Archive for November, 2009

Chris Benoit Story Takes Dave Meltzer & Company Out of Their Comfort Zone

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“Dave’s reaction to your book seems odd and he does a hell of a job covering wrestling, so I’d like to see a concrete response from him about all of this at some point before making a judgment.”

I agree with all parts of these observations about Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter by Sean Radican of Pro Wrestling Torch. The next question is, “Why?”

It is now commonly accepted by many people of various political persuasions that the American media failed to expose the flaws in President Bush’s claim that Iraq was well along in its development of weapons of mass destruction – the major immediate justification for launching the war there.

Most of the sports media now agree, in retrospect, that it was wrong to hoot down Steve Wilstein, the Associated Press reporter who noticed that Mark McGwire had a jar of androstenedione, a steroid precursor then banned by many other sports, while he was setting his baseball home run record in 1998.

Yet in wrestling, Meltzer, with a spasm of macho posturing, so far refuses to confront levels of the Benoit story that he both helped me research and himself ignored or downplayed at the time.

Sean Radican has said “everyone should read CHRIS & NANCY.” Whether or not you ultimately share his generous conclusion that it’s “a very compelling read,” I don’t think his core recommendation can be responsibly denied by fans who profess concern for the performers they spend hundreds of hours a year cheering and booing.

At the conclusion of my interview Monday on Hardcore Sports Radio’s UnderScore, host Sarah Meehan said: “I know what you’re saying. With respect to the fans and the way that fans react to things, this isn’t OK what continues to happen in and around the world of professional wrestling…. And regardless of the filters through which we view the sport or the entertainment that it is, it still is a very real phenomenon what happens to these people.”

Irv Muchnick


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Reviews of CHRIS & NANCY can be viewed at these links:

Mark Hanzlik / Sacramento News & Review

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1317548

Randy Shaw / Beyond Chron

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

David Bixenspan / SLAM! Wrestling
http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html

Writer Anthony Roberts
http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651

Rich Tate / Georgia Wrestling History
http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210

Joe Babinsack / Wrestling Observer
http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/

Muchnick’s Interview on ‘UnderScore’ (Hardcore Sports Radio) in Podcast Form

The November 23 interview of Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death’, on UnderScore on Hardcore Sports Radio (Sirius Satellite Radio 98 or hardcoresportsradio.com), with host Sarah Meehan, can be heard at http://muchnick.net/underscore112309.mp3.

An Exchange with Sean Radican of Pro Wrestling Torch

Sean Radican (Pro Wrestling Torch writer and radio host) emailed today. On November 5, Sean wrote on Twitter, “Everyone should read Chris & Nancy by Irv Muchnick. It is a very compelling read.”

Irv, I have been meaning to ask you and I don’t think it was addressed in the book. Once WWE management knew Benoit was most likely the killer before the tribute show aired, what should they have done in your opinion?

I don’t think the AP reported Benoit as the likely killer until after Raw was already on the air and one thing I’ve been thinking about is that WWE wouldn’t be the ones to break that news to the public.

I responded:
Sean, you ask a good question, and you are right that CHRIS & NANCY didn’t address it. I was more interested in what happened than in what didn’t happen. Also, you’ll recall that I had some sympathy for those who would defend WWE against reflexive anti-wrestling critics who were always quick to use this or any other excuse to pile on. And I said as much on MSNBC on June 26, 2007. I really only focused on the phony tribute show after Meltzer strongly encouraged me to do so. Dave hadn’t made that big a deal out of it in his own contemporaneous coverage, and when it became apparent that he had been privy to virtual smoking-gun evidence, I found his muting of that story illustrative of a revealing characteristic of all the coverage.
The short answer to your question is, I don’t know what WWE should have done. I know they shouldn’t have published two timelines; had McDevitt tell the media that none of Benoit’s drugs were from Internet pharmacies; run fast and hard with the Fragile X diversion; or told AP that the Wikipedia edit preceded Benoit’s final text messages.
Though I didn’t write this in the book, some have suggested that they should have just canceled their programming that night. That’s what the Cincinnati Reds did when umpire John McSherry died of a heart attack minutes after the first pitch on Opening Day in 1996. That’s what the Chicago Cubs did after the St. Louis Cardinals’ Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in 2002. That’s what the Los Angeles Angels did when Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year.
Some of the people who made this suggestion didn’t even do so on humanitarian grounds, but simply because, for any business other than pro wrestling, it would be Discretion 101 not to say or do much of anything until more was known.

