Monday, November 5, 2007

Author Muchnick in CNN Documentary on Wrestling

[from ECW Press]

TORONTO. November 5, 2007.

ECW author Irvin Muchnick is interviewed in a documentary on CNN about professional wrestling that will air for the first time on Wednesday, November 7, at 8:00 p.m. (ET).

The hour-long program, part of the "CNN Presents" series of special in-depth reports, will cover the topic of drugs and death in wrestling. The issue rose to public consciousness following the June double-murder-suicide of wrestler Chris Benoit and is now the focus of investigations by two committees of the House of Representatives.

Muchnick is author of Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal and co-author of Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport; and is working on the forthcoming book Chris and Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling's Cocktail of Death , all from ECW Press.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Review of Bret Hart's 'Hitman'

Irvin Muchnick's review of Bret Hart's new bestseller, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, can be viewed at

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why Walk on Eggshells About Chris Benoit?

[cross-posted to the WRESTLING BABYLON Blog,]

BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport is, unsurprisingly, a hot-selling book immediately upon release. Among wrestling titles in the U.S., only Chris Jericho’s well-written memoir and the latest WWE spinoff product, with Batista’s name on the cover, are doing better out of the gate. At Amazon Canada – where BENOIT has hovered inside or near the list of 100 bestsellers among all books – only Jericho’s and the long-anticipated blockbuster by Bret Hart are moving more briskly.

Your humble blogger, one of four BENOIT co-authors, thanks Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, and Greg Oliver for carrying me better than Adrian Adonis covered for Jesse “The Body” Ventura in tag-team matches.

However, I observe that almost everyone – including Steve, Heath, Greg, and our publisher, ECW Press – tiptoes around the subject of our book rather more gingerly than necessary. Inevitably, the first posthumous book on Chris Benoit (as well as, in my biased prediction, what will ultimately go down as one of the best) has taken heat on the grounds of “taste.” But inevitability and legitimacy are not the same thing.

Here’s reviewer Mike Jenkinson on the fine Canadian website SLAM! Wrestling: “I’m leery of ‘rush job’ books that can be accused – rightly or wrongly – of trying to capitalize on sensational tragedies by being the first to market with an explanation of what happened.”

Let’s set aside the point that BENOIT most assuredly does not presume to have “an explanation of what happened.” (My own forthcoming book CHRIS AND NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, which is still in the research stage, will indeed take baby steps toward such an assertion.) I’d like to focus on the qualifier “rightly or wrongly.” I think that’s a weasel phrase, characteristic of a disingenuous argument whose English translation is roughly the following: “I personally am OK with good reporting and good writing on a story millions of people are interested in. But I’m not so sure the rest of the world is ready to handle this.”

Well, blow me down, Gertrude. This is nanny criticism, and it’s time to so label it. Smart wrestling fans, like smart readers, shouldn’t need to clear their throats on an ascent to moral high ground.

(I should note here that the producer of SLAM! Wrestling, BENOIT co-author Oliver, recused himself from editing Jenkinson to avoid the appearance of mutual back-scratching – or what the old Spy magazine used to call “logrolling in our times.”)

ECW Press went to pains before publication to emphasize on its blog how sober and responsible the book was going to be, and designed a sedate, text-dominated cover. (At first I lobbied for something a little more direct; now I like the cover, not so much because it pulls punches but because it looks great and it gives our project crossover cachet.)

Which is all OK to a point. That point, I submit, is where no one will call out this phenomenon for what it is: garden-variety denial. Or its walk-loudly-and-carry-a-tiny-stick backlashers for what they are: pencil-neck geeks.

When Congress stops taking a long-overdue look at the wrestling industry as a result of the Benoit fallout … when the feds wrap up their prosecution of Phil Astin, the prescription-happy doctor for Benoit and many other wrestlers … when all the tangential, multimillion-dollar litigation has run its course … when the name “Christopher Michael Benoit” has exhausted all currency or historical import … well, that’s when I’ll begin apologizing for BENOIT and for CHRIS AND NANCY.

Until then, I’d like to ask those of you out there with different viewpoints a few questions.

