AS I SEE IT - 3/24/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome this week to these sites now carrying the AS I SEE IT
Powerslam Pro Wrestling at http://www.powerslam.net, Wrestling Confidential at http://sportsonly.com/nb/6434, WWF Hangout.com at http://www.wwfhangout.com.
From an article in the Newark Star-Ledger by Kathy Barrett Carter on March 21st:
"Outraged at the thought of 5-year-old fans lining up to watch wrestlers spewing blood drawn by barbed wire, razor blades and cheese graters, Gov. Christie Whitman yesterday called for legislation to rein in New Jersey's rapidly growing and increasingly violent 'extreme wrestling' industry.
'We need to do something here to either regulate it or regulate the audience," said Whitman spokesman Pete McDonough. "She is very interested in some regulation of this entertainment form. It's one thing for consenting adults to decide to attend this sort of event. It's another thing when children as young as 5 are showing up," he said.
The Governor never dreamed that by signing a bill four years ago that removed pro-wrestling from state oversight, a violent bloody offshoot would spring up virtually free of regulation, McDonough said.
The Governor's reaction came after she read a report in the Sunday Star-Ledger detailing a bizarre new form of wrestling in which contestants scrape and gouge each other with work tools, glass, kitchen appliances and other makeshift weapons all in the name of shedding streams of real blood in the ring. In many cases, children as young as 5 years old are among the spectators.
Assemblyman Joseph Doria (D-Hudson), who is also mayor of Bayonne, where clergy and community groups have long complained about having the fights staged in their city, is more than willing to give the Governor a bill to regulate extreme wrestling.
Fed up with his inability to control these events locally, he plans to introduce legislation he hopes will run these matches out of the state completely. And, he appears to have bipartisan support.
Sen. President Donald DiFrancesco (R-Union) would like to work with Doria to craft legislation that would put some restrictions on this type of wrestling, said Rae Hutton, a spokeswoman for DiFrancesco.
'It's a complicated issue but it's one that needs to be looked at by the Legislature because of the violent nature and the fact that kids are exposed to such an unusual amount of violence,' said Hutton.
In an effort to encourage the WWF to hold its sold-out events at New Jersey's arenas, in 1996 Whitman posed with 'The Undertaker,' one of the stars of the WWF, and signed a bill deregulating phony wrestling events.
Whitman removed wrestling from the control of the State Athletic Commission and lifted taxes on pay-per-view events, after WWF officials admitted publicly that their style of wrestling was not a sport but entertainment. In other words, they confessed wrestling was
With the regulations removed, the change had the unintended consequence of producing a burgeoning industry of minor league fake wrestling matches, that move from city to city staging events where blood is flowing and the faint-of-heart are warned not to stick around.
'It legalized assault and battery. What's going to happen if we don't do something soon somebody is going to die or become brain dead,' said Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex). 'Look at all the things we do to protect boxers and even there we've had deaths and a whole multitude of afflictions.'
Jeff Shapiro of Jersey All-Pro, a promoter that has been doing shows for three years in Bayonne and around the state, said he welcomes regulations and agrees that some of the shows are getting 'a little out of hand.'
He said it was the Governor who decided to get rid of the regulations because they wanted to get the big WWF fights.
'We're 100 percent behind any regulation. We're already taking steps to change our style of wrestling,' said Shapiro, insisting his organization does not want to do anything that would alienate parents or fans.
'I'm a parent too,' Shapiro said. Even without government regulation he said they tailor their show for the audience, toning it down, for example, when they did a fund-raiser at a Catholic school.
'There was no cursing there,' Shapiro said.
They are fully insured, have a nurse on site at all the matches, barricades up to protect fans and require children to be with adults, he said.
'Children must come with adults. We don't allow a 10-year-old or an 8-year-old to come in without a parent or legal guardian. And it's strictly enforced. That something we very, very strongly agree with,' said Shapiro. 'Some of this extreme wrestling gets out of hand, some is extremely dangerous but we have a great stable of wrestlers. We don't need that kind of show,' said Shapiro. When the state moved to deregulate the wrestling industry State Athletic Commissioner Larry Hazzard, was the lone voice against the change, saying it would create
health and safety risk for wrestlers.
