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10 Times WWE Superstars Proved To Be Tougher Than 'Legitimate' Sports Stars

Liv Morgan tried to go above and beyond on Raw this week...

Let's make something clear - this will by no means be a complete list. When you factor in the gruelling travel schedules, the physicality that comes with working pretty much any type of match, and the accumulation of aches and pains over any length of time, and wrestlers work hurt generally as a rule. At times, wrestlers, whether they realize it in the moment or not, are performing with a serious-enough injury that they, were a doctor to discover it, would require medical clearance to actually be allowed to wrestle once more.

There are, however, a number of famous examples of wrestlers sustaining a serious injury in the course of a high-profile match that they somehow manage to work through to a satisfactory-enough conclusion. While no one could honestly have blamed them if the match were halted then and there to tend to whatever the injury was, they managed to push through and finish. In quite a few of these cases, you wonder how in the hell they managed to do.

Once more, this list couldn't possibly encompass every example of such an occurrence, nor is list meant to rank one incident as more premium over another. This is simply a set of 10 instances in which wrestlers famously gutted it out through a serious mid-match injury.

10. Stone Cold Crunch (1997)


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It was an accident that could potentially have altered the entire course of wrestling history, had the aftermath been any direr. That's not to say that the injury sustained by Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1997 was any walk in the park, because he was certainly in a horrible state following the Sitdown Piledriver administered by Owen Hart.

Austin's head hung precariously low when Hart extended his legs for the sitdown. After the execution, Austin experienced an immediate loss of sensation with what some have termed a broken neck (though others say it was more of a severe stinger). There wasn't much Austin could do in his addled physical state, left to try and gather himself while a clearly-distressed Owen stalled by taunting the crowd. Austin, crawling glacially, managed to pull Owen into a weak-looking roll-up that was going to be as good of a finish as there was going to be.

9. Not Stopping The Show (1998)


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Going into WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels' back was physically wrecked. While prior injuries of his had their authenticity called into question (particularly in their timing), this was a case where Michaels was legitimately in bad shape. He and Steve Austin made it through the early going of the WWE Championship bout with few problems, until a spot came where Michaels was knocked off the apron, leading to a bump against the announce desk.

Michaels painfully stood up from the fall, his eyes bugged and lips puckered as searing pain gripped his body. There were only about 10 minutes or so left in the match, but Michaels winces through every minute, even cringing as he performs a series of mounted punches on Austin. He could barely elevate himself on his trademark forearm smash off the ropes.

8. The Immortality Of Mankind (1998)


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Irony is calling out of work with a headache or "the sniffles", and then spending part of your sick day watching Undertaker and Mankind's Hell in a Cell match from the 1998 King of the Ring. Once Mick Foley plummeted from the top of the cage the first time, could you have blamed him if he had told the referees and physicians, "You know what? I'ma call it a day."

But Foley pressed on, even after the unplanned second fall that broke through the cage's roof. A concussion, a separated shoulder, internal injuries, and other hindrances didn't keep Mankind from finishing the match as planned. He still had a river of thumb tacks to land on twice in the set-up to the finish, and lord knows he didn't wanna miss out on that. How Foley made it through to the end defies all sanity.

7. He's Hardcore (2000)


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In his 2013 memoirs, Bob Holly shared a number of instances in which he was hurt during the course of a match. The slicing of his back on a 2006 ECW episode stands out as a truly gruesome moment, but for this example, we go back to a SmackDown episode in the year 2000. Of all things, it was a Kurt Angle Moonsault that broke Holly's arm.

Holly rolled inward when it appeared Angle was going to land legs-first on his ribs, and in the process, Holly gave up his arm, and he said that the break noise "sounded like a damn shotgun had gone off." But Holly, despite knowing he was hurt bad, kicked out of the pin, and continued on, even with his arm dangling at his side. Holly notes that he wasn't even sure it was broken at first, due to some of the spots he was able to perform, but the X-ray would say otherwise.