 

 

Here is Sean’s last word, and it’s a good one:

I’ve been trying to make sense of all of the information from your book and it’s a load to handle. I’m wondering why the issues you brought in the book weren’t pursued by the journalists that knew about them. I thought Meltzer’s coverage of the Benoit incident was strong. I thought the Torch’s coverage of the incident was very strong as well as it happened and in the aftermath. Dave’s reaction to your book seems odd and he does a hell of a job covering wrestling, so I’d like to see a concrete response from him about all of this at some point before making a judgment.
I think another story coming out of all of this extends down to wrestling ignoring all of the evidence of the damage of blunt-force trauma to the brain through chairshots and various moves where wrestlers get dropped right on their head. It’s a real shame there was no awakening in the industry as a result of the Benoit incident.
I’ve stopped rating matches where there’s an abundance of dangerous chairshots, head-dropping, etc…. I see it mostly in TNA and ROH. TNA is the worst when it comes to dangerous in-ring activity. Their wrestlers just about kill themselves in the ring. It’s a huge concern of mine.

CHRIS & NANCY Holiday Errata Project

Earlier this month Dave Meltzer offered an odd Wrestling Observer Newsletter Good Housekeeping Seal in a post on his website’s discussion board: “Irv had a story to write, and his story was how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon. Whether the truth jived [sic] with the story was immaterial.”

One sentence later — and with no indicaton that he grasped the contradiction — Meltzer wrote: “… I [helped] him proof his book.”

Why Dave chose to frame this non-review review of CHRIS & NANCY in personal terms, as a false “claim” by me of a “falling out” between us that he full well knows I’ve never made, is a mystery. I think most intelligent readers would prefer, instead, that he proceed with his usual thorough job of reviewing a book’s findings and interpretations.

In my own words, among the many findings and interpretations of CHRIS & NANCY is the story of how the wrestling media, catering to their fans, downplayed or self-censored stories about the Benoit case – precisely when their unique knowledge of a peculiar industry could have had the hygienic effect of lending momentum to calls for reform by challenging WWE’s credibility. Examples in the book:

*  To my knowledge, neither Meltzer’s nor any other major fan organ has examined why WWE published two different timelines of events prior to the discovery of the Benoit murder-suicide.

* Also never reported, certainly not in any depth, were the implications of the 30-hour gap between when Chavo Guerrero and Scott Armstrong received Chris Benoit’s final text messages and when WWE called 911.

* Meltzer, again setting an understandable but unhelpful tone for the fan media coverage, dismissed any possible significance in the premature edit of Benoit’s Wikipedia page, which later proved to have connections to these timeline issues.

(My book also breaks a fourth story, about the strange and immediate presence of Dave Taylor near the crime scene, which Meltzer and company likewise have failed to pick up.)

One answer to the question of whether I take seriously the responsibility of making the truth “jive” with the story came more than a year before CHRIS & NANCY was published. In June 2008, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt complained that I was mistaken in asserting on my blog that the company had sat for an extended period on information about certain wrestlers’ purchases of steroids and growth hormone from Signature Pharmacy. I immediately ran a correction. For his part, Meltzer never reported either WWE’s legal threats (a story in itself) or my response to them. In the process, he issued a lookaway pass to the base source: erroneous information in a prominent and nearly year-old Observer report (which, by the way, never resulted in a complaint from WWE and was never corrected).

Below is a list of the factual errors and problems that readers of CHRIS & NANCY so far have brought to my attention, followed by my responses. Anyone wishing to add to the list can email errata@muchnick.net; cc newstips@wrestlingobserver.com.

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Johnny Grunge’s real name

In his review for SLAM! Wrestling, writer David Bixenspan  noted  that Johnny Grunge’s last name was incorrectly rendered as “Dunham.” His name was Michael Durham.

*****

Chavo Guerrero’s clip on the June 25, 2007, Raw

Also in the SLAM! review, Bixenspan wrote that I erred in stating that Chavo Guerrero’s remembrance of Benoit on the WWE website was different from the testimonial Guerrero did on Raw. I believe Bixenspan is correct: the clip transcribed by me on pages 117-18 of the book was not a web exclusive but simply a reposting of his Raw speech that night.

My source was Meltzer, but there could have been confusion in our exchange of emails on this point. In order to assess all this, Dave would have to add his explanation to mine here. He said nothing about the passage when he fact-checked the book.

