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Ask Mr. Wrestling Science: What's Wrong With the Wrestling Commission in Oregon?
by Marty Goldstein on 2002-08-12

A subject with which we have particular specialized expertise has crossed our desk. From across the continent, whether because of a marketplace crowded by backyarders (Nanaimo), green guys training 15 year olds (Winnipeg and elsewhere), an official willingly getting spanked on a show (Jim Cassidy in Oregon), the subject of regulation has reared it's head again; just check the forums on the Net. Or listen to the locker rooms. It's brewing all over.

There are aspects of regulation that make it attractive to government in some cases. I must stress that there are systemic differences between the US and Canada, that has historically created different political rationale and enforcement mechanisms for regulation from place to place. This column will be about political science (previous AMWS columns were about medical science and how it relates to the industry).

Part of the problem is that Commissions in both countries were for years imitative and sheeplike, in that if say New York put in a rule, it was adopted elsewhere because it was good enough for New York. Just like in Boxing.

Which is another part of the problem, having wrestling and boxing administered by the same body as is the norm. This is a bad practice.

A body of MARKS. Not even wrestling fans, but politically appointed hacks, bureaucrats, elected officials looking for perks like free tickets, who have never spent a minute in the game itself.

And the revenue from pro wrestling underwrites boxing, which is why Commissions are ultimately the most unfair unjust form of gangsterism going.

To illustrate, in Manitoba the AWA and smaller promotions from 1982-86 were overcharged by almost $100,000, a scam perpetrated by THE USE OF WHITE-OUT to change the Act. As a result a huge surplus accumulated. (And indy offices in the late 80's were actively, illegally prevented from operating and generating revenue.)

And it dwindled, from year to year, from $82,000 to $68,000 to nothing in 5 years, money that in some cases, should have been paid to the boys who were in for a piece of the gate, it went to flights, conventions and oh yes, to pay lawyers who defended this and other illegal practices (such as arbitrary bond requirements) when they were confronted by government auditors. And the threats made to those who came forward were very grim indeed. I know. Yet no charges were ever laid.

Commissions need our money, our fans money, to perpetuate a fiefdom that creates a hierarchy of importance across the continent, who rush to Boxing conventions in exotic locales but who have never spent 10 seconds talking with the wrestlers on a stairwell at a show to try and learn what they are regulating. They have the nerve to rationalize it by claiming the public needs to be protected from pro wrestling by lying to themselves about what it is, and that it is closely related to boxing by virtue of being in a ring.

There are many consumer and health related issues supposedly dealt with under Commissions which granted, are valid to examine. Maybe next time.

But in this column I want to make clear that any regulation must be based in economic and physical reality. Which in almost every case I can find, is not the norm. And this style and form of regulation is killing the independant wrestling scene, stealing jobs from Canadians for sure and Americans in the US as well.

Economically it favors the big boys who can pay big money to support the system, who can say "oh sure, wrestling cards need police and ambulance in attendance", knowing the cost will kill an indy promotion. They mark out gullible political hacks to protect their monopoly. Free front row tickets, wanna get Hulk's autograph?, etc.

Professor David Freedman's book DRAWING HEAT detailed this very oppression of the Bearman Dave McKigney's promotion by the Ontario Commission at the behest of the Tunney regime that promoted WWF.

Let us look at the rules from the State of Oregon.

Oregon of course went thru legendary hearings in the late 80's that featured Mike Miller and others complain about working standards and other factors. Don Owens pointed out he ran on thin margins. In the 80's it was a big expose, rare in the pre-Net era.

It is considered such a risk to their ability to operate their business that the WWF will not perform in the state. That is a big neon sign.

The Commission has such extreme power, they can dictate the content of matches like this was some sort of prizefight. Now look, in the 30's the government rules gave the promoters a virtual monopoly and the framework to tell a story - and the people bought it. If a riot broke out, they had the ability to soothe their political masters by doling out fines and suspensions and such malarkey as to "make the wrestlers behave like sportsmen next time."

