Linda McMahon, unsuccessful 2010 candidate for the U.S. Senate and presumed frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination for Connecticut’s other Senate seat, is “distancing herself” from her company, World Wrestling Entertainment, and everyone is letting her get away with it.
At WrestleMania on Sunday, Linda and Vince McMahon’s son-in-law and presumed heir to the throne of running WWE, wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque, used a chair to the head of the Undertaker in their match, in violation of company policy. Or is it company “policy”? The consequence is that Triple H and Taker have been fined. Or is it “fined”?
Some not-so-ancient history is instructive.
SUMMER/FALL 2007: Chris Benoit CTE finding and the ban on chair shots to the head
WWE star Chris Benoit murdered his wife and their 7-year-old son before killing himself. A postmortem examination of his brain revealed the serial-concussion syndrome chronic traumatic encephelopathy.
In their joint interview for the November 7, 2007, CNN documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, Linda and Vince McMahon downplayed the evidence of CTE in Benoit.
“These studies, you know, have not been — they’ve not been proven, if you will,” Linda said.
Vince added: “Haven’t been even critiqued by the other members of the scientific community…. And the only thing we’ve done really is from a conservative standpoint is just don’t use chairs to the head. But other than that, you know, it’s what it is in the ring. You know, accidents do occur. It’s not ballet, as they say.”
DECEMBER 2007: The McMahons’ daughter (and Triple H’s wife) Stephanie lies to Congress
Question from Stephanie McMahon Levesque’s December 14, 2007, interview by staff investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “Are you aware of any incident where a wrestler in a match received a concussion?”
Stephanie McMahon Levesque: “No.”
OCTOBER 2008: Lance Cade battered with chair shots, including one square to the skull; dies 22 months later, at 29, of “heart failure”
DECEMBER 2009: WWE lies to ESPN about access to Benoit studies
On December 9, 2009, ESPN’s Greg Garber reported findings of CTE in the brain of a second dead wrestler, Andrew “Test” Martin.
WWE issued a statement to ESPN: “WWE is unaware of the veracity of any of these tests, be it for Chris Benoit or Andrew Martin…. WWE has been asking to see the research and tests results in the case of Mr. Benoit for years and has not been supplied with them.”
In fact, as my blog reported, on October 1, 2008, WWE medical director Joseph Maroon had met with Dr. Bennet Omalu and others at the West Virginia Brain Research Institute and shown the slides of Benoit’s preserved brain tissue.
Later WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt would contend that the statement was accurate because WWE does not necessarily accept that Omalu documented chain of custody and did not switch Benoit’s brain tissue with someone else’s.
DECEMBER 2009: WWE promotes chair shots to the head
The December 13, 2009, WWE pay-per-view show “Tables, Ladders and Chairs” was promoted with videos showing chair shots to the skulls of wrestlers – including one to wrestler Chris Jericho, which was followed by cartoon cuckoo birds encircling his head.
EARLY 2010: Ban on chair shots to the head announced
WWE officially promulgated the ban on chair shots to the head on its website.
On his own blog, off-and-on company executive and ring announcer Jim Ross wrote: “Nice to see WWE focus on eliminating chair shots to the heat of their athletes. I blogged about this several weeks ago which I am sure means nothing in regard to this decision being made. Some asked if I thought this mandate was ‘politically motivated’ to which I emphatically say hell, no. It simply makes common sense and the overall health of the competitors has to be any companies utmost priority.”
On March 25, Sheamus hit Daniel Bryan with a chair to the head at a WWE show in Champaign, Illinois.
On April 3, Triple H hit the Undertaker with a chair to the head at WrestleMania in Atlanta.