Murky New Chris Benoit Evidence Doesn’t Change Essence of Campaign to Regulate Pro Wrestling Occupational Health and Safety

Swinging wildly in every direction to deflect the new government scrutiny of pro wrestling triggered by Linda McMahon’s dumb bid for a Senate seat from Connecticut, World Wrestling Entertainment lawyer Jerry McDevitt rolled out a new counter-campaign last week in the form of a blustery letter to me with more attachments than a barnacle. (See “New Threats From WWE Lawyer Jerry McDevitt,” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/new-threats-from-wwe-lawyer-jerry-mcdevitt/.)

McDevitt also talked at length with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter for an interesting story in his current issue. The piece is viewable online only to subscribers. I have a pending request to Meltzer for permission to run the full text at this blog.

The Meltzer article is, as I said, interesting, and it begins to develop new known information. But the information does nothing to help WWE ward off churning investigations of the company by the state of Connecticut and the federal government. If anything, the previously buried data here on Chris Benoit’s medical history and autopsy findings would be incorporated into a defense by McDevitt in the event the Benoit family were ever to sue WWE – and I don’t think they would be that useful even in that eventuality.

Among other things, Meltzer writes that “the report on Benoit” shows “no serious medical issues except at the age of six, when he was in an automobile accident. His head hit the windshield and he was hospitalized for three days and diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury. However, growing up, he showed no signs of any effects of that accident.”

Meltzer offers no antecedent for the words “the report.” In an email exchange, he confirmed to me that he was referring to verbiage in a recent journal article by Dr. Bennet Omalu, who examined Benoit’s postmortem brain tissue and concluded that he had Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy. In the Observer story, Meltzer fails to mention that the Omalu article was one of the exhibits to McDevitt’s December 16 letter to me.

As I noted at the time in posting McDevitt’s material, I need to do some technical work on my end to make less fuzzy the downloadable versions of the PDF files he sent me. The Omalu article will be my first priority in that area. In the meantime, readers can view the image of Omalu’s article, with poor resolution, at http://muchnick.net/omalu_journal_article.pdf. The relevant passage:

“At the age of 6 years, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident when his head struck the windshield of the automobile in which he was a passenger. He was hospitalized for 3 days, felt to have had a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), but went on to have  no known deleterious effects and no permanent injury.”

I can add a little more to this aspect of Meltzer’s story. My understanding is that Benoit’s childhood car accident was well known by all the researchers who examined his brain, and they concluded that it was a non-factor in his murder-suicide at age 40. The accident was also well known to WWE: it had been recounted years before the tragedy in Georgia in interviews conducted for the company’s DVD compilation of Benoit’s best matches, Hard Knocks (though that material wound up on the cutting-room floor and didn’t make it onto the DVD).

Meltzer, quoting Omalu, also has explosive new information that Benoit had an enlarged heart. Again, the language from Omalu’s article:

“There was cardimegaly (620 g) with left ventricular hypertrophy and bilateral atrioventricular dilation.”

This raises a question I am nowhere close to being able to answer, except to note that it is consistent with serious lapses in the entire official record originally published by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and the Fayette County 911 Center.

Did the original and official GBI autopsy of Benoit note his enlarged heart, but do so in muted or cryptic language? In the DVD data companion to my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, I publish the complete public autopsy report. I am now making that document viewable for readers here at http://muchnick.net/chrisbenoitautopsy.pdf.

There are references to Benoit’s heart in two places. The first reference:

“Cardiovascular System: This heart weighs 620 grams and has a normal distribution of widely patent right coronary dominant arteries. The myocardium is uniformly dark-red without pallor, hemorrhage, softening, or fibrosis. The left ventricle wall is 1.6 cm thick and the right is 0.2 cm thick. All four cardiac chambers are dilated. The endocardial surfaces and four valves are unremarkable. The aorta is without atherosclerosis. The venae cavae and pulmonary arteries are without thrombus or embolus.”

The second reference:

“Submitted for histologic analysis are sections of: […] Heart (2) – There is myocyte hypertrophy.”

So Chris Benoit, like Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, had an enlarged heart. Without any reference to the controversy over CTE, we can say that this makes WWE look not better, but far worse.

Irv Muchnick

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