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WWE and the Crimson Mask: The Good and Bad of Using Blood in Pro Wrestling

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2011

Blood. Juice. Color. No matter what you call it, it has always been a part of the business, on nearly every level. It’s not always necessary, and some might say it’s not needed at all. But no one can argue its effectiveness when used in the right way.

25 years ago, blood was such a normal occurrence, that it was almost expected. Major feuds, especially between main event stars, often involved blood, as it was used toward the apex of the rivalry.  

The feud had escalated, until it had reached its boiling point. The match would become so vicious, so brutal in nature, that there was really nowhere left to go but to bust a guy open, proving that it was out of control. The intensity was turned up, and as a result, so was the fans’ desire to see the next match, in hopes that their favorite would emerge victorious.

A great example of this is in 1986, in the epic rivalry between The Midnight Rockers of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, against Playboy Buddy Rose and Pretty Boy Doug Somers.

Rose and Somers were the AWA World Tag Team Champions, and had been chased for the belts by Shawn and Marty.  Time after time, The Rockers got close, and time after time, they came up short.

The younger fans, who loved Michaels and Jannetty, were there for them every step of the way, reacting to every near fall, in breathless anticipation of them finally defeating Rose and Somers, and securing the gold.

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Then, on September 2nd, 1986, the two teams squared off in what is considered by many to be perhaps the bloodiest televised match in pro wrestling history. The only man not to juice was Rose, and the blood was everywhere. It was very gruesome.

It was also a very dramatic, extremely captivating match that had fans on their feet.

This was the kind of bout that proved getting color can completely change the tone of a rivalry. Fans knew that The Midnight Rockers wanted the tag belts, and that they were committed to winning them. But after this match, the realization came that Shawn and Marty were willing to sacrifice their own physical well being, in order to achieve their goals.

They proved that they had heart.  

If there was ever truly an instance of “leaving it all in the ring,” it was definitely this match.

Blood can also be used at the very end of a feud, or when the moment calls for a violent showdown. It enhances the match, and puts a strong exclamation point on the hate that has been simmering between the two competitors.

The best example of this is the infamous I Quit match between Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard on November 28, 1985.

Magnum and Tully had a great feud that began over the NWA United States Championship, but quickly became personal, thanks to the kind of heel that Tully was.

Cocky, arrogant, with a self involved sense of entitlement, Tully was the kind of heel that fans truly loved to hate. He was a good worker and a great Horseman, and with a devious smile, he came at Magnum with everything he had.

Magnum was the quintessential babyface, a guy who was tough, smart, and courageous.  He never backed down from a challenge, no matter how insurmountable it may have been.  And, that included the first ever I Quit match inside a steel cage.

While Jim Crockett Promotions was known for its straight forward pro wrestling matches, this contest was not one of them.

Magunm and Tully, also known for their ability in the ring, did not lean too heavily on their talents on this night. This match was about sheer brutality, featuring violence on an unprecedented level. The heat between these two had been building to this moment, and now it was time for the payoff.

The color in this match added to the overall drama, and Magnum’s crowning as the new U.S. Champion clearly defined him as the better man, at least on this night.  

An I Quit match inside a steel cage has to feature blood, there’s just no getting around it. There are too many opportunities for a guy to get hurt in a match of that nature, and in those days, when a worker was sent into the cage, the blood was not far behind.

These days?  Not so much.

While WWE has had its fair share of bloody matches through the years, the fact is that juicing is now a no-no. The company’s much debated PG Era dictates a more kid friendly environment, and that in turn means no intentional color.

TNA, on the other hand, is still open to guys bleeding on the air. Perhaps way too open.

If WWE is harmless PG in its edict of no juicing, then TNA is dangerous rated R in its approach of "bleed buckets whenever the moment calls for it."  But, is it too much?

Excessive blood in any pro wrestling presentation causes the effect to be lost on the audience. It’s inescapable, fans will eventually become desensitized to all the gore. Case in point: ECW.

While Extreme Championship Wrestling was not always all about the blood, they did push the envelope more than any other promotion in history with is hardcore theme. They became famous with it. They lived by it. And, they eventually died by it because they were unwilling to tone it down to become more mainstream. They just kept overdoing it until there was nothing left.

I never intentionally juiced in the ring. I just never felt the situation called for it, and wasn’t too high on doing it in the first place. But, one night while wrestling the promoter of the group I was working for, color happened, whether I wanted it to, or not.

I was to take a chairshot to the head from a supposed ally who was turning on me as the finish. I knew it was coming, and had took it several times through the week leading up to it. It wasn’t an issue, though it hurt like you wouldn’t believe, but I knew it was necessary to get the promoter over.

The problem? I flinched. I knew it was coming, and I threw my head back, not staring directly at the chair. He caught me with a sharp edge, and cut open my forehead. I bled like a stuck pig, and actually blacked out.

The crowd loved it. And, when I was told that some fans were heard saying “good, I’m glad he’s hurt,” I knew that it all worked out for the best. The blood did its job.

So, where does the business of professional wrestling stand with juicing? Is it perhaps an outdated concept, one that is meant to stay in the more secretive, more old fashioned days of the industry? Is it time that we all moved on from that ultra-violent behavior in this modern era?

Or, does it still have a place, as a part of very dramatic storytelling, as long as it is used sparingly, and with great purpose?  

The debate rages on.

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