Archive for July, 2010

Syllabus for Further Reading on Politico’s Story About Linda McMahon and the WWE Pedophile Scandal

Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman of Politico.com are the first journalists to take aboveground the story of Linda McMahon’s  management of the pedophile scandal at her World Wrestling Entertainment (then called the World Wrestling Federation) in the early 1990s. See “Linda McMahon’s world of wrestling,” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40476.html.

Politico left out significant swaths of the known old narrative. Smith and Haberman also filled in some spaces with important original reporting. I’ll comment in more specifics as we go along.

First, I want to point everyone to Tom Cole’s 1999 interview with Wrestling Perspective, which can be downloaded on the journal’s website (http://www.wrestlingperspective.com).

In addition, interested readers should review these posts at this blog:

Irv Muchnick

Newspaper Endorsement Scorecard: One More for Rob Simmons, One for Linda McMahon

Newspaper editorial endorsements seem to me a lot like book blurbs: ancient rituals whose translation into results is now more dubious than ever. Everyone does it because we haven’t come up with any better ideas, but you figure it can’t hurt.

If book blurbs meant anything, then my first book, Wrestling Babylon, would be a runaway bestseller instead of chugging along nicely in its second printing. After all, it was endorsed by the incomparable sportswriter Frank Deford (who lives in Connecticut, by the way).

But for those of you keeping score, two more Connecticut newspapers have published their endorsements in the Republican Senate primary. (The Hartford Courant had already broken the ice by putting its pick axe behind Rob Simmons, the former congressman and Senate frontrunner who hopes to be closing fast on the outside.)

The Register Citizen in Litchfield County endorsed Linda McMahon. I don’t agree that the editorial characterizes the candidate with complete accuracy, but I think its words make the case well: “Remove three irrelevant factors — Linda McMahon’s gender, her personal wealth, and the nature of the business that she built from scratch — and the sneering doubts that party insiders and the press raise about her would go away…. And let’s face it, World Wrestling Entertainment, whether we like it or watch it or not, is every bit a piece of modern Americana as NASCAR or American Idol.” See http://registercitizen.com/articles/2010/07/30/opinion/doc4c52529634922216218878.txt.

The Day in New London likes Simmons. This is noteworthy, according to the impish Connecticut Capitol Report, because The Day “stiffed” Simmons in his losing 2006 bid for reelection to his House seat. See http://www.theday.com/article/20100730/OP01/307309907/-1/op.

Neither editorial mentions death in pro wrestling.

Irv Muchnick

Small Correction on Missy Hyatt Statement

I understand that I was mistaken in saying that Missy Hyatt’s statement about the Dawn Marie/Wrestlers Rescue situation was posted by her at a forum called Captured Beauty. I am deleting that reference from an earlier post.

I saw the statement via a link with traffic to this blog. The statement is authentic, but someone on the Captured Beauty forum, not Missy Hyatt, was reposting it from elsewhere.

Irv Muchnick

Commentator Suggests Linda McMahon Has Her Opponents’ Number: $50 Million

It would be foolish not to process the commentary by Ben Davol at NBCConnecticut.com, “A Senate Race Like No Other” (http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/politics/Commentary-A-Senate-Race-Like-No-Other-99545579.html). Here’s the money quote:

The reality of all this is that the next Senator from Connecticut will be Mrs. McMahon. The Blumenthal campaign and others will bash away at Mrs. McMahon’s business the WWE. It is a losing strategy. The facts are this. The reason Linda has so much money is because millions of people, voters, like the WWE. Further, the McMahons got their money the old fashioned way, they earned it.

Linda will win the primary and then go head to head with Mr. Blumenthal. Problem is neither of them wants to speak without layers of handlers, prepared questions and a totally controlled environment. Advantage Linda. Her campaign will savage Mr. Blumenthal over his record by turning good to bad and day to night. The McMahon message machine will unleash on the Blumenthal campaign a deluge akin to the ferocity and regularity of the waves at Waimea Bay.

Sadly though on November third Mrs. McMahon will become what all her supporters despise, an insider.

Irv Muchnick

Hartford Courant Endorses Linda McMahon’s Opponent in Republican Primary

With leaps of logic that make wrestling storylines seem downright Cartesian by comparison, the Hartford Courant has published a reluctant endorsement of reluctant candidate Rob Simmons over Linda McMahon for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. See http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-primary-senate-gop-0729-20100729,0,5803723.story.

Bully for Rob Simmons.

Softening the blow, the Courant calls McMahon a “hard-nosed, engaging entertainment tycoon with a captivating life story [that] is a breath of fresh air in Connecticut politics.”

Ah, but “WWE’s schlocky, off-color content is not everyone’s cup of tea, as one of her ads admits.”  She could be further damaged by “any new whiff of scandal,” the editorialist adds with exquisite abstraction.