Since Meltzer had reported that both Chavo Guerrero and William Regal either looked out of the ordinary or said things out of the ordinary on Raw, I sought the precise example for the former. (Regal’s example was crystal-clear: he said in his interview that Benoit was the best wrestler he’d ever faced, but otherwise wanted to reserve comment.) I came across a Chavo clip that had been posted at wwe.com. I mentioned to Meltzer that it seemed straightforward – so I wondered if this was a web-exclusive clip recorded at a different time. Meltzer replied that yes, it was. Perhaps he misunderstood the question. Or perhaps Meltzer thought there was something subtle in Chavo’s clip that I missed. Or Meltzer’s report of Chavo’s withdrawn demeanor was based on something else entirely in the June 25, 2007, edition of Raw. Again, Dave would have to speak up to clarify that. But David Bixenspan was right in calling out this factual error.

*****

Scott James / Scott Armstrong

A reader complained that it was awkward and misleading for me to refer to Scott throughout the book as “Scott Armstrong,” after footnoting, in the first reference, without further explanation, that the police report called him “Scott James.”

I should have explained that Scott Armstrong is his wrestling name and Scott James is his real name. My sole intention here was to use throughout the name with which most readers were most familiar. I was not intending to imply that the authorities’ use of his legal name had any significance one way or the other.

*****

“Three Amigos”

A reader complained  that “Three Amigos” was the name of the late Eddie Guerrero’s finishing move (a series of suplexes) – not a term to describe the bond of Guerrero, Benoit, and Dean Malenko.

Mike Benoit, Chris’s father, was the source for the statement that Guerrero, Benoit, and Malenko privately called themselves the Three Amigos. I did not say, nor intend to say, that this was an official gimmick or group, such as the Four Horsemen.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick Interview Today on Hardcore Sports Radio

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed today, Monday, November 23, by host Sarah Meehan on UnderScore on Hardcore Sports Radio. The interview is at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time (12:30 Pacific). Hardcore Sports Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 98, also streams programming both live and in podcast archives at http://hardcoresportsradio.com.

Reviews of CHRIS & NANCY can be viewed at these links:

Mark Hanzlik / Sacramento News & Review

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1317548

Randy Shaw / Beyond Chron

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

David Bixenspan / SLAM! Wrestling
http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html

Writer Anthony Roberts
http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651

Rich Tate / Georgia Wrestling History
http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210

Joe Babinsack / Wrestling Observer
http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/

Author-Blogger Anthony Roberts on Brock Lesnar

See “Brock Lesnar anabolic steroid speculation,” http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/2009/11/brock-lesnar-anabolic-steroid-speculation/.

Another Linda McMahon Senate Campaign Note

Last week USA Today did a story about the political candidates who have poured the most of their own money into their campaigns (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-11-09-self-fund_N.htm). Linda McMahon — the erstwhile CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, now running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Connecticut — led the list, having “self-funded” 99.9 percent, or $3,496,778, of her $3,501,684 raised.

Less than $5,000 raised for a campaign that is projected to spend $30 million? Get that lady a copy of Bake Sales for Dummies!

For some reasoon, that reminds me of a story from 1984.

This was the breakout year of the then-World Wrestling Federation’s expansion from a regional promotion in the Northeast to one spanning North America. It was also the year of the great “babyface” turn of bad guy Sgt. Slaughter, who became the troupe’s second-most-popular wrestler (behind only Hulk Hogan) in the wake of a feud with Iran’s hated Iron Sheik.

And it was the year of Ronald Reagan’s reelection, the house on the hill, Rambo, superpatriot camp, the hijacking of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” — in other words, a lot like 2009, only tamer. The nervous breakdown of American popular culture was just getting warmed up.

From that phenomenon emerged Robert (Sgt. Slaughter) Remus, who became so full of himself that he got into a dispute with Vince McMahon over his fair share of the revenues from his action figures, tried to organize the boys into a union, and got himself fired. He took the act over to Verne Gagne’s hapless American Wrestling Association, but the magic was gone.

But during that silly summer of 1984, Slaughter fronted a series of spots  on WWF syndicated television shows in which he proclaimed himself the honorary chairman of the fundraising campaign of the Statue of Liberty Foundation. A special post office box donation address flashed on the screen at the conclusion of the spots.

Curious, I wrote to Lee Iacocca, the auto executive who was the real chair of the foundation, to find out him how much money the good sergeant actually raised. I didn’t get a response at first, but I persisted. Finally, an assistant wrote back.

“We received $63 in donations,” she reported, “and several nice notes.”

 

Irv Muchnick

 


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