Re: Think about this

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I Kinda Feel Like Tony Stark
-written by Nikita Allanov

Change is coming. It is unavoidable. We can either adapt to the change, or die.

Recently, there was a storyline in the Marvel Comics Universe where change was coming, and it was in the form of forcing all super-humans to register with the government, or become outlaws. The heroes all came down on one of two sides - register and give up the way things have always been done, or go outlaw and become one of the criminals that you have always tried to keep off the streets.

Right now, the State of Ohio is on the verge of something similar regarding professional wrestling. There are too many people in this business who should not be, and they have ruined it for everyone else. Now, the Ohio Athletic Commission is on the verge of becoming a more tightly controlled state for professional wrestling.
Right now there are a handful of specific rules in place. The OAC Commissioner Bernie Profato has for years said that he does not want to waste state resources regulating professional wrestling more tightly - he wants the wrestlers and promoters to police themselves.
However, with an increasing number of the shows in the state, the number of calls that come into the OAC have increased. With promoters virtually refusing to comply with the state regulations, Profato feels the OAC is being forced into stepping up regulations to keep things under control.

So, now that the OAC is starting to address things more regularly, the flak is being pointed in the direction of the Fraternal Order of Professional Wrestlers.

The FOPW is a new organization, and it is multi-state. Since the region where the founders live and wrestle is the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia area, that is where we are initially focusing our attention. We are working on filing all the proper paperwork to become a legal non-profit entity. That takes time.

The idea behind the FOPW is to become a data base and a resource for professional wrestlers, promoters, and even fans to an extent. We want to clean up our sport by giving the legitimate participants a place to go. Pooling resources can lead to things like health care, negotiating power, more work, increased revenues, and so on. The idea is to get everyone together regardless of company lines, and become an advocate for what we, as a group of colleagues, believe. Nothing about the FOPW is secretive - in fact, all of the "board members" have filed their real names and addresses with the state (Pennsylvania) in order to qualify as a non-profit organization.

It is also no secret that the FOPW is still in its infant stages, and is still fleshing out what all of our long term hopes and dreams are for this sport. We are still setting goals. The infancy of our organization has not, however, changed what is going on in the State of Ohio, as far as the OAC is concerned.

Right now, the OAC requires this to become a licensed promoter: $200 fee to become a licensed promoter, and a $100 fee for an individual show license, submitted ten days prior to the event. That is it.

The FOPW asked for an received a list of the licensed promoters within the State. There are currently 20 promoters that the state has on file as licensed promoters. According to the state records, there were fifteen wrestling shows granted permits in the month of April - and five of those promoters granted show licenses were not on their list of licensed promoters. That shows a discrepancy in the OAC's paperwork and record keeping.

The Secretary for the OAC, Judy McCarty, has admitted that they use wrestling websites to keep track of what shows are being ran in the state. I know the people that run them. they started the website as a way to promote wrestling in Ohio, and they are nervous that the state uses a resource they created to keep tabs on promoters.

Change is coming. On April 8th, the FOPW attended the monthly OAC meeting in Youngstown. Statements made by Mr. Profato at the meeting indicated that the FOPW and Drew Corderro (the promoter of the Cleveland area'a AIW) were the first ever attendees of an OAC meeting representing professional wrestling. The audio from this meeting is available for download at this link

In looking to more stringently regulate professional wrestling, the OAC has a number of ideas on the table and are looking for feedback. These ideas include, but are not limited to: Re-instating a bond requirement, increasing license and permit fees, requiring an OAC assigned physician at events, requiring an ambulance/paramedics at the venue, establishing "no competition" zones where two events could not be held on the same date within a 50 mile radius, requiring promoters to turn in what wrestlers/matches will be on their card, and more.

The critics of the OAC are very quick to point out that the OAC has never really done anything to shut down outlaw shows, or force promoters to comply with their regulations. Admittedly, even the examples Mr. Profato gave at this meeting were not from within the last couple years, to my knowledge. Mr Profato also stated that things are a little different now, as individuals have started to go to state legislators and the Attorney General about what is going on in professional wrestling, which is forcing the OAC's hand.

