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The art of drawing blood
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun


Andy Ellison is a bloody mess against Abdullah the Butcher in 2004. Photo by Yves Leroux.


So much for the ketchup theory ... crimson masks, blood pouring down the faces of wrestlers ... in many cases, it is real blood, ordered by promoters.

And so wrestlers cut themselves, sometimes each other, to make sure they get paid.

"The 1970s was the bloodbath era of matches," said Superstar Billy Graham, a WWE Hall of Famer. "Almost every magazine in that decade would have blood on the cover where the wrestler was absolutely dripping in blood.

"When I lost the WWWF championship belt to Bob Backlund, in the return match I had to blade Backlund because he didn't know how to do it himself. And because there wasn't enough blood the first time, I had to run the razor blade across him again. It made me ill.

"It was never 'let's do it to make the fans happy.' It was a direct order from the promoter.

"The first time I found out wrestlers were cutting themselves with a blade to create real blood for a fake wrestling match, I wondered why can't we figure out how to have fake blood instead of mutilating ourselves to create the blood. You did it because you were told to.

"I was working San Francisco with Roy Shire and we were doing a lot of cutting. I complained that my forehead was too cut up. He told me to move to a different part of my forehead and start cutting that."

Abdullah the Butcher, another WWE Hall of Famer, has made a living out of bloodbaths.

"The people want blood and violence," said The Butcher, born Larry Shreve in Windsor. "When you go to a movie, that's what it's all about. Blood and violence. I'm just giving the fans what they want."

Graham says WWE put in a no-blood policy for a reason.

"Linda (McMahon) ran for office so Vince (McMahon) wanted to clean up WWE's image. The girls toned down their sexual content and they added the no-blood. It wasn't for the good of wrestlers or out of the goodness of Vince's heart, it was out of necessity.

"Knowing that Hep C can come through the transfer of blood, U.S. Congress should step in and stop the bloodletting and blood sacrifice. We are like sacrificial lambs told to cut our heads open with a razor blade.

"Promoters say: "You are going to cut your head open tonight and so is your opponent." Then you go out and bleed on and in your opponent? That's tough."

"I never let anybody cut me," famed manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan said in his book, Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All. "I didn't know where the blade was or where the other guy had it. You didn't think about AIDS or herpes in those days, or about catching anything."

"When I was working opposition (in New Mexico), when we were making $5 or $10 a night, the kid in there said, 'I want you to bleed. I want you to use this razor blade,'" Cowboy Bob Ellis told SLAM! Wresting's Greg Oliver. "Shoot, I'd never even heard of it. 'How do you do it?' 'You do it this way.' I went in there and I about bled to death. I'm a good bleeder. I cut myself too much! I used to cut my ear a lot and that really got over. I'd do my arm.

"We'd take a condom and draw my blood out a vein and put it into a condom. You'd put in this stuff that keeps it from clotting. You'd make a little ball out of it, and put it into your mouth, in your cheek. Then when the guy jumps off the top rope, then you'd burst it and start spitting it. It's really impressive."

RELATED LINKS

  • April 17, 2011: How Hep C derailed Devon Nicholson's WWE deal
  • April 17, 2011: New drugs offer hep C patients hope
  • Devon Nicholson / Hannibal story archive

    Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.baines@sunmedia.ca.