· WWE promulgated the most tasteless angles imaginable to exploit the death of Benoit’s good friend Eddie Guerrero. Did Chris respond by either quitting or signing his paychecks over to charity?

· Raw aired a tribute show on Benoit at a moment when, we now know, those in charge already realized that the family tragedy was in fact a murder-suicide. Did viewers subsequently punish WWE or the USA cable network by switching their allegiance to Gossip Girl?

· Eventually WWE will resume marketing Benoit DVD’s, for time heals and there’s money to be made off them. Will the weasels organize a boycott? Or will they say that, “rightly or wrongly,” some people think it’s a bad idea (and of course be sure to acquire their own copies)?

Upon hearing that he had been elected to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson told Dave Meltzer, “I believe all the wrestlers and people who are in and close to the business all know how much I love the business, and realize that there was [sic] no more challenges or possibilities to grow. I should preface, the intelligent people understand that. The goofs, not so much.”

My sentiments exactly. With or without everyone else’s permission, I think I’ll just continue to commit journalism.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, October 19, 2007

WWE Lawyer McDevitt 'Not Going to Dignify the Crap' About Chris Benoit's Concussions

[cross-posted to the WRESTLING BABYLON Blog,]

An extraordinary article in the Canadian magazine Macleans, "The Concussion Time Bomb," discusses in depth the possibility, recently raised by Chris Benoit's father Michael and former wrestler Chris Nowinski's Sports Legacy Institute, that mental impairment caused by brain trauma might be a cause of Chris Benoit's homicidal and suicidal rampage in June. The story can be viewed at

What is most extraordinary about the Macleans piece is not the concussion research itself (which is formidable and, at a minimum, interesting), but writer Steve Maich's ability to do something that few have accomplished: he made World Wrestling Entertainment lawyer Jerry McDevitt, ordinarily the smoothest of spin doctors, lose it.

McDevitt, a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, tells Macleans that until the Nowinski group reveals more about the science behind the postmortem examination of Benoit's brain, "we're not going to dignify the crap they're peddling." This is a bit of a departure -- one with tones of exasperation -- from the statement WWE issued after ABC's Nightline broke the story of Michael Benoit's close consideration of the multiple-concussion-syndrome explanation for his son's behavior.

McDevitt goes on to say in Macleans that "[t]he entire notion that the WWE could be sued because Chris Benoit garrotted his wife and killed his son is absurd in the extreme, legally and factually, whether he had concussions or whether he didn't. People get concussions every day in sports, and nobody goes out and kills their wife and child. It's no excuse for murder. Give me a break. Everybody knows it's not a side effect of concussions that you commit murder, for Christ's sake."

The word from inside Titan Tower in Stamford, Connecticut, since the day after the Benoit murder-suicide, WWE has been groping for PR angles that would make Chris Benoit come off as more sympathetic. (The sloppily exploited revelation that his son Dan had Fragile X Syndrome was one early example.) The reason is that the company, which has removed Benoit from DVD's and other merchandise lines because of image concerns, would like to resume exploiting his impressive archive of classic wrestling matches.

But the latest McDevitt remarks indicate that WWE is now less concerned about that and more concerned about defending a possible lawsuit by Michael Benoit.

Co-Author Muchnick Discusses 'BENOIT' in Radio Interview

[cross-posted to the WRESTLING BABYLON Blog,]

Irvin Muchnick, one of the authors of BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport, discusses the Chris Benoit double-murder-suicide, and the prospect of Congressional investigations of the pro wrestling industry’s pandemic of drugs and death, in an interview this morning on WOC Talkradio 1420 AM in Davenport, Iowa.

BENOIT – co-authored with Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, and Greg Oliver, and published by ECW Press — is high on the list of “hot new releases” of all sports books at It is also climbing the overall bestseller list at

The audio of Muchnick’s interview with WOC morning show host Jim Albracht can be accessed at

Friday, September 28, 2007

Crossing the T's on Fragile X

[cross-posted to the WRESTLING BABYLON Blog,]

(Have tips for author Irvin Muchnick on the Chris Benoit story or any other aspect of pro wrestling behind the scenes? Send them to

As work proceeds on my book next year about the Benoit murder-suicide, this blog will periodically share preliminary reporting on selected topics. Today’s topic: the mystery of Daniel Benoit’s Fragile X Syndrome.

