Promoters cheating wrestlers should not be accepted as "part of the business!"
June 26, 2000
By Fritz Capp
Itís time indy promoters are held accountable.
For many years I have heard the same statements from a lot of indy workers. The statement, "Oh, itís just part of the business" has probably been uttered by every independent wrestler at least once in their life for the past thirty years.
The way for someone to arrive at this statement are many. Change in booking right before the show, change in venue at the last minute, smaller than expected pay at the end of the show and receiving no pay at all are all taught to be "part of the business". While that may have been true in 1965, this is now 2000 and those business practices should be thrown out the window.
This past weekend, Dino Sanna along with reported new co-owner Mike Allen of the WWWA wrestling promotion based out of Lansdale, PA ran a show at the Sellersville, PA VFW. The WWWA is a small time local promotion that draws between 75-100 people to a show. Using the bottom rung of wrestling talent available to them while mixing in a few talented local workers, and of course throwing in the occasional "used-to-be" for their shows, the WWWA is trying to rebuild their past glory of being able to sell out 1500-2000 seat venues. I do not believe that with their current practices they will achieve that goal.
Weeks ago, Dino Sanna contacted a well known local wrestler in the area to be on his show. They not only talked about the wrestler being on the show but also got into the booking of the match, who he was going to be facing and of course immediately put his name on all promotional material hyping the upcoming event. This is what is called a verbal contract. Do not be misled that verbal contracts are not binding because in todayís world they are. What happened next would be quite astounding in the business world but all too often is considered the normal operating practice on the independent pro wrestling circuit.
The day of the show this wrestler called Dino Sanna to make sure everything was still going as they had talked about. I know this for a fact because he was at my house when he called. The reason he called was because I had heard through the grapevine that things might have changed and I instructed him to call Dino Sanna to make sure everything was fine for that afternoonís show. Needless to say, it wasnít. Dino informed the wrestler that he was not going to be used at all on the show. This happened after the wrestler was promoted on the card for weeks. Dino was reminded of the contract they had entered into. The promoter was going to be the recipient of a larger house because the wrestler was scheduled to appear on the card. Dino Sanna did not care and was still not going to use him. I have found out through a few sources that Dino hadnít planned to use the wrestler at all and just wanted to use his name so he could increase his take on the show.
This prompted me to contact Bob Barnett about the legalities of such actions. I do not have the stigma of being old or new school as far as wrestling is concerned so I have not had it beat into my head that no matter what promoters do, it is just part of the business. I have questioned the actions of promoters for a long time, but I was not witnessing it first hand at that time as I was here and to be quite honest I didnít like it.
Now for those of you who do not know, Bob Barnett is Vampiroís agent and also an attorney which tells me that he has a vast amount of knowledge not only about the law but also about the legal side of the wrestling business. I asked him three simple questions and received three simple and plain cut answers.
Question #1 - Why is it that a verbal contract with a wrestler can be broken at a moments notice without any repercussions to the promoter?
Answer #1 - You can sue on a verbal contract
Question #2 - Why is it that a promoter can promote a card, using a wrestler as a draw, and then not have to have him on the card?
Answer #2 - You can sue for fraud or injury to business reputation
Question #3 - What legal rights does a wrestler have, considering he entered into a business agreement with a promoter to work, when the promoter decides not to use him?
Answer #3 - You can sue on the contract
For too many years two-bit promoters such as Dino Sanna have taken every advantage to use the wrestling business for their own monetary gain at the expense of the fans and of the workers they use. I believe it is time that these practices stop.
I personally went out yesterday to get one of the posters that were placed around promoting the show Dino was running yesterday. In large type right on the poster was the local wrestler's name for all to see. Now of course he will be labeled a no-show for all pretense and purposes even though I know for a fact that he was personally told by Dino Sanna that he was not going to be used. This now falls under question #2 above as this puts into the fans' minds that this wrestler is unreliable while abstaining the promotion from any wrongdoing in the fans eyes. This is exactly what Mr. Barnett meant by hurting the wrestlerís business reputation. Now word will go out on this worker that he no-shows events. It is no secret that promoters have their own grapevine to get news. They hear this guy no-shows a card and right then they decide in their head that they do not want to use someone with this kind of reputation on their show. So now not only did Dino Sanna use this wrestler for his own gain, but is also is hurting this wrestler's ability to get work at another promotion.
My suggestion to the wrestler in this case.....sue the promoter, in this case Dino Sanna, and the WWWA promotion.
But wait, if a wrestler sues a promoter for what I could easily term "breach of contract" that will mean that he will be blackballed in the industry and not be able to get a job, correct?
This may have been true years ago, but in todayís world I think it is time I think it is time that the independent wrestlers around the country start to stand up to the shysters supposedly running wrestling promotions and educate them that these sort of practices will no longer be tolerated. This can be done if the wrestlers realize that working for a promotion is a two way street. While it is true that the wrestlers need a promotion to work for, it is also true that the promoters need wrestlers to work for them. There will always be a Dino Sanna out there waiting to abuse their privileges as a promoter, just do not work for them. Believe me, if you are good enough to work inside of a wrestling ring competently then you do not need the Dino Sannas or Mike Allens of the world. There is someone else you can work for.
