Mankind vs The Undertaker – Hell in a Cell
I could probably write an entire blog on the toughness of Mick Foley (also known as Mankind, also known as Cactus Jack, also known as Dude Love). Like the time he had his ear torn off his head in Germany or when he received 3rd degree burns from a C4 explosive match in Japan. His Hell in the Cell match with the Undertaker is his most famous though, so I decided to roll with this one.
For those that don’t know, the “Hell in a Cell” is a gigantic roofed cage that is lowered from the rafters of the arena and surrounds the ring. Although it was designed to keep the performers locked in, Undertaker and Mankind began the match on top of the cell and within two minutes, Mankind was hurled over the side by his opponent.
Following being thrown off the top of the 22 foot cell, twisting in mid air and crashing through the announcer’s table below, most in attendance thought Foley was dead, certainly that the match was over. As he was being wheeled away on a gurney, Foley rose to his feet like Lazurus, threw off the medical team trying to hold him back and once again ascended to the top of the structure.
The Undertaker was waiting for him and rewarded his tenacity by beating him with a steel chair, before dumping him through the top of the cage. Foley hit the ring below with a sickening dull thud, the chair crashing into his face for good measure. “That’s it, he’s dead” announced commentator Jerry Lawler.
There’s some debate as to whether the cage roof was rigged to break. Regardless, this is where the real damage was done to Foley. He was knocked unconscious from the impact and the chair colliding with his face dislocated his jaw, shattering his teeth and forcing one of them to peirce through his upper lip. Ouch.
As the Undertaker (whom himself was wrestling with a broken ankle) attempted to buy Foley some time to come to his senses by beating up the ring attendants, the commentators begged the referee to end the match.
The match didn’t end. Somehow a lifeless Foley staggered to his feet and continued to wrestle for another 10 minutes, receiving further chair shots and a choke slam back-first onto a bed of thumbtacks (i.e. those pins you use to hold up posters) before Undertaker dumped him on his head with a Tombstone pile-driver to mercifully close the match.
Foley’s injury count for the night? A separated shoulder, multiple stitches, a concussion, splintered teeth, a dislocated jaw, dozens of thumbtacks embedded in his skin and a very pissed off wife. He was back wrestling the following evening.
Vader vs Stan Hansen
Anybody who knows me, knows that “Big Van” Vader is one of my favourite super heavyweight wrestlers. At 6 foot 5 and weighing 450lbs in his prime (that’s about 32 stone in British-person speak), Vader was a mountain of a man. He had a reputation for making his matches look as realistically brutal as possible. He did this by basically beating up his opponents for real, hammering them with stiff forearms to the face and slamming them to the mat with incredible ferocity.
In short; if you wrestling Vader, you were going to get hurt.
Side note: Mick Foley once decided he wanted to quit wrestling. In order to cash in his Lloyds of London life insurance policy, he needed someone to legitimately injure him in a match. The man he chose for the job? Big Van Vader.
Now, wrestling matches in Japan tend to be slightly different in style to their American counterparts, i.e. they’re full of legitimate kicks and punches to the head. This style (known as “strong style”) is used to display the toughness of the performers, making an exhibition of who can take the most hard strikes to the cranium and keep going. Needless to say, Vader fit in well in Japan.
So did his opponent in this particular match, Stan “The Man” Hansen. Stan Hansen, a barrel chested, moustachioed Texan, had become famous for clattering his opponents with a brutally hard clothesline to the sternum, which he dubbed “the Lariat”. Truthfully, Hansen was nearly blind without his glasses and had trouble judging the distance of his opponents. So he decided the best method to ensure he didn’t miss was to just swing at them as hard as humanly possible.
When Vader and Stan Hansen collided in a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990, it was a recipe for pain.
Before the match even properly started, Hansen had managed to accidentally break Vader’s nose with the bull-rope he carried to the ring. That set the tone for the brawl that followed, with unforgiving stiff punches thrown wildly by both men. Part way through the match, one of Hansen’s punches caught Vader in the orbital bone, causing his eyeball to pop clean out of its socket.
Yes you read that right. His eyeball popped out. If you want visual proof, feel free to google it. Hope you haven’t had lunch yet.
Vader pulled his mask off, pushed the eyeball back in and held it there by keeping his eyelid closed. The super heavyweight then continued to wrestle the rest of the match. Following the event, he would require a metal plate to be surgically installed in his face as a result of the injury.
And that is one of the many reasons I love Vader.
Sabu vs Terry Funk – Barbed wire match
The promotion known as Extreme Championship Wrestling had a presentation format unlike mainstream WWE (known as WWF at the time). It was a grungy, gritty bastion of counterculture. Wrestlers entered to theme music by Motley Crew, Metallica and Pantera. Their televised shows were filmed in a filthy bingo hall where heavily intoxicated fans would often jeer the performers with profanity filled chants. Violent weapon-matches were common, but the barbed wire match (a match where the ring ropes were replaced with cords of taught barb wire) took things to another level.
Terry Funk was the grizzled veteran, already a good twenty years into his career at that point (the match took place in 1997 and Funk was still wrestling up until last year) defending his ECW heavyweight Championship against Sabu, an erratic wild-man who would use his entire body as a weapon, hurling himself his opponents with little regard for his own safety. The two men main evented a pay-per-view event aptly titled, Born to Be Wired.
Within minutes of the bell ringing, both men were bloodied, any contact with the barbed wire shredding their skin instantly. Early in the match, Terry Funk was caught up in the wire in the corner of the ring when Sabu ran towards him, spring boarded off of a chair and launched himself legs-first at his helpless opponent. Funk managed to tear himself free from the wire at the last moment and Sabu landed in a messy heap, managing to rip a 10-inch gash in his bicep in the process.
As blood began to gush from his arm, rather than exiting the match and seeking medical attention like any sane person would, Sabu called for a reel of athletic tape from his manager at ringside. He then proceeded to sticky tape the gruesome wound closed, even as Funk continued to beat him up.
The end of the brutal match came when Sabu wrapped Funk in barbed wire, placed him on a table, wrapped himself in barbed wire, then leapt onto Funk from the edge of the ring. The two men crashed through the table and became so entangled in the wire that referees had to resort to using wire cutters to free them.
ECW promoter Paul Heyman described the match as being “so gruesome, I never ever dared to schedule another one like it”. It’s definitely a difficult match to watch, but like a car crash, it’s hard to look away from the chaos.