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Maryland State Athletic Commission Investigating ‘Lights Out Match’ At AEW Full Gear

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Maryland Athletic Commission Investigating ‘Lights Out Match’ At AEW Full Gear
Image: AEW / Lee South

AEW Under Investigation Following Match Between Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega At Full Gear PPV

The Maryland State Athletic Commission is investigating All Elite Wrestling following the ‘Unsanctioned Lights Out Match’ between John Moxley and Kennyy Omega at the Full Gear pay-per-view in Baltimore on 1/9.

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that the former WCW announcer Chris Cruise contacted the commission asking why rules outlined by the commission were not enforced.

Officials from the commission were at The Royal Farms Arena the night of the event, and had a doctor assigned to the show. According to the commission a formal investigation is being conducted, and they are not able to comment on the situation.

Check out the e-mail exchange between Chris Cruise and the Maryland State Athletic Commission below.

The following email exchange between me and the Maryland State Athletic Commission and the resulting column were prompted by a professional wrestling match that took place at the AWE PPV “Full Gear” on Sunday, November 9, 2019 at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. The professional wrestling news site WrestlingObserver.com reports there were 8,200 fans in attendance – “not sold out but relatively close.”

After reading reports about the match and seeing excerpts from it (I was not present at the event), I emailed the Maryland State Athletic Commission with a number of pointed questions. (To be blunt, the match sickened me.) Although I am a resident of Maryland and a working network radio news anchor and correspondent, anyone can make information requests of governmental agencies. I have been a journalist off and on for almost 50 years and, as do most journalists, pride myself on objectivity. But please note that what follows is a reported opinion column, not a news story. It is motivated by my disgust at the reported incident and my desire for professional wrestlers to be unionized so that such a bloody incident will not happen again.

In his November 18, 2019 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Editor Dave Meltzer discussed the match in general terms:

“The other top match, Jon Moxley’s win over Kenny Omega, drew a very wide range of feedback. I hated it, but also recognize that as far as the mental aspect of laying out a match and the physical aspect of doing it at a high level, it was a tremendous match and incredible spectacle. Many loved it and many hated it. There were people who left the building. Those who stayed reacted to it like it was an epic match. If this match took place exactly the same way in the 90s, when so much of this type of weapons and barbed wire stuff was novel enough, people would be calling it one of the greatest bouts of its type of all-time. Far worse stuff in ECW and FMW was praised at that level because it was a novelty. Today, it’s all been done. If you go with the idea that you want diversity on a card, there were plenty of great matches of different styles on the show, and a straight match between the two of them would have been just another.

I hated the Undertaker vs. Mick Foley Hell in a Cell match, but it also became historic. And as much as Foley hated when he read me say it would be what he is most remembered for as a wrestler, he also said this past week that over time, he recognizes that’s the case. And this match wasn’t nearly as dangerous, even though doing a Phoenix splash on wood with no padding hardly qualifies as safe. To show how polarizing it was, it not only got best match on a show loaded with great matches, but also third for worst match. In feedback we got, most of it ranged from ****3/4 to *****, while plenty also listed it as * or lower. Anyway, I get that the thought process had far more depth than most matches, even though to some the weapons usage would feel like mindless weapons use and violence for the sake of violence and shock value. I also recognized the performances from both guys were great. To me, when it comes to a Lights Out match, I’d rather see a violent fight, perhaps with some weapons use, than a ton of weapons use where it’s just about weapons use and the element of the fight is a very distant second.”

Meltzer then reviewed the match in detail:

