Stranger Than Fiction: Six True Injuries from a "Fake" Sport
With a month to prepare and the lights on bright, Randy Orton and Edge were scheduled to have an epic clash that could easily have stolen the show at WWE’s Over the Limit Pay-Per-View.
Instead, a bizarre accident that is stranger than fiction caused a major overhaul on the match, ending in a double count out and worse news for fans of the Viper.
Orton was going through his usual thrashing about in preparation for an RKO when his arm suddenly fell lame at his side. What was initially believed to be a broken forearm is now being confirmed via WWE.com as a separated shoulder for the former WWE Champion.
In an industry that often blurs the line between real and fake, some of the biggest flukes and tragedies happen in the most bizarre of circumstances.
In lieu (or perhaps honor) of Orton’s catastrophic finish to the month of May, here are six more stories about professional wrestling injuries that are all too real to be labeled as part of a “fake” sport.
Remember, staged, not fake.
WARNING: Some images may be deemed graphic or inappropriate for sensitive viewers and readers.
Vader’s Eye-Popping Good Time: February 10, 1990
In a crossover contest in Japan between two of the toughest wrestlers in the business, Big Van Vader took on Stan Hansen in a fistfight full of stiff blows and potatoes.
Hansen and Vader, notoriously rough and stiff workers, refused to take it easy on one another just to prove they could take it.
The wrestling gods had other plans, however, as one particular blow from Hansen shot the Rocky Mountain grizzly bear’s right eye out of the socket. Luckily for Vader, the eye managed to stay nestled underneath his swollen eyelid, giving him ample time to take off his mask and push it back in the socket.
Remarkably, Vader finished the match with Hansen in a no-contest decision.
Despite the finish, word of Vader’s legitimate toughness in such a compromising situation spread like wildfire, and he was soon signed to a contract by fledgling upstart World Championship Wrestling.
Cactus Jack’s Hangman Surprise: March 16, 1994
While Vader’s style was punishing, Mick Foley was simply barbaric.
As Cactus Jack, Foley gained a cult following for doing insanely dangerous stunts while going toe-to-toe with the toughest in the business.
A series of matches with the aforementioned WCW Heavyweight Champion took his career to the next level, albeit by mistake.
In Munich, Germany at a WCW show, Foley attempted to do a simple hangman’s choke through the ring ropes. The move, traditionally defined by one wrestler sticking his head in between the top two ring ropes like some kind of vice, looked far more devastating than it actually was.
However, there were a few factors working against Cactus that he hadn’t counted on.
Firstly, WCW’s ring ropes were notoriously inadequate by comparison to other wrestling companies. They used steel elevator cables wrapped in rubber rather than any actual “rope.”
Secondly, other WCW talent, namely Too Cold Scorpio, had already complained earlier in the evening about the ropes being too loose. When the ring crew went to work in between matches, they tightened the cables to the nth degree, and Cactus was a sitting duck.
His attempt hangman maneuver saw him lose over half his ear on the follow-through. Foley finished the match and would be back in no time, but the injury further motivated him to imply just how sick his character truly was.
He became so motivated, in fact, that WCW refused to push his injury into a story and he would instead vent those frustrations to ECW, creating an all new dimension to the career of Mick Foley.
Orndorff’s Reverse Piledriver Pain: September 17, 2000
WCW’s Fall Brawl pay-per-view had established itself in the 90’s, thanks in part to matches like the WarGames steel cage match.
By the year 2000, the brain trust decided to go a different direction with a 7-on-7 tag team elimination match with the Natural Born Thrillers taking on the Filthy Animals, Big Vito, and Paul Orndorff.
Orndorff, holding at least a decade of experience on any of his other cohorts in the match, managed to hold his own and last to about the midway point of the eliminations before he delivered his second signature pile driver to Mark Jindrak.
The pile driver is known throughout the wrestling world as a precision move that has accidentally injured more men than any other standard maneuver in history.
Generally, the injured party is the man being dropped on his head, but this was a weird instance in which Orndorff gave himself a stinger after landing on the mat in an off-balanced manner. As he lay immobile on the canvas, the match continued for a whole two minutes with bodies flying over his fallen carcass until referee Charles Robinson finally called for the bell, ruling the match a no-contest.
Break a Leg Sid: January 14, 2001
Sid Vicious was always something of a recluse outside the ring. Inside the ring, however, Sid was generally careful, especially during his final days in the WCW.
He may not have been the most technically sound competitor, but going into WCW Sin in 2001, one could argue that Sid hadn’t had too many mess-ups in his career.
During a four-way contest, that, at the time, featured only three men, Sid ascended the turnbuckle to deliver a simple dropkick to Scott Steiner. What Sid didn’t count on, however, is that he wasn’t far enough from the mat when he leaped, crash landing on top of his own leg, breaking it clean in two.
Though the movie wasn’t initially caught on the pay-per-view feed, Sid’s leg dangled from the calf down in a horrendous manner until Ric Flair sped up the ending of the match, which was a half-hearted double axe handle from Road Warrior Animal to the fallen Vicious.
The ending and half-dozen closure points that followed were completely overshadowed by what was one of the worst injuries caught on film since Joe Theismann.
Vince McMahon’s Epic Slide: January 30, 2005
Call it Botchamania at its best. When it came down to the final two participants in the 2005 Royal Rumble Match, Batista and John Cena, fans believed they were in for a surefire clash of future titans.
What they didn’t expect, however, was an accidental double elimination when Batista lost his footing and both men tumbled over the top rope.
As referees and wrestlers scrambled to rewrite the inevitable mess, Vince McMahon approached the ring with his own logical solution. In full McMahon strut, he attempted to slide into the ring gracefully, but hammered both his legs on the apron and tore both of his quadriceps in the process.
McMahon would have to make the decision to restart the contest sitting in a prone position on the canvas until he was escorted out of the ring by several officials.
Sure, you can blame age for this one, but to suffer through such an excruciating injury not once, but twice at the same time when all you were doing was sliding head first into the ring is a dubious accomplishment.
Triple H’s Total Quad Recall: January 7, 2007
The rivalry between Rated RKO and Degeneration X reached a fever pitch when the two superstar tandems squared off at New Year’s Revolution in 2007.
In what was expected to be the basis of a much larger scheme for Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, and Edge, all went to hell towards the end of the match.
Triple H, a chronic leg injurer, delivered a standard issue spine buster to Randy Orton, but came up lame after landing funny on the mat. Astute fans could’ve easily guessed what was coming. Helmsley laid on the ground struggling to stand as it was apparent he had again torn his quadriceps.
In the chaos that followed, Randy Orton was seen traveling aimlessly with a steel chair while Shawn Michaels hit anything and everything in a psychotic and anger-fueled rampage.
The match, not surprisingly, was a no-contest of bloody proportions. Fortunately, with Triple H out of the picture, Michaels was free to pursue one more run at the gold in a series of outstanding matches against John Cena, who, at the time, desperately needed some show-stealing contests.
Of course, this is only a brief smattering of the hundreds of incidents in professional wrestling history in which reality intervenes at an inopportune moment. The summation of these injuries and stories are often more memorable than the matches themselves.
And for those wondering where your moments disappeared to, I pose this challenge. Post them. Message me. Perhaps a second installment is in order. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game.