The 10 Most Influential Injuries in Wrestling History
Fate has always played a defining role in wrestling. It can be an off-the-cuff remark that crystallizes a wrestler in the fans' minds or a snap decision that defines a person's character forever.
The greatest incidents in wrestling history usually come from these twists of fate. These moments go beyond the human imagination and into the realms of uncertainty.
Injuries are often seen as the cruelest form of fate. Many people believe their favourite wrestler lost their best opportunity to succeed with an injury at the wrong time. Other wrestlers can't fully recover after an injury, so they never reach the heights of their former glories.
However, one person's injury can be the opportunity for another to excel. Sometimes greatness can emerge from a disastrous situation.
Here are 10 injuries that have changed the course of wrestling history.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin's broken neck shaped the Attitude Era.
The "Texas Rattlesnake" had been embroiled in a long-term feud with the Hart Foundation. Austin was getting over with the fans. However, a piledriver delivered by Owen Hart looked like it was going to put Austin out of action for several months.
Instead of going off television to recover, Austin ran in on Owen Hart matches. No one had seen anything like this before. Austin did not get involved in a brawl. He just came down week after week and delivered his finisher to stop Hart from winning.
This was not designed to look interesting. Austin neck could not take any damage while the surgery healed, so the unstoppable interference was a necessary evil.
The fans loved it.
September 22nd would launch the greatest angle in wrestling history. Owen Hart was doing a promo when Austin came down and attacked him once again. This time Vince McMahon came out to remonstrate with the injured superstar only to receive a "stunner" of his own.
The rest, they say, is history.
The Showstopper was the top-drawing star in the WWE when he had to suddenly retire in 1998. His career came to a stop after herniating several vertebrae in a match against The Undertaker. Michaels would return four years later, but the landscape was irrefutably altered by his absence.
The obvious person who directly benefited from Michaels's injury was Triple H.
"The Game" took over as the leader of DX and formed a new faction in his image. This would elevate Triple H into the main event and lead to several championship runs.
Another star to benefit was The Rock. Without Michaels there wasn't a direct rival for the rampaging Austin. The Rock was brought in to be McMahon's champion. The Rock exploded in popularity, and a new star was born.
Other stars also gained incidental advantages. Mick Foley was able to step into the secondary main event role. X-Pac, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn made their names in DX. The Undertaker was able to add another big name to his legacy.
Michaels's injury had a lot of effects.
This was one of two injuries that hastened the end of WCW.
Hart was one of the few high-profile names in WCW who could still put on a five-star match. Age was catching up with the majority of the roster, and it was showing.
Hart was about to embark on a long-term feud with former tag partner Bill Goldberg. The situation had been set up for Hart to turn heel and for this rivalry to dominate the year 2000.
The feud was effectively over by the middle of December 1999.
A one-on-one match between Hart and Goldberg had been physical. A trust kick by Goldberg had connected hard with Hart's head. Hart also bounced his head off the concrete floor when putting Goldberg in a figure four leg lock around a ring post.
Unknowingly, Hart had received multiple concussions. He could not overcome these injuries, diagnosed as post-concussion syndrome, which would lead to his retirement seven months later.
WCW's keystone matchup no longer existed.
Having lost Hart, WCW would then lose their one legitimately-over face character.
The domination of the nWo over the past five years had seen most faces beaten up so often that nobody took them seriously. Goldberg was different, and WCW officials knew they needed to keep him in the spotlight.
However, it was this desire that caused the injury. The newly formed "nWo 2000" had assaulted Goldberg, who was now looking for revenge. The idea stipulated that Goldberg should assault the nWo's limousine and then use a bat to break one of the limousine's windows.
For reasons quite unknown to the world, Goldberg chose to leave the bat and break the window with his elbow. Badly lacerated, Goldberg would need four months recovery time.
This meant WCW were without their top face and top heel. The ratings crashed and measures, which can only be described as embarrassing, were put in place to try and revive the product. However, it was too little, too late, and the WCW would cease to exist just a few months later.
Sometimes an injury can have an impact that no one really appreciates until it is looked at retrospectively. Edge's neck breaking was one of those times.
Edge was on the verge of heading into the big time. He had notable feuds with Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. He had also been a long-term intercontinental champion. A run as the champion of SmackDown looked to be on the cards.
However, Edge's injury made him absent for almost a year.
With Edge missing, Eddie Guerrero inherited the push. Eddie took the opportunity with both hands and had a successful run as a championship pursuer and eventually became the world champion.
