Pro wrestling debacles that weren't supposed to happen

There's a fine distinction between "fake" and "scripted." Professional wrestling isn't fake, per say—those wrestlers really do pummel, punch, and poke each other, and they really do get hurt, often quite badly. But it is, in fact, scripted—matches have predetermined outcomes, and wrestlers must follow a loose series of plot points. But sometimes, things just go haywire, forcing wrestlers to react on the fly, or in some cases, just plain suffer on the fly.

The loser of the Batista vs. John Cena match: Vince McMahon's quads

There are conflicting reports about just how the 2005 Royal Rumble was supposed to end. As it happened, Batista and John Cena battled to what appeared to be a draw, with both wrestlers going over the top rope, out of the ring, and onto the floor at exactly the same time. That's an incredibly difficult move to execute, both for real and for scripted, so nobody but the wrestlers and writers involved know for sure if they were supposed to go out this way, or if they oopsie-bumbled their way to a legit draw.

The refs couldn't decide on a winner — the one representing the Raw brand declared Raw wrestler Batista the winner, while the Smackdown! ref went with his guy, Cena. At that point, 60-year-old WWE chief Vince McMahon stormed down to the ring in either real or scripted anger (though the lack of theme music, and a look of rage decidedly different from his in-ring character, suggest he was legitimately raging), hops into the ring … but then his legs give out and he crumbles to the ground. McMahon apparently tore his quad muscles. Both of them.

That definitely wasn't supposed to happen, an accident McMahon attributes to not stretching properly beforehand. Or just being really, really old and pushing himself too far, either or. By the way, the planned/scripted finish involved the match being restarted, going until a winner was definitively decided: Batista.

Mickie James gets lewd

One notable addition to the WWE's late-90s "Attitude Era" were matches fought by scantily-clad ladies. At 2006's WrestleMania 22, Mickie James grappled with Trish Stratus, and at one point, Stratus had James in a hold from which James tried to escape via what was more or less sexual assault, grabbing Stratus's crotch.

James did indeed escape, but then turned to the crowd and licked her fingers. That wasn't very family friendly, and neither was when she made a V-formation with her fingers and stuck her tongue through. James thought bossman Vince McMahon would be pleased with her bit of salacious improvisation, but he wasn't, and he screamed at her backstage after the match. Apparently, James forgot the Attitude Era had wound down some years before, and now they were in the business of attracting kids.

Andre the Giant, drunk in Japan

In 1986, WWF superstar Andre the Giant headed to Japan, and New Japan Pro Wrestling, to square off against Japanese star Akira Maeda. But Andre showed up to the match drunk, which for him meant somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple dozen beers or so — no exaggeration. Fully inebriated, Andre refused (or was unable) to sell any of Maeda's moves, and instead just kind of staggered around the ring, drunk, with the occasional moments of kicking Maeda in the face, or falling on top of Maeda, or allowing Maeda to desperately kick at his giant legs.

After twenty-five minutes of that, Antonio Inoki, the founder of New Japan Wrestling came into the ring and tried to reason with both Andre and Maeda. Andre agreed to play ball, and even offered Maeda a free pin—even though nobody had ever done that to him before. Maeda refused, and before long, Inoki threw the match out. An almost-certainly bored-to-tears crowd must've been super relieved.

Hulk Hogan chokes out a talk show host

In the 1980s, comedian and actor Richard Belzer hosted a hybrid sitcom/talk show on Lifetime called Hot Properties. There were scripted bits where Belzer would argue with staffers backstage, then come out and do loosely improvised interviews with celebrities. One 1985 episode featured Belzer talking with Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, on the show to promote the first WrestleMania. The plan was for Belzer to goad Mr. T and Hogan for promoting violence and then suggest that pro wrestling wasn't quite legitimate.

After Hogan delivers some trademark Hulkisms ("say your prayers," "take your vitamins," etc.), Belzer asks for Hogan to show him some moves. Hogan obliges, and places Belzer in a front headlock called a guillotine choke, or a sleeper hold. That's when Belzer learned wrestling can be quite legitimate when the wrestlers want it to be. He lost consciousness and his arms went limp—Hogan quickly released him, and the host flopped to the ground and split his head open. On the next episode of Hot Properties, Belzer showed off his stitches to prove the skirmish had not been a hoax.

