Archive for January 18th, 2010

‘The King’ Lambastes Linda McMahon’s ‘Face the State’ Performance

And you thought I was unflattering to Linda McMahon.

In a post by a Republican blogger who calls himself “The King,” McMahon’s shot yesterday on Face the State is criticized as “unprepared, unqualified, and uninteresting.” Then The King goes on to tell us what he really thinks.

I don’t agree with every single thing this commentator says, here or elsewhere. But those of you who want to know what in-state critics of McMahon are saying should not fail to read this thorough and entertaining evisceration, at

In case there are wrestling fan-readers who were wondering, this “King” is not former wrestler and now World Wrestling Entertainment announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler, who recently completed his latest unsuccessful run for the mayoralty of Memphis.

Irv Muchnick

What the Critics Are Saying About Irvin Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’

“Great read for anyone who cares about wrestling or is interested in true crime.” – Eric Lyden,,

“Muchnick provides a great public service in exposing what he describes as the WWE’s ‘Cocktail of Death.’ Now its up to wrestling fans to demand action, or else continue seeing their heroes die early from avoidable deaths, often ending up destitute after enriching the McMahons.” – Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,

“The latest from Irv Muchnick, who has already authored one of wrestling’s All Time Top Five books with Wrestling Babylon, is hands down the most important wrestling book in years.” — Critic Derek Burgan,

“Incredibly well researched … an incredibly valuable resource.” – David Bixenspan, SLAM! Wrestling,

“Very few books are ‘good’ and even fewer are ‘important’ – but this book is both.” – Author and blogger Anthony Roberts,

“Muchnick goes where few others care to go.” – Mark Hanzlik, Sacramento News & Review,

“Incredible retelling of the tragic story, with all its odd twists and bizarre turns.” – Rich Tate,,

“Muchnick is hell-bent on discovering the essence of the cover-ups.” – Joe Babinsack,,

“WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt read this cover to cover and so should you.” – Alan Wojcik,,

Vince McMahon to Frank Deford: ‘I Have Proof I’m Not a Mobster!’ (Part 3 of 3)

In February 1992 Linda and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation was fending off death by tabloid torture. For the full background, see this blog’s “Linda McMahon’s Husband Vince Fought the Law, and the Law Lost (Part 2 – 1992 Drug and Sex Scandals,”

In the course of these developments, Frank Deford did a commentary on National Public Radio urging Hulk Hogan, whose name was on a brand of children’s vitamins, to come clean about his years of abuse of anabolic steroids.

Vince McMahon called Deford to complain. At one point in their conversation, McMahon screamed, “I have proof I’m not a mobster!”

Which was funny, because Deford had alleged no such thing.

Irv Muchnick

Frank Deford, the ‘Wrestling Media,’ and Me (Part 2 of 3)

To state the painfully obvious, my name doesn’t belong in the same paragraph as Frank Deford’s in any discussion of journalistic or literary accomplishment.

When my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon was about to be published, I’d never met Frank Deford. In fact, I still haven’t. But I looked him up in the Yellow Pages, under “Nice Guys,” and asked him for a blurb. Frank read my advance pages and supplied this: “Irv Muchnick knows wrestling like Anna Wintour knows fashion, and his intriguing collection of ring tales is written with passion and savage humor.”

Deford’s real patronage in wrestling journalism, though, has been on behalf Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and deservedly so. I am a nephew of a legendary wrestling promoter from another era, Sam Muchnick; working from that base and as a general journalist, I have followed this unique entertainment form with fascination, but also with some aloofness. But Meltzer is the hardest of hard-core fans. He has forgotten more about wrestling than I’ll ever know.

As for Frank Deford, a Princeton guy, he is one of the most erudite sports writers ever, as well as one of the best, but he has a latent fondness for kitsch. Early in his career he penned a classic look at Roller Derby behind the scenes, Five Strides on the Banked Track. And notwithstanding Vince McMahon’s accusation in connecton with the profoundly unfunny practical joke recounted in the previous item, Frank has a fabulous sense of humor.

When Deford tapped Meltzer to write a wrestling column for The National in 1990-91, it helped Meltzer’s underground ‘zine reach a new audience. In addition to publishing his exhaustive and widely quoted wrestling newsletter, Meltzer today is a columnist for Yahoo covering the emerging international sport of mixed martial arts.

