Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blading and the risk of infectious disease

     Blading is a time honored tradition in American professional wrestling.  The act involves the intentional cutting, usually with the modified edge of a razor blade, of one's own forehead or that of an opponent.  The visual of a bleeding wrestler is thought to add value to and advance the storyline being told to the audience.  Former wrestler Eddie Mansfield described the act of blading during an interview for the ABC news magazine show 20/20 that aired on December 28, 1984.

Curtis Iaukea
      The health consequences of blading have not been studied.  A number of concerns however have been raised.  Not only is the act potentially disfiguring, but there is a risk of acquiring a skin or soft tissue infection at the site of the cut.  There are a number of microorganisms that could produce such infections, including Staphylococcus aureus.  There is also a risk that tetanus could develop in the wound.

     In addition, with blading there exists the potential to transmit an infectious disease.  For this to occur, blood from the infected wrestler must enter into the recipient wrestler, typically through an open cut or wound.  There are numerous diseases/infections that can be transmitted through a blood transfusion (see Table 1).  In theory, such disease/infections could also be transmitted with blading.

Table 1
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
  • Hepatitis A, B, C, E, G.
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus types I and II.
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Human parvovirus B19.
  • Human Herpesvirus 6 and 8.
  • Syphilis.
  • Malaria.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
  • Chagas' Disease.

     While it is not known with certainty if any such infections have been transmitted from one professional wrestler to another through the act of blading, in 2011 independent wrestler Devon Nicholson (Hannibal) went public with his accusation that we acquired Hepatitis C from wrestler Larry Shreve (Abdullah the Butcher).   His story was told in the documentary "Don't Bleed on Me".


     Other wrestlers reported to have a history of hepatitis include Eldridge Wayne Coleman (Superstar Billy Graham), James Fanning (Jimmy Valiant), Sean Waltman (Syxx/X-Pac), and Bob Orton, Jr. (1) 

      In 2011 it was learned that independent wrestler Andre Davis (Sweet Sexy Sensation Andre Heart) was positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  Although he apparently had knowledge of this as early as 2009, he was not forthcoming with the information.  Davis did bleed in his some of his matches.  (1)

      The peak era for blading in American professional wrestling was the 1970's.  WWE's position on bleeding during matches has changed on a number of occasions over the years.  At the present time, WWE has a "no blood" policy in keeping with the PG content of their subject matter.  Blading is still frequently performed by wrestlers working for independent promotions.


(1)  Meltzer, D.  Wrestling Observer newsletter publications.

The photographs and videos are for illustrative purposes only.  Wrestling with Death does not claim ownership.

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