Power Slam has never before acknowledged the existence
of blading in pro wrestling. We’ve hinted at it many times,
but never come out and written: wrestlers deliberately cut
themselves with slivers of razor blades in matches. Glad
we’ve got that over with, finally. In this, the first of a twopart series on blading, FIN MARTIN explains how he
discovered the practice as a fan — and when and why it
was introduced to pro wrestling . . .
BACK IN THE LATE 1980S, years before I
same thing the next night in another town?
entered the wrestling magazine business as
But while I recognised wrestling was a work
editor of Power Slam’s forerunner Superstars
(a term I would learn years later), there was
Of Wrestling (a title launched in early 1992), I
one aspect of it that baffled me. It was the
would pore over as much U.S., Japanese and
blood I would see sporadically in matches,
British wrestling as I could. There were two
and in lurid magazine photographs of Dusty
reasons for this: I enjoyed the spectacle of it
Rhodes, Abdullah The Butcher, Ric Flair, The
all. And I was determined to work out how
Sheik, Bruiser Brody, Tommy Rich and others.
they did what they did in the ring.
Friends and relatives — who knew far less
Bear in mind, this was pre-internet. I had
about wrestling than me — would pompously
never read a newsletter, nor seen ABC’s
assure me the blood in wrestling was fake. But
notorious 20/20 exposé (broadcast in
none, when quizzed, could explain where the
February 1985 in which wrestler Eddie
wrestlers would conceal this “fake blood” at
Mansfield revealed the secrets of pro wrestling the beginning of their bouts, how they could
to reporter John Stossel), and had yet to meet
apply it to their foreheads undetected by the
any other fans who knew the inner workings
audience while a contest was in progress, and
of the business. Even wrestling magazines
then ensure the blood continued to flow for
were hard to come by two decades ago —
several minutes or more. Wrestlers in matches,
at least in my hometown of Kendal, Cumbria
held before spectators, couldn’t use tubes,
— and those that were available pretended
blood bags or other special make-up effects
wrestling was an authentic sporting contest.
like they do in films.
Like most people, I knew pro wrestling was
Armed with this evidence, and photos of
nothing of the sort. It clearly couldn’t be.
scarring on foreheads of wrestlers like
Wrestlers would break their hands and bruise
Abdullah and Brody, I came to the conclusion
opponents’ faces and bodies and knock teeth
that the blood in wrestling had to be real.
out if they really punched each other
I was right.
repeatedly with bare fists.
Former NWA World champion Tommy Rich,
I realised they had to be
a habitual bleeder in the
cooperating with each other to
1980s, was the pro wrestler
A blade. (No
execute the often spectacular
who alerted me to the practice
prizes for guessing
who’s holding it.)
moves they did as smoothly as
of what is known in the business
they did (in many cases) without
breaking each other’s necks.
It was during an angle for
The whole thing had to be a
the fading WWA promotion in
Ohio/Michigan in the late
performance in which wrestlers
1980s, which made its way
feigned pain and injury. How
onto a videotape called
else could they beat each other
Wrestling’s Bloodiest Battles in
senseless, and then do the
1990. Rich, while being choked
with a chain, reached up to his forehead and,
suddenly, blood started running down it. This
was startling to me: neither the chain nor his
opponent’s fists had made contact with Rich’s
forehead and, yet, he had been cut. How was
Simple: Rich had cut himself (to this day, I
can’t explain why he did so in that situation: it
was a total exposé of the business, obviously).
Like that, my eyes were open. I went back
and watched the handful of bloody matches I
had on videotape to see if the juice had
started flowing after the affected wrestler had
dug something into his own forehead. Sure
enough, King Kong Bundy sliced himself in his
Cage match with Hulk Hogan at
WrestleMania II after he had been hurled
headfirst into the blue-barred fence (Bundy
then stashed the blade in his tights). Eric
Embry, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Hogan: they all
clearly did it in their matches. I could hardly
believe I hadn’t spotted it before . . .
BLADING — OTHERWISE KNOWN as gigging,
juicing or getting colour — has been a part of
the fabric of pro wrestling for at least 70 years.
Enterprising wrestlers and promoters
recognised that when blood was drawn in
matches from a clash of heads or an
accidental stiff shot to the nose, lip or eye that
it would intensify the drama and crowd heat,
Terry Funk digs
his fingers into
bloody arm in
a Barbed Wire
especially when the talent worked the blood
loss into the story of the match (yes,
spontaneity in wrestling bouts was both
permitted and encouraged in those days).
Wrestlers and promoters also felt the presence
of blood in matches legitimised the game: at
a time when “protecting the business” was
paramount, it served a dual purpose.
Rather than potato punching each other to
spill the blood, the concept of blading was
implemented. To ensure the wrestler who had
been booked or volunteered to bleed was in
control of how long or deep the cut would be,
it was decided the grappler should cut himself,
rather than entrust the task to an opponent.
(There have been many exceptions to this rule,
by the way: In fact, referee Earl Hebner
bladed Sting in his match with Mick Foley at
Lockdown 2009; Ric Flair bladed Bill Goldberg
in an Elimination Chamber beat-down at
SummerSlam 2003; and manager Harley Race