Government to Decide If Pro Wrestling Counts as a Sport

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Mar 25, 2009  |  Updated 9:17 AM PDT
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The SSP could be heading for a legal bodyslam.

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The Wall Street Journal delves into some strange territory to bring us the story of Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling. A group that stages wrestling shows on mattresses in bars around the city, SSP has been classified as "sports entertainment" by the state of Washington. That means they may need to buy a regulation ring, have medical personnel on hand at their shows and post a $10,00 bond, all of which seem out reach for a group of their means.

The SSP argues that they aren't professional wrestlers, but are a group spoofing professional wrestling. The video that accompanies the story on the Journal's website looks like a version of the real thing.  The shows are full of pile-drivers, chair shots and outrageous characters riling up crowds, even if the participants all say that it's just method acting. 

"It's a bunch of grown men and women in costumes pretending to be professional wrestlers," says David Osgood, the league's lawyer. "It is to wrestling as 'West Side Story' is to actual gang relations."

That's a flawed comparison. "West Side Story" is a musical that presents itself as a musical, not a real gang fight. SSP purports to be a fake version of something that's already staged. They may claim to be theatre, but the differences between their brand of theatre and the brand being practiced by dozens of pro wrestling outfits is neglible. Take, for example, the character of Ronald McFondle.

The Journal introduces us to McFondle, "a perpetually mock-soused sendup of Ronald McDonald who has eyebrows shaped like the McDonald's arches and wears red high tops." Trying to find the line between McFondle and a "real" wrestler with an outlandish gimmick makes the head hurt as much as six shots to the turnbuckle.

Does that mean they should be subject to the same regulations as the WWE? You'd like to think that the government could find a way to allow for something this small-scale so that it could survive, as clearly it's more about fun and games than big profits.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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