TNA Falls Victim to State Licensing Scheme

Thanks to Missouri's State licensing scheme, wrestlings fans didn't get to see new TNA Champion Chris Sabin this weekend.
Thanks to Missouri’s State licensing scheme, wrestlings fans didn’t get to see new TNA Champion Chris Sabin this weekend.

As a life long wrestling fan, I never like to see a promotion hit hard times. Even though I have barely seen any TNA wrestling over the years, I’m certainly glad the promotion exists for the sake of the wrestling business. Competition creates innovations in the business, and forces the various wrestling promotions to constantly be looking for new talent to push and promote. Even as someone who primarily watches WWE programming, I still reap the benefits from the overall talent in the business. Without other promotions around to discover the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan over the last decade, I likely wouldn’t have the joy of seeing them on my TV screen today.

This being the case, it’s sad for me to see the recent struggles of TNA, which has had to release several of its stars recently due to ongoing financial issues. Along with those stars, TNA has also announced the release of Senior Vice President of Programming and Talent Relations Bruce Pritchard. Sudden moves like this often have unintended consequences, and in the case of Pritchard’s release we saw one of these consequences immediately.

PWTorch reports on how six of TNA’s wrestlers were not allowed to compete at a house show this past weekend due to lack of a “wrestling license”:

 The six wrestlers who were disallowed from competing at TNA’s house show on Saturday night do not have licenses to perform in Missouri, according to a records search with the Missouri State Athletic Commission.

All licenses are registered to the sponsoring company, which would be TNA Entertainment LLC in this case. (All WWE wrestlers are registered to WWE headquarters in Stamford, Conn. under the working name of Event Services, Inc.)

Pro wrestlers are classified as “wrestling contestants” in Missouri and all current licenses expire on June 30, 2014.

Due to their lack of licenses, six TNA wrestlers – Chris Sabin, Garett Bischoff, Wes Brisco, Jay Bradley, Miss Tessmacher, and Gail Kim – were unable to compete in the event as advertised.  The result was that several wrestlers had to compete more than once, and the event lasted only 75 minutes. Despite offering refunds and backstage passes to fans, this obviously is a PR disaster for TNA, and left them with many unhappy customers.

As the VP of Talent Relations, it is likely that Bruce Pritchard would have been the one in charge of assuring that all wrestlers were issued the proper licenses for whatever state they are performing in that day. This is likely something that may have been avoided had Pritchard not been released so abruptly, or if at least the proper steps were taken to assure that any of his lingering duties were transitioned to someone else before his departure.

In my other life as a libertarian writer, I am always looking for stories that highlight the ways that government intervention creates problems where there would be no problem if people were simply left to their own devices. In this case, the question we should really be asking is not so much “How could TNA drop the ball like this?” but “Why on earth do professional wrestlers need a license as ‘wrestling contestants’ in Missouri and other states?”

Does the license add value to the experience of the wrestling fan?

No. The fan purchasing a ticket presumably already knows the wrestlers involved in the promotion they are paying to see, has seen them on television, and is well aware of the entertainment value provided by those wrestlers. Regardless of our opinion on any one wrestlers’ ability, it is obvious that the fan that spends his hard earned money on a ticket to a TNA event knows what they are paying for, and is satisfied with the purchase, presuming the event features the wrestlers advertised.

Does the license add value to the TNA wrestling promotion?

Again, the answer is clearly “No!” TNA has hired the wrestlers because it believes they add value to their product, value that entices their customers to purchase tickets to events, order PPVs, buy merchandise, etc. TNA values the wrestlers due to their own evaluation of each wrestlers talents, not based on whether or not they have a license in a certain state. We know this, because the six wrestlers in question would not be employed without first having the license otherwise.

So who does the license add value to?

The only reasonable answer we can see is “the State of Missouri.” It seems that the granting of a license for a wrestler involves nothing more than some paperwork and paying a fee to the State of Missouri. The only parties gaining from the licensure process here are the politicians in Missouri, who are able to collect extra money from TNA, WWE and other wrestling promotions (and by extensions, their fans) by requiring all wrestlers who perform in the State to go through the bureaucratic red tape of obtaining a “wrestling contestants” license. This gives them more money to spend on fancy government “projects” in order to attempt to please their constituents and get reelected. Such is the nature of politics.

Licensing is a scheme used by every State in the Union to collect extra revenue from those who would otherwise have no need to obtain one. Various states require licensing for everything from blogging to funeral directors for monks to hairdressers. And along the way, no value is added to anyone other than the politicians in the State in question.

If I like to read Place to be Nation, do I really need the writers there to obtain a “bloggers license” so that I know I’m getting an officially “State-recognized” article”? Of course not. Yet, politicians in Philadelphia are requiring exactly that!

If I get quality haircuts from Sal’s Barbershop, and happily return once a month to get my haircut, does it really matter to me if Sal has paid an arbitrary fee to the State of California?

While many wrestling fans will point to this incident as a sign of TNA’s poor managerial structure – and they may certainly be correct in that assessment- we should be sure to point the fingers at the real villains responsible: the greedy politicians who sit around dreaming up what new things they can demand licenses for.