Archive for January 13th, 2010

Panelists Named for Linda McMahon’s ‘Face the State’ Interview

Dennis House, host of Face the State, the public-affairs program on Hartford’s WFSB, Channel 3, has named the panel for the interview with Senate candidate Linda McMahon, which will be taped Thursday and aired Sunday.

House’s co-interviewers are Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant and Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate. Both already have contributed valuable coverage of the McMahon campaign. Altimari wrote a profile of McMahon, which I discussed here. Lockhart wrote a piece exploring the tension between critics expressing distaste for McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, and the reality of WWE’s economic impact on the state; I discussed that story here.

In House’s blog post announcing Sunday’s lineup (http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/mcmahon-to-appear-on-face-the-state/), he joked, “Someone already called the appearance the ‘Rumble in Rocky Hill.'” That someone was the headline writer for Tom Dudchik’s Connecticut Capitol Report when it linked to my post earlier this week — in which I said we obviously can expect House & Company to do a much better job grilling Linda McMahon than Kate Snow of ABC News did last Saturday.

Irv Muchnick

The Suicide Attempt (Part 2 – Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Wellness Policy’)

In April 2006 World Wrestling Entertainment suspended one of its top stars, Randy Orton — now involved in yet another public altercation, explained in the previous post — for chronically erratic and unprofessional behavior. Incidents ranged from harassment and abusive treatment of women to loud and inappropriate public profanity.

Orton served out the suspension back home in suburban St. Louis. Some time that spring his fiancee — who the next year would become his wife, and the following year the mother of their daughter — rushed Orton to an area hospital emergency room. He had either willfully attempted suicide or accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs.

A WWE executive, John Laurinaitis, did an internal investigation and cleared Orton to return. But only fans and industry insiders in serious denial could fail to understand that Randy Orton had scary issues.

This was all a little more than a year before Chris Benoit went on the weekend-long rampage at his Georgia home that left his wife, their seven-year-old son, and himself dead.

Not long after that, the list of customers of Internet steroid dealer Signature Pharmacy was released, and Orton was on it. Other WWE wrestlers on the list got suspended under the company Wellness Policy. Orton did not.

To Congressional investigators later that year, WWE’s drug-testing administrator, David Black, would allow, “Oh, sure, I would agree that that’s not good.”

For background on the Orton suicide attempt (including corrections of a couple of relatively trivial errors in my original reporting), see:

“Did Randy Orton Attempt Suicide?”, September 18, 2007, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/archive-91807-did-randy-orton-attempt-suicide/

“Orton ‘Legend Killer’ Reference Was Overstated,” September 18, 2007, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/archive-91807-orton-legend-killer-reference-was-overstated/

“Orton: Further Notes,” September 19, 2007, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/archive-91907-orton-further-notes/

“Benoit & Orton & Drugs & Suicide … Let’s Go Over It Again,” October 28, 2007, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/archive-102807-benoit-orton-drugs-suicide-%E2%80%A6-let%E2%80%99s-go-over-it-again/

“Clemens’ Fake Records, Wrestling’s Real Deaths,” February 16, 2008, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/archive-21608-clemens%E2%80%99-fake-records-wrestling%E2%80%99s-real-deaths/

Irv Muchnick

Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Wellness Policy’ (Part 1)

The wrestling  fan newsletter websites are passing along a local news report that a World Wrestling Entertainment star faces a court hearing for allegedly spitting gum in the face of a juvenile and swearing at him outside a restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts.

See “Wrestling star Randy Orton accused of assault outside Kowloon,” http://www.wickedlocal.com/saugus/news/x532576957/Wrestling-star-Randy-Orton-accused-of-assault-outside-Kowloon.

Orton has been involved in numerous such scrapes over the years. In that respect, he is not unlike many athletes and celebrities, though Orton — in addition to being one of WWE’s most valued performers — is definitely on the more undisciplined and unprofessional end of the continuum.

I’m choosing to introduce Orton to newcomers to this blog, especially the Connecticut politicos, because he may be the No. 1 poster child for the farce that is WWE’s so-called “Wellness Policy.”

In 2007, shortly after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, the list of Internet drug dealer Signature Pharmacy’s customers (as leaked by the district attorney in Albany, New York) included around 16 WWE performers. Among them were Benoit himself and Brian Adams, a former wrestler who would soon join the early death list via sudden explosions of enlarged hearts or overdoses of prescription drugs.

Another name on the Signature list was Randy Orton. But unlike the other dozen current WWE wrestlers, who were suspended under the “Wellness Policy,” Orton never suffered a consequence. Not even the best-connected Kremlinologists of the wrestling-fan-media community are sure exactly why. One theory is that it might have been “double jeopardy” to punish Orton for ordering drugs from an Internet pharmacy; he already had accrued a Wellness Policy “strike” for failing a drug test, and perhaps it was for the same banned substance later shown to have been obtained from Signature.

Another theory is that WWE flat-out enforces the policy in a way that places its own convenience and profits first — which is exactly what you should expect to happen when drug-testing is not operated by an independent authority, such as an athletic commission.

