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23 Ent. & Sports Law. 3 (2005-2006)
Pinned Down: Labor Law and Professional Wrestling - Part I: The History of the Billion-Dollar Pro-Wrestling Industry

handle is hein.journals/entspl23 and id is 84 raw text is: Guilds seek iPod video residuals
The Writers Guild of America,
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Paramount buying film studio
Paramount Pictures agreed to buy
DreamWorks SKG Inc., paying $775
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the company said. Paramount will
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Spielberg and Geffen will be responsi-
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PGATOUR signs newTV
The PGA TOUR signed new six-
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Pinned Down: Labor Law
and Professional Wrestling
Part I: The history of the billion-dollar pro-wrestling industry
By Jamie Sharp
Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on labor law issues in pro wrestling -
the crossroad of sport and entertainment.
rofessional wrestling has been one of the world's most popular forms of
entertainment during the last century. With larger-than-life characters,
compelling storylines and tremendous feats of athleticism, professional
wrestling has captured audiences from generation to generation.
Unfortunately, the industry is far from glamorous and has a checkered histo-
ry regarding its labor relations. For decades, wrestlers have been manipulated
by promoters and this manipulation has led them to suffer from unequal bar-
gaining power and poor working conditions. By controlling the wrestlers, pro-
moters have effectively squashed organizing movements by wrestlers and
created a culture where wrestlers inherently distrust each other.
Without a union to protect their interests, wrestlers have suffered. In fact, in
recent years many wrestlers have suffered devastating neck and back injuries
that will surely plague them for the rest of their lives. Even more tragic, howev-
er, is the fact that many wrestlers die at a young age. Unfortunately, so long as
wrestlers fail to unionize and are controlled by promoters, the unfair treatment
of wrestlers will continue.
This series of three articles will address the problems with labor relations in
professional wrestling and propose possible solutions.
Part One focuses on the history of the industry while analyzing today's
current landscape - where only one company dominates the business. Part
Two will examine the legal history of labor issues between wrestlers and pro-
moters while analyzing the legal rights of wrestlers, particularly whether
wrestlers should be classified as employees or independent contractors. Finally,
Part Three will concentrate on solutions to these labor issues and suggest that
unionization is necessary to avoid the tragedies that have plagued
the business.
The history of professional wrestling
As one of the most enduring forms of entertainment, professional wrestling
has evolved greatly over the past century from a collection of legitimate athletic
contests to a sports entertainment spectacle. Even with these changes, however,
the industry has grappled with similar labor relations problems throughout its
history. Therefore, it is important to understand the history of the industry in
order to properly understand its labor problems.
Pro wrestling at the turn of the century
At the beginning of the 20th century, professional wrestling and professional
boxing had many similarities. Since neither sport had a season like baseball,
promoting wrestling and boxing cards proved difficult.' While baseball fans
could reasonably expect to see their home team play regular home games from
April until October, wrestling and boxing fans were forced to deal with the
irregular scheduling of boxing and wrestling cards.2 To further complicate mat-
ters, there were not enough athletes in any one locale for continued competi-
tion, whether for league or tournament matches.3
As a result, most professional wrestlers and boxers toured the nation on a
traveling circuit, which also included actors, musicians and opera singers.4
Because of the nomadic nature of their business, professional wrestlers and
boxers had to rely heavily on the savvy of local promoters to draw interest for
their matches.5 As the wrestler/promoter relationship developed, promoters
Fall 2005 /Volume 23, Number 3 / Entertainment and Sports Lawyer 3

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