Straight Shooting - Issue #88
by Fritz Capp
September 15, 2000
New Jersey to adopt new "extreme wrestling" regulations or Can I see your drivers license please?
It is no secret by now that I was involved in an angle in CZW last weekend. It was one month of setting it up on the message board, fighting and creating havoc with the fans on the board, literally getting them to hate me with my outcries of how ECW was better, more original and the reason that they were in existence at all. While the angle was supposed to continue there is something that is happening that forces me to forego the angle as it pertains to myself. I cannot in good conscience keep the angle going while on Monday Governor Christie Todd Whitman will sign a bill that will forbid and ban "extreme" style wrestling in the State of New Jersey. To not say anything and keep the angle going just for the sake of my own fun and ego would do a great disservice to the all the guys who wrestle this style in New Jersey, in fact all across the country. There are a lot of guys who have trained and busted their a** and they deserve all the backing they can get. It is no secret among my friends that I think CZW has something to offer the fans that ECW abandoned in the Philadelphia area if only the old ECW fans would just stop being so blind to the call letters of the promotion and just go to a show, but that is a whole different column.
The bill which will be signed one year after The Jersey Journal first reported and exposed the sport's dangers, empowers the state Athletic Control Board to annually license extreme wrestlers and promoters; requires promoters to get prior local approval, a state board permit, medical insurance coverage and two doctors at ringside before holding extreme wrestling events; and limits access to such events to people 18 and older.
While some of these thing may in fact be a good thing I have to wonder if the age restrictions can actually be followed. One has to realize that professional wrestling show, especially on the level of the independents really do not have the knowledge to be able to screen the different ways that are necessary to be able to tell if someone is carrying valid identification.
The WWF and ECW and to some extent WCW use weapons, bleed (profusely sometimes) and use foul language and sex to get their product over with the fans. There are no age restrictions as to who can see the show. Especially in the WWF's case, they say that it is up to the parent to decide what they allow or do not allow their children to watch. This is in direct conflict with the message that the WWF is sending out by Vince McMahon backing this bill. I now see Vince is actually saying that it is the parents right to choose for their children, as long as it is his promotion they are watching.
Now what qualifies as a legitimate form of identification? A state issued drivers license? These things can be changed at will by today's computer savvy teenagers as can any other picture ID. In fact I cannot think of one document that cannot be faked or forged.
Are the promotions going to be required to have their staff take classes so they can spot a forgery when presented and what happened to parental consent? Are the NJ State legislators going to rate wrestling shows like they do movies with an "extreme" show receiving an NC-17 rating or above? How about a "M" rating for "Mature" like they do on television? How closely is this going to be enforced? Will the state now have to hire people who will stand with the ticket taker and "card" each person going to the show? What about a parent who orders their tickets over the phone and bring their kids? Are the promotions expected to turn a family away and give them their money back? Will wrestling promotions now fall under the same type of scrutiny as tobacco, alcohol and firearms and pornography? And again I ask, what about parental consent? What if someone "wants" to take their kids to a show. Say they do not view it as the NJ legislators do? Does this mean that the government is now going to tell people that they cannot take their kids to a show no matter what? Will the state hire plants who are underage and try to see if they can by a ticket to an "extreme" wrestling event? I mean, how far is this really going to or can it go?
Are the powers that be in NJ looking to regulate the television broadcasts that enter their state? It is no stretch of the imagination to know that what children see on television is far worse than what they see at one of these shows. All the kids have to do is turn on HBO to see all the blood, sex and violence their little hearts desire. Is the state of NJ looking to ban or regulate the many video game titles that are being sold in the stores that litter the state that offer violence and blood? What about regulating the news that is broadcast or published in the state. Here children under the age of 18 can learn about violence, theft, rape, murder, greed, molestation and a hundred other horrors that make up this world. On television children can see war and the effects of war, starvation and many of the other ills of the world. Are there regulations being put on the table to regulate all of these influences on the children of New Jersey? Why do I think that there is a resounding "no" to these questions?
This bill is wrong and is precipitated and backed by the thought that like the PTC, the New Jersey legislators feel they know better than the wrestling fan on what they should and should not be able to watch. While these people hide behind the veil of morality, once again there are deep underlying reasons for this happening.
I noticed when this bill was first announced that while this style of wrestling was being vilified for independent promotions, but the WWF, WCW and even ECW were exempt from this new law. ECW??? Wasn't it ECW who brought to the forefront the blood and gimmick matches that we see today in this country? How did they get exempt from this legislation? And why is it that the WWF and WCW along with ECW can have all kinds of pseudo violence in the name of "sports entertainment" but not the smaller promotion?
If this bill would encompass "all" wrestling promotions, while I may not agree with it, at least it would be fair. It would be telling the entire sport that the state of New Jersey no longer wants the blood, violence and sexual innuendos that seem to make up a majority of wrestling shows today in their state. Of course I believe that this is something that should have been voted on by the people in the state and not just decided by a small group of people, but what do I know. I think that there are way too many lobbyists out to get their own way no matter what it costs. I also think that too many things are being branded as "for the good of our children" when in fact they are only using that line to further their own personal or political agendas. This bill is not about fair though as it punishes one segment of an industry while allowing another segment to run free without regulations. No wonder Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman back this bill.
If you live in another state do not think that this does not affect you because it does. This bill, if allowed to stand as is, will set the precedent for all other states to adopt similar regulations. What may be hundreds of miles away from you now could be knocking on your backdoor within the next few upcoming months.
Even though in my mind this bill would surely lose in appeal, that will cost a lot of money and time which is something that smaller independently run promotions do not have. Smaller promotions are generally run on a shoestring budget hoping their next show will put a few dollars in their pockets. Where are they supposed to come up with the money to retain an attorney and fight a governmental body that is out to restrict what they do? Money doesn't grow on trees and for the most part they either must comply with the order, shut their doors, or spend every dime they have to fight this in appeals. To comply with the order admits defeat and allows other states to adopt similar legislation. What happens then? A lot of promotions slowly fold which starts to create a monopoly in the industry. With less and less independent promotions running fans would be forced to either watch what they are offered or to stop watching altogether. Most true wrestling fans would opt for the first option. This tends to create larger demographics for the big 2 1/4 promotions along with a larger fansbase which translates into more revenue for the promotions.
If you feel that this bill should not be put into legislation there is still a slim chance that we could avoid the signing of the bill. Please contact Governor Whitman http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact.htm or you may call her office directly at (609)292-6000. Let Governor Whitman know that we have a right to watch and support whatever we want to without the interference of government regulations and that the bill itself is inherently unconstitutional. Please be intelligent, polite and professional when contacting the office. This is the office of an elected official and to do things any other way would only hurt what is trying to be accomplished here.
And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be but also remember a quote from James Billington, "Intellectual and cultural freedom is the most important single precondition for the breakdown of the kinds of tyrannical and totalitarian systems that periodically threaten us."
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