The 10 Most Devastating Injuries in WWE History
photo from wwe.com
Though WWE is often snickered at for being "fake," it has its history of real-life pain and suffering.
Wrestlers do their best to control the violence that entertains us, to protect their fellow performers, but there is only so much they can do.
WWE begins its DVDs with a video warning that states, "injuries can happen at any time."
The wrestlers who have had their necks broken, their muscles torn or their careers ended know exactly how true that is. Some injuries accumulate over time, grinding down a wrestler's body until it is forced to quit.
Edge hung his boots up early thanks to cervical spinal stenosis, a result of spearing rock-solid men and leaping off ladders.
This list focuses on injuries occur in an instant, forcing wrestlers to live up to the adage of "the show must go on" through the pain of torn quads or broken bones.
Honorable Mention: Beth Phoenix's Jaw
After impressing in WWE's developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, Beth Phoenix got a chance on the big stage.
Her career stalled rather quickly when she suffered a broken mandible during her first singles match on Raw. Facing Victoria on June 5, 2006, Phoenix finished her match despite the unimaginable pain she must have been feeling.
Only the most observant of fans likely noticed anything was wrong.
Right after scoring the pin, Phoenix winced and held the right side of her face in pain. Impressively, she still managed to taunt Victoria and not just pass out in the middle of the ring
Phoenix posted a picture showing her newly misaligned teeth.
The injury kept her out of action for the rest of 2006 and half of 2007, stalling the opening chapters of her WWE career.
Undertaker's Orbital Bone
If fans would have guessed who would have come out of a Rey Mysterio and Undertaker match with a broken nose, broken orbital bone and a concussion, most would have put their money on the little guy.
During a SmackDown taping on May 25, 2010, Rey Mysterio hit a seated senton that smashed The Phenom's face in.
The match went on for just over a minute longer with Undertaker defeating Mysterio by way of the Tombstone piledriver.
The plan right after this was to put The Undertaker in SmackDown's world title match at the Fatal 4-Way. His injuries led WWE to pulling him out, explaining his absence by having him go into a kayfabe vegetative state.
Strangely enough, Undertaker suffered a broken orbital bone several years previously as well.
In 1995, he was out for several months due to the injury, returning at Survivor Series wearing a protective mask.
John Cena's Pectoral
It was not another wrestler that finally ended John Cena's year-plus reign as WWE champion. It was his own body.
He suffered a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle during a match against Mr. Kennedy on Oct. 1, 2007. An awkward hip toss was the culprit.
It happened early in the match and Cena toughed out the rest of the bout. Throughout it, he's seen clutching his arm to his side like a broken wing and trying to shake off the pain.
Randy Orton later interfered and delivered an RKO through a stubborn table that refused to break.
WWE stripped Cena of his title and he took time off to recover until making a surprise appearance at Royal Rumble 2008.
Both Edge (in 2005) and Christian (in 2010) suffered similar injuries.
Triple H's Quads
In a display of unimaginable grit, Triple H wrestled on after tearing his left quadriceps muscle. It happened near the end of a tag match on Raw alongside Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in May 2001.
Triple H lunged at Jericho who nearly had Austin beat.
The Game fell awkwardly. After he dragged himself out of the ring, Jericho locked the Walls of Jericho on him atop a table. Triple H followed through with that spot in spite of the terrible pain it must have caused him.
Dr. James Andrews repaired the leg and Triple H waited from the sidelines for the next eight months.
Six years after the injury, he tore his right quad.
This time, in a tag match against RKO, the injury occurred early on and Triple H had to limp and wince his way to the finish line.
This time he was out of action for seven months.
Triple H returned both times without complications or significant loss in ability. If Vince McMahon had any doubts to just how painful a quad tear was, he experienced it firsthand at the 2005 Royal Rumble.
Mick Foley's Everything
Even as long and gruesome as Mick Foley's list of injuries after King of the Ring 1998 is, he was lucky to not have suffered worse.
Falling off and through the cell could have ended his career or even killed him. Jim Ross famously said during the match, "Good God Almighty, they've killed him" but how far was he really from breaking his neck or fracturing his skull.
One of the lasting images of that match is one of Foley's teeth hanging from his nose.
