Blood has always been a big draw in professional wrestling. Bleeding (or “getting color”) has been used to shock audiences for years as it creates such a frightening and empathetic visual. This is a list acknowledging thirteen of the best old-school bleeders.
The Super Bleeders
The following article was handwritten on a pad of paper by Dale Pierce and submitted to Evan Ginzburg for future use in his “Wrestling- Then & Now” newsletter. Sadly, Dale passed away in 2018. To honor him, we are publishing this article by Dale in electronic format for the very first time.
A big thank you to Evan Ginzburg for transcribing the following write-up by Dale Pierce and for his valuable additions to this article. Special thanks also go to Eric Lupaczyk for his contributions to the honorable mention section below.
Warning: inevitably, the photos in this article depict blood. Discretion, etc., is advised.
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13. The Valiant Brothers
“Captain Lou and the Valiants, too! Woooo!” manager Lou Albano would shriek maniacally.
And wild they were, the number one tag team in the world for several years in the ’70s.
Nor were they shy about leaving a pool of blood in the ring, mostly their own.
Back then, you had to be 14 years old to get into Madison Square Garden, for this gorefest was no kiddie show.
With that “show must go on” old-school mentality, Johnny got through the match and unbelievably wrestled the next night, still blinded in one eye, before finally getting to a doctor.
These guys sure were double tough.
Whether it was the wild outfits, the bleached blonde hair, or the stream-of-consciousness outlandish promos, they were a total package in and out of the ring.
And blood was a big part of what they were selling.
12. Mick Foley
Fans are glad to see he made good money, saved it, and got out before he became a vegetable.
He has to be one of the all-time great bleeders and one of the most suicidal grapplers ever, giving his all for a crowd that is generally fickle at best.
However, they have embraced him as a beloved legend and appreciate his extreme sacrifices.
To truly appreciate Sabu, you would need to see tapes from Japan or his old pre-WWF Al Snow bouts on the small-time circuit when they were both young and hungry. They were all out wars.
Sabu versus Terry Funk were also some great bloodbath brawls, especially during their barbed wire bouts, which were off the charts brutal.
As far as bleeding goes, look at his head and body. What do you expect from someone who was not only trained by The Sheik but was a blood relative?
His uncle taught him well.
10. Superstar Billy Graham
Whenever Billy Graham and Bruno Sammartino met, it was like Superman and Lex Luthor or Batman and the Joker colliding. Arch rivals, the heat was off the charts, and inevitably one or both would bleed, evoking a primal roar from the crowd.
It must have been a similar audience reaction to gladiator fights in the Roman Coliseum.
Graham bled regularly and often, and there are even some famous shots of him with a huge white bandage across his forehead.
However, there’s a big difference between Graham and many of the exponents of blading in this piece.
In the film 350 Days, in which he stars, and in other interviews, he speaks out against blading.
He refers to it as “barbarity.”
While there’s no denying blood added to an old-school match because the mostly mark fans believed and reacted accordingly, taking a blade across one’s forehead and drawing blood certainly wouldn’t fit most job descriptions.
That it’s "barbarity” may indeed be a valid point.
9. The Sandman
What can you say about a guy who pre-juices? Hitting himself in the head with a beer can and bleeding before The Sandman‘s bouts even begin, the crowd roared their approval and loved the adrenaline rush.
The Sandman obviously wasn’t shy with his beer or juice.
8. Lou Albano
A far greater manager than wrestler, Lou Albano’s late career matches fit the same formula.
A beloved face would finally get that grudge match with him, but the sneaky “Captain Lou” would immediately pull a foreign object out of his trunks, stunning his opponent.
A rake of the eyes would further immobilize the fan favorite as the crowd roared their encouragement for a comeback.
Lou would get in a few kicks and punches, but his rival would suddenly return from the dead. He’d get a hold of Lou’s weapon of choice, clobber him, and the hated Albano would do an exaggerated comical stagger.
Next thing you’d know, Lou would have a blade in his hand, within full view of the audience, and go to town on his own mangled forehead, slashing and slicing, slicing and slashing.
It was utterly insane.
Bleeding like a stuck pig, he’d flee back to the dressing room, never to be seen again. And just like that, it was over.
Fans would go out of their minds.
The whole thing lasted maybe- on a good night- five minutes.
It was primitive. It was simple. It worked.
7. Jos LeDuc
When your Wikipedia page’s sole photo of you is covered in blood, you know you’re a bleeder. And the map carved in his grotesque forehead attests to it as well.
Although he didn’t have that big WWE run- if you blinked, you would have missed him in there in 1988.
He was a legit main-eventer and monster heel throughout the territories and world.
Doing a lumberjack gimmick, the man was massive and powerful and had a crazy wild-eyed psychotic stare. When you saw LeDuc you knew you were getting a brawl and often a bloody one.
