Archive for June, 2010



My Coverage of Fedor Emelianenko’s Shocking Loss

Fedor’s mystique snuffed in 69 seconds
By IRVIN MUCHNICK FOR QMI Agency and SLAM! Sports

‘Voters Must Weigh McMahon Business Experience’

Letter to the editor in the New Haven Register by Frank DePino of Hamden:

http://nhregister.com/articles/2010/06/24/opinion/doc4c22d3f70b9bd789466005.txt

People Died on Linda McMahon’s Watch, And That Ain’t No Soap Opera

Slick as owl shit, like the Linda McMahon campaign always is, Connecticut’s would-be Republican senator has rolled out a new TV commercial in which she turns the fake-vs-real question inside-out. Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo blog has a decent analysis, including a comparison of McMahon’s ad with the way another showbiz figure, comedian Al Franken, navigated a somewhat similar challenge during his successful run for the Senate seat in Minnesota. See “McMahon Downplays Her Pro-Wrestling Past: It’s A ‘Soap Opera’ That ‘Isn’t Real,'” http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/06/mcmahon-downplays-her-pro-wrestling-past-its-a-soap-opera-that-isnt-real-video.php?ref=fpb.

There’s a key difference, though, and it has nothing to do with whether Monday Night Raw is more high-, medium-, or low-brow than Saturday Night Live.

At Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, people die needlessly. Not soap-opera characters. People. And that isn’t funny.

Irv Muchnick

Don’t Exaggerate Ulterior Motive of Martha Hart’s WWE Lawsuit

Though Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green’s Connecticut Confidential blog has covered my work generously, I disagree with the thrust of his post today, “McMahon Suit Has ‘Nothing To Do With Campaign’ Hmmm….,” http://blogs.courant.com/rick_green/2010/06/mcmahon-lawsuit-has-nothing-to.html.

I think Brother Rick is too caught up in generic skepticism with respect to the timing of the lawsuit filed by the widow of wrestler Owen Hart against Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.

Commentators ill-serve voters who are trying to sort out all this stuff when they get themselves so deeply stuck in the game-within-the-game. Sure, Martha Hart could be deriving bonus pleasure out of sticking it to the McMahons while Linda is running for the Senate. And Mike Benoit, the father of Chris Benoit, flat-out stated in his recent guest column in the Courant that he wouldn’t mind if there were a particular consequence at the ballot box from his crusade to raise consciousness about brain injuries and the overall appalling health and safety standards at WWE.

That is not some kind of conflict of interest, however. It is confluence of interest.

If there’s evidence that Martha Hart, her attorneys, or their powerhouse public relations consultants, Hill & Knowlton, are receiving sub rosa financial or in-kind support from McMahon’s political opponents, then that deserves to be exposed, in spades. But Green’s post offers no such evidence – only a suspicion that there’s a connection between the litigation and the Senate campaign.

Under the circumstances, he should spare us his hard-boiled and, in this case, empty cynicism. Does Green expect Hart to go to battle against a billion-dollar corporation while armed only with a popgun? The fact of the matter is that WWE is releasing a for-profit Hart family DVD that includes footage of Owen. Martha was not obliged to jeopardize her legal case by inaction, simply because doing something would collide with Linda’s personal electoral agenda; and bully for Martha if the coincidence can be exploited to call more attention to the cluster of deaths on the former WWE chief executive’s watch.

To be clear, I am not tagging Rick Green as a Linda McMahon apologist. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has already used that Manichean straw man in refusing to address my specific criticisms of elements of his coverage of the Benoit murder-suicide, and it is a tiresome defense. My only enemy is shallow analysis.

The essence of Martha Hart’s grievance against Linda McMahon should not be dismissed because it is coincident with a Senate race. Rather, it should be intensified. It’s called accountability.

