An injury can completely change a wrestler’s career. In some cases, they return with a huge push and in others, their careers never recover.
An injury can change a wrestler’s career forever based on the timing. WWE specifically has to make drastic changes when someone is missing time if they had a huge role. The future of the wrestler coming back after recovery is always hit or miss. Some names never had another relevant push while others came back with huge pushes.
The scenarios usually feature Vince McMahon’s view of the talent dictating how things play out. Each side of the story shows how an injury can sometimes be a strange blessing or the biggest possible curse. Find out what caused each wrestler to have such fascinating aftermaths. The following WWE superstars either never received another big push after a major injury or returned with an even bigger push.
Dolph Ziggler’s career peaked when cashing in Money in the Bank to become the World Champion to a massive ovation. An injury forced Ziggler to sit out a few weeks and miss the following PPV without a defense.
WWE gave up on Ziggler when he was cleared to compete by having him drop the belt back to Alberto Del Rio. Ziggler was never viewed as a legitimate top star after this and it essentially ruined his one chance at a top spot.
The heel run of Triple H made him the best WWE villain from 2000 to 2001, but the quad tear forced fans to love him. Triple H finishing the match with such a painful injury led to every viewer respecting him and awaiting his return.
WWE built up the hype eight months with incredible promo packages leading to a historic return in Madison Square Garden. The massive ovation convinced WWE to move forward with the push of Triple H winning the 2002 Royal Rumble and the Undisputed Championship at WrestleMania 18.
WWE once viewed Chris Nowinski as a future top heel. Nowinski was a valued prospect around the same time as Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista and Brock Lesnar, but he was called up to the main roster before them.
The concussions started to become an issue for Nowinski when removed from television during his planned push. Nowinski never received another big opportunity and eventually was forced to retire. The past decade has seen Nowinski become a huge part of concussion prevention in wrestling and other sports since it ruined his career.
Kurt Angle left WWE for a few months after putting over Brock Lesnar in the WrestleMania 19 main event due to serious neck injuries. The time away would give Angle time to get surgery and recover at full strength.
WWE treated Angle’s return as a big deal and had him play a face winning the WWE Championship right away. Brock’s struggle as a face turned him heel to continue the feud with Angle adding a new dynamic. Angle was the face of Smackdown for the rest of the year.
One forgotten instance of an injury changing a wrestler’s career was Mr. Perfect in the early ‘90s. WWE started to rely on Perfect to have the best match on the card most nights during his legendary Intercontinental Championship reign.
A career-threatening back injury forced Perfect out of the ring. WWE utilized him as a broadcaster and manager before he made his return. Perfect still had good matches, but he missed more ring time when the injury returned. WCW signed him for a bigger run in the late ‘90s when WWE cut bait with the legend.
The back injury to Shawn Michaels in 1998 forced him into early retirement. Fans never expected him to return to the ring until the 2002 appearances for WWE. The booking saw him finally announcing his return match in 2002 vs Triple H.
Michaels proved he was still great if not better than ever with classics against Triple H, Chris Jericho, Edge, and many others. The second chapter of Michaels’ career saw him becoming a bigger legend with the respect growing to a new level.
The 2007 Money in the Bank ladder match victory by Mr. Kennedy allowed him to cash in a title shot against the World Champion any time he wanted. Kennedy was scheduled to defeat Undertaker down the road, but he suffered an injury before it happened.
WWE had Kennedy lose the briefcase to Edge when the timetable was reported to keep him sidelined for months. The timetable ended up being a lot shorter than expected, but WWE never pushed him in the title picture again.
John Cena’s 2007 injury led to WWE wondering how they’d manage without the face of their company as he was expected to miss almost a full year. The infamous Royal Rumble 2008 surprise appearance saw Cena cleared to compete about four months faster than expected.
Cena won the Rumble and was viewed as an even bigger star. The reliability of Cena made his importance in WWE only grow as the most protected wrestler in the booking. Cena even earned the respect of his critics when coming back so early.
WWE once viewed Finn Balor as being one of the biggest stars of their future. Balor received a massive push after getting drafted in 2016 from NXT to Raw for the brand split. The huge moment of Finn becoming the first-ever Universal Champions saw him getting a bigger push than even Roman Reigns that summer.
Balor’s unfortunate timing of a brutal shoulder forced him to vacate the title after one night. Vince McMahon lost faith and never pushed Finn as a viable main eventer again. Things grew bad enough for Balor to opt for a return to NXT.
Steve Austin’s scary neck injury vs Owen Hart in 1997 had management terrified they were going to lose their next major star. The momentum was already strong for Austin after the double turn with Bret Hart, but WWE wanted to wait until WrestleMania 14 to crown him as the WWE Champion.
Austin missed a few months with WWE still pushing him hard with effective segments. The injury lingered for the rest of his career, but Austin was cleared after a few months to fulfill the plans of becoming the face of the company.
Joey is a writer with a decade of experience writing about sports, entertainment, and pop culture. Pro wrestling is his strongest passion with a lifetime fandom and countless live shows attended.
WWE, John Cena
World news – CA – 5 WWE Stars Who Never Got Another Big Push After A Major Injury (& 5 Who Returned With A Bigger Push)