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10 WWE Superstars Who Almost Died Doing What They Love

Dean Ambrose is the latest in a long line of examples...

During Dean Ambrose's long convalescence from a torn triceps, he apparently had himself a serious brush with death. According to The Lunatic Fringe, in the midst of having two separate surgeries to fix his injury, he contracted MRSA, a life-threatening staph infection that required months worth of antibiotics to run out of his system. In Ambrose's words: "I nearly died." What looked to be the repair of a routine injury was complicated by potentially-grave circumstances.

Professional wrestling is, at the very least, a gruelling vocation, and injuries are a certainty. Bumps, bruises, cuts, muscle tears, and broken bones, to varying degrees, are part of the norm. But sometimes, the injuries are much more serious, and the afflicted wrestlers find themselves in unenviable spots. It can be a risky bump that imperils the wrestler, or even the most routine of textbook moves. And it's not just less-experienced wrestlers that are susceptible - experienced veterans (like Ambrose) can find themselves in a bad position in the blink of an eye.

This list will look at 10 notable wrestlers whose lives were almost compromised as a result of bad luck, a risk gone bad, or otherwise. Let it serve as a reminder that the men and women on your TV screens that entertain you every week are taking unimaginable risks for your entertainment.

10. Sean Waltman (1992)


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Through his decades in the business, Waltman's sustained his share of notable injuries, from the neck issues that plagued him in the mid-nineties, to the torn anus sustained at Jerry Lynn's retirement show, from a Bronco Buster gone bad. When Waltman was a fresh-faced 20-year-old working the indies in the early-nineties, he suffered an injury that would sideline him for more than three months, and had potential to do worse.

While working an indy show in New Jersey in November 1992, Waltman was outside the ring when he caught a diving opponent (that had overshot him), and the collision caused Waltman's head to be sandwiched into the concrete floor. Waltman was rendered unconscious, though the opponent managed to pull him into a finishing sequence. Waltman suffered a blood clot near his brain as a result of the move, would be hospitalized for several days, and was actually advised to retire.

9. Gangrel (1999)


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Coincidentally, it was on Waltman's podcast that the former Brood leader shared this harrowing tale in 2016. Fans watching the 1 February 1999 episode of Raw is War saw Gangrel take part in a disturbing angle, where the Ministry of Darkness hanged him over the top rope with a noose (erroneously called a "bullrope" by Michael Cole).

According to Gangrel, after he bounced off the apron, the noose cinched up tight around his neck, and his bug-eyed, puffy-faced expression was not him acting in the slightest - he was being hanged for real. He claims in that moment, he accepted that he was probably going to die right then and there. Thankfully, Mideon was standing nearby Gangrel as the angle played out, and soon realized that Gangrel was in great danger. He quickly alleviated some of the pressure, apparently saving Gangrel's life in the process.

8. Tyson Kidd (2015)


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By this time, the Muscle Buster had been a part of Samoa Joe's wrestling arsenal for well over a decade, with the likes of Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Sting, and others all taking the tightly-folded slam. There never seemed to be an issue with the move until a dark match in which Joe worked with Kidd, and inadvertently caused a career-ending injury.

Scarily, it could have been even worse. The fractured neck sustained by Kidd underwent fusion surgery that required 16 staples, four screws, and the insertion of a rod into his neck. He would tweet later that apparently, only five per cent of people with that injury actually survive. Dave Meltzer would compare it to Christopher Reeve's 1995 equestrian accident that left him paralyzed, adding that it was "unbelievable" that Kidd has managed to resume a mostly-normal life post-injury.

7. Ken Shamrock (1997)


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During Shamrock's two-and-a-half years on the WWE roster, he'd been involved in an inordinate number of injury angles that would involve internal bleeding, physically evidenced by stage blood caking his lips. But Shamrock's most unforgettable bout of internal bleeding was a legitimate case, and could have resulted in a very uncomfortable and gruesome situation.

Shamrock was working with Vader as part of an FMW Kawasaki Stadium card in September 1997 (though both were on WWE's roster), where Shamrock would work with both a lung infection and a bad rib. Vader Powerbombed him twice during the course of their brutal cage match, which Shamrock noted caused his lungs to fill up with blood. Shamrock waived off a spot call for a third Powerbomb, and he says it saved his life - his lung had also ripped, and doctors asserted that another hard bump could have caused his lung to fill up with blood, potentially internally drowning him.

6. Taz (1995)


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In the confines of ECW, Taz was presented as the supreme badass, the ultimate in fighting machines that would shake off worst beatings before Suplexing his victims senseless, followed by choking them out. Taz would demonstrate his toughness one night in 1995, during a tag team match in Fort Lauderdale, FL whilst teaming with Eddie Guerrero.