Irv Muchnick

What Matters About Owen Hart’s Widow’s New Suit Against Linda McMahon and WWE

The latest intrusion of reality into Linda McMahon’s wrestling-scripted Senate candidacy in Connecticut is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hartford against Linda, her husband Vince, and their World Wrestling Entertainment for appropriating the likeness of the late WWE wrestler Owen Hart in a new DVD compilation.

A few comments.

  • Nearly a decade ago Martha Hart, Owen’s widow, settled a wrongful-death lawsuit against WWE for $18 million. Owen Hart had plunged to his death from the arena rafters in Kansas City in 1999 when his harness failed during a stunt entrance. (WWE later collected around half the settlement sum from the harness manufacturer.) But this new piece of litigation is about intellectual property — and nothing gets in the McMahons’ kitchen quite like the notion that IP might be for thee, as well as me.
  • Of course, campaign watchers might actually use the occasion to reflect on the death itself. Owen Hart not only was a source of ongoing intellectual property; he also was a a disposable independent contractor. See “’The Question – Senate Candidate Linda McMahon (Still) Can’t Answer It,” January 10, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/%E2%80%98the-question%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-senate-candidate-linda-mcmahon-still-can%E2%80%99t-answer-it-complete-7-part-series-as-a-single-post/. See especially this passage in the standard WWE talent contract: “WRESTLER, on behalf of himself and his heirs, successors, assigns and personal representatives, hereby releases, waives and discharges PROMOTER from all liability to WRESTLER and covenants not to sue PROMOTER for any and all loss or damage on account of injury to any person or property or resulting in serious or permanent injury to WRESTLER or resulting in WRESTLER’s death, whether caused by the negligence of the PROMOTER, other wrestlers or otherwise.”What a wonderful model of political leadership and accountability.
  • Owen Hart’s fatal accident occurred at the start of a pay-per-view show, which went on. Vince McMahon later explained, ludicrously, that he feared a riot by fans if the show were canceled. Eight years later, in June 2007, McMahon had no such fear as he gave the green light to a live TV tribute to Chris Benoit. With deadpan tears, McMahon shielded his own wrestlers and his audience from knowledge – which became public before the broadcast was over – that Benoit had garroted his wife, snapped their seven-year-old son’s neck, and hanged himself.
  • In the So What Department, Martha Hart may or may not be pure as Ivory soap. The brilliant memoir by Owen’s brother Bret Hart describes this wrestling clan’s implosion and bickering over money and responsibility following the gruesome industrial death of patriarch Stu Hart’s youngest son. In the book, Bret aptly and honestly compares his family’s and his own behavior to that of panelists on the Jerry Springer Show. (My  review of Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/hitmanreview.pdf.)
  • Unfortunately, Bret Hart, like almost all of them, needed to be back in Vince McMahon’s good graces more than Hart needed to tell the truth. When he returned to WWE for the honor of making Vince (and himself) more money – this time in a script of beating up his once and future boss at WrestleMania – the wrestling commentary site Cageside Seats called Hart “a conflicted sellout.” But even before that, Hart was a wrestling carny with a wrestling carny’s instincts. See, for example, his apologist’s stance in his appearance with me on CNN’s Nancy Grace after the murder-suicide of his close friend Benoit – the lead clip at my YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/WrestlingBabylon).

Irv Muchnick

Two New Takes on Linda McMahon: The $$$ Analyst and the Frother

The Connecticut Mirror’s Deirdre Shesgreen has combed the personal financial disclosures of Linda McMahon, Richard Blumenthal, and Peter Schiff, and concluded: “No matter who wins this race, any of these candidates would likely rank among the top ten richest lawmakers in Congress in terms of household wealth.” See “U.S. Senate candidates disclose assets,” http://www.ctmirror.org/story/6515/blumenthalmcmahonfinances.

All good info. What is missed here, and probably not intended, is a question above and beyond whether super-rich politicians can relate to average voters. The Linda McMahon challenge involves whether a self-funded candidate is performing an act of civic hygiene, or simply of personal vanity, when she uses her wealth to short-circuit conventional means of building a campaign and claiming a constituency.

