Wrestlers sacrifice their bodies every time they step into the ring, and unfortunately, injuries do occur. Whether it be scars, altered body parts, or general markings, these bouts left wrestlers with irreparable and permanent damage.
1. Mick Foley (Ear)
A hardcore icon, Mick Foley infamously left more than just a legacy in the ring – he left part of his body in Munich, Germany.
On a WCW tour in 1994, Foley, then known as Cactus Jack, took on long-time rival Vader in several hard-hitting and snug bouts. In a match in Munich, Foley went on to lose an ear due to a spot-gone-wrong.
During the match, the future-Mankind attempted a hangman (a wrestling move where wrestlers get their head knotted between the ropes). Earlier that night, the ropes had been tightened after a wrestler complained about them being too loose. In addition, the material used for the ring ropes that night was not the typical and traditional roping, but rather elevator cable. It was a recipe for disaster.
With Mick Foley stuck in these immensely tight ropes – and with the looming risk of passing out, possibly resulting in permanent brain damage, Foley ripped himself out of the ropes. In the process, his ear was torn.
With his ear now weakened, after a stiff punch by Vader, the dangling ear fell clean off of Foley’s head. The referee picked it up off the mat to hand to a member of ringside personnel, having no idea it was one of the competitor’s body parts. Soon afterward, WCW stopped allowing the two wrestlers to face off.
To this day, Mick Foley still only has 1/3 of his right ear but proudly shows it off as a sign of his hardcore legacy. For a man who has been thrown off Hell in a Cell, jumped head-first through announce table, and competed in matches featuring burning bats of barbed wire, this may be his most gruesome injury.
Recommended reading: Mick Foley Has the Longest Day of His Life in Japan
2. Cody Rhodes (Forehead)
The son of a wrestler known for his blading, Cody has seen his fair share of the red stuff over his time in wrestling.
Before debuting on TV, Cody wrestled several live event matches. On June 30th, 2007 (his birthday, coincidentally), a well-placed elbow landed between the eyes in a match with Daivari that hit a blood vessel. After the spurting blood stopped, Rhodes’s forehead was cabled-stitched up. According to Cody, a stitch once popped off, and "Plasma dripped down my nose in Applebee’s for about 40 minutes."
However, some of Rhodes’s most distinctive markings took place in AEW. Whether it was taking ten whips from MJF or his head being legitimately busted open by a chairshot at the hands of Shawn Spears, Cody is certainly willing to put his body on the line for his promotion. However, one of his most famous injuries took place in a significant pay-per-view bout.
Facing off against world champion Chris Jericho at AEW Full Gear 2019, the stipulation was that if the ‘American Nightmare’ lost, he could never again challenge for the world title. With this in mind, Cody went all out (no pun intended) in putting his body on the line, with the former ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes risking some of his good-looks for the bout.
Attempting an outside dive on ‘Le Champion’ (who was outside the ring), Rhodes landed face-first from over-the-top-rope, onto the floor. A gruesome cut opened on the Grandson of a Plumber’s face as he valiantly continued to wrestle through the injury, even as his face was engulfed in blood. The mark remains on Cody, further proving his willingness to do anything for the business.
3. William Regal (Eyelid)
Wrestling since the age of 15 and famously working a very European ‘snug’ style, it will likely be no surprise that Willaim Regal wears some memories upon his face.
The former King of the Ring has a variety of markings – one coming from Dean Ambrose in FCW, with an exposed turnbuckle smash leading to a scar on William’s ear (an injury Regal refused to go to the hospital for). Regal also has a mark on the right side of his upper lip – this was obtained in a match with the Boogeyman. The British grappler needed inside and outside the mouth stitching, with him claiming that "it still feels numb to this day." However, Regal does not mind these, stating that "scars make character."
Likely ‘Sir’ William’s most famous injuries came in a historically brutal feud with long-time friend and rival: Fit Finlay. As well as a hard-hitting parking lot brawl on an episode of Nitro, the two squared off in a memorable stiff encounter at Uncensored 1996.
Combining technical holds and vicious strikes, this painful-looking match between the British brutes would not only make audiences wince but end up taking its toll on the future NXT GM. About 15 minutes into the contest, the Belfast Bruiser (Fit Finlay) punched Steven Regal so hard it broke Regal’s nose, fractured his cheekbone, and forced him to bleed buckets, as an impromptu DQ finish had to be called.
Additionally, Regal split his eyelid from the bout, requiring 12 stitches. The mark is still there today, with William Regal claiming that it still plays up under cold weather.
4. Sabu (Arm)
The nephew of hardcore innovator The Sheik, Sabu similarly has marks on his body that show the effects of hardcore competition.
The kayfabe Arabian star has made a legacy for himself through his many extreme in-ring spots – whether it is his botching of his famous springboard offense or moves gone horrifically wrong. As well as having his neck accidentally broken by Chris Benoit at November To Remember 1994 (the source of the Canadian’s ‘The Crippler’ nickname), one of his most gruesome incidents happened against Terry Funk at ECW’S Born To Be Wired 1997.
Against esteemed grizzled hardcore veteran Funk, the “Homicidal, suicidal, genocidal, death-defying” man from Bombay, Michigan, fought in a No Ropes Barbed Wire match – a popular fixture in Japan at the time. The former ECW world champion attempted a corner splash on the Funkster, only to get caught up in the wire. This failed ‘Air Sabu’ attempt badly tore open his bicep, with the muscle nearly hanging out of the 11-inch gash.
Instead of calling off the match, Sabu (with help from manager Bill Alfonso) taped up the wound and continued on with the match, even managing to win the ECW title from Funk that night. Fighting through the extremely brutal injury, I think we can all agree – he earned it!
