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How Taxes Destroyed the Myth of Pro “Wrestling”

Write-Off: The Tax Blog

I wrested in high school, and, have always had a little bit of a sore spot for what they call “wrestling” on TV—these people acting out some wrestling match, where chairs are thrown, stupid costumes are worn, and, the whole thing is pretty clearly a sham. You know what I am talking about—WWF, WrestleMania, Hulk Hogan, the piledriver, etc., etc., etc. Well, a long time back, World Wide Entertainment, one of the companies that is in charge of this type of fake wrestling, had to admit what it ran was a sham. All predetermined. Staged. Like an intricate ballet dance, but, smaller costumes, and larger bodies. Why? Taxes, of course.

Some states have different regulations, and taxes, that apply to athletic events. In New Jersey in particular, there was a 3 percent athletic tax imposed on athletic events. Such a tax did not apply to non-athletic events. In 1989, the WWF, related to the WWE, was going to have its WrestleMania in Atlantic City, New Jersey. None other than Donald Trump estimated that there could be a lot of tax savings in not being classified as a sport. So, the WWE confessed—the matches were all staged, predetermined, and, were not athletic events. This confession allowed them to avoid the tax on athletic events, as well as other regulations associated with athletic contests (mandatory physicals, etc.). As the New York Times put it:
“The promoters of professional wrestling have disclosed that their terrifying towers in spandex tights, massive creatures like Bam Bam Bigelow, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, are really no more dangerous to one another than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.”

So, there you have it. What took the mask off of pro wrestling? Taxes. Of course.

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