Archive for November, 2009



Superstar Billy Graham, Disgruntled Former Independent Contractor

The retired wrestler Superstar Billy Graham, once a champion of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment), is hitting the media and campaign bricks to denounce Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, wife of Vince and until recently CEO of WWE.

This story in the Hartford Courant covers it all: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-superstar-mcmahon-critic-111.artnov18,0,2728609.story.

I have only one thing to add. According to the Courant, Graham is a “bitter former employee.”

Actually he’s a bitter former independent contractor. Remember, pro wrestlers are not employees.

 

Irv Muchnick

‘The Agassi Exception’ … Today at Beyond Chron

“The Agassi Exception: Do ‘Performance Inhibitors’ Deserve a Libertine’s Pass?”

http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=7554#more

In Answer to James Caldwell’s Question …

“What do you think” of Google Books Settlement 2.0, see:

Until You’ve Studied James Grimmelman on Google Settlement 2.0, Don’t Bother Me

http://freelancerights.blogspot.com/2009/11/until-youve-studied-james-grimmelman-on.html

 

Irv Muchnick

Thank You, James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch

I opened my email this morning to the most important message I’ve received in some time.

It was from James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch. And no, it had nothing to do with Chris Benoit or pro wrestling. That’s the point.

Though I’ve never talked about it with him, James apparently knows that, in my other life, I’m a writers’ rights activist, a former executive at the National Writers Union who became a litigation consultant and then led a slate of objectors to a global class-action settlement against periodical publishers and electronic database companies for ripping off freelance journalists’ previously published works. After 15 years of work in this area, including more than five on the objections in this case, it is before the United States Supreme Court. With perfect pitch, in my humble opinion, the justices renamed the case Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick. Oral argument was heard on October 7, and a ruling should be issued some time between now and June.

Meanwhile, a highly publicized proposed settlement of the infringing practices of Google’s book-scanning project is before U.S. District Court in New York. I am not involved in that case, but its issues are related to mine. Yesterday was the deadline for the parties to file a revised settlement in response to hundreds of objections and comments from authors, foreign governments, and the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

The revised settlement was filed late yesterday, and James Caldwell’s email forwarded to me a link to an instant analysis of it from The Wall Street Journal.

“What do you think?” James asked – that was his entire message.

Well, James, the short answer to your question is that I don’t yet know what I think. I will, however, be closely reading the new settlement language and the coverage of it, and I’ll be commenting on my other blog, http://freelancerights.blogspot.com.

In the meantime, my sincere thanks for taking the time to ask.  Since email is such a blunt instrument, there is no way for me to know if your query was naïve, earnest, or sarcastic. Most emails don’t flaunt their agendas. They are just emails.

But whether this was your intention or not, your email had the effect on me of a nudge. A nudge away from Benoit and on to something else, anything else. And for that, James, I thank you.

Clearly, I’ve taken my latest round of getting in the faces of wrestling fans and their journalists about as far as it can go. Dave Meltzer, among others, believes I have pushed the envelope too hard in my effort to promote my book and the culture of death it exposes. In my judgment, Dave has not pushed the envelope hard enough. It is a disagreement.

So at this point, in addition to thanking James Caldwell, I want to thank Bryan Alvarez, who also does not share my viewpoint on all things Benoit, for giving a struggling author a discounted rate on the advertisement for CHRIS & NANCY currently running on the secondary pages of the Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 website.

I also want to thank David Bixenspan (SLAM! Wrestling), Joe Babinsack (Observer/Figure 4 website), and Rich Tate (GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com) for their thoughtful reviews. Thanks in the future to all others who take the time to write thoughtful reviews.

Thanks, too, to Derek Burgan (Pro Wrestling Torch), who has put himself out there in support of my work on various Internet radio shows and discussion boards.

Finally, thanks and Happy Holidays to Dave Meltzer, whom I have read for many years and anticipate reading for many more to come. I can only echo all the positive things I said about Dave in Chapter 11 and the Acknowledgments of my book.

Dave, maybe some day you and I and your world can go ’round and ‘round again on the real background of another controversial tale of mine, which is not part of CHRIS & NANCY: the story of Randy Orton and the suicide attempt.

But that’s for another day. Right now, let’s move things over to Freelance Rights.

