10 Times A Botch Improved A Match
Looked planned. Wasn't planned.
None but the most unhinged and willfully cruel amongst us like to see a wrestler botch a move. After all, everything in a match is designed from the ground up by the wrestlers and the agents in order to bestow upon us maximum storytelling fulfilment, and a botch, with its unplanned and unexpected consequences, has the potential to spoil all of that.
Superseding that point, botches are straight-up dangerous and should instil in all of us a genuine sense of panic for the wrestlers' safety. When you, for example, see Cesaro mistime a Tope and land directly on his neck, as he did at Clash of Champions 2016, it sends a lightning bolt of fear through you. Suddenly, the artificial nature of the combat before your eyes falls away and you are presented with the grim truth that wrestling is stupidly risky and perhaps our enjoyment of it doesn't justify the potential paralysis (or worse) of the human beings involved.
No one likes to be confronted with a botch, but sometimes, something rare happens. Every so often a botch occurs that is noticeably 'wrong', but which, either through providence or the wrestlers' skill, manages to make the match better. Perhaps not for the wrestlers themselves, granted, but for the crowd watching at home, these mishaps can enrich the viewing experience tenfold. It's selfish to want to see them, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate them once they've happened. Here are 10 of the finest botches that actually improved the story of a match...
10. Scary Landing For Sami
Match: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens – Battleground 2016
Sure, the 'Last Time Ever' stipulation for the match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens may have been a bigger lie than all of our lives combined (they wrestled five weeks later on Raw, and, while we're counting, six days later on a house show) but that didn't stop it from being a modern classic.
From the hot-fire opening to the emotional denouement of Sami planting Owens with an extra f**k-you-for-everything Helluva Kick, the match felt climactic, and that top-shelf drama was helped no end by a potentially disastrous botch mid-contest.
Sami attempts a sitting Springboard Moonsault from the top rope to the outside but slips and lands directly on his shoulder, right on the ring apron which of course is the hardest part of the ring, I've heard. Owens and Zayn, because they're fantastic wrestlers with even better wrestling brains, then make the next five minutes all about Sami's shoulder, with Zayn favouring it heavily, and Owens smashing it into the ring post. What made the crowd lean in even further was that this was the exact same shoulder Sami had injured the year earlier (kayfabe at the hands of Owens) which had scuppered his previous main roster push.
Sami had almost re-injured himself, right here, in the blowoff match of the feud. It's a botch so narratively perfect that half the fandom convinced themselves that Sami nearly crippled himself on purpose.
9. Joey's Face Dies So The Feud May Live
Match: The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM vs. Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. William Regal & Dave Taylor – Armageddon 2007
In WWE, while some ladder matches tell compelling stories, the majority of them are spotfests, with tightly choreographed spots that make the fans coo at their intricacy and daring. They're so spotty that sometimes the fans can become numbed to just how dangerous they really are.
At Armageddon 2007, London and Kendrick's tag belts were on the line in a four corners tag-team Ladder Match against three other teams and, as you'd expect from an eight-man Ladder Match, it was precision carnage up until the point that Joey Mercury's nose was demolished by a spot-gone-wrong.
Jeff Hardy leapt from the top rope onto a ladder balanced in a see-saw manner on another. With his weight crashing down on one end of the ladder, the other flipped up into the faces of Johnny Nitro, Matt Hardy and Joey Mercury, who was positioned too close. The ladders destroyed his face, turning his nose into a crumpled mass of blood.
An awful accident, but not only did every other ladder-based stunt in the match suddenly carry much more weight, but the botch formed the basis of an electric, organically-created feud between MNM and the Hardyz.
8. Sid Sends Brian Flyin' On Top Of His Head
Match: The Four Horsemen vs. Sting, Brian Pillman & The Steiner Brothers - WrestleWar '91
WarGames is back, and within the confines of that caged double-ring, fans are going to be expecting brutality. The stipulation comes with no small lineage of carnage and that rep was helped in no small part by this skull-rattling misstep from 1991.
The contest had entered The Match Beyond, all eight men were in the ring and a single submission was all that stood in the way of each team and victory. This portion of the match is where WarGames typically kicks into a higher gear, with the teams ratcheting up the violence to force their opponents to give.