In his 2007 NPR commentary praising Meltzer’s wrestling death study, Deford called him “the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism.”

Unfortunately, in my own view, Meltzer’s coverage of the death pandemic in the wrestling industry was not nearly as aggressive as it should have been in the wake of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. Some of my reasons for holding this opinion are fully developed in CHRIS & NANCY – a book that Meltzer, oddly, refuses to review, thereby supporting its thesis.

And, indeed, while some of the best information about the excesses and perversity of the business underwriting Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign comes from fan media stalwarts like Meltzer, these outlets also practice their own versions of self-censorship, mirroring that of the mainstream media. For example, in the latest issue of the Wrestling Observer, Meltzer quoted McMahon’s Republican opponent Rob Simmons’ criticisms of WWE occupational health and safety standards. Meltzer didn’t get around to mentioning that Simmons issued his statement in response to a request to all four candidates from my blog.

NEXT: Vince McMahon to Frank Deford: “I have proof I’m not a mobster!” (Part 3 of 3)

Irv Muchnick

When Linda McMahon’s Husband Stole Frank Deford’s Shoes (Part 1 of 3)

On Sunday’s Face the State, Linda McMahon touted her experience “in a business that is very testosterone-loaded.” I wonder if she had in mind an incident her husband Vince recounted in his December 2007 interview with staff investigators of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Vince had been asked about a National Public Radio commentary in which Frank Deford cited a study of pro wrestling deaths by Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

First, McMahon dismissed Meltzer as “a gossip columnist.” Then he suggested that Deford held a grudge: “[H]e has no sense of humor and he doesn’t like me. We were bowling one night and I borrowed one of his shoes and he never found it. And so he had to walk home in a bowling shoe and one of his others, and he was upset about that I understand.”

As a public service to the citizens of Connecticut, I now provide you the full background of this bizarre episode.

I also am emailing this item to Ed Patru, spokesman for the Linda McMahon campaign, in case he or she cares to comment on it.

In 1991 Deford was editor of the short-lived daily sports newspaper, The National, for which Meltzer wrote a pro wrestling column. (Connecticut resident Deford, the celebrated Sports Illustrated writer and book author, happens to record his NPR segments at WSHU radio at Sacred Heart University, where Linda McMahon is on the board of trustees. Many faculty there were none too happy in May 2007, when Vince McMahon was chosen as the keynote speaker at commencement.)

Meltzer wrote a story for The National that was highly critical of the then World Wrestling Federation’s main “angle,” or storyline, for that spring’s WrestleMania show. The McMahons brought back a wrestler named Sergeant Slaughter, a superpatriot hero of the mid-eighties, to feud with Hulk Hogan. Slaughter was turned into not just a bad guy but a traitor, joining forces with a purported associate of Saddam Hussein and against his own country during the first Gulf War. To promote this shtick, WWF even sent Hogan on a tour of military bases.

Quoting WWF’s competitor promoters, Meltzer’s piece questioned whether this descent into poor taste was a bit much even for wrestling. (In reference to other controversial storylines, Linda McMahon yesterday acknowledged to the Face the State panel that there have been times when WWE “pushed the envelope.”)

In the end, the Sergeant Slaughter angle was both controversial and not as successful as designed: the McMahons originally booked the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for WrestleMania before slow ticket sales prompted them to move the event to the smaller indoor Los Angeles Sports Arena.

A short time later McMahon and Deford found themselves together at a country club bowling alley for a birthday party for John Filippelli, a veteran TV sports producer who at the time was in charge of WWF broadcast operations. After everyone changed into bowling shoes, McMahon and one of his top aides, former wrestler Pat Patterson, made off with one of Frank Deford’s street shoes and one of his wife Carol’s, and never returned them. Vince and Pat found this hilarious.

After the transcript of McMahon’s Congressional interview was published, I verified this story with Deford. “I’m rather amazed that McMahon would bring this up, but it’s a pretty accurate account of him acting like a horse’s ass,” Frank emailed. “Really weird.”

NEXT: Frank Deford, the “wrestling media,” and me

Irv Muchnick

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January 2010