“Jon Moxley pinned Kenny Omega in 38:45 of a lights out match. So what was great here was the storytelling and execution. As far as what they were doing itself, that’s a different issue. It’s a divisive match. A few minutes in, Moxley outright said they were doing a garbage match. Moxley used garbage can lid shots to the head. Omega tackled him to the floor and threw him over the barricade. Omega ran on the floor and jumped over the barricade with a dropkick on Moxley which was a great spot. He threw beer on Moxley and did a double foot stomp on him with a garbage can on Moxley. Omega threw another beer on him. Omega went for a moonsault off the barricade but Moxley shoved him off. Moxley suplexed him on the ground and pulled out a barbed wire bat. He used a bat to the back three times and Omega had multiple small cuts on his back. He stomped on the bat which was on Omega’s back. Omega came back with a piledriver on a garbage can. Omega pulled out a barbed wire board. Moxley went for a tope and hit a barbed wire broom. Omega was stomping the broom onto Moxley’s back and now he was bleeding from the back. Omega gave Moxley a double foot stomp into barbed wire. He drove the barbed wire broom into Moxley’s forehead and gave him a drop toe hold into the broom. Omega did a moonsault while holding a garbage can although in landing, Omega hit Moxley but the can really didn’t. Omega pulled out a board with mouse traps but Moxley suplexed Omega onto the mouse traps. Moxley was at this point covered in blood. Moxley pulled out gold chains and gave Omega a sidewalk slam on the chains, a neckbreaker on the chains and a camel clutch with the chains. Moxley was choking Omega with the chains when Omega broke the choke with garbage can lid shots. Moxley then brought out a screwdriver. Omega came back with two snap dragon suplexes and Moxley went to bite him over the eye like Moxley did in the Juice Robinson match. Omega finally hit the Terminator dive that drove Moxley through a table on the floor. Omega pulled out broken glass, with the idea it was the glass from the table Moxley DDT’d him through. Omega stomped on the glass and poured it on the mat. He put Moxley in a sharpshooter but Moxley had to crawl across the glass to get to the ropes, which wasn’t a rope break but allowed him to pull himself up to alleviate the pressure. Omega picked up the glass and put it in Moxley’s mouth. By the way, this was gimmicked glass. Omega hit a series of V triggers and got the screwdriver and drove it into Moxley’s forehead. The Young Bucks brought out a barbed wire spider web after Omega kept screaming to get it. Moxley suplexed Omega off the ramp and both took the bump into the spider web. Moxley started punching the security guys. This barbed wire appeared gimmicked since unlike earlier, nobody came up from it bleeding. Moxley used a paradigm shift on the glass for a near fall. Moxley began cutting the string holding the canvas down. He then undid the canvas and the padding so there were nothing but exposed boards. Moxley tried a Gotch piledriver, but Omega reversed and Moxley took a back body drop on the boards. Omega hit a V trigger and a paradigm shift on the boards but Moxley kicked out. Omega missed a Phoenix splash and crashed on the boards. Moxley finally got the pin with the Death Rider, a high angle paradigm shift on the boards. ****½”

On Sunday, November 10, 2019, I emailed the following questions to Patrick Pannella, the Executive Director of the Maryland State Athletic Commission, Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing, Maryland Department of Labor:

What are the MSAC rules on intentional bleeding (“blading”) during a professional wrestling match? Is it allowed?

What are the MSAC rules regarding continuation of a professional wrestling match when a performer is bleeding, either intentionally or unintentionally?

Who was in attendance from your office at the AEW event last night in Baltimore? And was there a commission doctor in attendance?

Please let me know if the above-requested information can be provided pursuant to this request or whether I need to file a request under the Maryland FOIA.

I did not receive a reply to this request by the following Wednesday, either in substance or acknowledging receipt thereof, so, on the morning of Wednesday, November 13 I sent the following email message:

What is the status of this information request?

A little over four hours later, I received the following reply via email from Mr. Pannella:

Thank you for your e-mail inquiry sent to the Maryland State Athletic Commission (“Commission”). Please be advised that the Commission is presently preparing an e-mail response to send to you.

The Commission appreciates your interest.

About an hour later I replied:

Thank you.

I look forward to receiving a reply to my questions.

Would you kindly point me to the place on the Commission website where the regulations are posted regarding the Commission’s duties, responsibilities and obligations toward professional wrestlers and promoters?

Thank you.

On Saturday morning, November 16, having received no reply, I wrote the following:

Mr. Panella:

When will I receive my reply?

Also, where are Commission records stored?

Early on the evening of Thursday, November 21 I received the following reply:

Thank you for contacting the Maryland State Athletic Commission (“Commission”) via e-mail. The Commission appreciates your concerns, and is responding to your questions posed as follows.

Commission regulations prohibit a wrestler or wrestlers from engaging in deliberately lacerating oneself or one’s opponent or, by any other means, introducing human or animal blood into the ring.

As noted, introducing blood into the ring is a prohibited activity. See, COMAR 09.14.08.03(F)(1)(m). Continuing to bleed in the ring is an action which the Commission takes into consideration when considering what course of disciplinary action to potentially take against a licensee who has been found to violate this regulation.

I was in attendance at the referenced AEW event. The Commission was represented by its executive director and an inspector. A physician was assigned as is standard practice to perform pre-bout physical exams of all participating wrestlers and referees.

Please be advised, further, that the Commission is currently conducting a formal investigation regarding the referenced matter. In consideration of the fact that the Commission is in the midst of an investigation, it respectfully cannot comment further on the matter at this time. The Commission will be pleased to contact you when the aforementioned investigation is completed so that it may apprise you of any Commission action taken in this regard.

