How A Disastrous Moment Involving Droz in WWE Brought on Strength

An Unfortunate Mishap in the Ring Leads to Paralysis for WWE Wrestler Droz

Photo Credit: WWE.

On October 5th, 1999, Droz suffered a severe neck injury in a match against D’Lo Brown during a WWF SmackDown taping.

In one quick instant, the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder became a quadriplegic with virtually no movement below the neck.

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How The Injury Took Place

Photo Credit: WWE.

When a professional wrestler goes into the squared circle, he or she puts their body on the line risking a wrestling injury. There is absolutely no way around it. Even with an almost unfathomable commitment to the craft and years of their life training, unfortunately, that doesn’t stop terrible accidents from occurring from time to time.

Darren Drozdov, also known as Droz or Puke (for his ability to vomit on command), became a quadriplegic due to a disastrous wrestling injury that took place during a SmackDown taping on October 5th, 1999, at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. His opponent was D’Lo Brown.

As the best theory goes, Droz didn’t get the proper jump to aid in D’Lo’s running powerbomb, while Brown himself couldn’t get a good grip because of Drozdov’s loose shirt. This resulted in Droz crashing to the mat in a gruesome manner, leaving him paralyzed. It was a true accident.

“Never View, Copy, Or Destroy”

Photo Credit: WWE.

The match, while being taped in its entirety, was edited by the time it aired on television. WWF SmackDown at the time was taped days before its airing, which gave WWF time to edit out inconsistencies.

Because of this, WWF technicians have withheld the footage of the match, deciding not to release it in any format. However, the footage of Droz being taken out on a stretcher has been seen in "WWE’s Don’t Try This at Home" public service announcements aired after the injury took place.

Footage of this injury currently sits inside the WWE vault, alongside the tape of Owen Hart’s fall at Over The Edge 1999. Instructions on both read: Never view, copy, or destroy.

These are the only two pieces of WWE footage with this guidance.

The Point Droz Made to D’Lo Brown After the Accident

Photo Credit: WWE.

As Mick Foley tells it in his book "Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker than Wrestling," while on a stretcher, Droz made it a point to tell D’Lo Brown not to blame himself.

That must’ve been a tall order.

What D’Lo Brown Said in the Aftermath

Photo Credit: WWE.

D’Lo Brown, for his part, had this to say in 2014:

INTERVIEWER: "Do you feel comfortable talking about Darren Drozdov’s wrestling injury?"

D’LO BROWN: "Yeah, I do. Um, not one of my (pauses, a clear change happening as his mood turns blue) definitely not one of my brighter days. Probably the worst day of my life. Talking in terms of wrestling and real life. Um (pauses) just, uh, that’s an instant downer for me."

When Was the Last Time D’Lo Brown Talked with Droz?

Photo Credit: WWE.

When asked when the last time was that he spoke to Droz, D’Low Brown replied:

"Probably about, um, six months ago. He and I, we were never close before the accident and, um, I don’t know how an accident can draw two people closer. And then, there’s heat with his wife and me for some reason; I don’t know. You know, she puts a lot of blame on things. Droz and I have talked about it on several occasions. We don’t know what went wrong.

"Out of respect, we don’t watch the tape. I can clear up a few [misconceptions]. It wasn’t a fan throwing ice in the ring, throwing garbage in the ring, and I didn’t slip.

"It was just, and it could’ve been anybody in the ring with him that night. It just happened to be me. It happened to be my sad misfortune to be in the ring, and because of that, you know, a man’s paralyzed."

The Effect Droz’s Injury Had on D’Lo Brown

Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling, Fox Sports, WWE.

D’Lo Brown talked about the effect Droz’s injury had on him:

“People ask me all the time, does that affect me? Hell yeah. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be human. For probably about a year, I wrestled differently. I second-guessed everything I did and that, that-that was probably- I should’ve just taken- I mean, I should’ve taken time off. And if it hadn’t been for Jim Ross really talking to me, I was gonna quit the business. I was done.

“I was this close to saying, ‘The hell with it.’ I couldn’t- ’cause no one ever got hurt on my watch. No one has since, you know? And someone is trusting me to give me their body. I want them to walk out of the ring in the same condition they came in, and that’s one thing I prided myself on. Really, I was really close to quitting. As I said, Jim Ross sat down with me.

“We had a long, long, probably three-hour conversation full of football references, and how we all know the risks going into the game, how it could’ve been anybody. He eventually turned me around and made me want to continue wrestling. But that accident not only affected me professionally but personally. I mean, I was a whole different person.”

Almost Separating From His Fiance Due to the Incident

Photo Credit: WWE.

D’Lo Brown continued, “You know, I almost separated from my fiancé during that time. I’m not a party guy, but all of a sudden, I was just living life like there was no tomorrow, *** wide open. Just gone. Because I didn’t know what to do and that was my way of- I was depressed, and I didn’t know it. So my way of trying to get rid of my depression was to party.

“That took about a year, where I didn’t know really what was going on."

Did Droz Carry Any Resentment Towards D’Lo Brown?

