November 12, 2018. Arguably one of the most important dates of Becky Lynch’s career.
She led a multi-woman invasion of Monday Night RAW six days before the Survivor Series pay-per view, highlighted by a beat down of her (then) Survivor Series opponent in RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. During the in-ring melee, Lynch caught an errant right hand from Nia Jax, knocking the Lass Kicker to the canvas with a gash below her left eye.
The segment and domination spawned countless memes and a popular drawing by Lauren Moran that made its way on posters and t-shirts across the wrestling globe. If 2018 was “the year of Becky Lynch,” that invasion on Monday Night RAW was her “Austin 3:16” moment.
If you’ve kept up with any of my WWE pay-per-view reviews recently on ProWrestling.com, you’ll remember that I gave Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair’s match at Survivor Series five stars. A big part of why I gave that match five stars was because of the intensity and brutality those two brought to the match.
The match felt like a ground-and-pound brawl between two prime athletes trying to figure the other out for nearly 15 minutes. Midway through the match, Charlotte elbowed Ronda in the jaw and blood began to drip out of Rousey’s mouth. While I’m sure that was purely accidental on Charlotte’s part, that incidental knock was one of many reasons why that match came together as well as it did in showing that the women were quite literally beating each other’s heads in.
What I’m getting at by bringing up these two examples is that blood made each moment a bit more interesting, a bit more eye-catching, and therefore, a bit more exciting to watch. Becky smearing blood all over her face like war-paint was regarded as one of the most iconic images on WWE television in 2018. Ronda bleeding from her mouth like a badge of battle showcased the “danger” of coming into the ring with a competitor like Charlotte. Additionally, it showed what kind of trials and tribulations one has to face in order to prove they are the top wrestler on either brand’s women’s division. Based off these two examples, that brings me to my main point that WWE should be more open to using blood in storylines and matches as a storytelling device than they have in the last decade.
Induced bleeding has been banned and discouraged on WWE television since the company officially switched to a TV-PG product in 2008. While the switch opened up the company to more merchandise and advertising opportunities with a more family friendly product, knowledge and awareness of blood-borne illnesses like Hepatitis B and C further justified an apprehension toward any situation that could get wrestlers needlessly sick, such as blading. Any rule-breakers for this new guideline could be fined upwards of $100,000 for their actions. Since then, there have been several instances where wrestlers are busted-open “hard-way” like Lynch back in November or Brock Lesnar during his match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 31 where wrestlers wouldn’t be punished because of accidental contact creating open wounds.
Admittedly, as the title suggests and for reasons I’ve stated in the previous paragraph, I don’t think every match needs to look like a death match with gore and gruesomeness at 8:30 EST on Monday and Tuesday nights. WWE is first and foremost a business, and if they believe that they can make more money by withholding any needless bleeding on their programming in order to retain more profitable business partnerships, who am I to scold them for following the money. Additionally, professional wrestling is dangerous enough as it is without the risk of wrestlers getting sick with dangerous injuries or extended illnesses from blading. Like you, I’ve seen a lot of situations and matches where blood doesn’t add anything to the match story or someone just bleeds an unholy amount of blood where you’re concerned for their safety. (Some obvious examples are Beulah McGillicutty vs. Bill Alfonso in ECW 1997, Mr. McMahon vs. The Undertaker at Survivor Series 2003 and Eddie Guerrero vs. JBL at Judgement Day 2004).
But in certain situations, like a heated rivalry or a heel viscously beating down a face, blood adds a bit more character to a situation and story, and therefore, the product. A very recent example of this (albeit this was not a “blading” situation) was WrestleMania 34’s main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Near the end of Lesnar’s beat down and decimation of the Big Dog, a few too many elbows connected with Reigns’ head, giving the number-one contender a prominent head wound and a “proverbial crimson mask,” to borrow an idiom from Jim Ross. Reigns face told a story of pent-up anger, madness and centralized energy all aimed at the Universal Champion. His wet, jet-black hair stood out on his ruby red face as he looked like he was about to rip Lesnar apart like a wolf pouncing on a stag. Say what you will about the match itself, but that moment added a great deal of necessary drama to make the match even more serious. Blood covering Reigns’ entire face was the extra bit of storytelling needed to make this pivotal moment of the match stand-out even more.
This principle shouldn’t be limited to just matches, either. When done in a thought-out and specific way, blood during a promo can really get a message across or really just make a promo stand out to the crowd. Check out this Ric Flair promo of him busting himself open in 2005 during his feud with Triple H. Flair is of course, one of the best promo-cutters in modern wrestling history. But when he’s hitting himself in the head and smearing blood from his head wound in a fit of rage, his anger and passion comes out on a whole other level of legendary status, making the message of the promo stand out even more.
Maybe it’s just a yearning for excitement found in years past that I feel is lacking often times with the modern product, but I truthfully believe that WWE could create more gripping and exciting storylines by safely and cautiously implementing the use of blood on a rare and case-by-case basis rather than an outright ban they currently hold. There’s power in scarcity and rarity, so there doesn’t need to be blood every single 205 Live taping. Rather, on a case by case basis, blood should at least be considered in order to add a bit more intrigue to a story or give it a little extra “juice,” per se. Heels look more sadistic and cruel. Faces can show off their wounds of war in trying to overcome evil. Matches can feel more realistic and passionate, as well as less cartoony. It can be used as a tool like a table or a backstage promo; And in the right hands, it can be used to “make” a moment and even a career.