Let me just go off the top of me head here with some of the things I have heard over the past five years from indy workers:
"If you work at that arena for the promotion, you just donít get paid. Thatís the way it is." Also if they put a belt on you, you donít get paid. They tell you "you're getting a push, so you arenít going to get money as well as the push. Thatís just the way it is."
"For two weeks in a row he came into Burger King saying that he lost the nights receipts, so we didnít get paid. What are you going to do, call the man a liar? It is just the way the business is."
"There was 700 people in the audience but at the end of the night he (the promoter) came into the locker room telling us that most of them were comps. This is after he strong-armed the people running the show for $1500.00 more for the paid show or he was going to kill the show. This happened fifteen minutes before the show was about to start. We all got $15.00. Hell, I drove 2 Ĺ hours to get there and that didnít even pay gas, but whatcha gonna do?"
This of course just shows how some indy promoters take care of their talent. I want to go on record here by saying that not all indy promoters do this. You have to look into the promoter's credibility to deliver what he says he can on a consistent basis. In most cases (but not all though) if he can deliver on what he promotes, chances are that he is taking care of his talent as well. In all the cases I mentioned above, and with all of the other horror stories I have heard, I do have to wonder why people continually put up with this kind of treatment? The answer to that is because it is bred into the workers that promoters are the end all of the business. If they use your name and make money off it, then they are happy, even though for the most part they could care less if you make a dime or even if they allow you to work at all. As long as they make money, they are happy, no matter what it costs a particular worker.
I have gone on record many time saying that you should support your local indy promotions because that is where the stars of tomorrow are working. I have done this to help the local talent showcase what they have to offer. In my eyes, this business is not about the promoters, but about the workers who go out there each and every night they are booked (or allowed to work) and put their collective butts on the line to entertain the fans. Except for the few cases where a promoter can actually work, promoters do nothing but exploit that talent for their own financial gain.
If you are a independent wrestler and have run into one or more of these scenarios, you do have a recourse. If you have a verbal contract with a promoter, you do have legal rights if he decides to change that at the last minute. It doesnít matter if he decides not to use you at the last minute or if he decides to change your amount of compensation at the end of the night. A verbal contract is a binding contract.
If you are a fan and you know that a promoter is misleading you time and time again just to financially benefit his own bank account, do not support his shows. How do you know if you're constantly being bilked by a promoter? Easy. How many times have you bought tickets to card that did not have the people on it that were promoted to be there? Do you honestly think that this is a coincidence? If this happens numerous times, as I said above, do not support this promoter. Sure, you want to go see your favorite local worker, but you are paying money to see a card that is promoted that is not be delivered as announced or promoted. It is time that the words "Card is subject to change" stop alleviating the promoter's responsibility to actually put on the card that they are selling to you in the weeks ahead of actually running the show. They are misrepresenting the product they are selling you just to turn a quick buck.
If a wrestler is booked on a show and does not appear to work the card, isnít this wrestler targeted by the promoter as being in "breach of contract?" Why is that wrestling promoters are not held to the same accountability? If you pay for tickets to see a concert that has Metallica, Kid Rock and Limp Biskit on the show you are not going to go there and see, The Monkees, Gladys Knight and the Pips and David Cassidy. What happens if one or more of the announced groups cannot make the show? If it is the opening act, most times the show will go on with the other bands, filling in the timeslot by doing a longer show. If they are a main draw, the show is canceled and rescheduled for a future date. If you pay to see Ringling Brotherís Circus you are not going to enter the event to be told that instead your going to see Joe Schmedlapís pet animal farm instead, are you? If you do not take this from any other entertainment venue, why do you put up with it in wrestling? You are supposed to get what you pay for except when it comes to pro wrestling? Wrestling appears to be above accountability for some reason, which allows promoters like Dino Sanna to mislead his fan base for the sake of a larger draw. I am reminded of Dutch Mantelís comment where he said that "He liked it better when the marks were on the other side of the barricade". Promoters like Dino Sanna and Mike Allen are nothing but marks for themselves and actually have no business in the industry because they are the reason that pro wrestling has had such a bad name for such a long time.
Now of course there are the "extenuating" circumstances that come into play here when a person is not on a card. These cannot be helped by anyone. A "family" emergency, while it should be questioned and verified is a reasonable reason why someone is not on a particular card. Injury is another. But these go without saying. But as in instances like what happened yesterday there is no excuse.
With all this being said, I believe that it is time to issue in a new era in pro wrestling promoting. It is time that the shysters are run out of the business, allowing for the honorable and decent promoters to be able to run their shows without having to live in the shadow of the more unscrupulous and disreputable promoters that blanket the independent scene today. Until this happens, fans will continually be ripped off of their money and the workers will continually be misused and abused.
And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
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