Pro Wrestling

10 Wrestlers Who Suffered Major Concussions…And Kept Wrestling Source:

Concussions are becoming a big deal. In every sport on the planet, the focus has become how poorly concussions have been handled in history, and that includes professional wrestling. Thanks to the “tough guy” mentality, for the longest time, concussions were something that you were just supposed to shake off and play through. Even a few years ago, steps were made towards acknowledging that concussions might be something that needed to be dealt with, but by and large, they are still not being fully treated with the serious consideration these injuries deserve. We set out to find stories of pro wrestlers who had publicly acknowledged, in one form or another, suffering major concussions over their careers, but who also hadn’t let that stop them from continuing to wrestle, even eschewing medical treatment in order to get back in the ring as quickly as possible. The list is long, the implications eye-opening, and we limited the list to ten of the highest profile examples. The full list is undoubtedly staggering, and the consequences of failing to address this very real problem have clearly become more dire as time passes.

10. Mick Foley

Mick Foley’s concussions are probably the most well-documented of any wrestler. He talks frankly about them in several of his books, including a memorable section in his second autobiography where he details how his memory started to fail him, as well as his math skills, leading to his wife being forced to take over handling the family finances. And Foley still wrestled occasionally after that book was released, including an infamous match with Edge at WrestleMania that featured him taking a huge bump off the ring apron and through a flaming table! In addition, a segment of the Beyond The Mat documentary reveals the damage that was done after taking a dozen unprotected chair shots during his “I Quit” Match with The Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble, and many of his most famous falls have been part of WWE highlight reels for years. In recent years, Foley has been candid about his belief that he suffered real brain damage over the course of his career, thanks to the head shots he took and the concussions he suffered and continued to work through. Source:

9. The Undertaker

The Undertaker’s match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, in which The Streak was finally broken, was considered a fairly bad match by both men’s standards, and in the days and weeks that followed, the reasons for that were made clear. During the opening minutes of the match, The Undertaker suffered a severe concussion, leading to him spending the rest of the match in a fog. However, despite the severity of the injury, The Undertaker continued with the match, which went on for nearly thirty minutes. After the match concluded, The Undertaker walked backstage and, almost instantly, collapsed on the floor. He was rushed to a local hospital and diagnosed with a serious concussion. He was then kept overnight and discharged Monday morning, and did not appear in a match for WWE again for another year. And then he wrestled a handful of times in 2015, including twice more against Lesnar, which was actually more matches in a single year than he’d done in most of the years leading up to his ill-fated WrestleMania match. In addition, he has reportedly said that he still has years left in his career, instead of doing as fans were expecting (and at this point, hoping) and retiring at WrestleMania 32 in his home state of Texas. Source:

8. Dolph Ziggler

After winning the World Heavyweight Championship by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase in 2013, Dolph Ziggler was at the peak of his career. Then, an errant shot to the head from Jack Swagger, that caught Ziggler completely off guard, led to a concussion that would sideline him for several weeks, and led to him dropping the title immediately upon his return. itself detailed Ziggler’s concussion, and the article includes quotes such as “I didn’t even remember Monday until I watched Raw when I got home. I don’t even remember traveling from Raw to SmackDown. I don’t remember Tuesday,” and ““I didn’t know what day it was; I didn’t know what month it was. I’ve had a couple of concussions before and just had a headache. I’ve never not remembered entire days, like someone in a movie.” It’s important to note that he participated in the Smackdown tapings a night after suffering the injury. In his return match, where he lost the World Heavyweight title back to Alberto Del Rio, the booking revolved around Del Rio repeatedly going after Ziggler’s head, with the announce team suggesting that Ziggler might have suffered further injury, which led to the loss. While Ziggler was not actually injured during the match, it was disturbing to watch him take even worked shots to the head so soon after suffering a major head trauma. Source:

7. Christian

The end of Christian’s career didn’t come with a long speech like Daniel Bryan or his former partner and lifelong best friend Edge. In the last years of his career, Christian was an infrequent presence in WWE as he repeatedly tried to make a comeback from a series of concussions. But every time he came back, a few matches later, he would be back on the shelf, suffering the effects of post-concussion syndrome. This pattern actually continued for months, and in fact, Christian never really officially retired. One day in 2014, Edge was hosting an episode of Raw and brought Christian along for the ride, both in street clothes and looking as far away from ring-ready as possible. During the show, the pair were attacked by Seth Rollins and several members of the Authority, and in the post-Raw recaps on, it was mentioned that both Edge and Christian were retired. That was how we learned that Christian’s wrestling career was over, and despite repeated comebacks as recently as earlier that same year, had actually been over for a while. Source:

6. CM Punk

As part of his tell-all podcast interview with Colt Cabana, which placed a microscope squarely on WWE’s medical staff and resulted in him and Cabana being sued for making libelous statements, CM Punk talked openly about a litany of injuries that he had suffered and worked through in both the indies and WWE. In fact, during what would end up being Punk’s final match in WWE, the 2014 Royal Rumble, he suffered a concussion during the match and continued to wrestle, surviving until nearly the end after entering the match at #1. That concussion, combined with increased dissatisfaction in the WWE product in general and his use in particular, may have been the final straw for Punk, who walked out of the company the very next day and later said that he has no plans to have a working relationship with WWE in the future. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from throwing his hat into the MMA ring, as he signed with UFC months later and began training for a fight in 2016 (injuries would delay that first fight several times, however). Remember, this is a man who has openly admitted to having several concussions, including one which basically ended his wrestling career, who now intends to move into legitimate fighting, where concussion risks are potentially even greater. Source:

5. Tommy Dreamer

When Tommy Dreamer returned for a brief run in WWE in late 2015, it immediately raised questions about WWE’s dedication to their concussion protocol (the same protocol that was, at the time, preventing Daniel Bryan from returning to the ring). Dreamer had already publicly stated on the Steve Austin Podcast that he had suffered “anywhere from 13 to 16 concussions” in his long career as an ECW legend. Dreamer would go on to talk about his mounting memory problems as a result of those concussions, talking about how he repeatedly asks his wife and kids questions that he didn’t remember already asking, and how he has to have an alarm on the refrigerator because he kept forgetting to close the door. Those statements are incredibly scary for anyone who then watched Dreamer go through tables and take shots from various weapons in a series of matches with the Wyatt Family. Even after his limited run with WWE ended, Dreamer continues to wrestle on the independent circuit. Source:

4. Daniel Bryan

This heart-wrenching drama played out over nearly two years in WWE, but had its roots all the way back at the start of Daniel Bryan’s career. Both in his retirement speech and his biography, Bryan talked about how he suffered three concussions in his first five months of wrestling. And then he went on to a sixteen year career, suffering several more along the way. It says a lot about how cavalierly we still treat concussions when Bryan was being held out of the ring by WWE, and fans started complaining after he was reportedly cleared by several outside doctors to return. Then, when Bryan retired in a tearful ceremony in February of 2016, it was revealed that a new test had shown that those outside doctors were completely wrong (which is disconcerting given that at least one of them was the team doctor for an NFL franchise), and Bryan had several brain-related issues due to his history of concussions, including several lesions that guaranteed he would never step in the ring again. It was also revealed that he’d been suffering concussion-related seizures and hiding them from everyone, including his wife, so that he could keep wrestling. Source:

3. Brock Lesnar

Following Daniel Bryan’s retirement, Brock Lesnar gave an interview on ESPN where he flat-out admitted that he’d probably had more concussions than he could count, including several that were never documented. Perhaps the most infamous concussion of his career came at WrestleMania XIX, where he attempted a Shooting Star Press as a big finish for his main event title match against Kurt Angle. It was a move Lesnar had performed regularly in developmental, but not since his WWE debut (and after this, he would never try it again). Through some error in judgment, Lesnar basically landed on his head and neck and gave himself a severe concussion. He had to be carried through the finish of the match by Angle, and won the WWE Championship in the process. Since Angle was already scheduled for neck surgery and expected to miss a lot of time (he didn’t, but that’s another story), and because he was the champion, Lesnar was back on television that week, and never missed any significant time despite the concussion. Source:

2. Bret Hart

A single misjudged kick ended the career of one of the best wrestlers in the world. During a WCW World Title match against Goldberg, Bret Hart took a boot from his opponent straight to his head, cracking his skull and instantly ending Hart’s wrestling career. However, because Hart was old-school and this was still an era before anyone cared about concussions, he still wrestled several more matches before even visiting a doctor, including a hardcore match against Terry Funk that involved gratuitous use of weaponry. When a doctor finally got to take a look at Hart, he immediately forced Hart to quit wrestling, and according to Hart’s biography, was reluctant to even let the Hitman get on a plane in his condition. Hart would later suffer a stroke that almost certainly wasn’t helped by the injuries suffered over his career, especially the concussions which damaged his brain. Source:

1. A Bunch Of Former Wrestlers Who Are Suing WWE

Ultimately, the reason why WWE was so adamant about Daniel Bryan not returning to the ring has roots in a series of lawsuits, all of which were eventually consolidated into a single class-action suit, filed against them by former Superstars (And the estates of several deceased wrestlers), all who claim WWE was negligent in dealing with the concussions which continue to plague them later in life. The list of former WWE talents currently named in the suit include Billy Jack Haynes, “Big Vito” Lograsso, Ryan Sakoda, Matt “Luther Reigns” Wiese, and the estates of Nelson “Big Daddy V” Frazier and Matt “Doink The Clown” Bourne. While the lawsuit is still ongoing, it’s existence, and whatever may result from it, could potentially change the future of WWE and professional wrestling as we know it, and at the very least, will hopefully change how the industry deals with the rising issue of concussions going forward. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.