In the days after Chris Benoit strangled his wife Nancy and their 7-year-old son Daniel, and hung himself, a report surfaced that Daniel had Fragile X. This is a family of genetic conditions, which include both the most common cause of inherited mental impairment and the most common known cause of autism. (Fragile X also has other, physical manifestations, which differ between males and females. For complete information, see the website of the National Fragile X Foundation,

The report originated at a Vancouver radio station, after which it was aggressively promoted by World Wrestling Entertainment as a global explanation of the Benoit tragedy. This seemed plausible in part because initial reports from the crime scene included the detail that Daniel had needle marks on his arm, perhaps from injections of human growth hormone. (And perhaps this was Chris’s response, rational or not, medically authorized or otherwise, to his son’s physical problems and smallish size.)

But the suggestion that Daniel had Fragile X was quickly denied by the Fayette County district attorney, by Daniel’s kindergarten teachers, and by his maternal grandparents. The British Columbia woman who was the root source of the report then clarified that her knowledge of Daniel’s condition came second-hand, from a conversation her late husband had told her he’d had with Chris Benoit.

And there things stand – like many other aspects of this story, tantalizing and without closure. There are three subsets of the Fragile X angle:

(1) Did Daniel Benoit, in fact, have the condition?

(2) What do we know about World Wrestling Entertainment’s role in spreading this story?

(3) How do conclusions about Fragile X impact the bottom line on the murder-suicide?

No. 1: Daniel Benoit Almost Certainly Had Fragile X

I spoke with Robert Miller, executive director of the National Fragile X Foundation, and Arlene Cohen of the foundation board.

The foundation had issued a statement in the midst of the June media frenzy; that no longer appears to be up at the website. Miller has written a takeout on the Benoit story for the foundation’s quarterly publication, the full text of which can be viewed at Here’s the money passage: “[W]e never imagined the kind of awareness that came with the recent tragedy involving wrestler Chris Benoit and his wife and son. Like it or not, though, awareness is what we got. Gobs of it. As in 30,000 visitors to our website in three days. (A number typical for an entire month!) People tripping all over each other to report on the role that fragile X syndrome played in this terrible murder-suicide. Unfortunately, in most instances, they got it wrong. Once the first wave of sensational media accounts had passed, no reporter could find any evidence that Chris Benoit killed his wife and son and then himself because his son had fragile X syndrome.”

Neither Miller nor Cohen had special insider information on the truth of the report. Cohen agreed with me that it would be wildly unlikely for Winthrope – like Cohen, a parent of a child with Fragile X and an activist for research and awareness (in Winthrope’s case, with the B.C. chapter of the Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada) – to have fabricated such a thing.

Beyond that – and beyond understandably impressionistic anecdotal observations of people like Chris Jericho and Superstar Billy Graham after the fact – there are other elements pointing toward a “yes.” These include some medical history on Nancy Benoit’s side of the family suggesting a related genetic syndrome; the general hyper-privacy of many Fragile X families; and the specific, extremely close-mouthed, nature of Chris Benoit himself.

In my opinion, we eventually will see confirmation of Daniel’s Fragile X. Even if the condition was not reported to his school by the family or noticed by his teachers (which itself seems questionable), there is multi-front litigation pending, with means of discovery not yet tapped.

No. 2: The Fragile X Story Itself Was Spontaneous, Not Planted, Though WWE Did Opportunistically Exploit It

I exchanged email with Jacquie Donaldson, program/news director of News1130 in Vancouver, and with Pam Winthrope, the source.

Though I draw no conclusions from this, Donaldson was not helpful. In response to my request for a transcript or audio copy of the station’s report, Donaldson said she could not provide one. She said she was forwarding my questions to the reporter on the story (whom she would not name), but the reporter has not returned the messages. But perhaps the News1130 people are just embarrassed by their role in this affair. Without hearing the report, let me add that I don’t think they need be, as it contributed, however confusingly, to the overall Benoit conversation.

