Saturday, July 2, 2022
HomeLists10 Matches Where Pro Wrestling Turned Real

10 Matches Where Pro Wrestling Turned Real

Sure we all know the deal about pro wrestling. The cat was let out of the bag a long time ago. Yet even sometimes the match planned in the back has taken a serious detour in the ring. Here is a look at ten instances when the “fake” pro wrestling got very real inside of the ring.

Nobody is trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here with pro wrestling. It’s a work and that has been documented long enough. But what happens when one wrestler isn’t playing ball with the other? What happened was chaos, unpredictability, intensity, and even fear when a planned match turns shoot. You want to see fear in a pro wrestler’s eyes? Wait until that wrestler realizes his opponent isn’t pulling punches and you will see some of the biggest, meanest, and intimidating individuals change their body language immediately.

[adinserter block=”1″]I thought it would be fun to take a look back at ten matches where one wrestler or promoter went into business for themselves. It doesn’t happen often in this era of pro wrestling, but there have been plenty of rogue wrestlers in the past who were interested in embarrassing, double crossing, or hurting their opponent inside of the ring. Here are ten famous and some not so famous worked matches turned shoots in pro wrestling history.

Lex Luger vs. Bruiser Brody: This match is legendary for the swerve that Brody pulled on Luger and Luger’s reaction. The match took place in Florida right before Lex jumped to Jim Crockett Promotions. Brody didn’t sell a thing for Luger who was locked in a cage with the mad man. Knowing what was coming, Luger scaled the cage, walked to the back, grabbed his stuff, and immediately left the building. So why was Brody uncooperative with the Florida territory’s biggest star? Apparently Lex had been shooting (no pun intended) his mouth off in the locker room about his new deal with JCP and what a big star he was and word got back to the big Bruiser.

Strangler Lewis vs. Henri DeGlane: For wrestling fans like me who follow history, this match is also legendary. The match took place in 1931 so the only evidence of the story is word of mouth. DeGlane was a 1924 Olympic gold medalist and a big star in Montreal. Lewis was coming in as defending world champion and expected to win the best of three falls match. During this era wrestlers would go back to the locker room between falls. As legend goes DeGlane bit himself in the locker room between the second and third fall near his armpit and drew blood. He came back to the match with his arm covered. As the third fall began DeGlane grabbed a headlock and brought Lewis out the middle of the ring. DeGlane dropped to the mat and started screaming, revealing the blood to the referee. Seeing teeth marks, the referee disqualified Lewis and awarded the world title to DeGlane in what was probably the biggest swerve in the history of the wrestling business. According to legend Lewis was so irate that he went after the promoter in the locker room but was stopped by several bodyguards, none named Shane.

Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels: I would be surprised if most people reading this blog weren’t aware of this infamous incident in Montreal. Bret was the WWE champion leaving for WCW. Bret had refused to lose the match to Shawn Michaels. The match itself was no shoot in that both guys worked well together up until the finish. The finish is another story. As most of you know by now Bret was supposed to reverse Shawn in the Sharpshooter. Instead the referee indicated that Bret had given up and Vince McMahon rang the bell. Bret was furious and punched out Vince after the match.

John Tenta vs. Koji Kitao: Long before the Earthquake made waves in the WWF, John Tenta was a major star in Japan. He returned as part of the WWF/SWS super show and took on another famous former sumo star, Koji Kitao who achieved superstar status in the sport. I haven’t been able to grasp exactly why things broke down but it all appears to go back to Kitao having a problem with Tenta. Kitao no-sold early. Eventually the two had a showdown in the ring with Tenta yelling, “this is pro wrestling!” Kitao allegedly told the crowd after the match that “wrestling is fake.”

Akira Maeda vs. Riki Choshu: This was actually a six-man tag team match but it was the rivalry between Choshu and Maeda that turned this pro wrestling match real. Maeda was a young, rising star in New Japan pro wrestling who was frustrated by the politics at the time. Jonathon Snowden tells the story in his book about Shooters. Snowden recalls that Maeda was upset when Choshu was brought back to NJPW, angry that he was one spot back from the top. During the six-man tag, Choshu had Osamu Kido in a scorpion death lock as Maeda laid in a brutal roundhouse kick at full speed to Choshu’s face, breaking Choshu’s orbital bone. Maeda left and restarted UWF several months later.

Stanislaus Zbysko vs. Wayne Munn: We go way back in time again for another one of pro wrestling’s historic shoot matches. Munn was a big boy as legend has it, wrestled for Strangler Lewis’ group, college athlete, but had no real shoot wrestling experience in his background. Legend has it that Zbysko was paid off by rival Lewis’ rival Joe Stecher to take the world title from Munn the hard way. Munn was scheduled to keep the world title but that didn’t happen. The match according to legend saw Zbysko refuse to cooperate with Munn and pin him over and over again until a surprised referee counted to three and Zbysko left with the world title in another one of wrestling’s biggest screw jobs.

Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki: This is arguably most historic MMA match in history. The story has been told many times, so much that an entire Wiki page exists on the match. The basic gist is that in the days leading up to the match Ali tried to renegotiate the rules and put limitations on Inoki. Inoki wasn’t allowed to throw, tackle, grapple, or land kicks on Ali. Ali’s team wanted the rules private for those reasons. According to journalist Jim Murphy, the plan was for Inoki to win. The finish was supposed to involve a ref bump with the ref waking up and counting the pin on Ali. Ali reportedly refused as the match got closer and that is where it all came apart. The match itself was boring, yet incredibly intense. Inoki laid on the ground most of the early part of the match kicking at Ali. Some punches were thrown but in the end they went to a fifteen round decision in one of the most disappointing MMA matches of all-time.

Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda: Big can be more inviting than intimidating depending upon who you are standing across the ring from. There are mixed opinions of this match over the years with some claiming that this was a worked shoot. One version is that neither man wanted to lose the match. Another version was that Antonio Inoki booked Andre to “teach Maeda a lesson.” This is more plausible. Maeda returned to NJPW from UWF with a ton of heat for mocking the “fake” NJPW style. Regardless, Andre showed Maeda early that he wasn’t playing ball and no-sold Maeda. In turn, Maeda began kicking him in the legs. Maeda wasn’t as gutsy to get on the ground with Andre. Antonio Inoki wound up coming out and stopping the match after it came to a standstill long enough.

Antonio Inoki vs. The Great Antonio: This is a You Tube classic although the 1977 match itself is pretty terrible, as most shoots usually are. This was the typical Inoki freak show with Inoki being promoted against a Strongman champion. Great Antonio completely no-sold an Inoki kick which was where things got real quick. Antonio mocked Inoki and proceeded to take liberties with Inoki and punch him in the back of the head. Inoki gets annoyed and this where things get real. Inoki took the best the Great Antonio had to offer until Inoki just went to town and kicked the crap out of the Great Antonio. There have been different versions of what exactly happened with some saying Inoki was a bully but an objective eye can see different when you watch the match.

[adinserter block=”2″]The Mass Transit Incident: This has been discussed for years and even has its own Wikipedia page. The Gangstas were booked to wrestle Eric Kulas who wrestled as Mass Transit and Devon Dudley. Kulas reportedly lied about being trained by Killer Kowakski and was only 17 years old. Kulas rubbed New Jack the wrong way when they put the match together and even smoked in the locker room before Perry Saturn and Taz yelled at him. The match saw New Jack cut Kulas’ head open with a blade to the point where Kulas was bleeding buckets of blood and his father was yelling “Stop the match” from ringside. Jack continued to work Kulas over and grabbed the mic after the match and said, “I don’t care if the motherf*#&^er dies! He’s white. I don’t like white people. I don’t like people from Boston. I’m the wrong n*&%er to f#$k with.” It came out in court that Kulas asked Jack to blade him and thus Jack was acquitted of any wrong doing. It doesn’t get any more real than this.

Bonus – Wendi Richter vs. The Spider Lady: I hesitated throwing this one on the list because there really wasn’t much of a shoot here. The story goes that Richter was being difficult at the time with management so the office swerved her and sent the Fabulous Moolah out there under the Spider Lady costume to take the title from Richter. Once Richter knew what was up she fully cooperated and Moolah wound up beating her for the title. The reason I was hesitant about adding this was that the entire match was worked and Richter went down without a problem. However there was a swerve here and it is one of the most famous in pro wrestling history, thus it makes the list.

10 MORE matches where wrestling turned real

WWE: Sting – Into the Light on

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on



  1. Scott Steiner when he beat the piss out of Buff Bagwell after that promo when Buff mocked him on Nitro or when Scott beat up Mike Awesome after an argument with Terry Taylor. The man was brutal…

  2. Very interesting list! A lot of these I didn’t know about. I’m interested in checking out the Inoki vs Great Antonio match.

    I would like to mention one, it was one you commentated actually! Necro Butcher vs Justice Pain at CZW Cage of Death 7 when Necro Butcher just started beating the crap out of Justice Pain after sandbagging him onto the floor. You could tell that Necro was pissed when he just started stomping on Pain’s head repeatedly!

  3. no mention of the famous inoki ,under the stupid guidance of karl gotch, trying to shoot on bruno sammartino. bruno quickly figured it out and kicked and punched the crap out of inoki until he fell out of the ring. since it was a tag match, inoki would not tag in when bruno was in the ring for the rest of the match.

