Wrestling In Seattle: Sport Or Legitimate Theater?

For years, pro wrestlers - the Speedo-wearing ones, not the singlets - have had to battle the perception of whether their antics are real or fake. The truth lies somewhere in between since the matches are predetermined, but it’s pretty hard to fake being body slammed through a table. Still, there’s a group of wrestlers in Seattle called Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling who face an entirely new battle - whether they’re wrestlers or actors.

Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling's Gorilla Sammartino

(What happens when you don’t pay attention to your children)

You see, the members of Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling don’t really consider what they do to be wrestling or sports entertainment as much as they just consider it just entertainment - more along the lines of a play or cabaret show that travels from Seattle bar to Seattle bar entertaining the drunken masses of the Emerald City. Unfortunately for them, the city of Seattle considers what they do as sports entertainment, and that makes things rather expensive for a group of unpaid actors in banana hammocks.

From the WALL STREET JOURNAL (because that’s who you’d expect to be reporting on this type of thing):

Washington state’s Department of Licensing takes the high jinks seriously. Earlier this month, it classified the performances as “sports entertainment.” The ruling means the spoofers must meet safety regulations and could force the league to post a $10,000 bond, station medical personnel at events and buy a regulation wrestling ring.

The Seattle league calls itself “fight cabaret” — in essence, theater with singlets, suplexes and sweat, as unworthy of regulation as a Shakespeare play. “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.”

“West Side Story” wasn’t real?  I was wondering why the History Channel hadn’t done a “Gangland” on the Sharks or Jets yet.

Now a bunch of people hiring a lawyer to fight the city into letting them dress up in character so they can “fight” with other people dressed in costumes probably seems rather childish, but I assure you it isn’t. In fact, when you read about how this whole ordeal got started, you’ll see that it’s serious business:

The smackdown by the state started because of a grudge match between the league and The Banana, played by a wrestler named Paul Richards. Mr. Richards, a driver for a mail-services company, says he left the league in April because of plans to sideline his character.

The league had named Lucas Keyes, a videogame programmer, as the Second Banana to be a sidekick to The Banana. In a match, the league says it planned to have the Second Banana betray The Banana, defeating Mr. Richards’s character. Mr. Richards says he quit rather than lose top-banana status.

After he says he heard that members were making fun of him behind his back, Mr. Richards says he took retribution by emailing the licensing department in June and telling officials he believed SSP was violating the law. “The guy in the clown outfit kept running his mouth,” says Mr. Richards, 40 years old, who says he enjoys playing a real-life “heel” — the wrestler that audiences love to boo.

See, real life adult problems.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anyway this can be settled in a court room. No, this grudge match can only be settled inside the squared circle. Well, that or a game of Dungeons and Dragons.