The opposition of Dean Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio had Taz hoisted up for a Spike Piledriver. Apparently, Taz wasn’t yet properly braced for the drop, as he ended up coming down more slanted on his forehead. The impact would fracture Taz’s neck, a predicament made somewhat clear as he lay on the ring apron for most of the remainder of the match. Afterwards, Taz made it to a local hospital, where the attendants were stunned that he was able to walk under his own power, given the severity of the damage. Taz would miss several months of action, and his injuries would be a contributor for his relatively-sudden retirement in 2002. Remember, a broken neck can be lethal!

5. CM Punk (2013-14)


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This became the source of a very public legal squabble that played out into this summer, due to Punk's specific details of how his medical issue ultimately played out. In Punk's final months as an active WWE performer, he claimed to have worked through an MRSA infection that was never properly treated. He claims to have asked WWE staff physician Chris Amann to remove a painful lump just above his back waistline, but Amann refused, claiming it was simply a fatty deposit.

Punk detailed the sickness and agony that he would associate with the lump, which he still had at the time he walked out of the company in January 2014. At the behest of future wife AJ Lee, Punk saw a doctor, who diagnosed the lump as MRSA, and excised it from his body in a painful procedure. The doctor reportedly told Punk that he could easily have died for leaving it untreated for so long.

4. Sid Vicious (1989)


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It may not have been the most visually-gruesome injury of Sid's career (his broken leg at WCW's Sin PPV easily takes that prize), but this incident would more greatly jeopardize Sid's health. At the Clash of the Champions in November 1989, Sid teamed with Skyscrapers tag team partner Dan Spivey (the future Waylon Mercy) in a match with The Steiner Brothers, where a mishap occurred.

The injury was a broken rib that led to a punctured lung, which put Sid out of action for seven months. It's disputed what actually caused the injury - some sources claim that Sid landed awkwardly on a Scott Steiner Fallaway Slam, leading to the injury. Spivey, however, claimed in a 2015 interview that Sid busted himself up just stepping into the ring, that there wasn't even any contact with either Steiner to cause it. Whatever the case was, Sid was, fortunately, able to survive the ordeal. 

3. Scott Steiner (2007)


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Speaking of Steiner, it was at a TNA house show in San Juan, Puerto Rico that saw Big Poppa Pump team with James Storm to take on Jeff Jarrett and Apolo. During the course of the match, an errant kick from Apolo caught Steiner in the throat, at which time Steiner began coughing up blood. He was quickly rushed to a hospital, where the situation looked grim: he was diagnosed with a torn trachea, and reportedly given five hours to live.

Over the course of several weeks, Steiner was put through a battery of procedures, which included doctors having to cut through his ribs and lung to repair the wound, then a long process of draining fluid from his lungs. Steiner had to be transported back to the US via a cruise ship, as flying would have potentially caused a lung collapse, due to the change in air pressure. The journey by boat brought him back to the mainland in one week.

2. Jerry Lawler (2012)


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Certainly, this was the most horrifying episode of Monday Night Raw in the show's 25-year history, and nobody who watched it that night will forget the dread that they felt with each passing minute. Lawler, 61 years old at the time, worked a match earlier in the card, teaming with Randy Orton to face CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. A couple matches later, with Lawler back at the commentary desk, The King began to experience symptoms of a heart attack.

Lawler was stretchered out of Montreal's Bell Center, receiving CPR once out of the arena area, while the show continued on. Michael Cole ceased commentating the matches, appearing only periodically to give updates on Lawler's condition. Lawler would end up receiving seven zaps from defibrillators, and underwent an angioplasty the next day. There is apparently no known explanation for what caused the heart attack, as Lawler had no blocked arteries.

1. Mick Foley (1998)


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With Foley, you really do have your pick of the bunch - the man's career can be summarized through repeated defiance of death. He's bled, been caught in explosions, set on fire, and fallen from staggering heights. For purposes of this list, we look at one specific fall, an unexpected one, and how Foley himself concedes that he probably should have died, given the circumstances. We are, of course, referring to the second cage bump from his legendary Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker, when he fell through the sagging mesh partition and down to the mat 13-14 feet below.

Though Foley was knocked silly from the hard impact, it could have been worse. In taking the Chokeslam that broke the cage roof (which, as has been noted, wasn't supposed to happen), Foley would've ordinarily leapt high for Undertaker before taking the bump. In this case, Foley didn't jump (one of his feet never left the cage's roof), and he was able to take a flatter bump upon landing. Had he jumped up to perform the move, he would have likely landed more squarely on his head and neck, which could have been a literal death blow.

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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.