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  Nov 17, 1999

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Stampede calls fee bitter pill

By TERRY SMITH -- Special to the Edmonton Sun

Stampede Wrestling is grappling with a city bylaw in a bout that could mean death in this town for Alberta's founding fakers of wrasslin' and rolling.

The show's backers say a $250 fee for medical checks for wrestlers before every show has the company in a stranglehold.

'Wrong culprit'
Stampede Wrestling promoter Kurt Sorochan says the checks are ridiculous.

"We're sports entertainment - more like circus clowns - and shouldn't be classified under the same commission as boxing."

But Ron Hayter, director of the Edmonton Boxing and Wrestling Commission, says the medical checks will remain - and he doubts the small fee is crippling the grapplers.

"This issue is a just smokescreen, because they're not pulling the crowds," said Hayter. "The last show at NAIT had no more than 70 paying guests.

"I think they're pointing the finger at the wrong culprit," said Hayter.

And the medical doctor who does the checks said they may be saving lives.

"We're not putting wrestlers in the ring who will leave in an ambulance," said Dr. Shelby Karpman, adding many wrestlers work 250 days a year, do not eat or sleep properly, smoke, are overweight and engage in strenuous athletics.

The ringside checks, he said, can catch obvious problems such as high blood pressure and heart palpitations - sometimes just by looking the fighter in the eye.

"The eye is the window to the brain. You can look for swelling, diabetes and retina detachment."

But Stampede Wrestling wants yearly check-ups, rather than what promoter Sorochan labels as superficial exams.

"It's a close family, you wouldn't put your own family at risk," said Sorochan.

Bruce Hart, member of the famous Hart family behind Stampede Wrestling, said the Edmonton bylaw is unique.

"No where else in Western Canada do we have to comply with a medical check," said Hart. "It's a money grab."

According to Hart, son of pro-wrestling pioneer Stu Hart, the family started up again in Edmonton last spring on the premise that the medical check requirement would be dropped.

Now, Hart said, Stampede Wrestling, which came back to Edmonton after a 10-year hiatus, could be on the ropes.

"I'm not trying to go to war with Hayter," said Hart, "I just feel like we're being bullied."