Archive for December 10th, 2009

Linda McMahon, Pro Wrestling’s Drug Culture, and WWE Attack Dog Jerry McDevitt

I’ve said repeatedly that the most principled focus of scrutiny of the Senate candidacy of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Linda McMahon is not the plethora of YouTube clips memorializing the unabashedly lowbrow nature of the enterprise from which she made her centimillions. Rather, it is the almost unbelievable culture of death that she and her husband Vince inarguably profited from. At a minimum, the McMahons have enabled that culture. In my interpretation, they have virtually created it, and they have certainly exacerbated it.

In what I believe is the first major Connecticut newspaper article to wrestle seriously with this campaign issue, Neil Vigdor of the Greenwich Time / Stamford Advocate group quotes, among others, former wrestler  Marc Mero and myself in an exploration of the meaning of the death last week of a 36-year-old wrestler.  The story is at

Eddie “Umaga” Fatu was fired by WWE in June of this year after he refused to go to drug rehab. Fatu was set to return shortly to the world’s dominant wrestling promotion, but his  fatal heart attack intervened. Two years ago, Fatu had been on the list of more than a dozen wrestlers, almost all of them at the time WWE talent, who turned up as steroid and Human Growth Hormone customers of the Internet gray-market dealer Signature Pharmacy. No other single sport or entertainment entity was as proportionately represented in the Signature bust.

Wrestling’s “cocktail of death” – involving, most notably, steroids, painkillers, and brain trauma caused by inadequate health and safety standards – is a big subject with a long and complex history. But, as Fatu shows, there always, tragically, seems to be a new “news hook.”

The next thing Connecticut reporters should be examining is the case of wrestler Jeff Hardy. Like Fatu, Hardy was fired by WWE in 2003 when he refused to undergo rehab. He came back in 2006. Hardy took a leave of absence in September of this year – but not before being indicted in his home state of North Carolina on drug-trafficking charges, which are pending. Meanwhile, WWE has gone ahead with the holiday release of a Jeff Hardy DVD, which includes not only his best matches but also commentary that, shall we say, fictionalizes all the above facts when it doesn’t ignore them altogether.

In today’s article by Neil Vigdor, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt tries to smear the sources of this straightforward story. “Con artists,” McDevitt calls them.

In 2007 WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and their 7-year-old son, and killed himself. McDevitt told the media that “none” of the drugs in Benoit’s Georgia home “came from Internet pharmacies.”

In fact, perhaps the very first stash of drugs discovered, inside a refrigerator, was a growth hormone with the label of a Chinese company, GeneScience Pharmaceutical. And the prosecutors of Signature Pharmacy soon confirmed that Benoit was one of its customers —  one of three WWE wrestlers on that list who have now died.

That, ladies and gentlemen of the Connecticut media, is  your story.

Irv Muchnick

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December 2009