5. Shawn Michaels (Eye)
Early in his career, the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels played the role of the good-looking boy next door before turning heel and becoming the despicable pretty boy. However, from 2004 onwards, this would change.
Facing off against Kane at Unforgiven 2004 in a no DQ match, Michaels procured his distinctive lazy eye. This was during the questionable angle where Kane impregnated Lita, who would cost the ‘Big Red Machine’ the match in the end in a contest Shawn left with a new appearance.
Kane hit the former Rocker with the steel steps and slammed him through the announce table, but it is unclear at what exact point HBK sustained the injury. This seems to be a freak accident as the monster-turned-mayor is regarded by many as one of the safest in-ring workers.
From here on, Shawn Michaels’s injury contributed to a more grizzled, serious side of the ‘Showstopper.’ The eye was used in a storyline with Chris Jericho where it was said that the injury was caused by the lead singer of Fozzy in 2008.
Recommended read: The Rockers – Why Their WWE Championship Win Isn’t Recognized
6. Harley Race (Hernia)
Despite his success in the NWA and remaining a top draw for years, it did not take long for things to go wrong during the run of ‘Handsome’ Harley Race in the WWF.
Wanting to make him a huge star off the bat without acknowledging his success in outside promotions, Harley Race was instantly booked to win the 1986 King of the Ring. Now donning a cape, a crown, and a blonde perm, Race was given a big match at WrestleMania 3, a feud with Jim Duggan, as well as a feud with WWF top star Hulk Hogan. However, it was his rivalry with Hogan that would lead to a lingering injury.
During a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping in March of ’88, Race went for what looked like an apron headbutt on a prone Hogan. This table was not today’s more breakable table but rather a catering table. The table seemed too close to the ring, and after Hulk moved, Race crashed stomach first onto the table’s solid metal edges, sustaining a hernia in the process.
Forcing its way up Harley’s abdomen, this kept Race out of active competition for an extended period of time. Being regarded as one of the toughest men behind the curtain, he returned sooner than expected eight months later in November.
After losing to the new king crowned in his absence at the Royal Rumble, Haku, Harley Race left for WCW. Even though he was primarily a manager, he continued taking bumps in WCW for so much longer than his body really should have, which impacted his life after stepping away from the squared-circle.
Read, if you dare! –> Harley Race – 10 Tales on His Tenacity and Strength
7. Tyson Kidd (Neck)
A former 3-time tag team champion in the WWE, Tyson Kidd had a few great years ahead of him before a catastrophic injury nearly ended his life.
Unknowingly wrestling his last televised match the night before, Kidd wrestled Samoa Joe in a Raw dark match. Despite both wrestling in NXT, the two had never faced off beforehand. Samoa Joe finished the match with his trademark move, the Kinniku Buster (Muscle Buster). In this move, the wrestler on offense gets the opponent in a fisherman suplex position before taking a flat-back bump.
Something went wrong this night, and Kidd needed immediate surgery for his neck – a surgery that required 16 staples, 4 nails, and a rod to fix. With a 5% chance of survival and, on top of that, a 99% chance of being paralyzed if recovered, it is a miracle that Tyson Kidd is in the good shape he is today.
With his in-ring career now behind him, Tyson Kidd is employed as a WWE producer and on good working terms with Joe, with Tyson accepting it was just a natural mistake. However, WWE has banned the move’s usage. It has been noted how fortunate Kidd is to be alive, not to mention not having the same fate as the likes of Christopher Reeve or fellow pro wrestler Droz who suffered similar types of injuries.
8. Hardcore Holly (Back)
Despite runs as a member of a self-aware jobber, a faux NWA tag team, and a mullet-rocking Nascar driver – his most memorable gimmick was as a no-nonsense veteran who would rough up his wrestlers. However, on this occasion, it was Bob Holly who would be left scarred.
Cast as a member of WWE’s ECW rebrand in 2006, Holly was one of the more established names of the division, with his hard-hitting style presumably being a natural fit for the ‘Land of Extreme.’ Despite participating in the extreme elimination chamber and ending CM Punk’s ECW undefeated streak, fans never really took hold of the former Bombastic Bob, likely due to Holly being perceived as a ‘WWE guy’ and not a true ECW stand-out.
In September, on an episode of ECW TV, Holly took on fan-favorite Rob Van Dam in an extreme rules match. During the bout, the former hardcore champion suplexed RVD off the apron through a table on the outside. As we cut to break, Holly is gritting his teeth and visibly is in pain – most fans likely believed this was just the veteran selling the spot. However, when we returned from break, the opening shot was a close up of a huge, bloody gash over his back.
Having hit his back on the table’s metal lining, Holly received 24 stitches for the mark after the bout but continued the match, eventually being pinned by the master of the 5 Star Frog Splash. Hardcore’s valiant continuation of the encounter gained him a standing ovation from the fans afterward, as well as Holly turning face as a result of his determination.
When interviewed on WWE’s The Bump, Holly recalled, “It felt like somebody had slapped me on my back. Like if you had a sunburn and somebody slapped you. I was like, ‘What in the hell is this? Why does it hurt so bad?'” He added, “I thought it was an incredible match, in my opinion, and I hope everybody did too. From the response I got afterward, I got a standing ovation, and even though I lost the match to Rob, the fans just appreciated the hard work.”
Here are five more articles detailing unfortunate injuries sustained in the ring:
- 3 Accidents In the Ring That Ended Careers Too Soon
- Joey Mercury – The Injury That Brokedown a Promising Career
- Vader and the Time His Eye Popped Out During a Match
- Steve Austin – The Neck Injury That Changed His Life Forever
- Droz and D’Lo Brown – How A Disastrous Moment Brought on Strength