Professional wrestling is a dangerous pursuit. It doesn't matter that it's choreographed; no matter how carefully wrestlers plan things out, no matter how polished the performers are, they're still slamming each other onto mats and jumping onto each other. If a wrestler doesn't raise his knees or arms, he could easily get his ribs cracked. And signature moves like the Styles Clash require both timing and communication, so the opponent knows when to tilt his head upwards instead of tucking it in.
Sometimes, even when performers do everything properly, they can be betrayed by faulty equipment or props. Maybe a table that's supposed to collapse stays in tact. Maybe a cage door that's supposed to hold in place gives way. The result of these malfunctions can be catastrophic; the wrestlers assume that everything will work the way it should, and when it doesn't, they haven't braced themselves for the result.
Here are 7 major WWE "technical difficulties" the company has navigated over the years. Most of them severely injured the wrestlers. One of them injured the fans. And one of them caused a wrestler's death. That led to pre-emptive measures, so a similar tragedy would never happen again.
If you liked this gallery, check out our gallery on WWE Real Backstage Fights and WWE One-Sided Matches. And be sure to check back on Gamespot Universe for coverage of Money in the Bank on the WWE Network, this Sunday, June 17.
Mick Foley Falls Through Hell in a Cell
Mick Foley agreed to fall off the side of Hell in a Cell when he faced The Undertaker at King of the Ring (1998). He had to tell a couple of fibs to get the stunt approved: Foley told McMahon that he had already been on the top of the cell (he hadn't), and he reassured McMahon he was totally comfortable up there (he wasn't). But the stunt actually went as well as it possibly could have; Foley hit the table, rolled, and dislocated his shoulder, but at least he was still breathing.
But the the second fall was unplanned; Undertaker chokeslammed Foley on top of the cell, and the roof gave way. On his way down, Foley hit his head on a steel chair and aspirated a tooth. He was out cold; Terry Funk and the referees improvised the entire segment afterwards to give Foley a chance to wake up and regain his focus.
To this day, Foley only remembers parts of the match due to his concussion. For example, he didn't remember getting slammed on thumbtacks twice; Undertaker had to point out the ones stuck in his arm.
The Undertaker Catches On Fire
The latter day "Phenom" Undertaker entrance is one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles in sports entertainment, with loads of smoke and massive balls of fire. But at Elimination Chamber 2010, it almost cost The Undertaker his livelihood.
Undertaker came out from the backstage curtain with his usual, slow, dramatic gait, when suddenly, a fireball erupted from the floor, right underneath where he was standing. Undertaker quickly moved out of the way and speedwalked to the ring, where WWE officials started dumping water on him. But the damage was already done. Undertaker suffered second and third degree burns. The trenchcoat he was wearing had melted and shriveled from the heat. Undertaker managed to work the entire match, but afterwards, he yelled at the pyro crew while still standing on the ramp--a rare break in character.
Backstage in the trainer's room, Undertaker told McMahon that he didn't want an apology or an excuse; he just wanted the pyro guy fired before he killed him. McMahon obliged and had the man escorted off the premises.
The Fireworks Burn Fans At Wrestlemania XXIV
Pyro is rarely used at WWE shows these days. However, Wrestlemania is still the exception, there the company pulls out all the stops. WWE loves to set off pyro from the top of the hosting stadium to create a truly immersive experience.
But the fireworks were a little too immersive at Wrestlemania XXIV in 2008. At the end of the show during the Undertaker's victory celebration, a cable that guided the fireworks snapped and went into the upper deck. Forty-five people were injured, and three required hospitalization following the incident. Fortunately, no one was killed.
Mark Henry Breaks a Ring Rope
Mark Henry was impressive looking but extremely green during his early years with the company. After being thrown on WWE television with little to no experience, Henry finally learned the basics of ring work and psychology in OVW, a WWE-affiliated developmental territory.
But it wasn't all sunshine and roses. One day during practice, Henry was "hitting the ropes" (running back and forth in the ring; it's a more difficult cardio routine than one might think) when one of the ring ropes broke. OVW co-owner Jim Cornette preferred using wrapped steel cables instead of actual ropes for this very reason; they lasted longer, and they didn't have to be replaced as often, especially on a practice ring. But WWE had sent OVW real ropes and a WWE regulation ring and expected them to use it.
Henry tore his quadriceps as a result of the error. Luckily, he was able to grab the top rope during his fall, which prevented him from landing on his head.
An "In Your House" Power Outage
Blackouts and power outages happen, and WWE tries its best to adjust, usually by focusing every available backup spotlight onto the ring. But back in 1996, a power outage ruined a PPV, and the company was forced to reschedule the show.
At In Your House: Beware of Dog (1996) in South Carolina. WWE got through one pre-show match and one undercard match before the electrical power went dead; the live PPV feed followed suit. WWE continued with the show; the feed would eventually turn back on before the main event between Shawn Michaels and Vader.
The encore presentation of the original show, titled Beware of Dog 2, took place two days later on PPV. WWE supplemented the pre-recorded footage from the prior night with additional, live footage of three more matches. Today, the PPV is available as a single event on the WWE Network, and it makes no mention of any problems.
Shane McMahon Doesn't Break Glass, Lands On Head
At King of the Ring (2001), Kurt Angle fought Shane McMahon in a street fight. One of the featured spots called for Angle to suplex Shane through a sheet of glass. Unfortunately, when Angle performed the move, the glass didn't break, and Shane landed directly on his head. According to Bruce Pritchard, the glass, while not sugar glass, was designed to break. However, it was unintentionally reinforced by being painted twice.
Backstage, Vince McMahon freaked out over his son's head injury; he nearly stopped the match when Angle and Shane tried the same suplex spot again. Fortunately this time, Shane broke through the glass, and the rest of the match continued as planned.
Owen Hart Dies From Massive Fall
This is still one of the most tragic events in wrestling history, especially because it occurred during a live pay-per-view--Over the Edge--in 1999. Owen Hart, then working a superhero gimmick as the Blue Blazer, was supposed to descend from the ceiling of the arena.
But disaster struck. During a video package segment--thankfully, the live camera was not showing the ring on television when the accident occurred--the cable detached itself from Hart's safety vest. Hart plummeted over 70 feet and hit the turnbuckle on the ring. He was given CPR, but was later declared dead at a local medical facility.
In the aftermath of the Owen Hart tragedy, WWE settled with Hart's family for $18 million. They also restricted the use of any high wire stunts. No matter the memorable visual, it wasn't worth the sort of public, dangerous risk that such a stunt presented.