Droz and D'Lo Brown shown here catching up in 2018.
Photo Credit: Frank Borris.

In a 2014 interview with Jim Ross for Fox Sports, Darren Drozdov spoke about the accident and his thoughts regarding Brown:

"I have no hard feelings toward D’Lo because **** happens and everyone who gets involved in athletics, including WWE, knows the risks that exist. It was an accident."

On Any Given Night, Injuries Can Occur

Photo Credit: WWE.

While there have been instances in the past that show us the importance of proper training to prevent a wrestling injury, Droz and D’Lo’s stirs a much scarier thought: even the most technically sound wrestlers can suffer horrible misfortune. On any given night, a performer can get injured due to an accident.

On Saturday, August 25th, 2018, Stand Alone Wrestling presented an event called Boardwalk Beatdown in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the event, Droz and D’Lo Brown appeared together for the very first time since 1999.

Life For Droz After the Accident

[Photo: Fox Sports]
[Photo: Fox Sports]
In the years following the injury that took place in 1999, Darren Drozdov regained most of the use of his upper body and arms. Following his accident in the ring, Droz continued to work for the WWE as a writer and columnist, where he wrote articles and essays for the WWE website and magazine.

He also had a recurring role on the WWE Byte This! internet show, which ran from 2003-2006, where he gave his opinions regarding current talent and upcoming matches. For many years, he additionally wrote articles with his predictions for WWE pay-per-views.

Tragic Death of Droz

Photo Credit: WWE.

It’s been reported that on June 30th, 2023, Darren “Droz” Drozdov passed away at the age of 54. He died of natural causes, according to a statement from his family.

Droz spent recent years in South Jersey with his sister and her family. He required 24-hour in-home care and was required to take multiple medications daily in addition to needing to lie flat for long periods of time. With the assistance of his medical staff and continued support from the WWE, he was able to sustain a degree of independence.

Life After the Injury

Photo Credit: WWE.

Days after his accident in 1999, Droz married WWE seamstress Julie Youngberg. He later stated that the one thing he wished he was able to do was be to walk Julie down the aisle. The two divorced in late 2005.

Droz used a customized, tank-like wheelchair that was designed and financed by his college friend, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.

Remembering Droz

Photo Credit: WWE.

We’ll end this piece with an inspiring quote from Droz, which he shared with Jim Ross, "No matter what puts you down, in my eyes and in my mind, there is always another day. Just because I’m paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair doesn’t mean my life is over. I’ve learned to live again, and my life is far from over."

Darren “Droz” Drozdov’s passing leaves a deep sadness and many questions about what might have been after his promising career was tragically cut short. However, he will always be remembered for his strength in overcoming adversity.

12 Times The WWE Failed To Recognize Talent: Notable Hall Of Fame Omissions

These twelve legends are more than worthy of a WWE Hall of Fame induction but have been done wrong despite being on Vince's radar for years.
Photo Credit: WWE.

We pay tribute to the legends who were done wrong by Vince McMahon, despite being clearly on his radar. Sadly, many of them will never receive this honor.

Read: 12 All-Time Legends the WWE Hall of Fame Did Wrong

Rick Rude: A Ravishing Man with a Tragic End

Rick Rude was more than "Ravishing."
Photo Credit: WWE.

“He refused to budge.”

Rick Rude was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname “Ravishing” — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it.

Learn His Tragic Story.

Wrestling Injuries That Ended Careers Too Soon

Tyson Kidd and Cesaro with some tandem offense on Kofi Kingston.
Photo Credit: WWE.

“When I hit the mat, I knew my neck was broken and that I was paralyzed.”

These individuals’ lives were irrevocably altered while doing what they loved.

Greg Valentine’s Defiant Act Behind The WWE Intercontinental Championship Belt

Greg Valentine on His Career and the Tragic Fate of His Destroyed IC Title
Photo Credit: WWE.

When Greg Valentine and Tito Santana met on July 6, 1985, in a steel cage in Baltimore, Maryland, Santana got the victory to reclaim the title. Valentine responded by retrieving the championship and destroying the belt, beating it repeatedly against the cage and tearing the gold away from the leather.

"I had to give the belt back to Tito after that angle," Valentine said. "And one day, when I saw him a few years ago, I asked whatever became of that belt, because Tito kept it after that angle. What he responded with broke my heart.”

Read: Greg Valentine on His Career and the Tragic Fate of His Destroyed IC Title

Owen Hart’s Death: What Really Happened, From Those There

RIP Owen Hart (1965-1999).

VINCE McMAHON: “Earlier that day, I was shocked and surprised by what Owen said.”

On May 23rd, 1999, the wrestling world mourned the loss of Owen Hart. People behind the scenes on this unthinkable day reflect on the tragedy, answering the all-important questions.

Learn more in Owen Hart’s Death: What Really Happened, From Those There

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Joseph Finnegan is a longtime contributor here at Pro Wrestling Stories. He is a published author and produced screenwriter who has earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. He is currently working on a fiction anthology series titled, "Random Tales." You can keep up with the development of that series at the Twitter link below. Joseph's contact info can be found on his portfolio website linked above.