[posted 3/14/11 to http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com]
In the previous post I pointed everyone to Brian Lockhart’s excellent story today for Hearst about the prospects of pro wrestling regulation in the Connecticut legislature.
A more immediate angle, as yet unexplored in state media, is the status of the Labor Department’s audit of World Wrestling Entertainment, begun last year, under a tougher law banning misclassification of regular employees as independent contractors. This is an enormously important occupational health and safety issue, as well as a money issue for one of Connecticut’s preeminent corporations.
Because everything affects everything else, it’s also where I think we all could use some more sophisticated commentary on Linda McMahon’s presumed upcoming second attempt to win a U.S. Senate seat. The consensus feeling is that a Linda 2012 candidacy is a lead-pipe cinch, that her current tease is just a combination of political theater, calibration of her exposure, and conservation of her sexagenarian energy and campaign war chest.
I, personally, am not so sure. I think Linda knows she can’t win and her husband Vince knows she can’t win. More importantly, the shareholders of their publicly traded company know that the fallout of her futile $50 million campaign in 2010 against Richard Blumenthal included the Labor Department investigation and the renewed buzz about both legalizing a key pro wrestling industry demographic competitor, mixed martial arts, and re-regulating wrestling itself. In other words, the price tag of the McMahon family’s vanity has bumped up against its limits.
But even if Linda isn’t running again, the best counterweight to this redoubled scrutiny of WWE is for her to keep ’em guessing about her future electoral intentions. WWE has no meritorious arguments against regulation. It has only its omnipresent threat to rev up its large, though ultimately politically insubstantial, fan base, and turn everything it touches and everything that touches it into a circus. Including the question of what interest the government might have in curtailing the phenomenon of industrial death in junk entertainment.
Keep in mind that a leading Connecticut politico with whom I rehearsed these thoughts scoffed at them. Also keep in mind that insiders from the state that unleashed Vince McMahon on American culture and Linda McMahon on national politics don’t necessarily have the last and smartest word.