Wrestling Journalist Caldwell: Blumenthal Off to ‘Less-Than-Flying Start’ on Regulation

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James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch disparages the remarks by Connecticut’s senator-elect, Richard Blumenthal, about pro wrestling regulation in his first post-election press conference. See “Will Linda McMahon’s Senate opponent pursue regulation of pro wrestling?”, http://pwtorch.com/artman2/publish/WWE_News_3/article_45014.shtml.

Caldwell is right in noting that loose comments about “steroids” show a limited understanding of the real range and cause of the industry’s occupational health and safety issues.

On the other hand, Blumenthal did acknowledge what is obvious but not always acknowledged: that wrestling reform is somewhere on his legislative agenda. And his remarks led the coverage of the press conference in the New London Day. That ain’t chicken feed.

To those annoyed by the shorthand “steroids,” I would also point out that the January 2009 letter by Congressman Henry Waxman (then chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) to the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was sophisticated and thorough. The problem then was the lack of follow-through, including, especially, public hearings; the staff investigation itself and the questions to World Wrestling Entertainment officials in private interviews were excellent.

Overall, there is no disputing Caldwell’s conclusion that the proof will be in the pudding. I think Blumenthal’s words were a promising start, but given the history, Caldwell and others have every right to be skeptical.

Irv Muchnick

5 Comments

  1. Keith Harris says:

    My take on Blumenthal’s comments are more nuanced than Caldwell’s. I agree with him that it’s highly disappointing that Blumenthal didn’t explicitly mention the dangers of concussions and prescription painkiller abuse too, given that they are arguably the greatest dangers facing professional wrestlers today. However, I think Blumenthal doesn’t plan to forget about WWE’s dodgy classification of its wrestler as independent contractors and their profit motivated decision to make their toys overseas, instead of back home in Connecticut.

    The problem with regulation is it costs money at a time when Connecticut is running a $3.26 billion budget deficit. There’s no cash for Connecticut in regulating wrestling. However, there could be plenty of cash for Connecticut by going after a corporation that have misclassified its employees as independent contractors for over 25 years. More cash for Connecticut by ending tax breaks for big companies like WWE that make it profitable for them to make their merchandise overseas.

  2. A quick point, Keith and all: The independent contractor classification audit is by the State of Connecticut, where WWE is headquartered. But Blumenthal has been elected to the United States Senate. The costs of regulation are a legitimate concern; depending on the shape of Blumenthal’s work and the public conversation about it, I expect it to play out at both the state and national levels.

  3. JR says:

    the reality is that regulating pro-wrestling is never gonna figure high on any government’s list of priorities. If the Independent Contractor issue can be resolved for the better of the wrestlers that would be a tremendous step forward.

    • You may be right, but the subject is fanning out to concussions, which affects the football industry at all levels. You’ll win most bets on the public’s unwillingness to engage wrestling seriously. Still, where we are at this moment is uncharted territory.

      • JR says:

        If WWE continues to feel the pressure it may take steps to improve working conditions, not unlike tightening up its drug testing in the wake of the Benoit double murder-suicide. Ironically, had Linda won WWE likely would be under further scrutiny and pressured to get it’s house in order.