There are many instances of matches suddenly going off the rails. Tempers flare, the “script” is tossed, and violence ensues. Here are ten such shoot incidents when the wrestling matches turned real!
1. Vader vs. Ken Shamrock
Sometimes when a match turns to shoot, it will break down into a mess. Such was our first entry when Vader faced Ken Shamrock during his first match in the then WWF.
During Ken Shamrock’s short time in the WWF, he left his mark in the Attitude Era, being the connection between MMA and pro wrestling. Ken was arguably a forefather for people like Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Matt Riddle, to name a few.
Shamrock’s first WWF match was no holds barred against Leon White, aka Vader. Vader was a living legend by the time the two first clashed. After conquering Japan, Vader competed for both the WWE and WCW.
In 1997, it was In Your House 15 where these bulls were ready to lock horns. Coming from shoot fighting, Ken threw several punches that broke Vader’s nose. The point of a “worked” punch is not to hurt your opponent.
How did Vader respond? He threw a lariat of his own from out of the corner and almost knocked Shamrock out!
The match got back on track immediately.
Vader would eventually tap out to the ankle lock.
2. Rikishi vs. Russ McCullough
The HWA (Heartland Wrestling Association) was a WWF developmental territory started in 1996 and had a slew of notable names, such as a guy named John Cena (whatever happened to him?) and the subject of this shoot: Rikishi.
Rikishi is known for his jolly character and affinity for sticking wrestlers’ faces into his planet-sized posterior. However, it would shock the average fan to see that the lovable giant had a temper.
Russ McCullough was a former NFL linebacker who had transitioned to wrestling. McCullough was on a team with Haku and Elix Skipper versus Rikishi and the Island Boys.
There was a segment in the match where Russ was meant to hold Rikishi in position for a savate kick from Haku.
This is a tried and true trope in wrestling; the one held will escape the oncoming strike. Unfortunately, this did not go as planned, as McCullough did not let Rikishi go. Thus the big man took a full-force kick from Haku.
Shortly after the spot, McCullough hit the mat and rolled out of the ring, only to see a furious Rikishi grab a steel chair and hit him six times, the last of which was in the face.
McCullough promptly left the ringside area and retreated up the ramp.
The match was left in shambles.
This incident ultimately led to McCollough being released from his WWF developmental contract in 2001.
A few years later, Russ McCollough would join former WWE wrestlers Luther Reigns and Ryan Sakoda in a class action lawsuit against the company for brain damage suffered while working for WWE. The lawsuit would eventually be dismissed.
3. Vader vs. Stan Hansen
In February 1990, in New Japan Pro Wrestling, two of the top “Gaijin” (foreigners) were set to clash in a match with slobberknocker written all over it.
IWGP Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader and All Japan Triple Crown Champion Stan Hansen, both former New Japan Heavyweight champions, were the only western stars at the time and two of a handful of people to dominate the Japanese living legend, Antonio Inoki, in the ring.
Stan would come down to the ring and swing his signature bull rope. The rope had a cowbell at the end.
While Vader was getting in the ring, Hansen took a swipe at him with it, accidentally breaking his nose.
This sent Vader into a rage, and the two began to hammer each other with real strikes.
In the ensuing fight, Vader’s eye was knocked out of its socket, and the only reason it could be saved was that his eye swelled up shut, keeping it in place.
It was a hell of a day at the office!
4. APA (Farooq and Bradshaw) vs. The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy was a homegrown tag team from the land of barbwire and broken tables, ECW, consisting of Johnny Grudge and Rocco Rock.
They got over massively, culminating in a moment when the fans would jump into the ring to celebrate with them, causing the ring to collapse.
The APA consisted of Farooq (Ron Simmons) and Bradshaw (JBL). They faced one another on an episode of WWF Heat on March 7th, 1999.
The match was run-of-the-mill fare until the APA started working particularly stiff with their opponents. Then, it slowly turned into an actual physical altercation between the teams.
On the Stories With Brisco And Bradshaw podcast, Bradshaw discussed the bout with former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas, who was in the ring with them.
“We went over the match, went over everything, and everything was agreed,” Bradshaw explained.
