Wrestling fans have observed many real life injuries taking place inside the squared circle. While most recover after a couple weeks off, others painstakingly recuperate for months to get back on their feet and back into the ring. An unfortunate few land in an entirely different category. This is the story of Darren Drozdov’s crippling neck injury.
In 1999, Darren Drozdov was 30 years old. A multi-sport athlete, Drozdov had a promising career ahead of him. He was a former defensive tackle for the University of Maryland, and quickly caught the eye of WWE CEO Vince McMahon. After his transition to the WWE, his career was on track for even more success.
At the Nassau Coliseum on the 5th of October 1999, that would all change.
During a SmackDown taping, the match was supposed to end with Drozdov getting hit with D’Lo Brown’s signature running powerbomb. Instead, the move was botched and Drozdov’s active wrestling career was ended in an instant.
One wrong move and the former professional athlete was now a quadriplegic.
For obvious reasons, the entire match was edited out and never shown on TV.
A fan by the name of “Souper” mentioned in a post on WrestlingForum.com:
“I was there as a kid… you could tell it was real because all action stopped and it took almost half an hour to get everything/everyone settled after that. Jerry Lawler got on the mic and said the Mets and Yankees suck to draw heat and stall for time.”
In a 2015 interview with the Bleacher Report, D’Lo spoke of the incident:
“As far as Droz and I are concerned, we’re boys, we’re good, we’ve talked throughout the years. He has a place in my heart. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. There’s no blame on either side from either person.”
D’Lo Brown opens up about accidentally paralyzing Darren Drozdov
After the accident, Darren Drozdov worked for the WWE providing them with website and magazine content. He went on to become a frequent guest on the WWE Byte This! show and also appeared in the Life and Death of the Road Warriors DVD in 2005.
Even though Drozdov’s career ended, he did his best to show the world that he was getting on with life:
“There is always another day. Just because I’m paralyzed and stuck in a wheel chair, doesn’t mean my life is over. I’ve learned to live again and my life is far from over.”
Now in his 40’s, Droz needs 24-hour, in-home care to help him function. He lives close to where he grew up in South Jersey, just a few miles from his family.
After the incident, he spoke of his gratitude to the WWE for their support, “The McMahons came through for me, and I remember my Dad saying after the surgeries that “Thank God that you worked for WWE.”
Drozdov’s career-ending injury isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time a wrestler finds themselves on the receiving end of a botched move. That fact is professional wrestlers take tremendous risks in order to entertain the crowd and collect a paycheck.
Although wrestling is scripted, Droz’s broken neck is a chilling reminder that the script doesn’t always go according to plan.