10 Wrestling Matches That Became Real Fights
In the wrestling world, there’s a fine line between working stiff and shooting (a.k.a actually fighting). To the fan, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference, as the more real the action looks, the better work the wrestlers are doing. Here’s a list of 10 bouts that seemed to go past the limits of entertainment. Were they all actual fights? I don’t know. It’s possible that thousands of fans were just getting worked, as that is the goal of the business, but either way, it’s fun to speculate the validity of such battles.
Perry Saturn vs. Mike Bell
Perry Saturn is a well traveled veteran of the wrestling circuit. He competed at a high level for ECW, WCW and then at a more mediocre level for WWE. He was notorious for being a wild man in and outside of the ring, so it’s no surprise that he makes this list.
Mike Bell, on the other hand, has this horrible moment as his lone “claim to fame.” It’s not easy to make it in the wrestling business, and this cautionary tale is just one of the many reasons why.
This shoot took place during a dark match for WWE. Mike Bell had problems performing a snapmare takedown, and it all went downhill from there. Perry Saturn claimed that Bell nearly injured him, so he took the match into his own hands. Saturn did whatever he could do to get Bell out of the ring, which led to an ugly, head first, bump on the outside.
This was not the end, however, as Perry Saturn speared him into the steel steps at ringside. Neither man was seriously injured, but I’m not quite sure how that’s even possible.
This whole fiasco ended in Perry Saturn dating a mop on WWE television while Mike Bell never even got that far. This is what happens when you lose your cool in the major leagues.
NSFW (some language):
Tony Kozina vs. Ryan Kidd
This is the most recent, but also the most difficult to watch, entry on the list. Tony Kozina is an independent pro-wrestler who has worked most notably for Ring of Honor. He’s close friends with one of their top guys, Davey Richards, and receives a lot of bookings as such.
Ryan Kidd is exactly what his last name implies, a kid. He’s allegedly been training to become a wrestler since he was 13; he was 17 at the time of this beat-down.
This took place at a Magnum Pro show. Someone didn’t shake someone’s hand the right way, or they cracked a joke that wasn’t funny, and Tony Kozina came out to hurt someone that night. There’s always going to be people who claim the match just looked totally legit, but that’s because it clearly is.
The match is in its entirety below, and while it’s not a bloody match, it isn’t for the squeamish.
NSFW (some language):
Bill Goldberg vs. William Regal
Goldberg’s streak was one of the hottest storylines WCW has ever produced. You had this former football player, Bill Goldberg, running through everyone on the WCW roster. He was like a one man Legion of Doom. His matches were about demolishing people. They weren’t about technical skill, well, until he stepped in the ring with Lord Steven Regal.
William Regal, Steven at the time, was on his way out of WCW in May of 1997. To send him on his way, the company booked him in a squash match against Goldberg. Regal was not having it.
For the first time ever, someone made Goldberg work for his ‘W.’ Regal put in his fair share of unorthodox offense, while also keeping his respect for the business in mind.
The Irish whip no-sell, and Regal trying to deadweight the Jackhammer, are what really put over the shoot aspect. I don’t think either guy was trying to hurt the other, but Regal definitely looked unwilling to lose for a large portion of the match.
The Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards vs. John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield
This was more of a series of incidents than just one shoot. In 2005, Blue Meanie was very vocal about Bradshaw being a bully. It must be something Bradshaw has against ECW guys, as JBL has even been cold-cocked by former ECW announcer Joey Styles for his brutish ways.
That year, WWE held a pay-per-view called “One Night Stand,” where JBL gave Blue Meanie a serious shellacking. The heat between the two had boiled over, and liberties were taken.
This didn’t go over well with WWE management, and a feud was booked for JBL to put Meanie over. You know it made someone angry, as Vince even resurrected the “Blue World Order,” just to rib Bradshaw. This led to Stevie Richards joining the story, and giving JBL one of the stiffest chair shots I’ve ever seen.
JBL seems to have lightened up over the years, but I’ll never tire of his crotchety old man antics… or his amazing commentary.
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon
You didn’t think I’d leave the Montreal Screwjob off this list, did you? There have been tons of rumors about Vince McMahon having backstage altercations with wrestlers, but this is the one the whole world got to witness.
This is another case of “guy leaving has a bad attitude.” Bret Hart was about to jump ship to WCW after contract negotiations with WWE went south, and he didn’t want to drop his WWE title in his home country of Canada.
