It can take a little while for a new viewer to get a feel for pro wrestling. The question of “was that part real?” is bound to come up two or three times over the course of, let’s say, a month. But after a while you start to develop an instinct about what is supposed to happen—no matter how stupid—and what was completely accidental.
Sometimes the accidents are gags that we can laugh about later…
Sometimes it’s a situation so terrible in its occurrence, or so huge in its happening that it’s impossible to sweep under the rug. When that happens it becomes clear to all that something has gone very wrong. Even in these cases, there are times when fans can laugh at the schadenfreude on display. But sometimes it’s more serious…and WWE is forced to say “this part is real and we’re sorry you had to see it.”
VINCE TEARS BOTH QUADS
Back in 2005, the last men standing in the Royal Rumble were the hottest rising talents on their respective brands, John Cena and Batista. Batista was scripted to win the Rumble and face Triple H at WrestleMania 21. And while Cena was also penciled in to win his title from JBL at the same show, Cena was never supposed to be more than a respectable runner-up in the Royal Rumble match. Instead, in what was supposed to be the final moment of the match, Batista and Cena both went tumbling over the top rope and both hit the ground.
I asked Dave Meltzer a year ago if this was scripted (like Bret Hart and Lex Luger back in 1994) and he said no, it was a complete mistake. I believe him (yo), but that doesn’t change just how amazing the timing of it was, because both sets of feet hit the floor exactly at the same time just like if it had been rehearsed. There were signs, however, that something was amiss. The typically calm and in-control referees suddenly started spazzing. The confusion was not resolved until Vince McMahon himself came out to fix things in-person on the fly…
This is where we go from simple “ha ha schadenfreude” to an actual “holy crap they’re in trouble now.”
Vince came power-walking out, finger-wagging and grumbling who knows what to no one in particular. And as he slid into the ring to sort things out, he tore both his quads simultaneously. Tearing just one quad is an injury that puts normal men into the fetal-position, crying in agony.
Vince refuses to be normal.
He sat there, physically unable to stand, barking orders like Aerys II. In the end the match was restarted and Vince was (moderately) helped to the back. What a finish. And if you were watching it and asking “wait…was that real?” Yes. Yes it was.
TRIPLE H TEARS HIS QUAD…TWICE
What’s worse, tearing both quads at once, or one quad on two separate occasions?
The year was 2001, the InVasion angle was still a twinkle in the turd of Vince McMahon. Instead, Steve Austin was a heel, just starting to find his groove as a bad-guy, post-WrestleMania 17, and with The Rock off making a movie, the top babyfaces on the roster were Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit.
Austin and Triple H were tag champs at the time, and in one of the greatest Raw matches ever (that will never be talked about ever again, sadly), Jericho and Benoit challenged the “Two Man Power Trip” for their championship. At the match’s climax and with the crowd going bananas, Jericho had Steve Austin in the Walls of Jericho, when his partner-in-crime Triple H jumped onto him to break the hold. When he did, he tore his lucky quad.
It was obvious immediately that something was wrong; Triple H was limping and wincing, but still he told Jericho to put him in the Walls for the pre-arranged finish of the match. And let’s be honest, that makes Triple H one of the toughest men ever to lace them up.
Fast forward to 2007 and Triple H was in the middle of a placeholder feud with Randy Orton and Edge (teaming with HBK as the revived PG-DX). His sights were set on main-eventing WrestleMania 23, which would have given him twelve-straight WrestleMania appearances (tying him with Bret Hart for the most). Instead, an awkward landing on a spinebuster tore his lucky quad again.
Bret Hart was probably somewhere in the frozen tundra of Canada, twisting on a voodoo doll and toasting a glass to himself the way the 72 Dolphins do whenever the last undefeated NFL team loses.
Once again, Triple H finished the match, kicking out on what could have been an easy-way-out finish. He even hit a Pedigree on the announce table!
On both occasions, the match played second-fiddle to the reality happening in front of everyone in the arena and at home. Fans in 2001 where just starting to question how much of an influence Triple H had backstage and they certainly were vocal about it in 2007; you can say what you want about the Son-in-Law but you can’t question his grit.
ANGLE FEEDS SHANE THE CONCRETE FLOOR
Speaking of 2001, Kurt Angle competed in three separate matches at the King of the Ring show that year. He put on a master-class performance, but all anyone remembers is Shane McMahon’s head bouncing like a ping pong ball on the top of the ramp.
Angle and Shane met in the penultimate match of the night, in a street fight. The match was laid out, like almost all Shane matches are, to show how much punishment the Boss’ son could endure.
Turns out it’s quite a lot.
