Paul “Triple H” Levesque focuses in on the interviewer while discussing wrestling mentality photo courtesy of Sam Barnes / Web Summit
I hate wrestling being called fake. Not because I believe what I am seeing is unscripted fighting, rather just that the connotionation of “fake” implies wrestlers do not really get hurt. While the mainstream’s current sentiment of wrestling is akin to, “Oh yeah, it’s scripted, but it still takes athleticism and probably hurts,” I feel like the extent of wrestling’s danger is not fully understood. I also believe that wrestling companies can certainly dial back some of their stunts in favor of their wrestlers living longer lives.
Last week, WWE Executive VP of Talent Paul “Triple H” Levesque expressed his distaste for blood in the wrestling industry in an interview with wrestling publication The Ringer.
“I’m just of the opinion right now, given the state of the world and the pandemic, and at the end of the day, what we do is dangerous enough without intentionally making it more dangerous,” Levesque said. “Yes, we did [feature bleeding] for a long period of time, but we’ve changed that practice. And it’s irresponsible to go back.”
For those unfamiliar with “blading,” blading is when wrestlers hide a razor, either in their ring gear or around the ring, and cut themselves to show more blood. Commonly, this is done on the forehead as there are many blood vessels. To non-wrestling fans, if this sounds barbaric, it is, and I am glad people of power like Levesque are speaking out on it.
Wrestling is home to a lot of bizarre match scenarios, ranging from Japanese death matches with light tubes to thumbtacks covering the ring of a local independent wrestling company. These scenarios are not exclusive to lesser known companies, as All Elite Wrestling (AEW), considered to be WWE’s main rival in American wrestling programming, had a “Barbed Wire Everywhere Death Match” this summer.
In business, the theory of diminishing returns describes that persistent investment in something eventually leads to profits for that thing decreasing once interest lessens. I find blood and these extreme matches to also follow this principle. When audiences start seeing blood every week, when will wrestlers feel the need to harm themselves even more just for a crowd to react?
Restrictions on blading and other dangerous tactics might also help the industry financially, as extreme matches do not always appeal to casual viewers. I remember on an episode of “AEW Dynamite,” Brody King and Darby Allin fought in a coffin match, where at one point Allin rubbed a skateboard deck covered in pushpins against gushing King’s face. I watched that match with my girlfriend, who yelled, “Oh, thank God,” when the match finished. I understand there are fans who adore bloody matches, but when these matches come on week after week, some casual viewers may no longer tune in.
Wrestling’s impact on performers’ long-term health is already becoming apparent: Kurt Angle, olympic gold medalist and former WWE and Impact world championship holder, revealed in his podcast “The Kurt Angle Show” last week that he, at 53 years-old, is suffering from harsh memory loss. Angle gave his body to wrestling, breaking his neck multiple times in his career and wrestling for years while addicted to painkillers. With how many wrestlers like Angle are now suffering from chronic pain, why make it even worse for future generations through a reliance on blood and stunts?
For the last few weeks, AEW and WWE have been delivering excellent matches where the wrestlers do not need any weapons or excessive blood. Both companies have a surplus of performers who excel in technique, talking and charisma without causing unnecessary damage to themselves.
We live in a world where even a good bit of the punches, slaps and kicks of wrestling are real. I would much rather see wrestlers with long careers filled with fantastic matches than see people push themselves to decrepit states because of too many bad falls and blunt force trauma. It is 2022; time to limit the razors and other appliances to a minimum.