In 2002, Hardcore Holly could have been killed inside the ring, when a move by Brock Lesnar went horribly wrong. In the wrestling world you have to be on the top of your game at all times, and the duo proved that even a single lapse of concentration can spell disaster for your opponent.
Pro-wrestling is a tandem sport – both men work together to put on a match and are on the same team, compared to boxing where the aim is to win. If anything, it’s more an artform than a sport – although Chris Jericho is trying to get it included in the Olympic games, bizarrely.
Hardcore Holly and Brock Lesnar faced a big issue when they wrestled on Smackdown in September 2002. Lesnar was the WWE Champion at the time (having beaten The Rock at Summerslam that year) so it was a huge opportunity for Holly to impress Vince McMahon by working in the main event.
However, during a routine powerbomb by Lesnar on Holly, something went wrong. Some say Brock Lesnar was sick and failed to lift him. Other claim Hardcore Holly sandbagged Lesnar in an attempt to make the champion look bad. Either way, the result ended up with Holly being powerbomb head first onto the mat, breaking his neck in the process.
The injury was horrible and left the former Hardcore Champion on the shelf for an astonishing 13 months. When he returned he entered into a short feud with Lesnar, who would leave the company months later. Holly never beat him though and the WWE Championship remained just a pipe dream for him.
Hardcore Holly talked about Brock Lesnar breaking his neck in an interview with Diamon Joe. He played down any claims that he deliberately sandbagged (which means to not cooperate with a throw and to act as dead weight, which makes the moves the wrestler is attempting much harder, if not impossible to pull off.) Lesnar in order to make him look bad.
Holly revealed that Brock Lesnar was sick during this time and it was simply a freak accident after wrestling for 10 minutes. He bears no ill-will toward The Beast, who called him multiple times in the hospital and apologised profusely to the 15 year veteran.
“And he went to pick me up to powerbomb me and I tried to come up. I tried to grab his head and I couldn’t quite reach it. And he ended up, you know, we ended up going back down and he tried to hold me and that was it. Brock is Brock and I’m who I am. If Brock whipped my ass, more power to him, but I’m still going to wrestle him the same way I wrestle everybody else. I don’t give a f**k”
Hardcore Holly also spoke about his broken neck from The Beast during an interview with All Things Wrestling Radio. He once again refuted the claims of him sabotaging the match and reiterated the he and Lesnar and still good friends despite the incident.
“Things happen, and it just happened. The timing was off, and it wasn’t malicious, it wasn’t intended to happen, and Brock and I are good friends in and out of the ring,” said Holly. “So, we had a good working relationship. I enjoyed working with him. After it happened, he felt bad, and he called me after my surgery and he’d check on me periodically and see how I was doing. So, for these people that think they know what happened, they don’t.”
After his return to the ring after 13 months out, Hardcore Holly challenged Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at the 2004 Royal Rumble. He allegedly pitched to WWE management that he should beat Lesnar for the belt, and when asked what his plan was once he became the title holder, hilarious stated “And then I beat EVERYBODY!”
“I’ll never forget Bob Holly, the guys were asking talent for ideas. ‘If you have any ideas, write them down and tell us. Let us know what idea you may have.’ And Bob’s idea was, ‘Hey, I got an idea. How about you give me the belt!’ The follow-up question was, ‘Okay, then what?’ … ‘Then I beat everybody!’”Bruce Pritchard on Hardcore Holly