Archive for December 7th, 2009

Politico.com Throws Some Jabs at Linda McMahon

Politico.com’s anticipated article with ex-wrestlers talking about Linda McMahon is out: “Wrestlers lob past at McMahon,” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30316.html.

For people who know a bit about the history of the McMahon family and World Wrestling Entertainment, there’s not a lot here. Some would say that viewing wrestling, and McMahon’s role in it, as sleazy rather than cute at least marks a start.

By far the most credible figure in the story is Bruno Sammartino. Unfortunately, his quote makes him look more like a septugenarian fuddy-duddy than like the person who has spoken eloquently for more than 20 years  about the shame of pro wrestling’s pandemic of drugs and death. “I would not vote for her because I know what she contributed to the wrestling world with her husband,” Sammartino is quoted as saying. “The vulgarity, the nudity, the profanity, all that kind of crap — it bothers me.”

I may have blinked and missed it, but I don’t think the reporter even broaches the subject of the generation of WWF/WWE deaths running from Rick McGraw, in 1985, to Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, just last week.

I don’t live in Connecticut and the good citizens of the Constitution State can decide for themselves whom they want to elect next year to the U.S. Senate. Minnesotans elected Jesse Ventura, a wrestler, as governor. Californians elected Arnold Schwarzenegger, a bodybuilder. The idea that Linda McMahon will be disqualified from major elective office simply because wrestling is yucky is a non-starter — morally, I think, as well as politically.

As McMahon’s candidacy proceeds, I hope elite journalists will get beyond what I call “YouTube journalism” — a mere storyboard for all the supposedly embarrassing clips of WWE skits floating around. If Linda McMahon deserves to be held accountable for something, in my view, it’s for her position atop an industry with inexcusable health and safety standards, the proximate cause of the deaths of dozens, if not hundreds, of performers in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.

Irv Muchnick

WRESTLING BABYLON Blog Now at Connecticut Capitol Report

Our blog has been picked up as an official column link at Connecticut Capitol Report (http://ctcapitolreport.com/), which is designed similarly to the Drudge Report.

Thanks very much to CCR editor Tom Dudchik.

Irv Muchnick

Bruno Sammartino Most Prominent Name in Linda McMahon-Bashing Article

The Hill, a Washington political website, today has a piece headlined “McMahon’s rise puts wrestling’s dangerous history in the spotlight.” The link is http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/70969-mcmahons-rise-puts-wrestlings-dangerous-history-in-the-spotlight.

Bruno Sammartino is the most prominent wrestler quoted.

The Hill is not the same as Politico.com. My sources have told me that Politico is expected to run its own article about McMahon tomorrow (Tuesday).

Irv Muchnick

Enough Umaga Crocodile Tears, Wrestling Fans — What Are You Going to DO About Wrestling’s Death Culture?

Jeuron Dove, writing on the website of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, says: Congress and the media outlets that have the power to push people to probe into the sport have long given up on taking wrestling seriously and could care less about the high death rate …”

In my view, Mr. Dove has things exactly backwards.

Four years after Eddie Guerrero, two and a half years after Chris Benoit, and three days after Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, it is no longer tenable for pro wrestling fans to whine sentimentally about the serial demise of TV heroes they don’t even know, while blaming the human reality fallout on everyone else.

The fact of the matter is that the mainstream media and Congress do show up, in their own way, when the story is about death by the bushel, rather than about mere kitschy bad taste by the YouTube kilobyte. Maybe, just maybe, the root problem isn’t that the general public doesn’t take wrestling seriously enough. Maybe the problem is that when the media and Congress show up, they don’t get a heck of a lot of support from the people who pay the bills.

Again, Jeuron Dove: “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m quite conflicted at times when it comes to being a fan. I love wrestling and always will and will likely watch it religiously every week until I die …”

What I am explaining is the one and only conspiracy theory in CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. In the Introduction, I write: “You bet there was[ a conspiracy]. It was a conspiracy between those who care too much about wrestling and those who care too little. The first group consists of the fans who enjoy the pageantry and the people who profit from them. The second group consists of those who can’t be bothered, except possibly to blow hard on cue whenever a comment, no matter how ill-informed, is deemed fashionable.”

Wrestling fans, and the media who feed them information and analysis, have their own form of self-serving denial: they place the highest value on mocking the second group, and they get plenty touchy themselves when anyone focuses on the first group. So at the end of a very long day in a society in which consumers vote with their wallets, exactly how do they get off calling the kettle black?