 

Irv Muchnick

Dave Meltzer’s Weak Defense of CHRIS & NANCY Review Blackout

Dave Meltzer, by far the most influential journalist in pro wrestling, continues to hide behind the pack mentality of his lowest-common-denominator readers.

He is defending, none too persuasively, his stubborn refusal to explain in any depth what he thinks of my book about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. And he is doing so on a sophomoric discussion board on the premium version of his website, rather than in his widely read Wrestling Observer Newsletter. This is intellectually dishonest.

Yesterday, from Great Britain (where is covering the next UFC mixed-martial arts event for Yahoo Sports), Meltzer went on his board to issue his latest papal bull. “How many wrestling books have come out in the last five years? How many have I reviewed? Let me know the percentage,” he wrote.

As Meltzer knew, most of the replies were variations of “hear, hear!” – but these were also predictably crude and shallow. It was a pathetic bit of pandering from someone who knows better.

Moreover, Meltzer still didn’t win everyone over.

“I think Dave’s original reporting on the murders was excellent, some of his best work ever under the most trying of circumstances,” one poster said. “However, I wouldn’t go so far to say it was flawless or Dave uncovered everything there was to know about the tragedies. You can certainly disagree with some of his opinions. I for one thought he went way too easy on WWE for paying tribute to someone they knew was a murderer, even though he was gutsy enough to break that story.”

The poster, “kjharris,” added: “We also know Dave helped Irv by fact checking [CHRIS & NANCY]. Assuming Dave was diligent in doing this and Irv took Dave’s advice, which to be fair may be faulty assumptions, there shouldn’t be many factual errors in the book. So most disagreements will be based on Irv’s interpretation of the facts, which should be open to some debate.”

In conclusion, this person said, “It’s unusual though for a pretty important book release to get completely ignored like Chris & Nancy has been. Most noteworthy books at least get a paragraph in the appropriate section talking about how good the book is and any new information that is broken in the book at the time of their release.”

Obviously, Meltzer can review or not review whatever books he chooses. What is at issue is that he regards himself as a serious adult, and most of the time he acts like one. The preponderance of intelligent opinion is that he and his work would be well served by his going on the record about CHRIS & NANCY with more than a couple of throwaway lines on a discussion board.

As another poster pointed out, my book is about a few things more important than “who is going to be in the main event of the next Wrestlemania.”

Irv Muchnick

‘Muchnick goes where no one else cares to go’ — Sacramento News & Review

Full text of Mark Hanzlik’s review in the Sacramento News & Review of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is viewable at this link:

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

Dave Meltzer’s Correspondence With Me Exposes ‘Uncomfortable But Necessary Question’

As I’ve been discussing on this blog, Dave Meltzer – whose Wrestling Observer Newsletter covers its industry obsessively and often brilliantly – so far has found it beneath his dignity to review my new book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death.

To put this in perspective, CHRIS & NANCY is the only book looking seriously at the official record of one of the biggest general crime stories of 2007, as well as one of the biggest stories in wrestling history. It is also, almost certainly, the current bestselling independently published wrestling book in America (trailing only Hulk Hogan’s new book and various authorized biographies and pap published under the WWE imprint).

Instead of writing a review – good, bad, or indifferent – in which he focuses his unmatched body of knowledge on important issues raised by the book, Meltzer chose to go on a tiny discussion board at his own subscription website to dismiss my unremarkable answer to a question by a podcast interviewer about my book’s criticism of the Observer’s coverage of the Benoit story.

With exaggerated rhetoric designed to marginalize that criticism rather than grapple honestly with it, Meltzer said, “Irv had a story to write, and the story was how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon.  Whether the truth jived [sic] with the story was immaterial.”

Is that really the story of CHRIS & NANCY? Readers will have to decide that one for themselves.

In so deciding, they should also, I think, be asking themselves why the usually prolix Meltzer, in this instance, seems to think that such an obscurely planted and unsubstantiated pronouncement substitutes for a proper review.

As I recount in CHRIS & NANCY, Dave and I have been friends since 1984.My criticism of aspects of his work was leveled privately and unflinchingly before the book was published.

It was also expressed in our voluminous email correspondence during the research of the book, on which he was a tremendous help. (“Tremendous help” may be an understatement: he fact-checked my manuscript before it was submitted to my publisher. This makes especially puzzling his suddenly risen charge that I did not exercise due diligence.)