“And it’s not our finish. So it’s not like me and Ron created the finish, it was given to us by the office. Same as it was given to them by the office.
“[Public Enemy] turn to me and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to do that spot on the table.’
“Well, that’s the finish.
“‘Yeah, we don’t wanna do that spot.’
“I said, ‘Okay,’” JBL continued. “They didn’t offer an alternative. So Ron turns to me, and he goes, ‘What was that?’ I said, ‘They don’t wanna go through the table.’ And he replied, ‘Well, we’ll take the table to them!’"
Farooq and Bradshaw started to pummel Grunge and Roc with unprotected chair shots and legitimate clotheslines, powerbombs, punches, and kicks.
And it only got uglier as the bout progressed.
Korderas recalled what it was like to stand in the ring waiting for the match to begin. Korderas explained that both Bradshaw and Simmons had faces on that looked like they were looking for a fight.
“As soon as they hit the ring, boom! That was snug!” Korderas explained. “It was a beating, and these guys were getting their a**es beat. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What is going on here?’”
“You guys laid a number of them,” Korderas admitted to JBL, “let’s put it that way."
After Korderas called for the bell, "the mugging continued."
Bradshaw and Korderas both thought that the fight might resume backstage. However, Public Enemy shook APA’s hands and thanked them for the match.
Public Enemy only wrestled in WWE for another month before being released.
No, it wasn’t a fun night for Public Enemy.
5. Taz vs. Sabu
The match had two of the most popular stars in ECW’s history. But, little did fans know that they would soon see the two duke it out for real.
Most say the animosity was mainly due to Taz and Sabu having intense arguments about how to book the match and Taz’s alleged hard-to-work-with attitude at the time.
Tazz had spent a week at his wrestling school detailing the match, but Sabu wasn’t loving the idea and proposed they “call it in the ring,” so to say.
They took legitimate shots at each other, and after several swipes during a cross-face, Taz broke Sabu’s nose.
They certainly earned their money that night.
6. Nick Bockwinkel and Harley Race vs. Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen
The bout took place in 1984; the stage was All Japan Wrestling’s Real World Tag League. All four men were delivering hard strikes and stiff kicks.
However, Bruiser Brody was not cooperating with Bockwinkle, often no-selling his offense. And after they tagged out, Hansen was seemingly dead weight in the hands of Race.
Race wasn’t deterred, however, and he suplexed Hansen hard.
It can be surmised that Hansen and Brody decided to do business once they saw Race was ready to shoot back.
And they did!
7. Rikidōzan vs. Masahiko Kimura
Masahiko Kimura was a world-famous Judoka who not only blazed a trail for the creation of MMA, but his love of pro wrestling was evident.
In the 1950s, he created the Japanese Pro Wrestling Association and extended a personal invitation to one of the preeminent wrestling legends, Rikidōzan.
Born Kim-Sin Rak, Rikidōzan became “The Father of Puroresu.”
The two locked up, and the match was going as planned until a spot happened where Rikidōzan chopped Kimura in the chest, and he brushed it off to display his toughness.
However, Kimura mentions in his book that Rikidōzan then chopped Kimura in his neck, which knocked him out.
Adding insult to injury, Rikidōzan kicked him in his head when he regained consciousness.
It was quite a night at the office for Masahiko Kimura!
8. Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Snake
Randy Savage and Jake Roberts were engaged in an electric feud in the WWF.
One day in late 1991, on an episode of Superstars of Wrestling, Jake had Savage’s arms twisted in the ropes and directed his new snake, Lucifer, to bite him. The bite was planned, but Lucifer was locked on and refused to let go.
For 34 seconds, people at home and in attendance watched in horror as crimson red poured out of Savage’s arm.
Savage looked like a vampire ambushed him.
“My arm blew up like a balloon for days,” Savage later remembered. “About five days later, they had to rush me to the hospital with a 104-degree fever.
“It’s unbelievable to walk into the hospital and tell the doctor I had a snake bite.
“Finally, the fever went down. They gave me antibiotics, and luckily the snake WAS de-venomized, but twelve days later, the snake died.
“He was de-venomized, but maybe I wasn’t!” (laughs)
Hey, the snake shot on him. And it was as real as real can get.
