While WWE Star Randy Orton Overdosed on Drugs, Wrestling Media and Fans Underdosed on Reality

Breaking his years-long silence on the subject, Randy Orton has acknowledged in an Arizona radio interview that in 2006 he indeed overdosed on an unspecified drug, was rushed by his then-fiancee to a suburban St. Louis hospital (DePaul Health Center, I can now report), and nearly died.

This verifies the account first published on this blog a year after the incident. The most comprehensive retrospective here – in January 2010 during the U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut – was “The Suicide Attempt (Part 2 – Randy Orton, Poster Boy for Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Wellness Policy’),” https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/the-suicide-attempt-part-2-randy-orton-poster-boy-for-linda-mcmahon%E2%80%99s-wwe-%E2%80%98wellness-policy%E2%80%99/.

The audio of Orton’s KUPD-Tempe interview is up on his own site at http://randy-orton.com/2011/06/randy-talks-with-98-kupd-arizonas-real-rock/.

Cageside Seats’ S. Bruce was the first wrestling journalist to report Orton’s admission, at http://www.cagesideseats.com/2011/6/29/2250462/outrageous-randy-orton-interview. Bruce notes that this confirms, “in part, Irv Muchnick’s story in 2007 that Orton had overdosed, although Irv initially claimed it was a suicide attempt, which is clearly not the case.”

At the Pro Wrestling Torch site, James Caldwell goes minimalist and cryptic: “Orton talked candidly about past drug abuse issues, including a documented incident five years ago when he ‘stopped breathing’ and his wife called an ambulance to save his life.”

Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer makes the important marketing tie-in to Orton’s disclosure: “He admitted to overdosing, stopped breathing and being rushed to the hospital in 2006 (this story had been reported by Irv Muchnick shortly after it happened) but he also admits to that on a new documentary DVD the company is putting out.”

When I broke the story, Brian Stull of KFNS radio in St. Louis had me on his “Stranglehold” show to talk about it. Beforehand, Stull spoke off the air with Orton’s father, Bob Orton Jr., who denied all. But Cowboy Bob later vaguely confirmed the episode in a KFNS documentary series on local sports heroes.

At the time, I did no favors to my opportunity to focus wrestling fans on the key issues when my early reports included easy-to-nitpick errors about the time frame of Orton’s OD and the background of his “legend killer” gimmick. So, yes, I wish I had rolled out the story more effectively.

I doubt, however, that perfection – as opposed to an overall sound scoop – would have made any difference. Just a few months after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide gripped mainstream media the world over, the news that a bankable WWE star had already gone through a hushed-up near-death experience would have resonated if fans, and the media pandering to them, wanted it that way. But they were eager to crawl back into their shells of denial. Not even the additional information that Randy Orton mysteriously dodged a suspension in the contemporaneous Signature Pharmacy scandal could shake the deniers out of their complacency.

As for the assertion by Bruce of Cageside Seats that there “clearly” was no suicide attempt … I’m not so sure. The slope of agency in drug overdoses can be slippery, and the bottom line of mortality doesn’t account for intent. (In 2008 Sean Waltman would be vehement that his own OD had been accidental, but later would change his tune.)

Anyway, it would be nice if the moral of this story were more than the parsing of gossipy details or the inevitable speculation that Orton’s new “candid” interview was just a self-congratulating work-shoot-work-shoot ploy to boost the sales of Randy Orton: Evolution of a Predator (of course it was). Orton is also, by his count, a six-concussion survivor – an issue which, like drug abuse, transcends both wrestling and its vastly larger cousin entertainment, pro football. The measurements of the ingredients of the “cocktail of death” are debatable – but not the conclusion that it’s a serious public health problem.


Irv Muchnick

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June 2011

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