One of the key elements that made the WrestleMania 31 main event so memorable was Roman Reigns taking his beating like a man and then coming back to fight fire with fire. Who would have ever thought that Reigns would leave The Beast Incarnate a bloody mess when he pushed Lesnar into the ring post in the closing minutes of the bout?
Naturally, due to the perfect timing of this bloody imagery, there has been a lot of online speculation that Brock Lesnar intentionally bladed (i.e., cut his forehead with a razor blade to draw blood) immediately before being slammed into the ring post to create the illusion of hardway juice (i.e., blood produced from a cut that was not self-inflicted but accidental and unplanned).
Spurring on the controversy was an animated GIF that appeared to show referee Mike Chioda placing something in Roman's left hand earlier on in the match, which people have presumed was a taped-up razor blade for him to hide and give to Lesnar before he needed to use it.
Although some sites have treated the above video as a smoking gun, it's obviously inconclusive, as we can't clearly see what Chioda gave Reigns, if he gave him anything at all, but it certainly does look suspicious enough to warrant further investigation by WWE.
That's because when WWE made its programming PG rated in the summer of 2008 they instituted an official "no blood" policy which expressly prohibited intentional blading by their performers. It's a policy that the company has strictly enforced in the past, as Batista was fined $100,000 for blading during a steel cage match with Chris Jericho on the Nov. 3rd, 2008, Monday Night Raw.
Because of the rampant speculation online about Brock Lesnar possibly blading at WrestleMania 31, I enquired with WWE representatives about whether their "no blood" policy was still in effect and if so, were WWE investigating whether the participants of the main event had broken their ban on blading or were they satisfied that the blood was unintentional. In response to my questions, this was the official WWE statement on the matter that they gave me:
"WWE programming is TV-PG and we don't permit intentional bleeding.
The communication or contact between our performers and referees is part of our safety protocol.
That said, unintentional blood sometimes occurs, and we do our best to minimize."
I think it's important to note that in this circumstance the match carried on like nothing had happened. There was no attempt by WWE's ringside physician to even check the cut, yet alone treat it, which at one point seemed to be company protocol whenever "unintentional blood" occurred. To be fair to WWE, at that point they had less than ten minutes left to finish the show within their four hour window, so immediate treatment may have caused the event to overrun.
The subject of blood in wrestling is an important one to remain vigilant on because of the health risks involved. Nigel McGuinness called for intentional bleeding to be banned by all wrestling promotions in his documentary The Last Of McGuinness after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis B whilst working for TNA. Canadian independent wrestler Devon Nicholson had his WWE contract offer rescinded when their medical testing revealed he had Hepatitis C, which he believes he contracted from WWE Hall of Famer Abdullah The Butcher after performing in double juice matches with him.
As my former colleague David Bixenspan discussed when the allegations against Abby first arose four years ago, WWE has in the past been seriously negligent on this issue too:
"Hepatitis C laying dormant for decades was at the center of a scandal within WWE several years ago. Randy Orton feuded with The Undertaker for several months in 2005, culminating in a "Hell in a Cell" cage match at the end of the year. Orton's father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr. got involved with the feud and ended up being actively involved in the cage match, where he bled all over the place. After the match, 'Taker found out that the elder Orton had Hepatitis C, and head of talent relations John Laurinaitis knew about it, but for whatever reason didn't tell him and allowed Orton to blade himself in the match and bleed all over the place. Orton didn't think much of it because he had the disease for decades without any symptoms, and because of this mess, he was fired not long afterwards."
Clearly, WWE has taken massive leaps forward in their Talent Wellness Program since that rather unfortunate incident, but equally we, the fans, should keep pressure on the company so they don't fall back into old bad habits.
Current WWE producer Billy Kidman, perhaps rather unadvisedly, has also chimed in on the matter on Twitter, saying that his response to the Brock Lesnar blading controversy would have been to call the people raising questions about it to WWE's PR department "idiots":
Hopefully Kidman sticks to laying out matches, as his PR skills are nonexistent.
So, why are people right to have been suspicious about the blood in the WrestleMania main event? Because it wouldn't have been the first time that performers have disobeyed company policy on the show to put on a match that people would never forget.
At WrestleMania VIII, both Bret Hart and Ric Flair broke WWE's "no intentional bleeding" policy of the time, when they bladed during their matches with Roddy Piper and Randy Savage, respectively, but The Hitman got away with it because he managed to convince company officials that his blood was hardway, as he discussed in his 2007 autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling:
"Now for the real work.
I came through the curtain pretending to be concerned that I was going to need stitches. Chief, Lanza and a bunch of the boys gathered around me to see how bad it was. Chief brushed my hair away. "Maybe a stitch, Bret, but you’ll be all right." Roddy was there, concerned, apologizing, and we both knew we’d fooled them all.
Little did we know that Flair and Randy, who went on right after us, had secretly planned to get juice too. Flair was so obvious as he cut himself repeatedly that when he came back with several long, bloody cat scratches on his forehead, an angry Vince fined them each $500 for blading. He never said a word to me because he thought that mine was legit."
Bret would pull that trick off again in late 1995 when he fooled the commission doctor (and everyone else) into believing he was cut hardway from being thrown headfirst into the steel steps by The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith during the marvelous main event of In Your House 5.
After WrestleMania XXVII in 2011, it initially looked like WWE had unbanned chair shots to the head when Triple H had used such a spot in his match that year with The Undertaker. However, that turned out not to be the case and both men were fined unspecified amounts for the dangerous stunt.
It looks like whatever happened at WrestleMania 31, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Mike Chioda won't even be fined one single cent, because WWE has already found them to be innocent of all charges. Probably rightfully so.