Kurt Angle almost for-real loses to a rookie in the "Angle Invitational"

In a recurring Smackdown! feature called the "Angle Invitational," wrestler Kurt Angle would invite guests into the ring to take him on. Angle was always supposed to win, of course, because he's the star. But in 2004, things got dicey when Angle took on Tough Enough winner and MMA fighter Daniel Puder. During the bout, Puder got Angle in a Kimura lock, which Angle found he couldn't get himself out of. The ref, realizing what was happening, fast-counted Puder's shoulders down even though they really weren't down — otherwise, Angle would've had to tap out, which would've broken script, or he would've had to break his own arm, which would've broken script and hurt really, really bad.

The "curtain call" incident

Longtime WWE stars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were set to leave the organization for the greener pastures of WCW in 1996. Their final matches were an untelevised WWE show held at Madison Square Garden. When their matches were over, Hall and Nash, along with their real-life buddies Triple H and Shawn Michaels, all came out to the ring together—something they as a group had been planning without management's knowledge. They broke both script and character as they all gave each other a big group hug — faces and heels, together as one — celebrating all the good times they'd had together as colleagues.

Understandably, McMahon was furious at this blatant show of wrestling as a, well, show. But since Michaels was world champion and Hall and Nash were leaving, only one wrestler bore the brunt of the punishment. Reportedly, Triple H was supposed to win King of the Ring later that year, but to punish him, Vince McMahon took him out of the tournament and didn't have him win anything for five months.

He then rebounded to win about a dozen world titles, marry McMahon's daughter, and position himself to take over the company one day, so clearly the punishment stuck.

A referee beats down, and chokes out, a fan

Wrestling may be scripted, but everyone in that ring is a professional who knows how to go with the flow when necessary … even the officials. On a 1997 episode of WCW Nitro, Diamond Dallas Page was attempting to call out a rival wrestler, when two fans got so riled up, they decided that they wanted a piece of the action, too. And so, they decided to try to the enter the ring. Protip: never, ever, EVER do this.

One guy didn't make it past security, but the other did, only to suffer a beatdown on the part of not the mighty DDP, but the referee. The skinny little ref, for his part, turned out to be quite the warrior, kicking the fan's head in and rendering him unconscious. Then, just for added measure, he gouged the man's eyes out and stuck him in a chokehold, only releasing when Page told him to, because the other wrestler was coming out and scripts had to be followed. So unless you want the crap beaten out of you by not just big, beefy wrestlers, but tiny referees who are way tougher than they look, don't charge the ring. Ever.

Mass Transit gets bladed way too deeply

After Axl Rotten had to drop out of a 1996 Extreme Championship Wrestling tag team match with D-Von Dudley against The Gangstas, 350-pound rookie Eric "Mass Transit" Kulas" was subbed in. As was often the case with ECW fights, it was decided beforehand that the match would be extremely violent and bloody, and that Kulas would have to blade himself (make himself bleed). But Kulas was so green (inexperienced) he didn't know how to do that, so he asked New Jack of The Gangstas to do it. Big mistake.

Despite a crowd unhappy to see some fat kid instead of Axl Rotten, the match went according to plan. The moment came for New Jack to blade Kulas, and he used his knife to cut into Kulas's forehead. Only he went way deeper than planned, because New Jack is a legitimate maniac. In very little time, Kulas was covered in blood, nearly unconscious, and was taken away by paramedics, never to be seen in ECW, or wrestling, again.

There's even more to the story: Kulas had lied about his age and background to get into ECW—he was actually only 17 (not 22) and hadn't, as he'd claimed, been trained by wrestling legend Killer Kowalski. Perhaps New Jack knew this kid was full of crap and wanted to punish him? We wouldn't be surprised because, again, New Jack is a maniac.

