The Wrestler (Continuing Ed)

I’m not going to review Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler because I’ve nothing to say about this heartwrenching and impeccably executed story that hasn’t been said elsewhere and endlessly. What I am going to do is share some of what I’ve learned subsequently about professional wrestling, as it might be of interest to others who’ve seen the film.

In an early scene, we see Randy cut a slice off a razor blade, and then tape it to his taped wrist. Later, on the mat, he gets it out, slices his own forehead open, then rises to his feet with the blood pouring down his face. At the time I went ahead and suspended my disbelief, because, hang on: This movie takes place today, and it’s about a guy whose heyday was in the eighties – the absolute height of AIDS panic. Surely wrestlers weren’t still deliberately bleeding on each other in the late eighties, right? And certainly not today! But I was wrong on both counts.

According to this article, (and others) this practice (called “blading”) was mostly phased out by the World Wrestling Federation by the mid-eighties, but continues to be used “on occasion” even in WWF pay per view events and it remains a common practice on the low rent circuit Randy is confined to in the film. It’s a great read, but what really caught my eye was this:

The cloak of secrecy was thrown off of blading in the mid-1980s in the now-famous 20/20 exposé on professional wrestling. This is the one where “Dr. D.” David Schultz rang John Stossel’s bells (at Vince McMahon’s urging) and got sued.

John Stossel is an enemy of the people of the first order, so thank God for YouTube. The visual quality is abysmal, but it’ll do, so let’s not complain about a twenty-three year old tape (especially since the audio is perfect). It’s the usual 20/20 high dudgeon, where Stossel keeps insisting that “they fix the matches”, (an assertion that is beside the point to the point of being false), but there’s some great detail about how certain moves work, and a demonstration of the razor blade trick. Also, at the end, Stossel gets a smackdown that is entirely undeserved in context, but karmically OK by me.

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3 Comments on “The Wrestler (Continuing Ed)”

  1. menckenwasright Says:

    I would wager that, at the very least, the athletes who perform in the matches that involve blood letting in the more high-profile wrestling leagues must have blood tests prior to the match. It’d be pretty damn bad publicity if somebody got Hep B or HIV from another performer’s blood!

    Also, I haven’t seen the youtube clip yet, but was John Stossel a 20/20 reporter?

  2. Maura Says:

    Yes John Stossel was a 20/20 reporter at the time, but I think that you’re making the same mistake I copped to in the post – do not assume that your own standards of health and hygiene are “obviously” employed in the wrasslin’ world, because you’d be wrong.


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