Any wrestling fan mustn’t miss one particular moment: LeDuc’s Blood Oath promo from the Memphis territory in 1978. It was one of the most frightening promos ever to take place in wrestling. See for yourself:
He made a cameo in the movie No Holds Barred, so obviously, Hollywood liked his distinctive look and persona.
Sadly, he passed away at only 54 in 1999 from complications from diabetes. Those that remember him got to witness a truly great and bloody heel.
6. Dr. Jerry Graham
A real-life psycho, Dr. Jerry Graham was even crazier behind the scenes than his character role (he was once arrested for attempting to kidnap his mother’s corpse from the hospital).
This guy would go all the way across his head to bleed and be covered with so much blood many fans would grow sick watching him at ringside.
Remember that infamous aforementioned Erik Kulas blade job courtesy of New Jack? Graham did similar to himself and loved it on a regular basis.
Behind the scenes, though, the talk was “Do your own blading when working, Graham. Tell him you’ll do it yourself if he offers to color you!”
With good reason.
Though old and washed up, Graham was still working in California until the early 1990s and was still bathing himself in blood, especially in one old-time brawl with Victor Rivera in which he horrified even the workers by the way he diced himself.
5. Dusty Rhodes
Any article covering blood in wrestling would be incomplete without mention of Dusty Rhodes.
Dusty, an all-time great in several categories, was part of some of the bloodiest battles in wrestling history.
From wars with Abdullah the Butcher to Ric Flair, and Terry Funk, Dusty left behind a roadmap of scar tissue above his brow.
4. Terry Funk
There’s an old magazine with photos of Terry Funk facing Hank James in a chain bout, with the two of them looking like something from a horror movie, with Tom Savini’s effects.
Another mag shows him bleeding down to his legs after a bout with Moose Morowski in Amarillo.
Over twenty years later, he was still bleeding, facing ECW brawlers, though his WCW and WWE runs were limited as far as juicing.
The one ECW bout where he was walking around with a hunk of barbed wire sticking out of his head says it all!
Terry Funk has got to be one of the most dedicated workers ever.
3. Ric Flair
Prime NWA Champion era Ric Flair was as great as virtually anyone. He could wrestle and brawl; as a bonus, he sure wasn’t shy about bleeding.
His matches were rarely quickies and built as the minutes went by. And whether it was at the ten, fifteen, or twenty-minute mark, that convenient head to the ring post spot inevitably saw Ric come up with color.
It always popped that crowd. Always.
There would be this murmur that grew exponentially as the champ staggered about helplessly, his challenger pouncing on him. Seeing the weakened Flair a bloody mess, the blue-collar crowd imagined a title change that evening that, alas, was most likely not to be.
It was magic.
Ric Flair clearly believes in the old adage: “Red means green.”
2. The Sheik
Rumor has it “The Sheik” Ed Farhat could hold a pen between the plow line-type scars in his head left from years of blading.
It would be difficult to recall a match where he did not blade himself or someone else.
Behind the scenes, he would tell rookies, “Aw, you’ll never have a forehead like mine,” obviously taking pride in his war wounds.
His gory long-term feuds with Tony Marino, Bobo Brazil, Luis Martinez, Johnny Valentine, Bulldog Brower, Bull Curry, Tiger Jeet Singh, Fred Curry, and the Funks were all carnage to rival anything with today’s hardcore crew.
1. Abdullah The Butcher
You look at those hatchet mark-sized scars on Abdullah the Butcher’s head and need not ask why he’s at the top of the list.
In a shoot interview, he went so far as to say he was fond of drinking red wine after a bout to build up red blood cells lost after blading.
Seeing Abdullah and Bruiser Brody rampaging through a crowd, the fans fleeing in terror from the two behemoths, was like fleeing Godzilla as it tore through Tokyo.
Their blood only added to the frenzy.
And Abdullah did this nightly for decades; the blood he’s lost over the years could have filled a small river.
An article like this could easily include a hundred names or more, though we would be remiss to ignore the following who shed sweat and blood plying their craft over the years:
Bulldog Brower, Bobby Heenan, Bobby Jaggers, Jerry Lawler, Mad Dog Vachon, Luis Martinez, Chris Colt, Wahoo McDaniel, John Tolos, Freddie Blassie, Lowlife Louie Ramos, Tommy Rich, Randy Savage, Johnny Valentine, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Killer Brooks, King Curtis, Ray Stevens, John Rambo, Moondog Lonnie Mayne, GQ Status, Necro Butcher, Atsushi Onita, Bruiser Brody, Supreme, Fly Boy, Ian and Axl Rotten, The Gangstas, Balls Mahoney, Carlos Colon, Manny Fernandez, John Zandig, Masada, Ivan Koloff, The Sheepherders, Eric Embry, Mr. Pogo, and innumerable others…
Whether you love or loathe juice in your matches, there’s no denying it has been a major part of pro wrestling. These are but some of the warriors who bled buckets for their Art and their beloved fans.
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