Thunderstruck: The Night Buff Bagwell’s Career Nearly Ended

Brian Damage

While most pro wrestlers are trained extensively for months and even years to perfect their craft, accidents may still happen. In the heat of the moment, a botched move here or there could seriously alter the course of a match. Injuries do occur and on the night of April 22nd, 1998…on an episode of WCW Thunder…Buff Bagwell nearly lost everything in a matter of seconds.

The show took place in Columbia, South Carolina at the Carolina Coliseum. The match was a tag team was a tag team affair between the New World Order’s ‘Vicious and Delicious’ consisting of Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton versus the duo of Rick Steiner and Lex Luger. During the match, Rick Steiner went to the top rope to deliver a bulldog maneuver on Bagwell. Unfortunately, Bagwell’s head slipped out of Steiner’s grasp and Bagwell’s head and neck were jammed after hitting Steiner’s back.

The booking of the match had Rick cover Buff with Scott Steiner running into the ring, delivering a chair shot to Rick’s back and having Scott place Buff on top of Rick for the 1..2..3 pinfall. The thing was, Bagwell couldn’t move a muscle and when the booked ending happened, Scott attempted to place Bagwell’s arm on a fallen Rick Steiner. Bagwell’s arm simply fell off of Steiner, but the referee counted to three anyway. The fans were left confused as to who won the match. The announcers of Tony Schiavone, Lee Marshall and Bobby Heenan made it known that the nWo got the victory.

Something, however, was seriously wrong. Bagwell remained motionless in the ring. Buff recalled not being able to move a body part from the neck down. He remembers (as he put it) that idiot Vincent/Virgil trying to grab his leg and drag him out of the ring with Bagwell screaming “don’t touch me.” Scott Norton and Vincent climbed in the ring with Bagwell telling them he couldn’t move at all. WCW’s medical staff rushed to ringside and began attending to the injured star.

According to Bagwell, the minutes seemed like hours as he couldn’t feel his lower body. Bagwell kept asking the paramedics if he was paralyzed, but Buff said they never answered him and that made him start to freak out. He then said his mind began to rush about his life if indeed he was paralyzed. He recalled thinking of actor Christopher Reeve and how he could tour schools and become a motivational speaker. A calm began to come over himself, all the while he saw his partner Scott Norton in tears.

Eventually, Bagwell was taken out of the ring and transported to a nearby hospital. By that time, Buff began to regain feeling in his legs and torso. Before long, Buff was doing poses in his hospital bed, to the delight of of his friends and peers. Buff Bagwell wasn’t going to spend a lifetime in a wheelchair. He had suffered a severely bruised spine and the injury caused temporary paralysis. Buff would remain sidelined for about a year before he was medically cleared to return to the ring.

While Buff was healing from his spinal cord injury, WCW began integrating his injury into storylines. He was seemingly kicked out of the nWo by its leader Hollywood Hogan and it looked as if Bagwell was going to receive a big babyface push upon being cleared to wrestle. In WCW fashion at the time, that didn’t happen and instead attacked Rick Steiner and rejoined the nWo as a heel. Some have cited this a huge missed opportunity to make Bagwell a bigger star within the company. Regardless of booking decisions, it was still good to see that Buff Bagwell escaped more serious injuries that would have altered his life.

8 thoughts on “Thunderstruck: The Night Buff Bagwell’s Career Nearly Ended

  1. I remembered that moment as that was scary to watch. The fact that it was real made it even scarier but now looking back. I would say that moment was the beginning of the end of Buff Bagwell’s wrestling career. I think if he had more time to rehab and recover while becoming a babyface. There would’ve been potential but the minute he chose to stay heel and become a lackey for everyone. Not only did he lose whatever sympathy he had with the fans but he never became the same wrestler. He was less mobile and didn’t do any of the flashier moves he had done prior to the neck injury. He had maintained his physique but he got lost in that Buff persona as he just became boring to watch

    That night when he appeared on RAW against Booker T showcased exactly why he was never going to be THE GUY or a major player. Him and Booker had no chemistry and Buff was barely mobile at this point. His mama didn’t do him any favors after that awful night in Tacoma and no wonder he got fired and never made a comeback as he will be known forever as a bum.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror he must have been experiencing at that moment. And on top of that, Virgil was trying to pull him out of the ring? Idiot. A shame he was never the same afterwards.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It was Russo’s idea to use Buff’s real injury and turn into a storyline then swiftly have him turn heel wasn’t it? Because didn’t this happen again with Buff almost a year later with him turning on Rick Steiner again after supposedly being kayfabe injured by Scott Steiner? If so, figures it’d be Russo.
    While it is debatable how much bigger of a star Buff could’ve been had he turned babyface and rode that wave out until WCW was bought out, if would’ve been certainly interesting to see play out as Buff definitely got that Magnum TA fan sympathy for while there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Doesn’t look that bad? 🤔 You can see his neck get jammed. It’s amazing there isn’t freak injuries like this happening everyday to wrestlers.


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