The Mass Transit Incident Part 1
November 23, 1996. Newcomer Eric "Mass Transit" Kulas substitutes for Axl Rotten in an ECW tag-team match against the Gangstas. Overweight and untrained, dressed in a bus drivers uniform, the crowd was expecting Hulk Hogan and they got Ralph Kramden. During the match, violent and sadistic wrestler Jerome "New Jack" Young pulls out a small knife and slashes open Kulas' forehead. An artery was hit — blood gushes out from a wound that will take fifty stitches to close. Adding insult to injury in the most literal fashion, Kulas is turned down as a regular performer in the ECW.
It turns out Kulas was 17 years old and working under a fake ID. For what became known as the Mass Transit Incident, Kulas sued New Jack and the ECW for physical and emotional damages. He lost.
He lost? Everyone knows wrestling is fake. What's this about slicing open his forehead with a knife? They're supposed to do that with stage blood capsules, aren't they?
The Art of Blading
Wrestling is scripted, but it would be going too far to call it fake. The men in the ring are athletes, strong, skilled, and toughened. Although many of the moves would be paralyzing or even lethal if they were really applied, it takes a great deal of skill and strength on the part of both wrestlers to pull them off both safely and convincingly. "Selling" the performance is the key issue — even if the audience knows what's going on, they expect to see a good show.
And that's where the concept of blading comes in. Blading is poorly understood, even among wrestling fans who are wise to the act, but when you see blood in the wrestling ring, it's almost always real.
When two 250 pound men pound on each other for ten minutes, the audience is going to expect to see some blood. Since they're not really throwing all of their weight behind each punch and slam, that's only going to happen in the case of accidents (which do happen, and are referred to as hardway). So to show the audience some blood, they need to open up a wound on purpose.
In the older days, this was done with a knuckle strike above the eyebrow. This had the advantage of being easy to do and not requiring any tools, but it hurt like the dickens. Modern wrestlers use small blades, X-Acto knives, or razors, concealed in their wrist tape or otherwise on their person, or sometimes the referee has it, slipping it to the wrestler when he's checking for illegal holds or submission. This isn't necessarily literally a blade, any handy sharp object can be used. At a key point in the performance, the wrestler will slice his own forehead and start the blood flowing.
This is almost always done to the forehead. There is a lot of blood flow in the forehead, and little chance of hitting a major artery. Sweat helps the flow look even worse, coming down in rivulets across the face. Often, a wrestler will use alcohol or aspirin before the match to thin the blood and encourage more bleeding. The forehead cuts easily and heals quickly, and with a little adrenaline and a sharp knife it's fairly painless. Experienced bladers will often have badly scarred foreheads.
The Dangers of Blading
But why would anyone voluntarily slice his forehead open in a filthy, unsanitary wrestling ring with a big sweaty guy throwing him around? Red means green — wrestlers get a bonus in their pay for doing it.
Blading has been on the decline since the 1970s, especially in the WWF which is leaning more toward family-friendly entertainment. These days, it is typically reserved for special occasions like pay-per-view. Blood-borne pathogens like hepatitis and HIV gaining a stronger presence in the collective consciousness isn't doing the practise any favors either. And of course, there is always the small possibility of hitting an artery.
GentlemanJim adds that to mitigate some of the dangers of blading, sometimes the wrestler will cut himself carefully before the match, along a natural wrinkle line in the forehead. Styptic would then be applied to the cut to stop the bleeding temporarily, to be opened again easily during the match with a well-placed hit. This provides the same effect without the additional hazards of hastily using a bladed object in the ring.
The Mass Transit Incident Part 2
Which brings us back to Kulas. As a new wrestler, Kulas had never bladed before, but he needed to as part of the night's performance. It's not uncommon under these circumstances for the newcomer to ask the experienced wrestler he's working with to do it for him, and it was clear that Kulas asked New Jack to do it before the match. There was an accident in the ring, and New Jack missed his mark and hit the artery by mistake. Still, the fact that he asked New Jack to slice his forehead open was enough to throw out the lawsuit.