Friday, August 31, 2012
Blood in WWE: Unnecessary or effective tool?
I was watching WWE Monday Night Raw this past Monday (naturally, of course). The main event was CM Punk versus Jerry Lawler in a steel cage match. The point of this match was to help further Punk's recent heel turn. The crowds weren't really booing him, so I guess WWE wanted to use Lawler - the lovable ex-wrestler turned announcer - as a magnet to attract heat to Punk. He goaded the former AWA World Champion into the ring and proceeded to beat him to a pulp and attack him after the match was over.
During the match, I noticed something that piqued my interest. Punk's face was driven into the cage and when he stood up from the ground his face was covered in blood. Since changing their television shows from TV-14 to TV-PG in the summer of 2008, they have banned the act of bleeding in a WWE ring, either intentional or accidental. If it happens on accident, the referee will stop the match and a physician will attempt to close the wound. Locked inside a cage, doing that was harder, so they went on with the show.
Punk, realizing the no-blood rule, tried to wipe the blood away at every opportunity, leaving his wrist tape soaked red. As soon as the match was over, he exited the ring and was handed a towel by the referee.
Rumors sprang up online the next day that Punk had drawn blood intentionally, through the act known as "blading." Blading is exactly what it sounds like and has been used to increase drama in wrestling matches since at least the 1970s - you cut your forehead with a small razor blade. That's an area of the body that will bleed a lot from a small cut. Mix in some sweat and you have what famed announcer Gorilla Monsoon famously called a "crimson mask."
Punk vaguely referenced the rumors on Twitter, tweeting about how paying a $500,000 fine was a "drop in the bucket. Bucket of blood!" He further added, "And, yes, I have more power than you could possibly imagine," as one would assume a wrestler intentionally breaking that rule on live television would be instantly fired.
See for yourself - click here to watch the match. It's broken up into clips. At around the one-minute mark, Lawler drives Punk's head into the cage. Punk hits the ground and one of two things happen - he blades his head or he touches the legitimate cut on the top of his head.
I'm leaning toward the latter, that he was really cut from his head hitting the cage. One, I just don't think he would take the chance on doing something like that. Two, the cut was on the top of his head and pretty long. Even if he did blade, I don't think he would do it like that. Click here to see the 8 staples he received. When some questioned that the blood was fake, he tweeted the picture with the caption "The staples are fake too."
So, with all that said, why is there a video of Shawn Michaels versus Chris Jericho from 2008 embedded above? That's a landmark match for a couple of reasons. First, it was the beginning of Jericho's great heel turn and their amazing feud. Second, it was the last major blade job in WWE before the company turned TV-PG.
My girlfriend has gotten into wrestling a little bit just by being around me. She never watched WWE pre-PG and she hates when matches get bloody. She feels like there is no need for blood in wrestling and a lot of people feel the same way about it. I think that when used correctly, blood can add the necessary drama to a match and help tell a story. A perfect example of that is Jericho vs Michaels from the Great American Bash 2008.
The story is amazing and is why the feud worked so well. In May, Shawn Michaels faked a knee injury to win a match. He "played possum," in effect. He played up the injury for a while and Chris Jericho started to question it. Still a good guy at this point, he called Michaels out on it and HBK admitted that he lied. That was the impetus for Jericho's heel turn. He questioned the fans for continuing to cheer Michaels despite the fact that he lied to them. He said they respected Michaels for being a cheater and would never respect him no matter how hard he tried. Jericho was tired of pandering to the fans for respect like Michaels had done. The first couple minutes of the video recaps this.
Jericho slammed Michaels head into a television screen, damaging his eye. Michaels later made his return and cost Jericho the Intercontinental Championship. Michaels euphoria was short-lived, as Jericho walked up to him and punched him in the eye, further injuring him. That leads into the GAB 2008 match.
At around the 18:50 point of the video above, Jericho catches Michaels with an elbow to the eye. He's busted open. Jericho realizes it and takes advantage of it, punching and kicking at Shawn's face with reckless abandon for nearly 10 minutes. He mounts Michaels and throws punch after punch until the referee pulls Jericho off an unconscious Michaels and declares Y2J the winner.
Amazing visual of Michael's loss. The ensuing storyline sees Michaels admit that he might not be able to return. He says he will make an announcement about his future at the following month's SummerSlam event. Standing in the ring with his wife, HBK looks like he is about to announce his retirement before Jericho interrupts the party. Jericho attempts to punch Michaels, but HBK moves out of the way and Jericho inadvertently strikes Michaels's wife in the face [click here to watch].
The feud ends at the beginning of autumn, with an unsanctioned match, with HBK recreating the GAB finish, mounting Jericho and punching him until the referee pulls HBK off an unconscious Y2J.
That blood added the drama and realism of Shawn Michaels suffering a potentially career-ending injury. The personal animosity between the two competitors was upped a notch with Jericho attacking Michaels and drawing blood.
While I understand WWE not wanting blood on their programming, that doesn't mean that I have to like it. With that said, though, you don't need blood to have an entertaining match. A lot of times, I'll admit, blood is often overused and doesn't add anything. But, when it's used correctly, like Jericho and Michaels showed, it can help turn a good match into a great match and an already great angle into one of the best of the last decade.
What do you think? Is blood unnecessary or an effective tool to help tell as story?