In the summer of 2007, the cable tabloid news shows, with all their large and easily parodied flaws, jumped into the Benoit fray with both feet. The wrestling media threw their weight behind things like ridiculing Nancy Grace’s lack of mastery of the history of the Four Horsemen, and preemptively dismissing as a “non-story” the Wikipedia hacker tale – which would later prove to provide a useful window on WWE’s lack of credibility for its version of what it knew about Benoit’s crimes and when it knew it.

Later in 2007 Congress got involved. Did any major wrestling organ do much with the opportunity, other than to gossip and speculate? Was there any concerted effort to mobilize readers and fans around applying real pressure on our elected representatives to bring about reforms of health and safety standards? Not really. There was more interest in determining whether Congressman Bobby Rush knew how to say “Benoit” with the proper French pronunciation.

In February 2008 the police records in the Benoit investigation were released. The wrestling media cherry-picked the telephonic evidence for titillation. But did they help expose what a thorough analysis would reveal: the quick willingness of the authorities to airbrush the record to WWE’s advantage? From where I sat, the wrestling media turned an equally blind eye at key junctures. The big wrestling story of the season was Ric Flair’s WrestleMania retirement match. Which, of course, didn’t even turn out to be a real retirement match: Flair, now 60 years old, just finished bumping away and carving up his forehead for Hulk Hogan in Australia, and Flair will probably be joining Hogan at TNA.

Some fans – not all of them, nor even necessarily a majority – believe that my goal is to pick a feud with Dave Meltzer, who has dozens of times as many readers on his worst day as I have on my best day. These people are mistaken. I just detest wholesale and preventable death in what is supposed to be entertainment, as well as flabby thinking and selfish posturing on what to do about it. As a long-time reader of the Wrestling Observer, I know that it produces plenty of flabby thinking and selfish posturing every week – as well as oodles of excellent reporting. The fact that Meltzer is intermittently, or even often or most of the time, capable of better highlights how much more he and his newsletter, and others like it, could be doing for the betterment of the industry.

Irv Muchnick

P.S.: Senate Candidate Linda McMahon, Jeff Hardy, et al.

An alert blog reader points out that, as is often the case, your humble blogger was much too kind to Senate candidate Linda McMahon and corporate death-culture marketer WWE in my previous post.

According to the WWE wellness policy, a wrestler with a previous drug “strike” is supposed to be subjected to, on average, 16 tests in the year following the violation, not the standard four. So my estimate on how many company drug tests Eddie “Umaga” Fatu had between his Signature Pharmacy bust in 2007 and his release in June 2009 was way low.

Irv Muchnick

Senate Candidate Linda McMahon, Jeff Hardy, Umaga, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit

World Wrestling Entertainment’s Jeff Hardy took a leave of absence in September. Ostensibly, he was going to work on an independent reality-show project, but a little run-in with the legal system intervened: charges against Hardy of trafficking in steroids and painkillers, which are pending in North Carolina, where he resides.

But WWE had scheduled a holiday release of a Jeff Hardy DVD compilation, and the company long headed by Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon and her husband Vince wasn’t about to change course. They have a lot of experience with this kind of stuff.

The Hardy DVD, reports a reader who has it, portrays that after being released by WWE in 2003 (for refusing to go to drug rehab), Hardy returned three years later all grown up and professional. According to the DVD, he has now taken time off “to pursue other interests.” I’ll say — interests like how to avoid getting 3-to-5.

The WWE contract of Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, who died last Friday, also was terminated, in June of this year, for refusing to go to drug rehab. WWE, in its website statement of condolence, went out of its way to point out that Fatu was all of half-a-year past his last WWE stint. The statement omitted that Fatu was on the August 2007 list of Signature Pharmacy customers; that according to WWE’s “wellness policy” he was supposed to have been tested four times annually since; and that somehow nothing actionable under the wellness policy apparently happened between August 2007 and June 2009.

As for the reformed, clean-and-sober Jeff Hardy, as portrayed in the new DVD, what a nice echo it is of the career and snuffed-out life of Eddie Guerrero. A long-time alcohol and drug abuser, Guerrero became a WWE champion with a back story of his faith-based victory over old demons. His fatal November 2005 heart attack was said to be a result of “past” abuses.

Of course, as my book CHRIS & NANCY reveals, Eddie’s nephew Chavo Guerrero and Eddie’s best friend Chris Benoit (who less than two years later would murder his wife and child, and take his own life) discreetly disposed of Eddie’s stash of the steroid stanozolol (Winstrol) when they were the first to encounter his lifeless body in his room at the Marriott City Center Hotel in Minneapolis.

And like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit was honored right after his death with a tear-jerker tribute show on WWE’s Monday Night Raw on USA cable.

Irv Muchnick


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