Tales from Ringside: When Politics Shut Down Wrestling

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Speaking to Edmonton City Council denouncing the Combat Sports Moratorium that took place in the city from December 2017 – May 2018. Photo Courtesy CTV Edmonton.

This week’s Tale is all about what happens when politics get into the wrestling business.  In December 2017, the wrestling landscape in Edmonton received a jolt that has had side effects being felt one year later.  In this edition of tales from ringside, we highlight when politics shut down wrestling.

News coverage of the Edmonton Community and Public Services Committee Discussing the Combative Sports Ban in Edmonton is available here. Source:  CTV News

In June 2017 MMA fighter/boxer Tim Hague passed away in the hospital due to fight-related injuries.  After an investigation into the case, it was determined that a bunch of guidelines needed further investigation and clarification.  As a result, Edmonton City Council placed a moratorium on all combat sports in the city as they process the results.  If you want more details on the investigation, it is easily accessible online, as it is one of the few times that Pro Wrestling has made it into mainstream media around here.  Another topic for another day.

Now for some of you, questions may be asked such as how does this affect Pro Wrestling?  Well, Edmonton is one of the last places in Canada, or in North America, that Pro Wrestling is considered a combat sport, and is placed in the combat sport bylaws.  At the time of the moratorium, no other region in Canada to my knowledge had Pro Wrestling regulated in the same way.  So, when the ban was put in place, Pro Wrestling was put on the ropes because of something that happened in another sport.

When it comes to Pro Wrestling, one thing that everyone can attest to is the very enthusiastic and involved fan base.  From internet groups to fans lining up hours before events to get good seats, wrestling fans are some of the most passionate people around.  When they get burned, they act.  Personally, I had contacted the appropriate councilors via email to discuss the effect the ban had on Pro Wrestling.  Many fans voiced their concerns as well, via letters, emails, and phone calls.  But I will give credit where credit is due, the real star and the man who I feel worked the hardest to get Pro Wrestling back on track was Prairie Wrestling Alliance CEO Kurt Sorochan.  He was constantly in contact with the necessary people, and out there in the media trying to get our voice heard.  That man is a tireless worker, and his hard work provides great dividends, both for himself, his company, and the industry.  I personally want to give him a big thank you for all his work at this time.

In January, just over five weeks following the moratorium being placed, the proper community committee was able to hear all our grievances.  There were so many speakers to talk on the subject, they had to move the meeting to the main city hall chambers, rather than one of the usual meeting rooms.  Nineteen speakers, including promoters, participants, and fans, all had their chance to speak on the moratorium.  However, prior to the meeting, the committee produced an amendment to the moratorium stating that Pro Wrestling would be exempt and lifted, so the two wrestling promoters that were there to speak, along with myself, could see the writing on the wall that this was more so a clerical placement error than a slight on the business.  My speech was more about time and a loss of revenue over this, as I run Video on Demand channels that work off wrestling matches being recorded and uploaded.  If I am not producing content, I lose my subscribers.

A week later the moratorium was lifted for Pro Wrestling, to a major sigh of relief to the community.  While there was a lot of angst and anger over this, in the Pro Wrestling circuit, there were only two scheduled shows canceled:  A Monster Pro Wrestling show in early January, and a WWE house show which pulled out at the inception of the moratorium.  Even though the moratorium was lifted prior to the February 9 date WWE had scheduled, they had already found a replacement venue six hours away and as of the date writing this article no return date for WWE has been announced.  All in all, the final loss was small, but created a lot of headaches, over an archaic set of guidelines.

In November 2018 a proposal was finally put forward to eliminate Pro Wrestling from the Combat Sports Bylaw entirely.  While that can be a good and a bad thing in terms of consequences, it seems it brings closure to the whole saga that has occurred over the last year.  November 27, the recommendations went into effect, as amendments were passed by Edmonton City Council.  So now Pro Wrestling in Edmonton has become a version of the Wild West, with one of the most passionate yet untapped markets in North America.  Things might get a little crazy in the City of Champions, both positively and negatively.

But hey, out of the rubble of the moratorium, I ended up being approached by Monster Pro Wrestling to become their General Manager.  Which leads me to my next tale…

NEXT TIME… When you give a fan the keys to the Promotion… My time as MPW General Manager