McMahon, the greatest mind in wrestling, knew Shawn Michaels’ had to win the title in Canada, and did everything he could to make sure this happened. This meant Vince coming out, and calling for the bell, without Bret Hart ever actually submitting to Michaels’ version of Bret’s “Sharpshooter.”
From there, Bret Hart lost his cool, and went as far as to spit on McMahon during what was left of the pay-per-view. This is where the documentary “Wrestling with Shadows” comes in, as it gives us a view backstage where Bret becomes physical with Vince.
The more I think about it, the more it all seems like a work, but you just never know.
Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda
This is one of those stories that you don’t want to believe because it’s about Andre The Giant, but it’s too interesting to ignore.
Akira Maeda was not only a professional wrestler, but he was also an MMA fighter. In 1985, when Andre was doing a tour in Japan, he was becoming one of the bigger egos in the industry. It’s said that Andre was told to go out and make a fool of Maeda, which didn’t quite happen.
Andre allegedly ignored all of Maeda’s offense, which led to Akira locking in shoot holds. An angry Andre went for Maeda’s eyes, and then things really went loose.
Maeda kicked Andre’s knee until it was nearly purple and took the Giant off his feet. He probably wanted to do more, but left the ring and gave the guardrail his best kick of the evening, instead.
The size difference alone makes this story sound ridiculous, but Andre had the same problem with taking on one little guy in “The Princess Bride,” so it’s possible.
Harley Race & Nick Bockwinkel vs. Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody
Four old school dudes known for being ornery. Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel were the old guard, while Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody were rising quickly. The matches these guys put on always looked like fights, so it’s hard to really tell the difference.
One night, Bockwinkel and Brody began a tag team match opposite one another. Brody went beast mode, and Bockwinkel didn’t like what was happening. Harley Race tagged in, nearly broke Bruiser Brody’s ankle, and sent for Stan Hansen.
Hansen and Race tussled into a corner, where Harley Race went for a suplex. Stan Hansen grabbed the ropes and sat down, so Race would look foolish. The referee called for a rope break, Hansen stood up, and Harley suplexed him anyway. These four wrestlers could have incited a riot if they decided to go a little harder that night.
Bob Holly vs. Brock Lesnar
This match-turned-shoot has arguably the worst outcome, as Bob Holly’s neck ended up being broken by Lesnar. Though, the blame seemed to have been placed on WWE at the time.
Bob Holly, if you don’t know, is known for being a rough S.O.B., and has gone overboard in the ring plenty of times. He’s even caught a bad rap for picking on trainees. The guy thinks he’s doing wrestling justice by “teaching guys lessons,” but that kind of mentality only causes problems.
Brock Lesnar, who just had a wonderful match with Triple H at WrestleMania 29 last week, was in the midst of a meteoric rise when this all went down. He was/is known for being a difficult person to deal with, so it comes as no shock that he butted heads with Holly.
Like most matches in which a guy wants to get real, Holly just decides to deadweight Lesnar during a powerbomb. Lesnar decides he doesn’t care, and drops Holly on his head, breaking his neck.
Holly’s career was all downhill from there, and while that might have to do with his age, it’s more likely do to with him being such a hard case.
Bruno Sammartino vs. Antonio Inoki
This is another situation where worlds collided back in the day. Bruno was America’s champion; Inoki was Japan’s best wrestler. These guys were both as big as you could get, and had a ton to do with wrestling being where it is today. Only thing is, they didn’t get along.
The two wrestlers worked a tag match opposite one another, and that’s all it took. Bruno, who only worked for Giant Baba after this, claimed Inoki tried shooting on him. Sammartino, being the accomplished amateur wrestler that he is, slapped on a front face-lock to end all front face-locks.
Inoki could do nothing from that point on, and was embarrassed for his transgression. Both men escaped relatively unscathed physically, but parted ways professionally.
Neither man wanted to kill the other, but there was bad blood from the second Bruno set down in Japan. No one makes their name on Bruno Sammartino, though.
Big Van Vader vs. Stan Hansen
Remember when I said that Bob Holly’s broken neck was “arguably” the worst outcome on this list? Well, here’s its competition, as Vader’s eyeball actually comes out of his head for a moment during this one.
Stan Hansen is the only man on this list twice, so you know he’s trouble. Then, you have Vader, who was always trying to throw his weight around every locker room he dressed in. Nothing was going to stop these two from going H-A-M.
It may be a worked-shoot, as these dudes always loved to beat the snot out of their opponents, but there’s nothing worked about Vader’s eye popping out.
If you’re a fan of the Japanese “Strong Style,” or you just want to see something disgusting today, enjoy the match below.