    • Bruno only squeezed a front face lock on Inoki because Inoki was trying to double cross him and get a pin to put himself over in Japan. This was just before the time that Baba and Inoki tried to take over the company they were with at the time and it backfired on Inoki and he was fired. Baba was welcomed back. Inoki ended up forming NJPW as a result.

      Sammartino commented about this incident in a radio interview. He said something wasn’t quite right in the ring and he sensed something coming and he was right.

      • u have that confused with the bill miller shoot…bruno squeezed miller in a front facelock until he passed out in the ring…miller later apologized to bruno in the locker room. gotch told inoki that if he could trap bruno, he would become an instant sensation.

  4. I hope this causes a ripple effect but please stop allowing the wwe to make fools of you. They continiue to come out with different dvds with the same matches on various dvds. Give us something we dont have like a 6disc set dedicated to the BLACK WRESTLERS,A FREEBIRD DISC,WAHOO MCDANIALS,DICK MURDOCH OR EVEN A 6DISC SET DEDICATED TO THE VARIOUS TERRITORIES AND THE STARS THAT MADE THEM WORK. I WOULD EVEN LOVE TO SEE THE GREATEST STARS THAT WRESTLED UNDER A MASK

  5. Dont know why the match where Norvell Austin and Koko B. Ware kicked the hell out of a guy,you could clearly see that things got really real and as bad as Stan Hansen was l know he kicked a little ass for real in the ring the same with Butch Reed and Bad News Brown

  6. I would have mentioned Triple H and Brock Lesnar's "nutfest" at Summerslam 2012. The match started as a work and it ended as a work, but if you watch the tape, you can clearly see a vicious retaliation from Lesnar. See, at one point, Triple H, clearly on accident, threw an errant knee that landed flush in Lesnar's groin. About a minute or so later, Lesnar went for a planned low blow, but nailed him so hard and so full that it lifted him off the ground. Both men were visibly red in the face and short of breath for a brief time after that exchange. Triple H even looked scared because he knew he messed up and the receipt was coming. The lasting respect between the two was apparent though, as there were no backstage reports of any heat from Triple H or Brock Lesnar over that incident.

    • What article did you read? Read this one and you will see Antonio Inoki vs. The Great Antonio is on there.

  7. I always had the impression that the build up to the I quit match between Magnum T.A. and Tully Blanchard had some shoot moments. I remember watching a promo where Magnum forcibly kisses Baby Doll and Tully attacks him. They landed some real punches during the subsequent fight on the floor. It looked like Tully may have gone too far with the takedown and Magnum made him pay with some stiff shots to the face. Great rivalry and great promotion. I became a fan of the WWF, and wrestling in general after seeing Hulk Hogan win the title from the Iron Sheik but it was when I discovered the old NWA (JCP) on television that I became obsessed with wrestling. The storylines were believable as was the action in the ring.

    • I have to agree with you l always thought that was the greatest l Quit Match that l had ever seen and always thought Tully should have held the World Title at least once bc he drew heat wherever he went

  8. This was a good article. I think the Richter vs. Spider Lady match was more of a shoot than work. There was a Spider Lady previously played by a much taller wrestler, and then all of a sudden Moolah is under the mask at MSG – that didn't make a lot of sense to me unless you wanted to double-cross someone. At the end of the match, you can see Moolah cinch in the small package, and Richter seems confused when the ref calls for the bell (another WWF example of the ref clearly being alerted to the shoot, as with Earl Hebner in Montreal). I blogged about this match last year ( and can't resist mentioning Howard Finkel's hilarious announcement of Moolah as the new champ.
    Switching gears, I was in the crowd when New Jack cut Mass Transit, and I remember feeling bad for the firefighters who first responded to the scene to help Kulas – they must have wondered what the hell they just stepped into seeing this huge kid bleeding badly and a bunch of goofy wrestling fans booing them. The match itself was not a shoot (no way the Gangstas shot on Spike Dudley), but it was a stiff spot-fest with lots of weapons (i.e., every Gangstas match). To me, it's a good reminder not to let other wrestlers gig you.

    • Well I was on the fence with the Richter match because the only thing real to me was her seeing that she was double crossed. The story as I have been told was that once she saw it was Moolah she knew it was pointless to fight so she just went with it. In that case there was nothing "shooty" so I was on the fence.

      As for Mass Transit yeah it was worked but that baby certainly got real lol. I can tell a story here that I didnt want to bore the blog with. I worked for RF Video at the time. That Monday first thing in the Morning Kulas' dad called the office and asked for a tape. He was so proud of his son, thought it was great, etc. I talked to him for about 30 mns. Had no idea a lawsuit was coming.

Leave a Reply to corey street Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular