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New bill seeks to review Pro Wrestling regulations

New York State still regulates pro wrestling like a combat sport, similar to MMA and boxing. A new bill proposed in the state senate would review those regulations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State still regulates professional wrestling. 

The cat has been out of the bag for decades as to the predetermined nature of professional wrestling. 

Still, however, New York regulates pro wrestling like it does MMA and Boxing. 

"Pro Wrestling is choreographed, it's theatrical, and it's different than the combat sports that we see today of mixed martial arts or pro boxing," said NYS Senator Tim Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy (D, 63rd Senate District) introduced a bill that would mandate the State Athletic Commission to review regulations for professional wrestling.

"It ought to be treated differently than the combative sports of mixed martial arts and boxing," Kennedy said. "It's a very simple measure to have the Athletic Commission determine that, as they're supposed to."

If the bill passes before the end of the current legislative session, the Athletic Commission would need to submit a report to the legislature by November 1 regarding pro wrestling regulations. 

"We love professional wrestling, and we love to spread it with everybody," said promoter Jacob Szopinski. "But we have to do everything that Dana White needs to do in order to run an arena."

Szopinski promotes wrestling for Daddy Yeah Productions, which runs shows with wrestlers from the Grapplers Anonymous gym in Lackawanna. 

In terms of regulations, Szopinski says the Athletic Commission mandates a promotion have a physician screen talent prior to a show, EMTs, and an ambulance on-site during a show, and combat insurance for each show. 

"Under the umbrella for the Athletic Commission, roughly runs about $3,000 out of our pocket," Szopinski says. "That's $3000 per show that we have to pay before we even get to paying the venue, paying the wrestlers paying for concessions, paying for chair rentals, and anything else."

While large promotions like WWE and AEW have the financial resources to regularly run shows in New York, though AEW doesn't often tour in the Empire State, small promotions can not run regularly in New York like they can in other states. 

"It's really expensive to run a wrestling show and not lose money in New York State," said Brandon Thurston. 

Thurston is a former professional wrestler and the owner and editor of Wrestlenomics, one of the premier professional wrestling news websites that focuses on the economics of the industry. 

"I wrestled for one company in Pennsylvania, that ran every month," Thurston said. "I imagine they would have had a lot harder time running every month, if they were under the conditions of the New York State Athletic Commission."

Szopinski says he and other promoters aren't calling for anything that would impact the safety of the wrestlers, saying the combat insurance and taxes on ticket sales are the biggest issues. 

The insurance is an issue for small promotions because there are only a few providers that will provide bonds to insure a professional wrestling event. 

"That monopoly raising prices every year, inflation is killing us," Szopinski said. "We don't want to raise money on our tickets."

The New York State Department of State collects a 3% tax on all ticket sales for a professional wrestling event. That 3% tax is in addition to other local sales taxes collected.

"We're a family-friendly event, we want everybody in the fit in the family to come out for us," Szopinski said. "But for $20, $25 $30 and higher per ticket, families aren't going to come out."

Senator Kennedy, who when asked said Capt. Lou Albano and Roddy Piper were his favorite wrestlers as a child, says it's important the Athletic Commission review the regulations. 

"I think every child in America sees pro wrestling as a fun way to be entertained and family enjoyment," Kennedy said. "We want to make sure that that continues here in the state of New York and that pro wrestling is able to thrive here in our great state."

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