Let’s look at one sliver of that correspondence. On November 24, 2008, I sent Meltzer an email with the subject line “Uncomfortable but necessary question.” Here is the full text:

I ask this respectfully, and with the goal of being accurate about emotions as well as facts.

Since you realized by the middle of the Raw tribute feed that Vince had to know he was honoring a murderer, (a) why didn’t you just say so directly at the time? and (b) why, specifically, would you write without qualification that Vince was terrific that day with his distraught wrestlers in Corpus Christi, when you knew he was actually working them as props for the tribute?

My first take on the answers:

One, I get the vibe that in your decades of covering this peculiar and complex industry, you have real sympathy for the point of view that the show must go on. (You also refused to judge Vince for his on-the-fly PPV decisions with the Pillman and Owen Hart deaths, and if anything, you were closer to Pillman in particular than to Benoit.)

Two, you didn’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy while they were piling on. Dan Abrams and the other cable TV people didn’t do any serious work in raising the suspicion that WWE knew, and they probably would have issued the same charge/innuendo even if they had known full well knew that it wouldn’t prove out. I felt that tug of fairness myself, and I obviously am not nearly as much of a fan as you are. But despite my distaste for pandering to the anti-wresting crowd, I don’t know that I could have withheld confirmation of such an important basic fact. I feel, and I don’t think you disagree, that the Raw-was-a-work story was important beyond the general proposition that wrestling promoters routinely lie; it was important in the sense that wrestling’s ultimate insane premature deaths could give legs to meaningful scrutiny of a scandalously inadequate wellness policy, which in turn might spur reforms.

Irv


Here is Dave’s November 26 reply:

I really didn’t seriously think about the ramifications until a few days later.  Vince was terrific with distraught wrestlers and it is possible to be that way and making the decision he made.

I don’t really have sympathy for the show must go on mentality anymore.  I had sympathy for the position that someone after the unexpected situation with Owen Hart could make a decision under pressure that didn’t think things out.  I lost sympathy when, intead of just saying that, they came up with the idea that there would have been a riot if the show was canceled, as if baseball fans riot when games are rained out.

However, at that time, while it was a story, to me the big story was what caused Benoit to do what he did, and when it came out he was using the drugs everyone would have expected, an analysis of the ways to make the drug testing policy more honest and effective.

 

And my November 27 follow-up:

Yes, Dave, but …

You acknowledge that it was a story, if not the big story from your perspective. You write tens of thousands of words every week analyzing every aspect of the business and the coverage of the business, and you regularly make distinctions between big and small stories and discuss how in your judgment they are and are not connected. I simply don’t understand ignoring why WWE published an official tightened-up timeline to defend against criticism that they knew going into Raw, and I don’t see sitting on the fact that you knew with great specificity that the company had no substantive defense against that charge.

I could see, for example, saying something along these lines: “I don’t think whether they knew before Raw is anywhere close to the most important issue. Chris, Nancy, and Daniel are just as dead no matter how tastefully or tastelessly WWE handled it in the first 24 hours, and the truth was that in the midst of the frenzy no one was going to cut them a break. But it has to be said that I learned, hours before Raw went on the air, that company executives knew it was murder-suicide. Like a lot of others, I had a hard time believing Chris could have murdered his son in particular, but when the police details emerged Monday night I realized that Vince had indeed made the call to do a tribute for someone he would almost immediately be writing out of WWE history, and that while he was holding the distraught talent together in Corpus Christi, he was also deceiving them as well as the public.

“The most important issue, going forward, isn’t any of this; it’s the drugs Chris ingested in great quantities, and what impact that will have on the wellness policy and on the business when that becomes clear from the toxicology report. But part of that debate will be shaped by general credibility, and WWE heads into it with none after working a TV audience with a Benoit tribute and then trying to bury the speculation about that by publishing a vague and rewritten timeline of what it knew and when it knew it….”

Irv

 

To me, Dave Meltzer never opened up further about this.

Now CHRIS & NANCY is out, and he’s still refusing to open up about the deeper implications of how the symbiosis of the wrestling media and the wrestling industry contributed to the petering out of calls for post-Benoit reforms.

Is that a cover-up? I don’t think so. I think it is an analysis of how the world works – a world that includes the Dave Meltzers who, like all of us, sometimes fall short of the mark.

 

Irv Muchnick


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