With regard to your separate inquiry relating to the Commission’s “duties, responsibilities and obligations toward professional wrestlers and promoters”, the Commission will be pleased to send you separate e-mail correspondence in this regard.

Patrick Pannella

Here is a link to the regulation Mr. Panella referenced in his reply: http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/comarhtml/…/09.14.08.03.htm

This morning (November 22), I sent Mr. Panella the following reply:

Mr. Panella:

I thank you and the Commission for your prompt and thorough reply to my information request.

As you note, “Commission regulations prohibit a wrestler or wrestlers from engaging in deliberately lacerating oneself or one’s opponent or, by any other means, introducing human or animal blood into the ring….See, COMAR 09.14.08.03(F)(1)(m). Continuing to bleed in the ring is an action which the Commission takes into consideration when considering what course of disciplinary action to potentially take against a licensee who has been found to violate this regulation.”
How often, since the implementation of the above-referenced regulation and its predecessors, has the Commission taken action against a licensee for “engaging in deliberately lacerating oneself or one’s opponent or, by any other means, introducing human or animal blood into the ring,” and what action was taken?

I request that you provide me all records pertaining to the referenced AEW event, including the names and duties of all Commission representatives and the names and duties of all medical professionals at the event, including the physician. Also, please provide the results of the physician’s pre-bout physical exams of all participating wrestlers and referees.

As you noted, “the Commission is currently conducting a formal investigation regarding the referenced matter. In consideration of the fact that the Commission is in the midst of an investigation, it respectfully cannot comment further on the matter at this time. The Commission will be pleased to contact you when the aforementioned investigation is completed so that it may apprise you of any Commission action taken in this regard.” Please contact me when the aforementioned investigation is completed so that the Commission may apprise me of any Commission action taken in this regard.

I request that you provide me with all publicly available information about Commission members and staff, including compensation.

Please send me, as you indicated you would be pleased to do, information regarding the Commission’s “duties, responsibilities and obligations toward professional wrestlers and promoters.”

As you know, professional wrestlers are not protected by membership in a Union; the only protections afforded them are those included in federal and state labor laws and Commission rules and regulations. This makes Commission supervision especially important in the protection of professional wrestlers and referees and other performers associated with a licensee, particularly when the performers are asked by a promoter to engage in acts that can cause long-lasting physical harm to themselves and others and may cause blood to fall on members of the audience.

I look forward to receiving the above-requested information and hope that the Commission will act expeditiously and firmly in its proceedings regarding this matter. As you noted in a previous email, the Commission has rules against intentional laceration; I call upon the Commission to enforce this rule.

I followed up the above e-mail with a second email on November 22:

Mr. Pannella:

As the Commission may know, Dave Meltzer of WrestlingObserver.com has written for many years about professional wrestling. I am as a courtesy forwarding you excerpts from his November 18, 2019 newsletter in which he writes about the professional wrestling match in question. The newsletter is available by subscription. The November 18 newsletter is at: https://members.f4wonline.com/…/november-18-2019-observer-n…

Video excerpts of the match in question can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDe2a2FN2qs

A fan discussion (“Did AEW Full Gear Go Too Far?”) can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN4MEog_lhU

Another discussion of the match can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChTfuXfEJe4

I would encourage the Commission to demand the full recording of the match from the promoter licensee. And I would encourage the Commission to look strongly at its rules, regulations and practices to determine what can be done to stop a match like this from ever again occurring in Maryland.

Cruise later indicated he would be asking the Commission why the following rules were not enforced, based on official State guidelines.

I’ll be asking the Maryland State Athletic Commission why it didn’t enforce its own rules at AEW Full Gear. Here are some of those rules. See esp. (m).

F. Prohibited Activities.

(1) The following actions are prohibited:

(a) Striking an opponent with a fist or using the knuckles;

(b) Scratching or gouging the opponent;

(c) Butting the opponent;

(d) Slamming an opponent into a ring post;

(e) Striking an opponent with a foreign object;

(f) Kicking an opponent unless a recognized wrestling move;

(g) Stranglehold;

(h) Pulling hair;

(i) Inhibiting breathing by covering the nose and mouth at the same time;

(j) Jumping from the ring ropes onto an opponent;

(k) Deliberately leaving the ring enclosure during a contest;

(l) Unsportsmanlike or physically dangerous conduct; and

(m) Deliberately lacerating oneself or one’s opponent, or, by any other means, introducing human or animal blood into the ring.

(2) A wrestler continuing to engage in prohibited activities after sufficient warning may be disqualified by the referee.

We have sent a message to All Elite Wrestling asking if they have any comment on the matter. As of this writing no reply was given.

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