In 1997, Owen Hart dropped Steve Austin on his head while attempting a sit-down tombstone piledriver. This snapped his neck in two, costing Austin years of his career and taking him out of the ring during his rise to becoming the most popular wrestler of all time.
Steve Austin’s neck injury paralyzed him, and he lay in the ring unable to move and contemplating his career. His life flashed before his eyes, although he somehow managed to roll Hart up for the pin fall, winning the match at Summerslam 1997 despite being unable to move his legs.
This was the worst injury in Austin’s career, and forced him to change his in-ring style forever. Previously, he made his name as a top-class technical wrestler who could wrestle rings around anyone. However, with the neck break and the resulting surgery severely limiting his mobility, “Stone Cold” instead became a brawler, which actually helped make him even more popular with the fans.
Owen Hart passed away two years later at Over the Edge 1999, but he never reconciled with Austin before his death (read more about Owen Hart dying in the ring). While Hart did call Austin once while he was in the hospital, he did not accept the apology and thought that Owen should have been more apologetic for his mistake.
Read about Wrestlers Who Died In The Ring
“Owen almost paralyzed me. He called me only once to apologize while I was in the hospital. If I almost break someone’s neck, I’m calling them 25 times to apologize,” said Austin.
It makes sense why Steve Austin was so upset. He nearly lost his ability to walk, and the career he worked so hard to craft akmost disappeared in an instant. Austin spoke about the incident in the “Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time” DVD, where he revealed his worries about never being able to walk again.
“I thought I was never gonna walk again, ever. I remember going to the back, I sat down on a bench, and I was in a world of hurt. And I was confused. I didn’t know what was gonna happen to me,” Austin said at the time. “When you come that close to almost being paralyzed for the rest of your life, it really f***s your head up.”
Given the horrific injuries that paralyzed wrestlers like Droz, Hayabusa and Yoshihiro Takayama, Austin’s fears were not unfounded. You can read more about wrestlers who were paralyzed by clicking this link.