Angle led Shane up to the stage in front of the glass facade bearing the PPV’s logo, wrapped his arms around him, and tossed McMahon behind him in a belly-to-belly suplex. The impact was supposed to send Shane crashing through the glass for a memorable moment sure to make newbies ask “was that real?!” Instead, there was a thud-thud that sent the crowd into a collective “OH CRAP THAT WAS REAL!” freakout.
Shane smacked into the glass and dropped straight down, his head driven into the concrete. Watching it live, many thought Shane had just broken his neck. Instead he got up, called for a repeat and took the spot as planned. And then went on to finish the match!
Tell me again how “fake” everything is.
ANGLE ALMOST BREAKS HIS (FREAKING) NECK
Your Olympic hero is no stranger to danger, and not just in the “giving it to Shane” kind either. In another “oh no I think he just broke his neck” moment, Kurt Angle found himself concussed right out of his first big PPV main-event.
During the hottest year ever in the WWF (2000), The Rock’s in-ring feud with Triple H, and Triple H’s out-ring feud with Kurt Angle (who had been putting moves on Stephanie for months) all came to a head in a triple threat match at SummerSlam 2000.
Early in the fight, Triple H brawled Angle up to the announce table and set him up for a Pedigree. The move was supposed to break the table upon impact but unfortunately, the table broke early and Angle was driven awkwardly to the ground below, slamming his head onto the concrete upon impact.
Amazingly Kurt managed not only to recite some backstage segment lines, but also return to finish the match. The interim, however, was filled with Rock vs Triple H—which had set the company on fire throughout the summer—being played out in front of a sold out crowd that couldn’t stop mumbling to themselves about whether or not Kurt Angle would even walk again.
BROCK LESNAR ALMOST BREAKS HIS (FREAKING) NECK
Back in the day Brock Lesnar was a versatile athlete who used his amateur background and freakish size and strength equally. He has always been a one-of-a-kind athlete in that respect but he doesn’t really show it anymore. Back in his younger days, however, Lesnar was known to do some amazing stunts.
While in Ohio Valley Wrestling (the WWE’s farm league at that time), Lesnar would break out a Shooting Star Press as a finishing move. It’s one thing to see the diminutive Billy Kidman do it, but when Brock Lesnar does it, it’s something else.
Naturally he wanted it to be the big finish to his first WrestleMania main-event.
The only trouble was, when the time came, his opponent, Kurt Angle, was about five-feet too far away. Lesnar—not exactly the brightest bulb in the fridge—decided not to drag his opponent to a better spot but instead trusted his own athleticism to carry him through the spot.
He leapt toward Angle and…drove his head right into the mat. Everyone immediately knew something bad had happened, and indeed something bad had happened (Lesnar was instantly concussed and knocked silly), but Angle (with a little over three years in the business) quickly walked Brock and the referee through an improvised finish that saved the match.
It remains one of the best main-events in WrestleMania history, but there were about 10 seconds there where everyone held their breath and just hoped for the best.
LESNAR DOES BREAK HARDCORE HOLLY’S (FREAKING) NECK
Early in his WWE career, the rookie Lesnar went up against Hardcore Holly in a throwaway TV match. Lesnar was frequently featured in glorified squash matches which got him over as the self-proclaimed “Next Big Thing.” No one was safe from Lesnar’s wrath; the man made Hulk Hogan look silly, for crying out loud.
But Hardcore Holly was not having it.
Holly was booked to lose to him on SmackDown in the fall of 2002, just after Lesnar won the Undisputed Championship. The plan was for Holly to make Lesnar look good and then lose with dignity, but Holly was an old school bully and intended to make the new kid “pay his dues.” Again, this wasn’t just a rookie; this was the top champion in the company. There’s old school, and there’s being petty.
When the time came for Lesnar to hoist Holly up for a powerbomb, Holly decided to sandbag his opponent and not help him with the lift. Lesnar’s stronger than most, but inertia and positioning are still things. Instead of helping him, Holly went limp like dead weight, intending to make Lesnar look weak and silly in front of the crowd.
So Lesnar just dropped him on his head.
The crowd, who had been crescendoing their cheer as Holly was lifted up, instantly deflated as everyone started watching closely to see if he was okay. Commentary stuttered for a moment before recovering and salvaging the moment, but there was no denying that Holly was badly hurt.
I’m not going to say he got what he deserved, but I will say “you stupid stupid man.”
There are other moments you can probably think of, and certainly some that are more in the “tragic” variety (Lawler’s heart attack), others from WCW’s circus of insanity (Sid Viscious’ ankle), and of course the worst of them all was Owen. But let’s not dwell on the truly tragic. Let’s focus on the minor mistakes and major goof-ups that caused you to say “oh no, that’s real…”
What moments do you remember from your years watching pro wrestling? Let us know in the comments below.
As always, I’m Matthew Martin: I love WWE, but everything sucks and I’m never watching again.
See you next Monday, Happy Halloween and be safe everyone.
Wrap those quads!