Brian Pillman was booked to be the wrestler that conceded defeat and that story was given an extra dose of reality when Sid Vicious made a near-fatal misjudgment. Sid got Pillman up for his patented Powerbomb but under-estimated the height of the cage. Brian bounced off the steel and was dropped to the mat right on his head and neck to the sudden horror of not only the crowd but Jim Ross on commentary.
The powerbomb legitimately knocked Pillman out cold, and shortly thereafter, the match was thrown out on his behalf. It very almost ended Pillman's career but was an exhibition of the kind of brutality that people expect from WarGames. At least it served Pillman's underdog character and made Sid look like an unhinged lunatic so every cloud and all that...
7. The Pain Of 'Glass'
Match: Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle - King Of The Ring 2001
With Shane O'Mac and Kurt Angle set to attempt literal murder on each other, within the confines of 'sports entertainment' of course, the PPV set for King of the Ring 2001 included a wall made up of sheets of sugar glass, each emblazoned with the show's decal. This, on paper, should have allowed Kurt to throw Shane through the glass with the daredevil left relatively unscathed and the watching audience's jaws on the floor.
However, an error led to a thicker substitute being used. When Angle attempted to belly-to-belly Shane through said glass, the Boy Wonder bounced off and dropped to the concrete floor, right on his head. For Shane, this would be comparable to mere mortals like us falling off the couch onto laminate flooring after a few too many scoops. Still, head trauma and all that.
The mistake was truly difficult to watch, but it served the joint purpose of making the Street Fight feel utterly barbaric, but also sold previously-foppish Kurt Angle as a cruel architect of misery and positioned Shane as a survivor.
6. The Undertaker Almost Becomes An Actual Dead Man
Match: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XXV
It's, reasonably, heralded as the greatest WrestleMania match of all time, with The Deadman defending his undefeated streak from the light-wielding onslaught of Shawn Michaels.
Both men were renowned for putting on their most acclaimed work at WrestleMania, and so this meeting arrived with sky-high expectations. When hype reaches such unreasonable levels, a single botch could be shattering. Taker's botched Plancha almost prematurely ended not only the best WrestleMania match in history but also his illustrious career.
Shawn Michaels was outside the ring and the Undertaker launched himself against the ropes to ready his dive to the outside. The plan was for Michaels to grab the nearby cameraman (Jimmy Snuka's son, Sim, in disguise) and pull him into Taker's path. Instead, Snuka wasn't far enough forward, or Taker's flight stopped too short, and the Phenom landed on the barely-covered concrete with his head and shoulders taking the brunt of the impact.
The botch was horrible to see but like the majority of mishaps on this list, it served to make every spot that followed it more impressive and dramatic. Suddenly, Taker was the wounded animal, with The Streak in more danger than it had ever been before. And speaking of The Streak, if Taker was willing to nearly kill himself to protect it - albeit in botched-form but still trying a silly move nonetheless - that elevates TENFOLD not only Taker's defence of it, but any challengers attempt to break it.
5. The Great Slip-suke
Match: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. The Great Sasuke – Super J Cup '94 Semi-Final
Sometimes wrestling is hilarious, whether it's The Rock's scathing barbs, Kurt Angle desperately trying to conceal his recently-shaved head, or HBK pinning Mike Knox after one superkick before asking “Who was that?” However, if you've ever seen a movie outtake you'll know that sometimes the unintended can be even more hilarious than the planned gag, and that goes for wrestling botches as well.
Take this semi-final match in the NJPW's Super J Cup tournament pitting legends The Great Sasuke and Jushin Thunder Liger against each other. Sasuke had been battered about by the more dominant Liger to the extent that the latter's complacency was booked to blow up in his face.
The Great Sasuke was supposed to endure Liger's beating before launching himself at his opponent with a springboard Hurricanrana pinning combination, which would upset his cocky opponent with a shock win. Instead, Sasuke hops up to the top rope and stacks it to the mat below with all the grace of Big Daddy V slipping on a banana peel while giving Giant Haystacks a piggyback on hot coals while wearing high heels and with an active beehive up his arse.