In the interviews of Linda and Vince McMahon and their Wellness Policy contractors by Congressional investigators in 2007, it was apparent that there were two distinctly separated parts to the process of testing “positive” and receiving a “strike.” One was the objective data of the test itself. The other part was whether it was a technical-positive or a “conclusion-positive.”

And guess who determined whether it was a conclusion-positive? Not David Black’s Nashville lab. Black is just, if you will, a test-tube-pusher.  He does his best. So does the doctor who makes recommendations for “conclusion-positives” based on a wrestler’s appeal of a therapeutic-use exemption. But the final call is by the McMahons.

When asked by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffers what he thought about Orton appearing on the Signature Pharmacy list and not getting suspended like everyone else, Black responded, “Oh, sure, I would agree that that’s not good.”

Irv Muchnick

NEXT: The Suicide Attempt (Part 2 of Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE “Wellness Policy”)

Pro Wrestling Occupational Health and Safety Is Officially a U.S. Senate Race Issue

Just over two and a half years after World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit murdered his wife and their seven-year-old son before killing himself — becoming the most sensational of the hundreds of early deaths of wrestlers in recent years — the occupational health and safety of the wrestling industry is officially an issue in the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut of Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE.

Two days ago this blog solicited all four candidates in that campaign for comment on what I have been calling “The Question.”

McMahon did not respond. Nor did Richard Blumenthal or Peter Schiff.

Rob Simmons — McMahon’s main opponent for the Republican nomination, with Democrat Blumenthal as the likely opponent in the general election — issued the following statement:

“The voters of Connecticut are absolutely entitled to consider Linda McMahon’s disturbing record in pro wrestling when it comes to the health and safety of her employees, and Mrs. McMahon should be willing to give a straight answer to this question.  There is no reason pro wrestling can’t be fun and entertaining AND safe and healthy for the performers.  Instead of foot dragging in the face of increasing evidence that her employees and former employees continue to die early and potentially avoidable deaths as a result of their ring-related activities, McMahon should be the first to step up to the plate and lead the effort for real, effective reforms to ensure their health and longevity to the best of WWE’s ability.  If Mrs. McMahon won’t ensure a safe and healthy environment for her own employees just because it threatens her bottom line, how can she make a credible claim to do it for Connecticut families?”

Irv Muchnick

Susan Bysiewicz & Linda McMahon’s $$$

Susan Bysiewicz, Connecticut’s secretary of state who was all set to run for governor, instead will be running for attorney general, as the game of musical chairs continues for some of the state’s best-known political figures.

Apropos the previous item on this blog, the Linda McMahon campaign website disclosed her history of political contributions in a September 16, 2009, blog post. See http://www.linda2010.com/blog_32.html.

[A month earlier my own blog had reproduced from the database of the Center for Responsive Politics the federal-only contributions of both Linda McMahon (https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/senate-candidate-linda-mcmahons-ceo-of-wwe-campaign-contributions/) and her husband Vince (https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/vince-mcmahons-campaign-contributions/).]

Linda donated a total of $3,250 to Bysiewicz over the years.

Yes, Bysiewicz is a Democrat, yadda yadda yadda.

But I’m more interested in linking this fact to Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green’s note on his blog yesterday that Bysiewicz last year endorsed Governor Jodi Rell’s nomination of McMahon to the state Board of Education.

As we all know, the legislature confirmed McMahon, but not before she ran a Version 2.0 of her resume through the old word processor. Version 1.0 had lied about her academic credentials.

Hey, we all need a little whiteout on our sensitive documents from time to time. Even ABC News.

Irv Muchnick

Dan and Susan Are the Tip of Linda McMahon’s Iceberg in State Politics

I want to call attention to Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green’s useful blog item yesterday, “When Dan and Susan Loved Linda and the WWE,” http://blogs.courant.com/rick_green/2010/01/when-dan-and-susan-loved-linda.html.

I defer to Green and other Connecticutans on all the inside baseball involving Linda McMahon’s relationship with state political figures Susan Bysiewicz and Dan Malloy. The former is about to announce her candidacy for attorney general; the latter is running for governor.

What I do know is that Green, like a number of other reporters, is wedging open the window on Linda and Vince McMahon’s longstanding connections with the state political establishment, in both parties. This calls into question Linda’s “outsider” credentials in her race for the U.S. Senate. But it also leads us to the fingerprints of Connecticut leaders on the growth and export of World Wrestling Entertainment (and, by association, the culture of death and depravity that WWE represents).

As the McMahon campaign proceeds, I’ll hope to find time to record more of this history, which starts with WWE board member Lowell Weicker. To his credit — out of personal loyalty and because they both support health-care reform — Weicker had endorsed Chris Dodd, not Linda McMahon, for Senate. But there may not have been anyone in elective office who did more than Weicker to nurture the McMahons through tough times.

The cast of characters goes on and on, extending — of course — to none other than Joe Lieberman, another lightning rod for all things Democratic, Republican, Independent, and just perverse in Connecticut politics.

It’s a story of state government dysfunction at the highest level. And as someone who lives in California, I know from state government dysfunction.

Irv Muchnick


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