Wrestling Observer Advocates ‘WWE Study the Issues’; Pro Wrestling Torch Advocates Schedule Reform; I Advocate Regulation

Yesterday I posted this note on Twitter:

Dave Meltzer in 9/13 issue of Wrestling Observer: “I’ve long advocated WWE set up an independent agency to study the issues.” Pathetic.

The Twitterer @travlord then asked, “what about the Torch’s stance” on the subject of government regulation of the pro wrestling industry.

I asked Wade Keller, the editor of Pro Wrestling Torch, and here is what he said:

I’m not sure what our position has been over the years regarding occupational safety. We’ve certainly written A LOT over the last 20 years, but I don’t think we’ve ever honed in on a specific solution and endorsed it. My main cause has been what I think is most realistic and attainable, which is WWE mandating six weeks off twice a year for all talent across the roster, giving their bodies and perhaps more importantly their minds time to recharge, plus just touch base for more than a couple days with the non-WWE world and ground themselves. Time off while injured or not in good standing is very different than time off as part of the system that everyone partakes in. I just think that would do wonders for wrestlers long-term who after 10-15 years in the system know no other way to live or occupy themselves, and therefore they white-knuckle their way through the schedule until they collapse. As for government regulation, we’re neither for nor against it as an editorial stance, but if that worked in solving the problems, we’re obviously for it.

Keller’s proposal is a very good one. But I have a different perspective.

People are dying and that’s unacceptable, and we can’t wait for the industry leader to adopt a sensible proposal from a journalist, or for the talent to get organized enough to make it happen – the possibility of either is extremely remote. That is why I advocate toothful outside regulation of this out-of-control industry

In the old days, when wrestling presented an often comical veneer of “kayfabe” legitimacy, the industry was monitored by a crazy-quilt of the same state athletic commissions overseeing boxing (and now, in some places, mixed martial arts). Today kayfabe is dead and no one wants it back. That doesn’t mean, however, that regulation of occupational health and safety is not in order.

I’m an equal-opportunity offender: law enforcement, politicians, the mainstream media — all take their shots on this blog. Wrestling fans and their media don’t deserve a pass; they need to get out of their reality-TV cocoons. This is Planet Earth, where people should be systematically sent to their deaths only in warfare, not in service of maxed-out profits, TV ratings, multimedia marketing, and fantasy entertainment whose consequences are not a fantasy. And where public health trumps the libertarian mumbo-jumbo enabling such a system.

Irv Muchnick


3 Responses to “Wrestling Observer Advocates ‘WWE Study the Issues’; Pro Wrestling Torch Advocates Schedule Reform; I Advocate Regulation”

  1. 1 Alex September 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Actually, for your information, I’m a die-hard WWE fan. As die-hard as you can get. Does it mean I support WWE’s miopic, esque, and forcefully contradictory policy on its “independent contractors”? No. WWE tells them where to be, at what time, for how long and even what clothes to wear. They don’t allow wrestlers to work for other entities, and even thinking about doing so can cause a wrestler to be fired. To me there’s nothing independent about this. This is the finest example of what employment obligations means, and by that token, every wrestler is considered an employee. There’s something very big and generous about “putting smiles in people’s faces”. What’s less than noble is the way WWE gets there and treats the people who do put their bodies on the line for our entertainment and their profit. Let’s just hope a compromise is reachable.

  2. 2 rick September 15, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    A couple of things to think about. If I work on Broadway, i am considered a independent contractor. If I act in a Hollywood movie, I am considered a contractor as well. We have often heard that the WWE is similar to Broadway.

    It makes sense that performers are contractors. IF they want time off, they can negotiate that as part of their contract. They could also negotiate benefits as well.

    The only thing I would different is to require WWE or TNA is to do full physicals every 6 months. the physical should include a full body MRI scan.

    • 3 Dave September 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      The flaw in your position, Rick, is that a Broadway show runs for how long? Weeks or a Quarter or 6 months? With stars having time off periodically and understudies filling in
      On a hollywood movie, you’re shooting for what, 3-12 weeks max? With stunt performers and safety precautions etc.

      A WWE performer/wrestler is on the road 50-52 weeks a year (if they’re healthy for that whole time). As well as going on interviews and appearances among other things. Plus they are taking a physical pounding 3-4 nights out of every one of those 50-52 weeks. They’re not singing and dancing or acting and able to jump to the side when it comes time to fall or physically exert themselves.

      SO your comparison is way, way off.

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