Without missing a beat, Liger breaks into mock applause, using the botch to become even more braggadocios, flaunting his opponent's error before the crowd. Sasuke then nips up from the mat, snatches Liger in a Hurricanrana pin and get the win as the crowd EXPLODE in joy. They couldn't have booked Liger's comeuppance better if they'd tried.
4. He's Just A Concussed Kurt (Concussed Kurt)
Match: Kurt Angle vs. Triple H vs. The Rock – SummerSlam 2000
If you want to see what human toughness looks like live on PPV look no further than the main event of SummerSlam 2000. It was an odd but wonderful Triple Threat match, with the two heels feuding more with each other than either of them were with the face. After Kurt Angle had tried to play 'hide the medals' with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and your Olympic hero brawled before The Rock even made through the curtain. That scuffle culminated in a spot atop the announce table that went drastically wrong.
Trips had Angle set up for The Pedigree when the table gave way beneath their feet and Angle's head was ploughed into the concrete floor. It could have fractured his skull but instead, it just gave him the mother of all concussions, necessitating his stretchered removal from the match as the crowd watched on in hushed concern. The move had obviously been botched, and Kurt was obviously hurt. Suddenly it had all become real, and the main event to SummerSlam looked to be an abbreviated mess.
Somehow Angle emerged later in the match to reignite the Triple Threat, except now the threat of actual violence underpinned the whole contest, adding a tangible sense of tension. Sure, Angle had to have spots called to him by the other wrestlers, by the ref, and even by Steph at ringside, but his undeniable testicular fortitude in ploughing on with the match whilst for-realsies concussed legitimised Angle in the eyes of many, and within two months he was WWF Champion.
3. Lita Puts Her Neck On The Line
Match: Lita vs. Trish Stratus – Monday Night RAW 2004
Like Cesaro would emulate against Sheamus 12-years later, Lita misjudged a Tope, missing Trish and landing on the ringside floor hard on her neck and shoulders. For one awful second, it looked like she'd broken her back, her neck, and everything else employed to keep her posture in an upright position.
As unintended as it was, the spot played into the narrative of Lita's quest to unseat Stratus perfectly. As Jerry Lawler was quick to bring up on commentary, Lita had previously broken her neck two years earlier, requiring her to miss much of 2002. The botch, as gruesome as it was, served as a sharp reminder of Lita's medical past and only increased the fans feverish desire to see her victorious.
2. A Beautiful Failure
Match: Royal Rumble Match - Royal Rumble 2005
They really couldn't have planned this better. How? How do two men f**k up so bad but make it look so good?
It was the final stages of the 2005 Royal Rumble match with the final two competitors, Vince's soon-to-be-crowned new generation of top-tier talent in John Cena and Batista, duking it out in the ring. Batista pulls Cena up for a Powerbomb but staggers backwards into the ropes with Cena's weight pulling both men over the top rope with their feet landing at exactly the same time.
Genuinely, they couldn't have timed that to look as good as that if it had been the plan from day one. Both men even bounce at exactly the same height on landing for crying out loud.
Not only did this give the ending of the Rumble an unintended but welcome bit of storyline spice, but it also treated us to the sight of Vince McMahon rage-walking his quads into oblivion.
1. The Second Fall Of Foley
Match: Undertaker vs Mankind – King of the Ring 1998
A common consequence that unites almost all of these botches is that the wrestler who survives the botch emerges from the other side with more respect for their dogged determination than they had when the bell first rang. In no other example is that more true than this astonishing performance from Mrs Foley's Baby Boy.
Many believe that Mankind's trip through the cell roof was planned because, well, look how awesome it was. However, both Undertaker and Foley swear up and down that it was a giant botch.
According to Terry Funk the cell roof was engineered to sag as Taker and Mankind walked across to add even more tension to an already perilous situation. The panels, of course, were never supposed to give way. Instead, Ministry-man Taker lifted Foley up for a Chokeslam and he crashed through the mesh to the ring below, legitimately knocking himself out cold and lodging one of his teeth into his nostril.
It's sickening, but one of the most jaw-dropping stunts committed in Vince's name second only to mind-boggling fall off the top through the announce table that Foley had taken just minutes earlier.