Wrestling is a dangerous business, but nobody ever expects to walk into a ring and not being able to walk out of it. However, that is a reality for a number of legends of the ring, who suffered extreme paralysis directly from their actions in the ring.
Freak accidents cost many wrestlers their careers, the use of their legs, and even their lives. Injuries can occur from high-risk moves like moonsaults, or even trying the most simple of moves that lead to horrendous, life-changing injuries.
In this article, we have detailed the wrestlers who have suffered from total paralysis in the ring. Some never recovered and spent the rest of their life in a wheelchair, while others somehow retained the ability to walk – one even wrestling again over two-decades later.
The recently-deceased Darren “Droz” Drozdov is one of the most famous wrestler to be paralyzed in the ring, with an injury that occured in front of a shocked WWE crowd.
The former football player was originally brought into the WWE by Vince McMahon for his ability to vomit on command – a skill showcased on the Beyond the Mat documentary in 1998 – but soon discarded the gimmick to wrestle as a lower-card member of the WWE roster.
Droz was paralyzed by D’lo Brown during a WWF SmackDown! taping on October 5, 1999, at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. D’Lo Brown attempted to hit a running powerbomb on Droz, but due to Droz’s loose shirt he was unable to complete the move properly, dropping him on his head in a horrific accident. Droz fractured two vertebrae, paralyzing him from the neck.
The footage has never been shown by the WWE, locked in a vault alongside the Owen Hart death footage. Droz would never walk again, but forgave D’Lo Brown for the mistake, before going on to work for the WWE as part of their backstage staff.
Click here to learn more about Droz’s Injury
One of the most horrific injuries ever seen in Japanese wrestling was when Yoshihiro Takayama was paralyzed during a match for the DDT promotion in 2017. The Japanese star performed a simple sunset slip – a simple move that nearly every wrestler has as a regular part of their move set – but it proved to be the final move he ever made.
However, his neck landed awkwardly on the mat, and Takayama immediately lay motionless on the mat. He could not move any of his extremities, in a similar position to Droz’s paralysis from nearly two-decades prior. The match was called off, and Yoshihiro Takayama was immediately attended to by doctors and rushed to hospital.
Doctors soon diagnosed him with a cervical spinal cord injury due to degenerative cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis is the degeneration of the bones and disks in the neck. The degeneration meant that his neck and spine were much weaker than he thought, and he suffered a terrible spinal cord injury from a simple botch. He was instantly paralyzed from the neck down, something that Takayama suffers from to this day.
Learn more about Yoshihiro Takayama’s injury here
Japanese legend Hayabusa revolutionized professional wrestling in the 1990s with his hardcore, high-flying style, but the same thing that made him a huge star ultimate cost him the use of his legs in a horrific accident.
During a match on October 22, 2001, FMW wrestler Hayabusa would suffer a career-ending injury after going for a springboard moonsault off the middle rope. This was a standard move from his arsenal and had very little chance to go wrong, given the experience of the Japanese legend.
However, Hayabusa slipped off the rope with one of his feet, which halted his backflip. He under-rotated, instead landing directly on his head as his neck bent back into an incredibly unnatural position. Breaking two vertebrae in his neck, Hayabusa could not wrestle ever again, and the match was called out.
The injury confined Hayabusa to a wheelchair for the majority of his life. He continued to work for FMW as an ambassador, and achieved his dream of walking again in 2015, stepping into the ring (with the aid of crutches and his fellow wrestlers) for the first time since his horrendous accident.
Learn more about Hayabusa’s injury here.
Tyson Kidd was briefly paralyzed by Samoa Joe during a dark match before Smackdown in 2015, after a Muscle Buster ended his career for good and nearly killed him. The match took place on 1st June, 2015, and was put on so that Vince McMahon could get a better look at NXT’s Samoa Joe, with a view to push him up to the main WWE roster.
At the end of the match, Samoa Joe hit his top-rope finisher – The Muscle Buster – on Tyson Kidd, before covering him to win the match. However, Tyson Kidd could not move his body, and was paralyzed where he lay on the mat as his neck broke upon the force of it hitting the floor.
Tyson Kidd eventually recovered from the injury, and was able to regain full mobility soon after. However, he was extremely lucky in his recovery. He fractured his C1 Vertebrate, an injury that only 5% of people ever survive – with a further 5% regaining their ability to walk. He is incredibly lucky after what happened to him, despite not being able to walk anymore.
Learn more about Tyson Kidd’s injury here
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Despite being arguably the most popular wrestler of all time “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was paralyzed after a botched pile driver by Owen Hart during one of the pair’s most infamous matches. Hart and Austin were two of the WWE’s best workers in the late-1990s, so their match at Summerslam 1997 for the Intercontinental Championship was sure to be a historic occasion.
It did turn out to be historic, but not for the reason they would have wanted. At the end of the match, Owen Hart picked Steve Austin up for a Tombstone Piledriver (The Undertaker’s finishing move), but instead of kneeling down to perform the move, he sat down on his rear, jamming Austin’s head into the mat.
This cracked the neck of Austin, breaking it instantly. He immediately went limp, being paralyzed in the ring as he contemplated living in wheelchair for the rest of his life. He somehow regained control of his limbs soon after, rolling Hart up to win the match, but the damage had already been done.
“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.”
Click here to learn about how Steve Austin beat his wife during his WWE run.
Even though his paralysis was only brief, the temporary loss of function for Sting during his match against Seth Rollins was one of the scariest moments in WWE history. The road to the WWE had been a long one for Sting, who turned down numerous opportunities to sign for the WWE for a number of reasons (learn more about why Sting didn’t join WWE). He instead stayed with TNA until 2014, where he made the choice to sign for the WWE at the age of 54.
Sting made his WWE debut at Survivor Series 2014, attacking Triple H and helping Dolph Ziggler win the 2014 Survivor Series match, getting The Authority fired from the WWE (for a few weeks, but still). This carried on in a feud with Triple H until WrestleMania 31, where Triple H vs Sting was one of the worst, most entertaining and confusing matches ever put forth at WrestleMania.
After WrestleMania 31, Sting went away for a bit until he was ready to challenge for the WWE Championship for the first time. He did so against Seth Rollins, battling him in one of two title matches for Rollins that night (he lost the United States Championship to John Cena earlier that night). This was Sting’s final match before retirement and subsequent WWE Hall of Fame induction, due to an injury suffered during the bout.
During the match, Rollins executed a turnbuckle powerbomb on Sting, but unfortunately, the move did not go as planned. Sting suffered a serious neck injury, leading to a sudden stoppage of the match and a rush of medical personnel to his aid.
However, he continued the match, locking on the Scorpion Death Lock, before being rolled up by Rollins for the win. It was later revealed that Sting had sustained spinal stenosis, a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the powerbomb.
During an interview with Ric Flair on his “To Be The Man” Podcast, Sting revealed that he was temporarily paralyzed after the powerbomb, and he was worried that he would never walk again as he lay motionless on the mat. Luckily, he finished the match, despite Sting being temporarily paralyzed by Seth Rollins.
Yeah, my legs just I there was no strength they were they were just the power in my legs was just kind of going away. And I felt like I didn’t have control over them and I didn’t. I had a temporary paralysis and you know for a few minutes I thought I don’t think I can continue, I think I’m done.”
On somehow finishing the match he said, “But you know, I can’t do this I mean this is, the stakes are so high and you know I can’t do this to Seth. Somehow or another it just kind of came back enough where ok I can do another minute or two here.”
Learn more about Seth Rollins injuring Sting by clicking here.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.