If you watched “SummerSlam” over the weekend, you probably saw the grisly mess that Brock Lesnar made out of Randy Orton’s face to close out the show. Lesnar, who drifts back and forth between sports entertainment and pro wrestling depending on who pays him more, split the Viper open with sickening elbows before the ref ended the match. The WWE tries to stay away from the red stuff these days, but blood has been a vital part of wrestling storytelling for decades. Let’s take a gory trip through 10 matches that would make a vampire stand up and cheer.
And heads up, some of these pics are tough to see.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
For all of his physical gifts, Brock Lesnar tends to shed blood pretty easily. The first time he met the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell at 2002’s “No Mercy” pay-per-view, both men found themselves leaking red fluid all over the cage. Taker went into the match with a broken hand, and quickly used his cast to bust Lesnar’s head open. Brock answered back with disgusting strikes and Taker bladed as well, giving both men a crimson mask. Lesnar finally hoisted a blood-soaked Undertaker onto his shoulders for an F5 and the win, and this was the match that in many ways cemented his position as one of the company’s top stars.
Eddie Guerrero vs. JBL
Before his tragic death, Eddie Guerrero was one of the wrestling world’s most charismatic stars, an undersized performer who made it to the top with a never-say-die work ethic and insane charisma. At the 2004 Judgment Day pay-per-view, he faced John Bradshaw Layfield, who was then running a Trump-style “protect the border” gimmick. The match started with a brutal chairshot, with Eddie cutting his forehead open to produce more red stuff. Unfortunately, he struck an artery with his razor blade, creating an all-out bloodbath that literally had the mat looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. Guerrero’s blood loss was so severe that he went into shock backstage after the match.
Tully Blanchard vs. Eric Embry
Southwest Championship Wrestling was one of the grittiest local territories in the country. The feud between Bob Sweetan and Tully Blanchard was white-hot, and when the cowardly Blanchard stepped into the ring with rookie Eric Embry he had a point to make. Blanchard just beats the holy crap out of Embry, dropping knees and elbows to his face climaxing with a shot to the dome that cuts him open and soaks his blonde mane with the red stuff. The USA Network used to pull SCW shows from the air when they got too bloody, and this is a textbook example. Blanchard, as a classic heel, doesn’t even pin Embry when he has him beaten, just returning to punish him more and more.
Megumi Kudo vs. Shark Tsuchiya
Women’s wrestling is undergoing a new wave of interest in the United States, but over in Japan the ladies have been doing it for themselves for decades. The rivalry of Megumi Kudo and Shark Tsuchiya was white-hot during the 1990s, and in 1995 they took part in one of the goriest matches of all time. With the ropes replaced with barbed wire, these two tore the living hell out of each other for almost a half hour, both of them bleeding from multiple cuts all over their body. Kudo’s face gets the worst of it, as by her final pin of Shark her features are barely visible under a thick mask of blood.
Terry Funk vs. Sabu
We couldn’t put together a list of insanely bloody wrestling matches without making a stop or two in ECW, the upstart promotion that brought ultraviolence to the masses in the late 1990s. At the Born To Be Wired pay-per-view, Texas legend Terry Funk squared off with the homicidal, genocidal, suicidal Sabu in a barbed wire death match. Both men got the bad end of the wire on multiple occasions, but Funk took the worst hit. A stray barb tore open one of his biceps, and he had to roll to the outside and seal the grisly wound with athletic tape. Chaos reigned throughout the entire match, and ECW never did the barbed wire rope gimmick again.
John Cena vs. JBL
What is it with John Bradshaw Layfield and leaving his opponents bloody messes? A year after his match with Guerrero, JBL faced John Cena in an “I Quit” match at Judgement Day. Cena, well-known for pulling out all the stops in the ring, also took a brutal chairshot to the dome. And Cena also bled a gusher, turning his face into a crimson mask. The match continued, with Cena’s entire upper body eventually getting soaked with blood. After ramming JBL’s face through a television monitor, Cena got the victory. The gory display was so intense that that it ended the long-running rivalry between the two, with Cena being traded to Smackdown the next night.
Necro Butcher vs. Samoa Joe
One of the most unpredictable professional wrestlers of all time, the Necro Butcher was a lanky West Virginia lunatic in a “CHOOSE DEATH” T-shirt known for his insane tolerance for pain. His matches were bloody, terrifying spectacles, and when he faced equally stiff Samoa Joe in IWA Mid-South in 2005 it was an absolute bloodbath. Necro got busted open early on and managed to keep trading shots with Joe for the next 10 minutes, a constant stream of blood pouring from his face. The announcers are literally screaming “Someone’s gonna die” into the microphone as these two dudes hammer the living Christ out of each other. By the end, Joe is literally painted in Necro’s blood.
Vince McMahon vs. The Undertaker
Love him or hate him, you can’t question Vince McMahon’s devotion to the pro wrestling business. The multi-millionaire WWE owner has put his own body on the line multiple times to get talent over, and what other CEO would literally spill his blood in front of a paying audience? At the 2003 Survivor Series, the feud between Mr. McMahon and the Undertaker came to a head as the two fought in a Buried Alive match. Just seconds in, Taker nailed Vince with a shot to the face that busted him open, and he bled like a faucet through the entire contest. It was a terrifyingly grisly sight to see, but it’s only one of several notable Vince bladejobs. He’s a boss who wouldn’t ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself.
Mass Transit & D-Von Dudley vs. The Gangstas
Extreme Championship Wrestling was notorious for pushing the limits of good taste, but letting an untrained 17-year-old kid in the ring might have been a step too far. When Axl Rotten failed to show up for a tag team match, booker Paul Heyman let a big-bodied fan named Eric Kulas sub for him. Kulas, as bus driver “Mass Transit,” immediately got beat to hell and cut open by Gangsta member New Jack. His forehead wound would take 50 stitches to close up. The gory bloodbath would have serious consequences for ECW — Kulas had lied about his age to get in the ring and proceeded to sue the company. The case was thrown out, but it helped cement ECW’s reputation as the most dangerous company in the business.
The Great Muta vs. Hiroshi Hase
Japanese wrestlers are noted for practicing “strong style,” putting a little more oomph into punches and kicks to make their matches more believable. So when they bleed, they bleed big. When the Great Muta and Hiroshi Hase faced off in New Japan in 1992, they spent the first 15 minutes of the match with fast-paced, highly technical wrestling. Then Muta goes to the outside to introduce a foreign object, Hase grabs it from him, and the gore starts to flow. Over the next 10 minutes, Muta’s red juice gets all over his own face, Hase’s body and the ring. It’s a grisly spectacle that is legit difficult to watch.