Unfortunately, that was one of the least painful things he went through that night. Foley suffered a concussion, a dislocated shoulder, multiple puncture wounds, a hole in his lip and a dislocated jaw.
Foley's insane bumps and the subsequent injuries were a calculated risk. They propelled him to cult-hero status and changed the industry forever.
Hardcore Holly's Neck
Hardcore Holly was a WWE vet who had taken on a variety of personas and ring names, as well as occupying various spots on the company's hierarchy.
He'd suffered his share of minor injuries up to that point, but a 2002 match with Brock Lesnar left him with a ruptured disk in his neck. Lesnar dropped Holly on his neck courtesy of a botched powerbomb.
Rumors of Holly refusing to cooperate and of real-life tension between him and Lesnar was refuted in an interview on Inside Pulse. Speaking to Liam Burnside, Holly said of the incident, "It was a simple case of an accident caused by inexperience."
Holly said that he didn't rotate enough and Lesnar made the mistake of continuing the move, injuring Holly's neck in the process.
Thirteen months later, Holly returned and continued to work for WWE until 2009.
Joey Mercury's Face
The extent of this injury goes beyond the numerous stitches, the fractures and the blood loss. Joey Mercury's facial injury derailed his career.
After serving a 30-day Wellness Policy suspension, Mercury rejoined MNM alongside Johnny Nitro and Melina. At a four-team ladder match at Armageddon 2006, an errant ladder whacked Mercury in the nose.
Blood spurted out of him and he slid out of the ring, dazed and in need of medical attention.
He would make a few attempts at returns, but nothing stuck. Soon after the incident he returned wearing a protective mask, but only lasted a few months before WWE released him.
Whether it was a newfound lack of confidence, a debilitating fear of getting reinjured or something else entirely, Mercury just wasn't the same performer.
Shawn Michaels' Back
When Shawn Michaels hit his back on a coffin in a 1998 match against The Undertaker, it looked far from devastating.
It appeared to be just a glancing blow, but the blown spot ruptured disks in his spine and forced him to stop wrestling until 2002. A four-hour surgery fused metal plates to his spine.
Michaels missed a significant chunk of his prime and essentially missed the crux of the Attitude Era. Fans often wonder how many more classics he could have produced and how different the WWE landscape would have looked had Michaels not collided with that coffin.
Steve Austin's Neck
Though he somehow returned to wrestling just three months after breaking his neck in the ring, Steve Austin's injury would change his life forever.
At SummerSlam 1997, Austin and Owen Hart fought over Owen's Intercontinental Championship.
Owen delivered a reverse piledriver that drove Austin's head into the ground. Austin couldn't feel his extremities and thought he might be paralyzed for life.
He regained enough feeling to roll Owen up for the pin and hold up the championship.
Strangely enough, just five years earlier Austin broke Masahiro Chono's neck with the same move that damaged his.
Austin spent much of the rest of his career in severe pain because of the injury and rushed return to the ring. He had surgery after surgery to repair the damage, but it was his neck along with ailing knees that eventually forced him to retire.
What WWE wrestlers put their bodies through in the ring is sometimes tantamount to getting into a car wreck.
Darren Drozdov suffered one of the most horrendous injuries in company history, one that not only derailed his career, but left him paralyzed.
Wrestling as Droz, he faced off against D'Lo Brown at a SmackDown taping in 1999. Brown attempted a powerbomb that went horribly awry.
A wet spot in the ring is said to have caused Brown to slip, leading Drozdov to fall onto his head and fracture two discs in his neck.
Though Drozdov has regained some movement in his upper body, his body is still a testament to the level of danger that wrestlers face in every match.
photo property of WWE
At Over the Edge in 1999, Owen Hart was supposed to glide in for a dramatic entrance from the rafters while dressed as The Blue Blazer and battle The Godfather. An entertaining story would be told in the ring, just like Owen had done throughout his career.
Instead, the apparatus failed.
Owen fell some 50 feet down onto the turnbuckle and then into the ring. He suffered fatal injuries from the impact.
It's a story no WWE fan will forget and one we all wish would have never happened.
The majority of WWE injuries are painful and require long, slow recoveries in physical therapy. Owen was never afforded that opportunity, dying at just 34 years old.