Mankind's "Hell in a Cell" match that turned into literal Hell

One of the major draws of the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view event was the "Hell in the Cell" cage match between Mankind (one of Mick Foley's numerous characters) and the fearsome Undertaker. It lived up the hype, mainly because of what went wrong.

At the beginning of the match, Mankind threw a chair atop atop the cage, and then climbed up after it, with The Undertaker following him. As they grappled, one of the panels they were standing on almost gave away. But they kept going, and Undertaker did what he was supposed to do: throw Mankind off the cage and onto an announcer table. Except that he wasn't supposed to fall through the table onto the quite hard concrete floor below, but that's exactly what happened.

Mankind (or really Mick Foley, because you can't be in character when you're possibly dead) lay still on the ground, as Vince McMahon and a staff doctor rushed to his side. Mankind/Foley was ultimately wheeled out on a stretcher … only to prove himself completely insane by jumping back off the stretcher, head back to the ring, and rejoin Undertaker atop the cage.

Remember how one of the panels had sagged and almost given way earlier in the match? Well, as Mankind and Undertaker resumed their fight, Undertake delivered a chokeslam, the panel finally gave way, and Mankind plummeted all the way through the cage panel to the hard surface below. Not a bit of this was planned.

Once again, doctors attended to the somehow-still-alive Foley, who flashed a now iconic smile to the cameras: one that included a tooth just barely hanging on by a nerve … and rivers of gooey mouth-blood. These injuries were due not only to the fall, but from the chair that Foley had tossed up on top of the cage at the beginning of the match. When he fell through the panel, the chair came, too, and it landed on his face. And somehow, someway, both wrestlers finished the match, with Undertaker the winner after slamming Mankind down on a pile of thumbtacks that ol' mischievous Mankind himself had strewn about the ring.

Remember this story next time you call out of work because you have the sniffles.

Stan Hansen knocks Vader's eyeball out of his head

Company rivalries tend to get hardcore real quick, especially when reputation is on the line. Nowhere would this be truer than in Japan's pro wrestling scene, where the measuring stick of pride is "who can hit the hardest before things get sketchy." In 1990, the two main companies, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, put their best stars against one another for New Japan's Super Fight, but the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match would stick out in memory for a moment that feels like it inspired George R.R. Martin.

A gaijin (foreigner) hoss fight, the match pitted New Japan's champion Big Van Vader against the greatest American star of Japanese wrestling, All Japan's Stan "The Lariat" Hansen. Both men were notorious for hitting for real and doing it hard, with Bret Hart describing fighting Vader as wrestling "a cement truck filled with barf." As any idiot could imagine, putting two giant men like this together would be dangerous in the best of times, but it was also money, so screw it. Off they went.

Adrenaline and company pride created a potent speedball for the fighters, and soon Vader and Hansen abandoned all pretense of theatrics and just beat each other like masochistic mules, with Hansen breaking Vader's nose at one point. Suddenly, as Vader was grabbing Hansen on the mat in retaliation for the nose injury, Hansen accidentally jammed his thumb into Vader's eye, popping Vader's eyeball out as if he'd just pitted an olive. If you do decide to dig up video of the moment, be warned: there's serious ick factor.

There was no way to deal with this subtly, and horrified gasps rose from the crowd. For most people, that'd be the end of the night, but Vader somehow managed to immediately push his eye back in and keep right on going. The match finally ended in a no-contest after Hansen and Vader started brawling out on the floor and spilled over the guardrail, at which point Japanese officials decided to end things before they had to bring out tranquilizer rifles.

The ECW Chairs Incident

Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) became famous for being exactly what it said it was on the logo: more blood, boobs, and fire than anybody else would deem acceptable in the '90s. But probably the most enduring element of ECW was the Mutants, the rabid, bloodthirsty fanbase that drank in ECW product like mother's milk. And as one famous happening would prove, the fans had no qualms about adding to the chaos themselves.

