State commission delays decision on regulations for wrestling
ATLANTA — In the face of opposition from the industry, the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission has delayed a decision on whether pro wrestling should be regulated.
About 70 current and former wrestlers and their promoters voiced their opposition to the proposed regulations at the commission meeting Tuesday. The board decided to delay consideration of the issue for 60 days.
The proposed regulations, such as having paid medical personnel on hand for all events, would apply only to smaller wrestling operations such as Clarkesville-based NWA Anarchy Wrestling. The board also wants to increase inspection of wrestlers and their organizations as well as banning physical or verbal threats toward the audience and the use of too much grease lotion or foreign substances on a wrestler’s body.
“Asinine,” is what NWA Anarchy wrestler Eddie Chastain called the proposed measures.
The commission already regulates the state’s boxing and mixed martial arts, as well as ticket brokers. Professional wrestling also falls under the group’s jurisdiction, but Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment has been exempt due to a 2005 statute that excludes groups with total assets of more than $25 million.
NWA Anarchy owner Jerry Palmer said the new rules would put financial strain on small wrestling organizations. Furthermore, Palmer and others said, the proposed regulations would endanger wrestlers who would resort to performing in outlaw shows under no constraints.
“I think it went positive,” commission chairman J.J. Biello said after the meeting. “We were looking for feedback. We’re open to looking at the rules and changing some things as long as it fairly represents the interest of the state and the fighters, or entertainers in this case. Our main concern is the health and safety of the performers.”
WWE representative John Taylor also was pleased.
“It’s good they listened to people who know the business,” Taylor said. “These rules they proposed are ridiculous.”
The WWE would not be affected by the new proposals, but said earlier this week that it would pull all events out of Georgia if it’s exemption were rescinded by the Legislature.
The pro wrestling industry has come under increased scrutiny after wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife, son and then himself in their suburban Atlanta home in June.
Investigators have not given a motive for the killings, but the question of whether steroids played a role has lingered. Anabolic steroids were found in Benoit’s home and tests showed Benoit had roughly 10 times the normal level of testosterone in his system when he died.
Some experts believe use of testosterone can contribute to paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as “roid rage.” Benoit’s father, Michael, believes years of head trauma his son suffered in the ring contributed to the killings.