Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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

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