The inconsistent public perception of pro wrestling is a very serious issue for former pro wrestlers as I recently found out when I was involved in an altercation in which I was forced to physically defend myself.

Upon retiring from pro wrestling, I entered the workforce in the regular world. This can be a dark journey that some wrestlers aren’t able to make. You don’t always get the same respect that you may be accustomed to. In fact, it has been my experience that some people just have to test you.

The altercation happened when a workplace bully could not intimidate me, and out of frustration, he assaulted me. Fortunately, I was able to defend myself effectively. As a result, I was terminated from the company. My firing became a case for arbitration, brought forth by a powerful labor union on my behalf.

Cartoon by Donna Jean.

The hearing was conducted by Mr. Thomas F. Levak who according to the University of Oregon’s Quarterly Newspaper is not only a veteran attorney and arbitrator but he is a member of the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as a result of his over 250 gold medals and trophies including 15 world masters titles.

Mr. Levak opened the hearing bragging about his accomplishments in the martial arts. During the hearing, the opposing attorney brought up the fact that I am a former pro wrestler and proceeded to portray me as a “tough guy” pro wrestler who goes around punching people. He was interrupted by Mr. Levak who said, “it doesn’t matter if Mr. Olsen is a former pro wrestler because not all pro wrestlers are good fighters.” He had a smirk on his face when he made that statement and then proceeded to have a few laughs at the expense of pro wrestling. He also described details about pro wrestling that exposed the fact that he was a fan, even though he was mocking it.

One month later when Mr. Levak made the final decision on the case, he did an about face on the pro wrestling issue and ruled against us, largely because I am a former pro wrestler. In his final decision, he wrote, “Mr. Olsen’s professional wrestling knowledge, his demonstrated ability to assume a solid defensive posture, and his overall physical condition, all would have enabled him to easily back away from his attacker without endangering himself.” I don’t lose sight of the fact that by making that statement, Mr. Levak is giving pro wrestling a lot of respect and I appreciate that, especially because he showed no respect in the hearing. Nonetheless, a Grand Master in the martial arts having the ludicrous notion that someone in good physical condition, who can assume a solid defensive posture, should not have the right to defend themselves is over shadowed only by Mr. Levak’s inconsistent perception of pro wrestling.

In the hearing, Mr. Levak used pro wrestling to get some laughs, implying that it was a joke. Then he used pro wrestling in the decision to rule against us, when he stated that my professional wrestling knowledge would have helped me, implying that it is serious business. We lost the decision, costing me and the labor union thousands of dollars.

A casual fan having inconsistent perceptions of pro wrestling hurts no one, but Mr. Levak is not a casual fan, he is an attorney and arbitrator making legally binding decisions based on his inconsistent perceptions of pro wrestling. These decisions affect people’s lives.

In my case, it cost me a lot of money. What price will be paid by the next pro wrestler in the same situation? Will pro wrestling be perceived as fake or real? Or will the decision be made by someone like arbitrator Thomas F. Levak who can’t make up his mind what he thinks. Either way, we know who pays the price.


Todd “Oly” Olsen wrestled professionally for 15 years.