Meanwhile, an online publication called American Thinker has published a loopy essay headlined  “Linda McMahon and the Triple-Damn Stinger Splash.” See http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/06/linda_mcmahon_and_the_tripleda_1.html.

The author, Stuart Schwartz, teaches in the School of Communication at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school’s website describes its mission as striving “to educate competent, committed Christians in the art,  theory and technology of communication.”

Professor Schwartz’s piece is best described as the sort of thing the Hartford Courant’s Kevin “Don’t Call Linda McMahon My Mouthpiece” Rennie might have turned out during a night of debauchery with Timothy Leary. “Triple Damn Stinger Splash”? It’s hard to top an aging born-again hipster. Linda, apparently, woke up one morning and spontaneously realized that she had both a precise vision of what ails the nation and the precise skills to fix it. And any deviation from this tidy narrative is elitist. If nothing else, the money-grubbing kitsch queen of Campaign 2010 may have found her Teddy White.

Irv Muchnick

Dr. Joseph Maroon Sighting in Excellent New Haven Register Article on WWE and Steroids

Ed Stannard, metro editor of the New Haven Register, has produced one of the most valuable pieces of coverage in the Linda McMahon Senate campaign: an overview of her World Wrestling Entertainment’s history of steroid controversy.

See “Steroid stain lingers over Linda McMahon’s WWE,” http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/06/20/news/doc4c1d86ac45467296138524.txt. Equally devastating is the front-page headline in the print edition in capital letters: JUICED.

The Register account is thorough and balanced, and the online version includes links to a lot of important primary-source material. Linda’s BusinessWeek whopper questioning the notion that steroids are bad is given legs.

And it will be open season on her spokesman Ed Patru’s bull about steroids not providing a competitive advantage in pro wrestling because it is scripted. Plenty of credible people can and will contradict them.

I was especially pleased to see that Stannard got WWE’s medical director, Dr. Joseph Maroon, on the record with what I believe are his first public quotes relating to that job since I started zeroing in on the deficiencies of his work and that of other company-contracted doctors — several of whom, like Maroon, are based at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

I suspect that  when all is said and done, whether Linda McMahon wins or loses in November, a consequence of her candidacy will be more focused heat on the supposedly respectable politicians, doctors, media shills, and others who, by omission or commission, have enabled the McMahon family’s financial and political ascent.

In the case of Dr. Maroon — a neurologist whose work on concussions in the National Football League has been attacked as inadequate and ethically compromised — we now see that he simply parrots the WWE line about the distinction between anabolic steroid abuse and “testosterone replacement therapy.” The company first rolled this out following the 2007 toxicology report on wrestler Chris Benoit, who had murdered his wife and their son before killing himself. Of course, this was only after they had already allowed the public to believe that Benoit had passed his drug tests with flying colors, when in actuality he had off-the-charts quantities of testosterone excused by a get-out-of-jail-free-card “therapeutic use exemption.”

Here’s what Maroon told the  Register:

Maroon said exemptions are given for prohibited drugs if they are administered under a doctor’s care, but that no exemptions are given for anabolic steroids, because they are illegal. Testosterone therapy, he points out, is not the same as steroids.

“There are certain substances, androgenic steroids, that there’s no exemption whatsoever,” Maroon said. “Those are banned substances and under no circumstances are they permitted.”

This is nonsense on androgens — literally and figuratively. The need for therapeutic use of testosterone is wildly exaggerated in wrestling and all of sports. To the extent that it is needed, it was almost always triggered by the original abuse of steroids, which caused the athlete’s endocrine system to malfunction. The net effect of all this is a giant loophole in WWE’s Wellness Policy.

Maroon’s failure to address that question with any nuance marks him as a co-opted professional rather than an independent expert. I expect that, sooner or later, critics will start holding these doctors accountable for lending their good names to WWE.

Irv Muchnick


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