To be fair, the Courant also questions McMahon’s “plan to help small business and create jobs that relies too heavily on tax cuts and a stripping away of regulations.”

Irv Muchnick

Mike Aldren’s Statement on Dawn Marie and Wrestlers Rescue

I wish to respond to Dawn Marie’s open letter regarding Wrestlers Rescue which you published as a solo news item on your website earlier this week. As my name was cited twice within her letter, I hope that you will afford me the same forum to speak publicly that was afforded to her.

For the last three years Dawn Marie has promoted Wrestlers Rescue as a charity to raise monies to help and support the health care needs of retired professional wrestlers. During that time Dawn has sent me numerous emails asking my help to spread word of her fund raising activities through my writings relating to this project. I duly obliged in most instances.

One of the primary benefactors was to be journeymen wrestler Dr. Death Steve Williams who sadly succumbed to cancer in December, 2009. Shortly after Doc’s passing I asked Dawn what she planned to do with the thousands of dollars she had raised—whether that would be in terms of covering funeral expenses for the family or a talked about trust fund for Doc’s son.

Dawn told me on-the-record in a January email, “We are talking with the family and trying to figure out the best way to use the dollars that weren’t used.”

I asked Dawn again a few weeks later and received no response.

A few weeks after that I asked Dawn whether Wrestlers Rescue was in fact a registered charity and what other retired wrestlers she planned to help in the future. Dawn replied and told me that her representative would be in touch soon and furnish me with the information I requested.

Dawn’s rep later turned out to be her New Jersey based attorney. I was shocked to learn from said attorney that Wrestlers Rescue, after three years in operation, was NOT a registered not-for-profit nor were they willing to open their finance books to the general public or the people in the wrestling business who have helped them raise thousands of dollars in the name of a dying man.*

And so here we are today.

While Dawn’s passion may be viewed by some as admirable, she as the founder and chair of her organization, should be more forthcoming regarding the monies she has raised, nor should she falsely represent herself as a charity, just as she did last week when quoted in a New York Times article.

Is she stating that up until now, the supposed charity has been for profit? If so, who has profited from the proceeds of Wrestlers Rescue? If not, then why has the non-registered charity been so secretive regarding the proceeds of the monies raised?

Who has actually benefited from anything done by Wrestlers Rescue up to now? Check delivered, bills paid, someone rescued?

I hope that Dawn Marie will address these reasonable questions in a public forum very soon.

Sincerely,

Mike Aldren
m.aldren@sky.com

More Thoughts on Dawn Marie, Wrestlers Rescue, And the ‘Wrestling Media’

Wrestlers Recue is at best amateurish, at worst fraudulent. If only the first, then perhaps Dawn Marie at one point had her heart in the right place, and perhaps she does still.

Though Wrestlers Rescue is not the solution, neither is it the problem. (Incidentally, I’ve seen the organization’s title both with and without an apostrophe even on its own site; from now on, I plan to go consistently without.)

The problem is that pro wrestling, as a profession, is still organized feudally – even while pro wrestling, as an industry, has essentially concentrated in the hands of one company and one family, and become a huge global business. The McMahons are billionaires or close to it. Now Linda McMahon, who doesn’t come off like someone who would know an original idea if it clotheslined her, is spending $50 million to try to buy a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut. This is money generated by the blood, sweat, tears, and  in many cases very lives of hundreds of others, performers both inside and outside World Wrestling Entertainment itself.

No matter how well-intentioned, Wrestlers Rescue is doomed because it is based on the indie model: set up a table at a convention of mostly has-beens and never-weres, sign some autographs, sell some T-shirts, and hope that a few of the pennies trickle to a few of the many people out there who have been broken by this system, or just naturally fell on hard times.

It doesn’t compute, people. The entity with the resources to begin to make things significantly better, if not right, is WWE. The way to hold WWE and the McMahons to account is to speak the truth about what their naked ambition has wrought and what they need to do to fix it.

That brings me to the “wrestling media.” Where have all the full-time wrestling journalists been on this story? Not just the rise and fall of Wrestlers Rescue, but also the scrutiny of WWE policies and practices? I don’t mean by this florid columns wringing your hands or showing off how smart or cynical you are, how you see through PR and also see that nothing can be done about it. I mean investigation and analysis that are persistent, clearly communicative, and at times inconvenient.

From where I sit, I’ll tell you where wrestling journalists seem to have been. They put more energy into climbing over each other to be the first, by five minutes, to post “spoilers” of prerecorded Raws and SmackDowns than they do into educating their readers on the McMahon family’s push for temporal power – and how, by adding real value to public discussion, fans can play a constructive role in reforming the industry’s appalling occupational health and safety standards.

They have been profiles in caution. Here’s hoping one or two will discover the spine to do something  more than just report the next spinebuster.

Irv Muchnick


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