In 1994 at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, that year's Hardcore Heaven card featured one of the many bouts between Mick Foley (aka Cactus Jack) and Terry Funk. While they had better matches before and would have better ones in the future, this one stuck out partially because of a tag team called Public Enemy that decided they needed to not only end the match, but take out Funk and Cactus. However, the hardcore duo got the better of their aggressors, and Cactus decided he needed to beat on them some more with a chair, but none were at hand. So he asked a nearby fan to give him one.

In retrospect, maybe Cactus should have been more specific about wanting just a single chair. What followed was the wrestling ring being covered in a rain of metal chairs (and a trash can), forcing Funk and Cactus to run for their lives as the Public Enemy was buried and some poor man desperately screamed over the PA: "STOP THE CHAIRS! DO NOT THROW CHAIRS INTO THE RING!"

Thankfully, after things got settled, the incident became a hilarious and iconic image of ECW that still lives in legend to this day.

Sabu rips himself open on barbed wire

The fans of ECW could never hope to be as crazy as the wrestlers themselves. One of the most popular and famous faces of the ECW rogues gallery was the "suicidal, homicidal, genocidal" Sabu, who dressed like an Arabian prince but fought like an athletic and psychopathic hobo, frequently using chairs and tables as weapons.

So it only seemed natural for ECW to put Sabu up for the ECW Heavyweight Championship against the champion, Terry Funk. But for these two men in this promotion, a normal title match could never be satisfying enough, and at some point in the booking room, they slapped together a match that sounded like hardcore Mad Libs: a no-rope barbed wire death match, where the ring ropes would be replaced by strings of literal barbed wire. The idea may have also come out of a need for some advertising work, since the show was called Born to Be Wired.

Things did start out swimmingly in spite of the stipulations, though, but then the fight nearly went off the rails when Sabu took a leap at Funk and he dodged, sending Sabu into the barbed wire and turning his arm into pulled pork, shooting blood everywhere. Sabu being who he was though, and having a title opportunity, refused to call things off and quickly improvised a solution, grabbing a roll of athletic tape from somewhere and repairing his bicep like an 8-year-old would fix a busted action figure.

Eventually, the match ended with Sabu becoming champion, but with both men tangled together in the barbed wire like twin caterpillars in one cocoon. The Jaws of Life had to be employed to free them. The match was so brutal that Paul Heyman, the owner and booker of ECW, nearly swore off making matches like that again. (Nearly.)

Jeff Hardy shows up for a match completely wasted

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now known as Impact Wrestling) has always tried to market itself as WWE's biggest competition, but is actually a bigger dumpster fire than even WCW or WWE at its worst. And while a lot of that is on the many inept hacks who have run the ship over the years, sometimes the talent screws the pooch, too. That's what happened courtesy of Jeff Hardy at the ironically named 2011 Victory Road pay-per-view.

Hardy has a history of drug issues that have been well-documented over the years, but no one thought they'd pop up when Hardy was looking to regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Sting. Just before the event, Hardy seemed to have disappeared, at least until staffers found him backstage flat on the ground. They literally dragged him to the entrance ramp and sent him out there, and as soon as Hardy's music hit, it became clear that he was on quite a trip, stumbling around, teasing the crowd by pretending to throw his shirt then flipping them off, and violating a camera man's personal space.

Realizing that trying to contain the afflicted Hardy would end badly for everyone, Eric Bischoff came out, ostensibly to change the match to No-DQ rules, but secretly to tell Sting and Hardy to end the match quickly. After Bischoff caught a punch and Hardy waffled for a few seconds, Sting grabbed Hardy, nailed him with his Scorpion Death Drop move, and held him down for a three-count, even as Hardy tried to escape. But it ended anyway, and both Sting and the TNA fans were disgusted, with the audience chanting "Bullshit" and Sting yelling that he agreed.

For Hardy, Victory Road was his rock bottom and he was shortly able to clean his act up for good, and a few years later, he and his brother Matt would give TNA one of its best chances to pull itself out of the toilet with the fantastically insane "Broken" storyline and characters. TNA of course, paid them back by screwing up their contract negotiations, letting them return to WWE, and trying to sue them over the gimmick's ownership. Some people just don't want to be saved.