Government persists in believing they moderate and guide matches LIKE THEY ARE REAL.

230-130-0005 Definition of Wrestling

"...includes any form of fighting or combat,... where such contestants deliver blows to an opponents body or apply holds ...in order to punish, immobilize or throw the opponent with the possible effect of such blows or holds rendering the opponent unable to continue the contest."

And this leaves any promotion at the mercy of whatever government stooge fool who shows up, marks out and chooses to randomly enforce whatever rule they feel like. This arbitrary power under regulation is often felt by small indys who find that what is OK for the WWF to do on TV is not OK for their shows in a hall of paying spectators, depending on who is in the officials ear.

(In Manitoba when being challenged the Commissioner issued a stern warning about following all the rules, especially about going into the crowd. He was immediately therafter seen in the front row with Bad News Brown and Randy Savage on his lap at a WWF show. No action was taken but the Commissioner and his kid sure liked the show.)

Ultimately the official in Oregon is in the referees ear. Yes, that's right, in Oregon the ref is responsible to the commission to enforce their law. Not to the boys or the office. It can be like a death sentence in certain situations for the ref, not like the Commission would care. They make the role of referee something it is not, by fiat. They make the ref a stooge by law.

No one in their right mind should promote in Oregon. Here's why.

Sec 230-130-0190
Fouls and Permissible Wrestling Holds


(1) All holds known to wrestling science, other than those described in the next section as fouls, are permissible. These include toe holds, splits, hammerlocks,scissors holds, head locks, wrist locks,andjiu jitsu holds and touches, which though pain producing are legitimate and scientific. The so-called "flying drop kick" is permitted, but must be executed by the use of both feet simultaneously. The "flying tackle" is permitted.

*OK before we even begin we see an absurdity. When I started this column I had no idea that I was recognized by Oregon law as an expert. All holds known to Wrestling Science? But I digress.

This is NOT Danny Hodge at the AAU's. But in Oregon you firstly need permission from the state to perform a headlock. And a few lawyers got paid to research draft and enact this. Amazing.

In practice- Tony Kozina loses his balance and leaves the top rope early for a missile dropkick on Torch. He adjusts by hitting with only one leg. That is safe, but against the law. Screw the finish, Tony is DQ'ed.

2) The following holds and tactics constitute fouls. The referee may disqualify any wrestler who uses such holds or engages in any such tactics.

(a)Hitting with the fist clenched. (Open hand hitting and striking with the little finger edge of the hand such as is done in jiu-jitsu is permitted.)
{I think that is the spy-chop from Get Smart}

*Ok everyone who punches- hey you Ric Flair, Bradshaw, Regal- off to jail.

(b) gouging the eyes with fingers, thumb or any object;

(c) inserting fingers in the mouth of opponent and pulling mouth open;

(d) Biting

* Well I sure am glad Mad Dog Vachon was so believable that 40 years later, the Commission is still trying to run him out of wrestling.

(e)deliberately kicking either with knee or foot or any other part of the body, or butting with the head.

*Goodbye Jimmy Snuka, Dudleys and most everyone else these days. Nutshots a DQ? By law? Someone please explain to me, why are they regulating an ILLUSION?

(f)deliberatley shutting off the breath of an opponent by holding nostrils or mouth shut or by using any of the various forms of the stranglehold.

(g) Pulling hair or whiskers;

*OK how is a heel supposed to get heat in this state?

(h) Deliberate elbowing;
(i) deliberately throwing an opponent out of the ring;

* Just because you don't want to see Dusty Rhodes come back, I wouldn't pass a law making his work illegal...

(j) scratching;
(k) twisting and pulling ears;
(l) the use of the flying broad jump, landing on opponent {The kevin sullivan deal I think};
(m) rubbing opponent's eyes on ropes;
(n) deliberate butting;

* So obviously the typical form of a pro wrestling match in Oregon is in jeopardy, because even if the Commission says they will go along with you, not bust your promotion for any of the other idiotic statutes, their stooge on the scene can mark out for an angle, or just get offended when say Bruce the midget is ridiculed in the ring, and ORDER the match stopped.

