Last month the wrestling world mourned the loss of one of its brightest stars and a true legend of the ring, Dusty Rhodes. What he did for the business – as a wrestler, booker, trainer, and icon – can never be matched. Dusty had it all: the look, the talk, the walk, and the go – and, boy, could he go! Dusty’s “old school”, hardcore, brawling style saw fists flying and blood flowing. The crimson mask was a feature of many a Dusty match, and ask any wrestling fan who they consider to be the best bleeder and Dusty Rhodes would be the first name that comes to mind.
Bleeding during a match adds excitement, drama, and appeases the blood lust that in turn drives interest, intensity, and passion. As the saying goes “Red Means Green”, and Dusty was no stranger to either colour as one of the toughest and biggest draws in the old territorial system. Even at a young age, his forehead told the story of his blading forays, as patches of scar tissue rested above those piercing blue eyes that remained prominent throughout his life.
“The Dream” was so iconic that you could compile many articles and lists centered around him, be it about his mega-personality, his superior promo ability, or his legendary status. However, in respect to late, great “American Dream” being one of the best “juicers” in the ring, let’s take a look at his fellow “bladers”, past and present.
This my friends is not for the squeamish…
The Old School
Dusty’s generation of traditionalists that bled regularly for the art spanning decades, states and promotions to ‘pay their dues’ throughout the different territories of the 1980s American pro-wrestling circuit…
Dusty and Flair had what has to be the most long-running, intense, passionate, and therefore arguably the greatest feud in wrestling history. The matches were ruthless and brutal, and the sight of Dusty and Flair’s faces and bright blonde hair drenched in red was a sight that is synonymous of the feud. Check out the clip of their Cage Match at The Great American Bash 1986 for the sheer thrill of the crowd, the passion of their performance, and the buckets of blood the two were never afraid to let flow.
Bleeding has been part of Flair’s gimmick for four decades, adding intensity to his character and his matches, and leading to many gloriously bloody moments, finishes, and images. Flair was never one to shy away from the limelight and therefore often opted for the blade, and the drama that stemmed from the release of blood. One such occasion was Wrestlemania VIII, when he went against WWF’s no blood policy in the match against Macho Man Randy Savage. He bladed openly on the biggest stage of them all and led to Vince McMahon serving him with a hefty fine
Even at the ripe old age of 66, Flair continued to juice on a regular basis, his feud with HHH being the case in point. Just take a gander at their Last Man Standing match at Survivor Series 2005. HHH pummels Flair into bloody submission with unpleasant use of a screwdriver and his trusty sledgehammer.
Magnum TA was another southern superstar Babyface who was really good at two things: bleeding and selling. Just watch his famous I Quit Cage match versus Tully Blanchard at Starcade 85 for proof of that.
Yet it was his feud against top heel Ted DiBiase that really saw the blood flow, and the crowd whipped into a frenzy through TA’s ability to connect with the people. This action-packed brawl between two pro’s features the old “foreign object hidden in the trunks” spot executed to perfection, leaving DiBiase with red-hot heat and Magnum TA with red-hot blood pouring down his face.
Abdullah the Butcher
If we’re talking blood, wrestling, and the territories, then we cannot go any further with mentioning bona fide crazy man, Abdullah the Butcher. The man has probably spilled more blood in the wrestling ring than most, sporting a badge of scar tissue on his forehead so deep that, according to Mick Foley, he could insert coins into the slots as a party piece. Warning, this is pretty gross
An honourable mention must go to a great bleeder like Carlos Colon, who was another crazy blood-fiend of wrestling, and had many bloody feuds with Abdullah that always ended with both contenders bleeding. A lot. Like many of the hardcore bleeders, Colon’s forehead wears the badge of the blade as seen in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2014
Join me next time for more bloody action, as we step into the era of the death match…