When it comes to physicality inside the WWE ring, it’s no surprise that from time to time, wrestlers can get carried away and throw strikes that are deemed too stiff. Sometimes they even throw punches or kicks that can leave marks or injure their opponent.
Protecting your opponent is one of the most important aspects of the sport of professional wrestling, but there are times when this oath is broken or forgotten about when the action gets a little too heated.
The problem with certain wrestlers is that they can work stiff and make the action seem realistic, but at times miss their mark and hit too hard, which in turn develops a bad reputation for the wrestler in question.
Here are five WWE Superstars, past and present, who worked too stiff in the ring.
#5. "The Empress of Tomorrow" Asuka
The former multi-time WWE Women’s Champion had a long-standing career wrestling in Japan prior to her NXT debut in 2015 to the present day.
Asuka's style of wrestling is the Japanese strong style that is well known amongst wrestling fans to be hard-hitting in nature. Therefore, the Empress of Tomorrow has continued this style of wrestling in WWE.
Fellow WWE Superstar Natalya has commented on Asuka’s stiff ring work from a match the two had on an episode of Monday Night RAW in 2020. This began a little back-and-forth Twitter exchange between the two wrestlers, as illustrated in one of the tweets below:
This is a great example of two wrestlers that had some heat between each other due to stiff exchanges but were able to create magic in the ring and turn it into a positive.
#4. The Undertaker
The Phenom is one of the most respected veterans in WWE history and is also known to be one of the toughest wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots.
The Undertaker earned his respect through his reputation from surviving injuries, harsh bumps, and of course historical rivalries and championship tenures. Not to mention a WrestleMania winning streak that added an extra layer to his legacy.
During his early beginnings, The Deadman learned fast from the likes of the late Bruiser Brody on what not to do in the ring, as he made a legendary rookie mistake in ticking off Brody by being too stiff in the ring.
Taker was interviewed on The Broken Skull Sessions and spoke about the incident with Steve Austin, stating:
"I’m bigger than he is.’ So ding, ding, ding and we tie up and as soon as we tie up I’m pushing and he’s like ‘Okay, lighten up, kid’ so I’m gonna give him the push-off and when I do I kinda push off and I flick him in the chin a little bit, you know.”
The Undertaker added:
“We tie up again, boom. I grab an arm, so I’m standing there with a standing arm bar, I just grabbed it, right? I don’t know how I got so stupid… really. So he’s about to shoot me off, and I yell: ‘clothesline’ — Now I’m calling the match!” [H/T: Ringside News]
Needless to say, The Deadman learned his painful lesson real fast, and it's lasted with him to the present day.
Goldberg's legacy of working stiff in the ring has been well documented. Goldberg has been known to be harsh in the ring and the worst case of him going too far was in his match with Bret “Hitman” Hart at WCW Starrcade (1999).
Goldberg infamously mistimed a kick and smashed Hart in the head as hard as he could, giving The Excellence of Execution a concussion.
Though Bret Hart worked a few more matches leading up to the early 2000s, he would ultimately be forced to retire from the ring as the concussion symptoms took over and proved to be worse than expected.
When interviewed on The Broken Skull Sessions with Steve Austin, Hart spoke about the incident with Goldberg, stating:
“I always knew what I was doing. I would hurt myself before I ever hurt another wrestler. And I just wish some of the wrestlers I worked with, especially at the end [of my career] like Goldberg. He was one of the most unprofessional wrestlers to ever work in the business. For Bill Goldberg to be in the Hall of Fame… he hurt everybody that he worked with.” [H/T: TalkSport]
Despite repeated apologies from Goldberg, The Hitman still holds a grudge against him to this very day.
“The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus has been known to work stiff inside the squared circle since his days in WWE’s former developmental territory, FCW. The former WWE Champion developed a reputation for being a wrestler who loved to work consistently stiff inside the ring with his opponents.
Current AEW star Andrade El Idolo shared a story on his Twitter page mentioning how Sheamus loved to work stiff in the ring. He also spoke about some recent issues with Sammy Guevara complaining about how Andrade worked too stiff in the ring.
“For example, Sheamus likes to hit, and all my respect for him because he loves to hit hard and loves the strikes. He is wild. Even The Miz likes to throw strikes. Not even John Cena complained about me, so if he did not complain, imagine this kid who is just starting, but there’s that.” [H/T: Fightful]
As we can see by Sheamus’ recent matches with Gunther over on SmackDown, his in-ring style has yet to change.
#1. Former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar
“The Beast Incarnate” is undeniably one of the roughest and stiffest competitors to ever step inside a WWE ring. Since Brock Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012 after a successful run with UFC, he has retained his status as a hard-hitting smash-mouth competitor who does not like pulling punches at all.
The perfect example of this came at SummerSlam (2016) during Lesnar’s match with “The Viper” Randy Orton. Lesnar gave Orton a concussion with punishing blows to the head that left him in a puddle of his own blood.
Orton spoke about the incident in an interview with “For The Win”, as he stated:
“I think with Lesnar, it’s always going to be him coming in every few months as a monster who destroys guys who work 200 days a year … There is a tendency for that to get old. I could have looked a little better that night and that would have helped me a lot regardless of the finish and not hurt Brock’s character at all. But the fact that you’re asking me about it three-four months later, means we created a buzz. But the fact that I had a concussion and was out for three weeks and wasn’t able to do anything pissed me off.” [H/T: Fox Sports]
To date, the Mayor of Suplex City remains one of the stiffest competitors in WWE and doesn’t seem to be changing up his style anytime soon.