How do you allow your business to be under the jurisdiction of people who think it is a real contest?

Remember when I said that Commissions are imitative? I just remembered when the crooks in Manitoba tried to force similar control on the bouts, Gene Swan and I had to explain to the government of Manitoba in 1995 that if a person not part of the act gets on the apron the standard procedure is to protect the workers in the ring by any means necessary. The commissioner turned white in his seat, as visions of being a bigshot calling a new finish evaporated and the reality of new dentures became apparent.

Regulating what?

So this sickness is perpetuated across state and provincial lines as a succession of overpaid government lawyers copy the flawed premise of regulation by saying, hey, look how they do it in Ontario/Nevada/New York.

If you take a loved one and demonstrate these illegal holds, you would quickly conclude that the government of Oregon is regulating vaudeville comedians. These are all standard bits to get a rise out of an audience.

Pro wrestler Moondog Moretti was a member of this board at one time. When contacted about how it was possible that US State government lawyers could have been paid to draft such laws, he said that "the governor had lobbyists and the industry didn't explain itself. Any regulation that is rooted in laws against fighting or combat does not realistically reflect our business or our art."

But in Oregon, the government is in the business of regulating theatre. And just like in New York, West Virginia and other states, there is also prior restraint issued on language and swearing. Mind you I never hear of it being enforced against the WWF, just the indys.

I am amazed that in the United States, that wrestling commissions seem to have the ability to suppress the First Amendment to "protect" wrestling fans via prior restraint. Circuit courts won't do it, but a bunch of marks will. And the promoters put up with this?

The State of Oregon micromanages the entire structure of the business, and even charge to licence PPV and closed circuit. I wonder if the FCC knows about this. That is the best proof of what a desperate bunch of thieves the system breeds, that they regulate the ability of fans to see out-of-state events on a TV screen, just to satisfy their budget.

Oh,and to top it off the next section of rules in Oregon states "The skin of each wrestler must be clean and free from grease, lotions or other foreign substances."

Goodbye Rock and Hogan. Go to jail. You are greasy and in Oregon, that is against the law. Unless you are the Commission.

Conclusions

There are a lot of issues to explore. Medicals, protecting ticket buyers and halls, licencing standards, etc.

However unless regulation is based on a realistic foundation, in my opinion it is impossible to deal with any gang of who starts with the premise that pro-style wrestling is a contest, and proceed to make rules ranging from personnel to style of announcements. (Remember when Norm Kimber would get in the ring at the end of squash matches on Maple Leaf wrestling and announce the winner? THAT WAS THE LAW.)

If they want to put on a show they should buy a ring and like all marks book themselves as heel commissioners.

In pro wrestling,"competition" was pronounced "opposition". The laws were designed for major offices to align themselves with the government hacks, because they would pay fees without question and accept the mock discipline, knowing that similar sanctions against small promotions would squeeze them out.

The problem for indy's is they are inheriting being regulated in a system that never was designed for their existance. Promotions that were only going to draw 500 fans and generate little revenue were not good for Commissions (more work) or for established promotions, they were like a pest. And the fans and taxpayers in those small towns, they are and were the LAST consideration of these gangs. For indy promotions, that is their lifeblood.

That is why traditional regulation is flawed, faulty, and in point of fact does not legally apply in Canada for sure, to what the business has become.

It prevents the opportunity for talent to perform in front of crowds and develop their craft, it denies small communities their chosen form of entertainment and it costs the wrestlers the opportunity to succeed.

Government agencies are supposed to foster economic and job growth, not protect international monopolies. The time has come for affected independant wrestlers to demand service from their governments as taxpayers and to stop being regulated like they were shooters and not performers. Commissions are regulating illusion, and I am unaware of any legal basis for that in any other art form.

(The writer can be contacted at martybrat1@yahoo.com).


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