OTTAWA, ONTARIO – Sports – Four months after his induction in the WWE Hall of Fame, Abdullah the Butcher (real name Larry Shreve) was served with a statement of claim on Monday July 24th for a 6.5 million dollar lawsuit, filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, involving negligence, assault, and battery against a local Ottawa wrestler, Devon (Hannibal) Nicholson. Designated co-plaintiffs under the Family Law Act are Laura Joan Nicholson, Arthur Gwyn Nicholson, Frederick Kerry Nicholson, and Joan Greenwell, claiming $40 000 respectively for general damages.
The lawsuit stems after allegations surfaced on a YouTube documentary titled Don’t Bleed on Me, released on March 31st 2011, over an incident that happened between the wrestlers in 2007. Two years ago, Devon Nicholson was on the edge of achieving his dream of working for World Wrestling Entertainment. The talented wrestler obtained a contract, only to have it rescinded on the grounds of him having Hepatitis C. WWE annulled the contract regardless of its current “No Blood” policy and having employed Hepatitis C positive wrestlers in the past.
In 2007, WWE released The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Wrestling featuring a bloody cage with Abdullah The Butcher. They also released a WWE Legends toy of Abdullah, harbouring the many forehead scars inflicted by years of “blading”.
That same year, Nicholson claims to have contracted Hepatitis C from a cage match with Abdullah the Butcher. He claims Abdullah used a razor blade on himself repeatedly (the standard method for wrestlers to bleed during a match), but then used the same blade on Nicholson, without his consent or prior knowledge. By doing this, he put his blood directly into Nicholson’s blood stream allowing it to “co-mingle”. Much like two junkies that share a needle, this practice is a dangerous one, due to the risk of spreading disease.
Abdullah the Butcher, who has been wrestling on the independent circuit for more than five decades, is best known for his ultra-violent style of wrestling, and consequently, the bloodbath matches incurred.
Nicholson’s lawyer met with Shreve in September of 2010 at one of his Atlanta restaurants. At this meeting, Shreve agreed to provide blood work showing he tested negative for Hepatitis C. Weeks passed and Shreve did not provide the blood work. After numerous attempts to make contact with him by telephone and in writing, Shreve never responded to Nicholson’s attorney again. Additionally, the defendant still refuses to answer reporters’ questions as to whether he has ever been tested for Hepatitis C.
The YouTube documentary features footage of the unsanitary cutting incident, as well as extensive interviews with prominent figures in the professional wrestling world, including WWE legend Wayne Ferris, aka “The Honky Tonk Man” and former WWE champion and WWE Hall of Fame member “Superstar” Billy Graham. Both of these veterans speak about the reputation Larry Shreve has for harboring a “fetish for cutting people without their permission”. Undeterred by the video evidence against him, Shreve maintains throughout interviews that he has never bladed anyone but himself (Noticel, April 18 2011).
The documentary has gained a lot of attention in the wrestling world. The most widely recognized wrestling star and pop culture icon, Hulk Hogan, tweeted several times on the subject, prior to the much-contested WWE Hall of Fame induction. His tweets included: “Don’t bleed on me – wrestling’s hepatitis c secret revealed. On You Tube, crazy, I just found it HH” followed by the question: “Wonder if Vince [McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO] is still gonna move forward with Abdullah? HH” a minute later. He also added, in response to a fan: “yo dude I had one [bloody fight with Abdullah] and he cut through my chin 20yrs ago without asking me HH”.
According to Tom Billington (Dynamite Kid) in an excerpt from his book Pure Dynamite, WWE (formerly WWF) put a “No Blood” policy in place in 1988, shortly after a series of bloody cage matches he had. He said the policy was put in place because “There was too much risk of contamination from all the blood. At the time, AIDS was making all the headlines so as a safety precaution, Vince [McMahon] decided to put a stop to wrestlers bleeding in the ring.” Bret Hart also speaks of this old “No Blood” policy many times in his book My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling. He mentions that on April 4th 1992, at Wrestle Mania 8, both wrestlers Rick Flair and Randy Savage were fined $500 for using blood in their match, and the policy was still in place around the time of Hart’s Wrestle Mania 13 match, that took place on March 23rd 1997.
Shortly after, the WWE decided to start promoting blood matches again and encouraged its stars to purposely bleed in matches. In 2003, the company released the DVD Bloodbath: Wrestling’s Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches. According to the reputable Wrestling Observer Newsletter and Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter, in December 2005, WWE asked one of its Superstars and Hall of Fame legends, Bob Orton Jr., to bleed in a match involving his son Randy Orton, as well as wrestler Undertaker. WWE prompted the match disregarding its knowledge of Bob Orton Jr.’s positive Hepatitis C status.
In 2008, coinciding with Linda McMahon’s upcoming run for Senate, World Wrestling Entertainment brought back its “No Blood” policy for its talent, mandating that under no circumstances are the wrestlers to bleed on purpose, using razor blades or any facsimile. It then released Blood Sport ECW the most violent matches in 2006.
On April 2 2011, WWE inducted Abdullah the Butcher into its Hall of Fame. With the WWE’s current PG content, many insiders are baffled as to why a hardcore wrestling legend, famous for blood-letting, has been inducted in former’s Hall of Fame, particularly after the allegations from Nicholson’s party.
On April 8th, WWE Hall of Fame inductee Billy Graham, also Hepatitis C positive, was interviewed by The Sun Newspaper in Canada. During the course of the interview, Graham publicly asked to be removed from the famous Hall. He said: “I am demanding that this company remove my name from their index of Hall of Fame wrestlers. It is a shameless organization to induct a bloodthirsty animal such as Abdullah the Butcher into their worthless and embarrassing Hall of Fame and I want the name of Superstar Billy Graham to be no part of it. The WWE and their Hall of Fame are disgustingly embarrassing, I want out.”
WWE has refrained from acting upon Graham’s request. Furthermore, following Shreve’s induction, the latter has been promoted by the WWE more than ever, by way of feature on its DVDs (WWE Best Steel Cage Matches, released June 28th 2011), online features on its website, as well as sales of wrestling paraphernalia, despite the company’s strict “No Blood” policy.
Young wrestlers who aspire to be like their heroes, the “WWE legends” and “Hall of Fame inductees”, still regularly participate in double blood matches. Events of the likes of the annual CZW Tournament of Death, which took place on June 25th in 2011 in Townsend, Delaware, features nothing but young wrestlers performing in ultra violent double blood matches in order to try to get noticed by the big companies. WWE, the world’s leading wrestling organization, fails to caution wrestlers against the dangers of double blood matches and the imminent risks incurred, such as the spread of deadly diseases. Linda McMahon is reportedly planning to run for Senate again in 2012.
Devon Nicholson is being represented by Ronald Caza, Partner at Heenan Blaikie, one of Canada’s most eminent law firms.
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