match with Michaels believing he would win and then surrender the title to McMahon the next night on TV. At one point in the match, Shawn Michaels had Bret Hart in the Sharpshooter submission move. Referee Earl Hebner called for the bell and Shawn Michaels won the WWF title even if Bret Hart didn’t tap out to the submission move. Vince McMahon yelled at the timekeeper to ring the bell as Earl Hebner and Shawn Michaels were quickly escorted out of the arena.
Bret Hart then spits at Vince McMahon’s face and continues to lose his shit by destroying the announcer’s table and various ringside equipment as the Montreal crowd vented their frustration on the WWE and Vince McMahon by hurling garbage in the ring.
Shit was about to hit the fan backstage, as wrestlers were outraged over the incident and were threatening to leave the company. As McMahon tried to explain everything to Hart and prevent a revolt backstage, The Hitman knocked McMahon to the floor with one punch, giving the WWE owner a black eye, a concussion and a sprained ankle.
This match is without a doubt one of the most controversial matches and widely-publicized double-crosses the world of professional wrestling has ever seen, with its effects being resoundingly felt in the company for more than a decade. And although Bret Hart and Vince McMahon have reconciled, the Montreal Screwjob will remain in the hearts of fans for years and years to come.
So before you say wrestling’s fake, here’s “Dr. Death” David Schulz slapping the living taste out of reporter John Stossel’s lips for asking the “wrestling is fake” question. You’d think that he’d be smart enough not to ask that question to a man named “Dr. Death.”
Got any back-breaking and skull-crushing real moments in professional wrestling that you’d like to share? Lay the smackdown and let us know in the comments below!