Sometimes in professional wrestling things get a little ‘too’ real. Here are 5 insane matches that could, and maybe should, have been stopped.
At this year’s Hell In A Cell, the instant classic between Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins left fans in shock for multiple reasons. When Cody revealed his bruising as a result of his torn pectoral muscle, fans and the industry at large were left wondering if the match should taken place, or if it would be in jeopardy of being stopped.
Despite the controversial circumstances, the two athletes pulled off what Dave Meltzer has called the best WWE match of the decade, earning themselves a coveted “5 star rating” in the process. In this case it seems allowing the match to continue was best for business, but here’s five cases where those in charge may have been moments away from stopping the action.
1. The Undertaker vs Mankind: Hell In A Cell – WWE King Of The Ring 1998
From one Hell In A Cell to another, this match has arguably the number one and two most shocking bumps of all-time. In this infamous clash between The Deadman and rival Mankind, the duo stopped at nothing to create a serious of insane stunts and visuals that will forever be etched in the minds of wrestling fans.
If being thrown from the top of the cell through the announce table wasn’t enough, Foley then returned to the top of the cage only to be chokeslammed straight through it onto the unforgiving ring pine and canvas below. The impact was so severe, combined with a steel chair falling on him, that as well as dislocating his jaw, shoulder and suffering a concussion, one of his teeth even ended up in his nose.
Given that his face was literally rearranged, officials would have been well within their rights to call it quits there. However, by letting the two legends finish the encounter, this match has stood the test of time as one of the most recognised WWE matches and moments of all-time
Foley recalled talking with Vince McMahon afterwards expressed to Foley that whilst he was extremely grateful for his sacrifice for the company, he never ever wanted to see anything like that on his programming again.
2. DX vs Brothers Of Destruction – WWE Crown Jewel 2018
This 2018 encounter saw the returning DX to face the brothers of destruction in the main event of WWE’s extremely lucrative Crown Jewel PPV. Unfortunately, relatively early on in the match, what would usually be a routine manoeuvre for The Game, saw his pectoral muscle torn completely form the bone mid-match.
Triple H was whipped into the corner where his partner Shawn Michaels was positioned. He explained in his WWE Network Documentary ‘Creation and Destruction: Triple H’s Road to WrestleMania’, that as he threw himself over the top rope, he hooked the rope a little tighter than usual to protect Michaels, thus causing the tear to his pec.
Unfortunately, the participants were unable to recover the flow of the contest and get it back on track. What could have been a fun nostalgic nod to the previous era, featuring some of the all-time greats, instead was universally panned. Even the participants themselves were quick to roast the performance. In a WWE watch along, Triple H, said ‘it couldn’t have gone any worse’, with Michaels adding that ‘It totally blew’, with Undertaker concluding that it was a ‘train wreck’.
Due to the severity of the injury and the relatively early stage this occurred, WWE officials would have had every reason to call this contest off. However, given the extremely lucrative setup underpinning this match-up and the tenacity of Triple H, giving up was not an option.
3. Matt Hardy vs Sammy Guevara: Elite Deletion Match – AEW Full Gear 2020
Following on from crossing paths in the Stadium Stampede match at Double or Nothing, Sammy Guevara entered into a feud with Matt Hardy, that would be marred equally with controversy and injury.
On the August 5th episode of Dynamite, Guevara made a decision on the fly to launch a heavy chair at the head of Matt Hardy, causing a serious laceration, with proverbial fireworks taking place as a result backstage after the match.
Things would get even worse as their feud progressed to a ‘Broken Rules’ match at ‘All Out’ 2020, in which Hardy would suffer one of the scariest pro wrestling injuries in recent years.
Mid-way through the contest, Guevara and Hardy ventured to the top of a scissor lift as it became apparent that the next spot was for the duo to fall through the merchandise table set up below. Unfortunately, as Guevara speared Hardy, they overshot the landing, causing Hardy’s head to bounce off of the unforgiving concrete below.
It would be well over a minute before Hardy could make it to his feet at which point the match was suspended. Whilst many would have expected the encounter to have finished here, the call was made on the fly to restart the match, much to the distaste of many of the viewers and critics.
Perhaps it was the added stipulation of Hardy’s career being on the line, or the chaotic nature of the situation, with Hardy appearing as if he wanted to continue that caused the decision to be made.
Some would say the right thing to do would have been to call off the contest, live to fight another day and come up with a creative solution to get out of the corner they’d booked themselves into. In this case, the match did finish with it’s intended conclusion, leaving viewers and industry professionals wondering if the right call had been made
4. Big Van Vader vs. Stan Hansen – NJPW Super Fight In Tokyo Dome 1990
It is well documented that Vader was often known to ‘stiff’ his opponents, to the point of recklessness. Well on this occasion Vader was given a taste of his own medicine as Stan ‘The Lariat’ Hanson was more than happy to meet Vader’s intensity.
One stray shot from Hanson, left Vader in pain for a few seconds, before realising his eye had actually popped out of the socket. Not wanting to bring this iconic clash to an immature finish, Vader manually popped the eye back in.
Vader discussed the incident in a shoot interview with ‘Title Match Wrestling,’ where he explained that after popping the eye back in, the swelling was so great that he was forced to show his mask-less face.
This was in fact the first time that Vader ever fully revealed himself, gaining a huge pop from the crowd as it went down as one of the most memorable mask-reveals in pro wrestling history
5. Cactus Jack vs Vader – WCW WorldWide (Germany) 1994
A second entry for both Vader and poor Mick Foley, who this time lost a little bit more than a tooth.
During a 1994 encounter in Germany on a WCW House show, Foley was struck so hard by Vader that it ripped off his entire ear. Nowadays, this would surely be followed by medical teams, doctors, EMT’s and more, but back in the ‘good old days’, the only reaction came from the referee who responded to the chaos by simply putting Foley’s ear in his pocket and saving it to be reattached later.
Foley recalls in his WWE ‘Beyond The Ring’ documentary that the referee for the match could only speak French, so he couldn’t inform him the ear had been saved before it was passed to ring announcer Michael Cappetta, who in turn brought it to Ric Flair and asked him what to do with it.
Only in the wrestling business can your detached ear end up in the capable hands of The Nature Boy Ric Flair, as the match casually continues in front of the fans who are oblivious to the chaos that has taken place.