Now that’s a different kind of shoot.
9. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. Bruiser Brody
In the 1980s, Buck Robley was booking one of the hottest territories in the U.S., Houston, Texas. He flourished with big-name acts such as Junkyard Dog, The Fabulous Freebirds, and the focus of this entry, Bruiser Brody.
Robley had booked Brody to feud with a green newcomer in Jim Duggan, who Brody inspired. But, as the story goes, Brody and management were at odds.
As the bell sounded for Bruiser Brody and Jim Duggan to lock up, Brody swerved everyone and sat in the middle of the ring with his legs and arms folded.
Bruce Pritchard has insinuated that Robley instructed Duggan to work over Brody.
He begrudgingly agreed and started kicking him repeatedly; in response, Brody laid down for Duggan to pin him.
This effectively stopped the feud dead in its tracks.
Reflecting on Brody on The Genius Cast with Lanny Poffo, Jim Duggan admitted, “He was a bully. He was definitely a bully to a lot of folks.”
He continued, “There were a lot of guys who would fight him back, but those were the guys he really didn’t mess with.”
10. Kevin Nash vs. Jean-Pierre LaFitte
During his record-breaking WWF Championship run, Diesel defended his belt against another big man: Jean-Pierre LaFitte.
The two had heat going into the contest. In a prior bout, Jean-Pierre objected to losing to Diesel cleanly, and the finish was changed to a double count-out leading to an alleged argument.
In this follow-up bout the very next night, the former Quebecer and future PCO was said to have injured Nash with a top rope leg drop.
Nash gave Jean-Pierre a couple of stiff punches to the face and body in response.
The match continued to be a strange semi-shoot/semi-work until they finally linked up for the jackknife powerbomb to put LaFitte away.
PCO opened up about how Kevin Nash ruined his WWF career:
“I had a long undefeated streak. A month before the Montreal show, Kevin walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, buddy … it’s me and you in Montreal … big boot, jackknife, and 1-2-3.’ That was a month before.
“I’ve never heard of a finish being called a month before the show. It really got to me.
“When I walked into the Forum, (agent) Tony Garea came up to me and said, ‘I want a good 15-minute match … it’s going to be a big boot and a jackknife.’
“I said: ‘I’m not doing it.’
“I never got along well with Kevin or The Kliq. [When I told them I wouldn’t lose], Kevin said to me, ‘You don’t want to lose against me tonight, do you?’
I said, ‘I’m not losing against you or anybody tonight. If it’s going to be a job, I’m packing my bags and going home.'”
Kevin Nash added his thoughts on this incident:
“I’ve been a bouncer in some pretty rough places. I grew up on the south side of Detroit. When I was eight, my dad died. So I’ve been taking care of myself since I was a kid. And I’m a bit of a hothead on top of that.
“I’m a natural heel. [Outside the ring] I’m not Mr. Sunshine. I’m naturally sarcastic. I look at life very skewed, and I don’t trust anyone.
“I grew up in an area where you expect the worst of people, not the best.
“I was the WWFChampion, [Oullet] was told to do something to further the prestige of my Diesel character. He refused to do it.
“The next night [in Quebec City], he did a leg drop [off the top rope], and his entire rear end landed on the side of my head. I figured it was on, so I field-goal-kicked him between the legs.”
Several stiff shots followed, and the two were later separated backstage.
Nash continued, “Vince used to enjoy stirring the guys up. It made for better tension and better shows.
“I think the agents knew they made a mistake.”
Yes, a wrestler “gives his body” to another. So naturally, they expect to protect and work with rather than against each other. But any match has the potential to deteriorate into a shoot quickly. And as shown here, when it does, danger abounds.
Further Times Wrestling Matches Turned Into a Shoot:
- Kurt Angle and Daniel Puder – The Infamous Shoot Incident
- Fan vs. Shooter: The Ill-Fated $1000 Sugar Hold Challenge
- Earthquake John Tenta and Kōji Kitao – When Things Turned Real!
- Andre the Giant and Akira Maeda Fight That Turned REAL in Japan
- Bruiser Brody and Lex Luger – Steel Cage Disrespect
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