These moves created a space for someone to grow in the midcard. That man was John Cena. The extra television time allowed the young Cena to get over and then have his first major feud with Brock Lesnar.
By the time Edge returned, John Cena was the US Champion and one of the biggest stars on SmackDown. Edge moved to Raw and the two men would have a career-defining feud two years later.
Arguably, Edge's injury ended up defining the PG era.
When The Tazmaniac disappeared from regional promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling, very few people really took notice. When that man returned as Taz, a few more people noticed, as it was ECW's first ever PPV, but little was thought of it with all the excitement.
No one, not even the masterminds behind the idea, had any idea how influential that change would be.
The transformation of Peter Senerchia from the animalistic Tazmaniac to the ultimate fighter Taz was the first sign that wrestling was going to change. From that point on, characters became increasingly realistic. Fantasy or stereotypical characters fell from TV.
The success of Taz's character inspired a revolution in the way wrestling character were presented. Had Taz's injury not occurred, then wrestling history may have been very different.
The car crash that ended the career of Magnum T.A. had one of the biggest spiral effects in wrestling history.
Magnum was the next up-and-coming star for Jim Crockett Promotions and was heavily featured on WCW. His run as United States Champion was one of the most successful on record. Magnum looked destined to be the next big thing in professional wrestling.
Sadly, a car crash just minutes from his home ended his career with a severe back injury. This forced booker Dusty Rhodes to make some major booking changes that were not popular with fans. Attendances stagnated for the first time in WCW history.
This, along with bad money management, bankrupted Jim Crockett Promotions. Ted Turner came along and snapped up the firm. The knock on effect from Magnum's injury would set the stage for the wrestling wars of the '90s.
Most people will remember Billy Gunn getting kicked out of D-Generation X for "anger issues." The reason he needed to leave television was to have surgery on his shoulder.
Gunn's loss may not appear to have been that big a deal, but what it did was open up the tag team division.
The New Age Outlaws (Gunn and partner Road Dogg) and The Acolytes had dominated the tag team division for nearly two years. Other tag team champions tended to be two single wrestlers put together for a storyline, such as the Rock 'N' Sock Connection.
Gunn leaving the show left a big void.
By the summer the WWE had one of the greatest tag team matches of all time when Edge and Christian defeated The Hardy Boyz and The Dudleys in the first Table, Ladders and Chairs match.
This lead to two years of the highest level tag team action seen since the 80's. The component members would the go on to have significant careers by themselves.
Suddenly, Gunn's injury becomes a surprisingly important moment.
Most of these injuries have unintentionally started something new. Triple H's injury cut short an idea that would force an era to begin early.
One of the most shocking days in wrestling history was the night after WrestleMania X-Seven. Triple H and Austin aligned to take out The Rock and subsequently declare themselves "The Two-Man Power Trip."
By May, Austin held the WWE title. Triple H had the Intercontinental title and they were also tag team champions. These two men were dominating the WWE.
Then it all came to a crashing halt. Triple H blew out his quadriceps, and the angle fell apart.
Without anyone to challenge Austin's supremacy, the WWE began the WCW/ECW invasion angle. The angle was being drip-fed to the fans while the WWE negotiated for some of the bigger names to sign. This plan was dropped due to Triple H's injury and a full-flung invasion began without the likes of Flair, Hogan or Goldberg.
The angle did not live up to the hype, partly due to the lack of star power on the WCW side.
If Triple H had remained injury-free then the invasion angle may have been delayed long enough to see the likes of Goldberg and Hogan as part of the angle. It was a great opportunity lost.
Christian's injury in November of 2011 has launched the phenomenon that is Daniel Bryan. This is the latest injury chronologically, so this will be the slide with the most conjecture.
Christian had cemented himself as the No. 1 small heel on SmackDown. His program with Orton over the summer was memorable. It was only going to be a matter of time before Christian got his next title run.
When the injury struck, it looked like a Sheamus and Christian were setting up an angle that may have taken them through to headlining WrestleMania. The injury cut that idea short.
The man to take over Christian's heel role was Daniel Bryan.
Originally a face when he won the title, Bryan quickly showed hubris. His over-celebrations turned the crowd on him, and he slipped into the heel role. This attention also highlighted Bryan's quality in the wrestling ring, which still has many fans talking.
This may have launched Bryan into superstardom.
Bryan even got the WrestleMania moment with Sheamus. Even if it did only last 18 seconds.
It looks certain that Bryan will get another title run in the near future. It could even be said that Bryan has completely usurped Christians position on SmackDown.
This could be the next great story of an injury changing wrestling.