With cheaper tickets, and a lot more blood, extreme wrestling has taken off in New Jersey.
Baffled by the number of youngsters who attend these events -- some accompanied by parents, others alone -- Doria says he does not understand why anyone would allow a child to view a live event that is more violent than movies that restrict children.
'I can't even image why any parent would let their child go to something like this or would take their child themselves. Blood is being spilled. People are behaving irrationally. It totally blows my mind. It's scary that society has become so insensitive, so callous to violence,' said Doria. 'This is extreme stuff.' "
Leaving out the condescending nonsense that appears in the above article, this represents a threat more serious than it would appear from the above ill-informed writing of Ms. Carter.
We'll also leave out the fact that this whole matter was started by an article in the Newark Star-Ledger on Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. Additionally involved is the a promotional rivalry between JAPW and the South Jersey based Combat Zone Wrestling. Representatives of JAPW have stated on promotional message boards that the Star-Ledger article and their reactions to it were essentially designed to get some press attention. What they may have instead have accomplished is something far different.
If I were a fan of Combat Zone Wrestling (and I am) living in New Jersey, I'd prepare to start contacting my state legislators starting tomorrow.
Readers shouldn't think this is just limited to promotions like Combat Zone Wrestling and Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. If I were a wrestling fan of the WWF, WCW, ECW, or of independent promotions living in New Jersey, PERIOD, I'd be looking up my legislator tomorrow.
I say that because if you read the above article, you'll realize that the regulations above mean no ECW house shows or live PPVs in New Jersey. Despite some expressed statements, they would likely mean no WWF house shows or live PPVs in New Jersey. With WCW, who knows?
Instead, we can expect house shows (from the promotions that can still operate under these regulations) filled with such "hardcore entertainment" as whoever is working as Doink the Clown this week.
If I were a wrestling fan of any promotions anywhere, I'd be checking out how to contact the New Jersey Governor's office today.
Readers, whether New Jersey residents, or potential tourists to the Jersey Shore can look up the names, addresses, and phone numbers of NJ State Assemblypersons and Senators at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/html/members.htm
When you do so, DO NOT respond with some of the language that we all see from wrestling fans on countless messages boards and newsgroups on a regular basis.
If you do that, you will insure that those within the New Jersey State Legislature will find it even easier to dismiss wrestling fans with being no more than the stereotypes we've been seen as by the general public for decades.
Instead, those of you reading that are New Jersey residents, call or write your legislator in a THOUGHTFUL manner. Indicate what you do for a living, or that you go to school. Remind them that you're a taxpayer and that you vote (you DO vote, don't you?) and that a election for the State Senate and Assembly are coming up in the not too distant future.
Let them know that you'll remember how they vote on any legislation involving the restrictions being proposed on professional wrestling.
If you're from outside the State of New Jersey, remind NJ State legislators that you spend tourist dollars in New Jersey; and that the shore season is coming up within two months...and lots of potential tourist revenue to be made or lost.
Remind them that if they try to take away a form of entertainment you like...that Delaware and Virginia have beaches too, and that you can take your dollars there this summer.
Remind them that instead of Atlantic City... Delaware Park has slots and horse racing you can go to and spend your money at this summer.
Fight these proposed restrictions in a CONSTRUCTIVE manner, not with namecalling. Threaten them with your vote and your pocketbook.
That's the way to make an impact on how politicians vote.
It's strange that those crusaders within the New Jersey State Legislature don't see fit to insist on drug testing, something that would have a tangible benefit on those who work in professional wrestling. In their eyes, that might scare away Vince McMahon and WWF RAW and Smackdown tapings as well as PPV revenue from New Jersey (even though the regulations they propose will likely have that effect anyway). So they'll probably avoid proposing drug testing for now.
I'm sure there will be those who read this column, and claim it's no more than alarmism. Ask those in the over-regulated state of Maryland about their thriving independent wrestling. Other than Maryland Championship Wrestling, there isn't an independent wrestling industry.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)