6. One Bad Step (2001)


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This will be the first of two stories that involve a wrestler working through unfathomable pain in a match with Chris Jericho, and insisting on carrying out moves that would only hurt them further. In this case, Jericho teamed with Chris Benoit against Tag Team champions Steve Austin and Triple H in one of the greatest matches in Raw history, marred only by an injury to The Game.

While Jericho had Austin trapped in the Walls of Jericho, Helmsley went to break up the hold, only to tear his left quadriceps clean off the bone, a non-contact injury that came from a simple funny step. Jericho would note that Helmsley insisted on doing one of the planned spots, which was a Walls upon the announce desk, despite his leg being badly damaged as a result of the tear. Now *that* is grit.

5. Intensity, Integrity, Insanity (2003)


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Kurt Angle didn't suffer his spinal injury *during* the WrestleMania XIX WWE Championship match with Brock Lesnar - he was injured well beforehand. Angle was staring at one year of recovery time once he had the necessary surgery, and there were reports that Angle wouldn't even be able to make WrestleMania as a result of the condition.

But Angle not only worked the match, but he worked *his* match, not yielding one iota to the pain. If you didn't follow the internet reports of the day, you'd have had no idea that Angle's participation in the match was figuratively up in the air. That he had that match with Brock Lesnar, a bear-like monster not exactly knowing for working light with his opponents, is equally astounding.

4. Deadman Burning (2010)


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The Undertaker's injuries, like Angle's, occurred prior to the match he would participate in, but unlike Angle's, they weren't of the spinal variety. While making his entrance for a World Heavyweight title Elimination Chamber match, Undertaker was nearly immolated by pyrotechnic bursts that had gone off at the wrong time. Undertaker could've quite literally died, suffering first and second degree burns to his neck and chest, while his trench coat briefly caught fire.

The match went on as planned, and Chris Jericho noted that Undertaker's skin had bubbled and blistered as a result of the accident. And yet, Undertaker allowed Jericho to flip him over into the Walls, pressing Undertaker's scorched torso firmly into the canvas. Jericho, while noting Undertaker's crazy toughness, added that Undertaker had to spend a few days in the burn unit at nearby hospital because of the incident.

3. A Gutsy People's Champion (2013)


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Discounting the one-move marathon that was his win over Erick Rowan at WrestleMania 32, the "Twice in a Lifetime" WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 29 against John Cena was The Rock's last match. One of the reasons why we're unlikely to see Dwayne Johnson assume a more physical role ever again is because of his Hollywood obligations, as an injury sustained in the match with Cena caused some filming delays.

Early on in that main event, The Rock's abdominal and adductor tendons were torn from his pelvis. He was noticeably pained throughout the remainder of the 24-minute match, but seemed to mostly carry on like normal, including taking some high-impact throws from Cena. Rock would miss the next night's Raw, where he was to have filmed an angle, and underwent surgery several weeks later.

2. Swollen Cena (2013)


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Really, you could just do a list of instances where John Cena pushed through pain barriers, delivering marquee-level performances to the detriment of his own well-being. For this example, we look at SummerSlam 2013, where Cena came in with a pre-existing injury, one that was hard to turn away from.

Cena worked his critically-acclaimed WWE Championship bout with Daniel Bryan while nursing a torn triceps. The ailment was noticeable due to Cena's left elbow sporting a fluid build-up that looked like he was smuggling a navel orange beneath his flesh. In true Cena fashion, however, he did not skimp on effort, as he and Bryan told an intricate, highly-physical tale for nearly 30 minutes, culminating with a Bryan victory. Cena would actually return from surgery in two months because, well, he's John Cena.

1. Balor Clubbed (2016)


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Injuries in and of themselves are bad enough, but the timing of them can be even worse. Such was the case for Finn Balor, who was booked to become the first-ever WWE Universal Champion at SummerSlam 2016, winning a tournament final over Seth Rollins. Balor did indeed capture the gold in a very good match, but would have to vacate it after 24 hours.

In the earlier stages of the match, Balor was Powerbombed into the ringside barricade by Rollins, the impact of which left the new Raw star with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Balor managed to carry on and finish the match, including hitting his Coup de Grace in the finish. Balor would be sidelined for more than seven months, before returning shorty after WrestleMania 33.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.