Archive for May, 2011

Connecticut Media Profiles in Caution on the WWE Independent Contractor Story

A prominent Connecticut journalist, in his wisdom, took the time to email me for the sole purpose of sniffing that my previous item on this blog was a “non-story.” For proof, he offered the analysis of James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch (

$7,316 is a tiny drop in the bucket for WWE, so this won’t affect them. The state’s TV production tax credits to WWE over the past few years is about 1,000% larger than this fine.

The next step should be an investigation of WWE’s independent contractor classification, but that probably won’t happen after the Department of Labor went through a two-year audit that likely cost a whole lot more than the fine WWE will be paying. It would be difficult to justify a follow-up investigation despite evidence WWE does not meet the guidelines to classify wrestlers as independent contractors.

You can file this one — both the Caldwell observation and my esteemed correspondent’s exploitation of it — under “speaking platitudes to power.” If Linda McMahon takes another stab at a U.S. Senate seat next year, as expected, Governor Dan Malloy, Labor Commissioner Glenn Marshall, and others might get a little better focus on the independent contractor issue. But they won’t get much help from the public-spirited commentators of the Nutmeg State, who will be busy replaying the YouTube of Linda kicking wrestling announcer Jim Ross in the testicles.

Irv Muchnick

WWE Tries to Ring the Bell on Connecticut Labor Department Probe

In an obvious and ham-handed two-stage leak by corporate operatives, the Associated Press is reporting that the Connecticut Labor Department’s audit of World Wrestling Entertainment independent contractor practices laid a dud.

The second and more-developed version of the story, under the headline “APNewsBreak: Contentious audit finds WWE owes $7K,” is at

The upshot, according to WWE lawyer Mary Gambardella (where is ole Jerry McDevitt when you need him?), is that a two-year investigation of the company turned up an alleged $7,316.64 shortfall in unemployment insurance payroll taxes for a couple of dozen part-time film archive editors. WWE paid the bill under protest to make the nuisance go away. To give this all extra-comical resonance, the employees in dispute had had the job of blurring out the old logo “WWF,” for “World Wrestling Federation,” following a successful trademark infringement suit years ago by the World Wildlife Fund, which forced the wrestling entity to change its name and abbreviation.

The substantial independent misclassification controversy at WWE isn’t about a few office flunkies, of course. It’s about how the wrestlers on Vince and Linda McMahon’s payroll, who drop dead by the bushel before their time, are not treated as the regular employees everyone knows they are, and are thus cheated out of covered health care and other benefits. (In the bargain, governments at all levels also get stiffed out of payroll taxes.)

If this is the last word on the subject from Connecticut Labor Commissioner Glenn Marshall, with the blessing of Governor Dan Malloy, then the state’s government and politics have become even more of a national laughingstock than they already were.


Irv Muchnick

Author Muchnick’s Montreal Radio Interview About Randy Savage on YouTube

Author Irvin Muchnick’s Monday interview with Dan Delmar of CJAD Radio in Montreal, discussing the death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and related topics, is now at the WrestlingBabylon channel on YouTube (

The interview link is

Dr. Joseph Maroon & ‘Neurosurgery’ 2004: The Corrupt NFL Pellman-Casson-Lovell Research Team Weighs In

Neurosurgery, January 2004 – “Duration of Cognitive Impairment after Sports Concussion.” Authors: Joseph Bleiberg, Ph.D., Alison N. Cernich, Ph.D., Kenneth Cameron, M.S., ATC, Wenyu Sun, M.D., M.P.H., Karen Peck, M. Ed., ATC, James Ecklund LTC (P), M.D., Dennis Reeves CDR, Ph.D., John Uhorchak COL, M.D., Molly B. Sparling, B.A., Deborah L. Warden, M.D.


A military study with no significant new findings. They “are consistent with the American Academy of Neurology” guidelines “suggesting a 1-week time-out from participation in contact sports” following a concussion.

In his published comment, Dr. Maroon observed: “Neurocognitive testing has been deemed the ‘cornerstone’ of proper concussion assessment and management.”


Neurosurgery, January 2004 – “Concussion in Professional Football: Epidemiological Features of Game Injuries and Review of the Literature – Part 3.” Authors: Elliot J. Pellman, M.D., John W. Powell, Ph.D., David C. Viano, Dr. med., Ph.D., Ira R. Casson, M.D., Henry Feuer, M.D., Mark Lovell, Ph.D., Joseph F. Waeckerle, M.D., Douglas W. Robertson, M.D.


All nine co-authors were members of the National Football League’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. Since then, Dr. Pellman and Dr. Casson, in particular, have been thoroughly disgraced in separate rounds of Congressional hearings; and a reminder to all that Lovell is one of Dr. Maroon’s University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and ImPACT Applications colleagues. See this blog, passim.

The article reported on an 1996-2001 NFL study “to determine the circumstances, causes, and outcomes” of concussions. Encompassing 3,826 team games and 787 reported cases, it concluded that quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defensive secondaries were the most vulnerable to concussions. There were “2.74 symptoms/injury, and players were generally removed from the game. More than one-half of the players returned to play within 1 day, and symptoms resolved in a short time in the vast majority of cases.”

Maroon’s published comment: “The incidence was only 0.41 percussion per NFL game” (though he added that “this seemingly low incidence” was mitigated by the dependence on players themselves to report their symptoms). “The NFL and the members of the MTBI Committee of the NFL are to be commended for their concise and succinct summary.” He did not bother with a disclaimer that he was himself a member of the committee.

Series “Dr. Maroon & Neurosurgery” will continue in following posts.



Irv Muchnick

Author Muchnick Interviewed on Montreal Radio About Death of Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, was interviewed about the death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and related topics today by Dan Delmar of CJAD Radio in Montreal. The audio file can be accessed at (the interview begins at about the 2:00 mark).

‘Is There Now a Feeding Frenzy of Concussion-Related Sports Suicides?’ … today at Beyond Chron

We now know that hockey player Derek Boogaard’s recent mysterious death at 28 was caused by a fatal mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone. As soon as Boogaard died, his family donated his brain to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy research group in Boston, led by Dr. Robert Cantu and spearheaded by Harvard alum and retired World Wrestling Entertainment performer Chris Nowinski. The Boogaard tragedy followed close on the heels of the Boston group’s announcement that 50-year-old ex-football star Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in February, had CTE.

A cluster of recent sports suicides highlights the American concussion crisis, of course. But it also raises another tough question: After years of being asleep at the switch on the scope and magnitude of industrial brain injuries in our couch-potato entertainment, are the sports establishment and media now contributing to a feeding frenzy that is actually causing additional deaths rather than preventing them?


Boogaard: Alcohol And Oxycodone

According to new wire service reports, the death of Derek Boogaard was caused by an accidentally fatal mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.

The original first sentence of my new column for Beyond Chron, which will be published Monday, was going to be, “We don’t yet know why hockey player Derek Boogaard died at 28, but we do know that his family immediately donated his brain to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy research group in Boston, led by Dr. Robert Cantu and spearheaded by Harvard alum and retired World Wrestling Entertainment performer Chris Nowinski.”

This development causes me to tweak that sentence. But it doesn’t change the essence of the piece, headlined “Is There Now a Feeding Frenzy of Concussion-Related Sports Suicides?”

Irv Muchnick

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