A few years ago, I wrestled a handful of shows for Rick O'Brien in Virginia. Virginia has the strictest athletic commission I ever dealt with. In fact, the commission there is under the same state agency that handles occupational safety and labor unions. This commission did not want to deal with professional wrestling at any level, so they restricted things and added regulations and fees to the point that you would have to be almost insane to try to run shows there. Eventually O'Brien quit running shows there for essentially that reason.
In Virginia, each wrestler is licensed individually, and is required to have a physical before applying for a license. In addition, promoters have to apply for a promoter's license, and also for individual show licenses. Unlike Ohio, Virginia will deny licenses, virtually at their discretion. In Virginia, they actually send inspectors out to shows, so if an inspector is unavailable or just does not want to travel to your show, the permit is denied. They also require promoters to be bonded and have insurance. In addition, there is no blood or weapons allowed of any kind - and an inspector can stop and shut a show down at any time if it happens. Fighting outside the ring is not allowed, and there is a requirement for a ringside barrier and security appropriate to the number of fans.
Do a Google search and see how many shows there actually are in Virginia. The commission clamped down on promoters, and got rid of the problem by getting rid of indy wrestling.

Ohio is moving in this direction. While it can be stopped, everyone needs to start getting on board an complying with what the state is asking now, because the crackdown is coming if we do not.

So, there now appears to be two sides - those wanting to work with the commissions and the wrestlers to keep things as close to the way they are now as possible. The other side is the people betting that the OAC has no ability to enforce their own rules, and daring them to start shutting down shows.

Personally, I see deregulation as the solution - but it is never going to happen. Wrestling falling under the auspices of the OAC was passed by a bill in the Ohio Assembly. Deregulation would require a bill removing it from control of the OAC. Do you know who your state Assemblyman and/or Senator is? You will need to convince them to vote in favor of deregulation - that is if you can find someone to sponsor a bill for this and getting it thru committee first.

So, the approach that the FOPW has taken thus far is to gather as much information about promoters and events, and try to get everyone on board with complying with what the state is already asking of professional wrestling in Ohio.

We are Tony Stark, asking the heroes to register before things get even worse.

At the last OAC meeting, the OAC members specifically pointed to two groups that they get calls about. One in eastern Ohio that holds hardcore events, and one southwestern Ohio building that holds unlicensed events.
This past week, the OAC contacted the FOPW, asking if we knew of an event being held by the eastern Ohio promoter. The call was because they actually received a call from the venue the show was to be held at, asking if the show was a legitimate licensed event. Since the OAC did not issue an event permit for this promoter (who does have a promoters license) they told the venue they weren't sure. When one of my partners in the FOPW contacted the promoter to let them know that the state received a call about their show, the blame was spun around and put on the FOPW for "snitching" to the state. However, it turns out that it was a disgruntled associate of the promoter who called the venue, and prompted them to call the state.

Change is coming. The FOPW is trying to give wrestlers and promoters a voice in this change. We cannot do this without hearing from wrestlers and promoters about what they want. All we are trying to do is get everyone organized. The state does not keep careful records of who is licensed and who is not. The Attorney General is starting to look into sales tax on gate receipts. Promoters and wrestlers are hedging their bets that the OAC still is not going to do anything.

There was only one event permit issued by the OAC for Saturday April 24th. Ring of Honor, which ran a show in Ohio on Friday April 23rd, was not a legal show. What does it say about the power of the OAC that ROH can run an illegal show in Ohio? What if one of the biggest wrestling promotions in the United States had been shut down by the OAC? All that it takes to shut down a show is for the OAC to get a phone call, Mr. Profato to call the Highway Patrol, and for the police to come to the event and arrest the promoter.

A perfect storm is brewing. Personally, I do not want to see any state become a regulatory state similar to Virginia. I understand that deregulation is nearly impossible. So, wrestlers and promoters - what should we be doing if you do not like what we are currently doing? Give us your feedback!

This message has been edited by indymessageboard on Apr 25, 2010 1:58 PM

Posted on Apr 25, 2010, 11:59 AM

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