When it comes to pivotal moments in the history of professional wrestling, many of them are tinged in red. Most fans can easily conjure iconic images like Stone Cold Steve Austin passing out at Wrestlemania 13 or Mick Foley post-fall from the Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring in 1998. While we may not currently be living in the time of Muta Scale-ranking matches on WWE television, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for blood in professional wrestling.
Blood in wrestling matches is not going to be for everyone. As someone who grows lightheaded at the sight of blood in her everyday life, I empathize with anyone would who would prefer never to see blood in a wrestling match ever again. There are plenty of valid concerns involving the safety and health of every participant in a match where there is blood. Conversely, when used properly, blood is a tool many wrestlers keep in their arsenal that can take a match or feud to new heights. Take, for instance, the Best of Five series between Texano and Cage that has been playing out this season on Lucha Underground.
In over 80 episodes, El Rey Network’s weekly lucha libre program has never shied away from blood. For those of us who’ve been devoted to the show, we know when blood gets involved things are serious: both wrestlers see the match’s outcome as having dire consequences (Sexy Star vs. Mariposa), the feud has hit a fever pitch (Fenix vs. King Cuerno), or there is a level of desperation for one or both characters (Marty the Moth vs. Killshot). In the case of the matches between monsters Texano and Cage, blood seemed both necessary and inevitable.
After three matches Texano was down one win to two, only eking by with a rollup a few weeks back, and had to do something drastic in order to even up the numbers. When a turnbuckle cover came lose, it became clear Texano’s opportunity had come and Cage’s head met with the exposed steal of the turnbuckle, providing the perfect opportunity for blood from The Machine. After Texano pinned him, Dario appeared to insist match five happen right away, and the violence quickly escalated with Cage’s head, neck and torso already doused in red.
Knowing, as the audience does, that the winner will obtain the power of ancient Aztec magic, we oscillate between the maniacal Texano, who bites down into Cage’s fresh cut, and The Machine, busted open and still raging on like a possessed animal. When two such evenly matched opponents need to break a tie, the image of a performer wounded and bleeding, either falling to their own human limits or overcoming them, creates another level of narrative depth that can turn a memorable match into an unforgettable one. When Cage’s arm is finally raised in victory, his crimson sacrifice splayed over the mat’s Aztec seal, we are granted a wave of catharsis—and a new Lucha Underground god is born.
Lady J is a freelance writer and podcaster based out of the Washington D.C. area. She specializes in feminist wrestling critiques on her blog and hosts a Lucha Underground and indie wrestling review podcast, The Facelock Feministas. She’s on Twitter @theladyjsays.