In Winthrope’s email to me, she essentially recapitulated what she had told News1130, and added her frustration – which of course many of us can relate to – about how it got distorted through the prism of the media frenzy. Winthrope said her knowledge of Daniel’s Fragile X came from her late husband’s very brief contact with Chris about five years ago. Winthrope’s husband had heard about Daniel in the Fragile X community (Pam Winthrope did not know from whom specifically), and she and he thought that if Chris were willing to become a spokesperson he could raise consciousness for the cause, especially in Canada. According to Pam Winthrope, her husband tracked down Chris, talked to him for five minutes, and learned that Chris was not interested in a public role.

Pam disclosed a little more to me, but not much, and she has not as yet responded to my request to quote her verbatim. Nor has she responded to my request to clarify how the News1130 report came to be – whether it was she who approached the station or whether the reporter, based on independent information, approached her. That said, nothing in her words or tone supports speculation that WWE put her up to telling the world about Daniel’s condition in the aftermath of the murder-suicide. She said that to this day she is unsure if WWE knew of it or was simply using it, based on the same sketchy information everyone else had, as something to hide behind.

Thus, my conclusion that the Fragile X angle got out there on its own but that WWE exploited it shamelessly – and characteristically. Only recently did I catch up with CEO Linda McMahon’s June 28 interview on “Good Morning America” (video of which can still be accessed at the ABC News website), and I was struck by her lack of equivocation about Fragile X in her sound bites and her obviously calculated touting of it as a tidy single-bullet explanation for Chris Benoit’s rampage. That was really irresponsible.

I also confess to having been overly invested myself in the Fragile X explanation. In my June 27 appearance on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” I found myself accused – as I haven’t been before or since – of being a WWE apologist when I raised the Fragile X possibility. Granted, I was up against Bill O’Reilly, an insufferable hot-air balloon berating my refusal to cooperate with his preconceived and uninformed “agenda.” But in light of Linda McMahon’s GMA shot the next day, and other evidence of WWE’s ham-handed crisis-management propaganda, I have to admit O’Reilly and other cable news observers had a point in asserting that Fragile X was classic McMahonesque diversion from the real story. (The O’Reilly clip can be viewed at

No. 3: Parental Stress Over Fragile X Was, at Most, a Contributing Factor in the Crimes

All of which is to say that an argument between Chris and Nancy Benoit over their son’s care was probably part of the mix. Steroid abuse, other drug abuse, brain damage from concussion syndrome, professional stress, personal stress, Chris’s unique and tightly wound personality – all undoubtedly contributed, in measures we’ll never adequately quantify, to this sad and perfect storm.


September 28, 2007

BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (ECW Press), by Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, Irvin Muchnick, and Greg Oliver, will be in bookstores shortly.

Monday, September 24, 2007

'BENOIT' co-author Oliver on ET Canada

[cross-posted to the Wrestling Babylon Blog,]

Entertainment Tonight Canada
will interview Greg Oliver, co-author of BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport, airing in two parts on Monday and Tuesday, September 24-25. The interview
will focus on Oliver’s personal correspondence with Benoit. ET Canada is the sister show of U.S. newsmagazine program Entertainment Tonight. It airs every weekday and is broadcast nationally on Global TV

Live Audio Wrestling (Fight Network Radio) will interview Heath McCoy, another co-author of
Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport. The interview will be heard on Sunday, September 30 at 12.30 a.m. Eastern time. LAW is a syndicated radio program that is broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 186), CFRB 1010Toronto, The Team 1200 - Ottawa, The Team 1040 – Vancouver, The Team 1260 - Edmonton, The Fan 960 - Calgary, and CJOB 68 - Winnipeg.

BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (ECW Press) is co-authored by Greg Oliver, Heath McCoy, Steven Johnson, and Irvin Muchnick.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

ECW Press Announces 'Chris and Nancy' by Irvin Muchnick, Story of Benoit Murder-Suicide, for 2008 Publication

July 16, 2007 – ECW Press announced today that it has signed author Irvin Muchnick to write a book about the sensational case of wrestler Chris Benoit.

The book, entitled CHRIS AND NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be published in 2008.

Muchnick is author of the hot-selling ECW Press book, WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal (site:; blog:, and has appeared extensively in media coverage of the Benoit case. The appendix of WRESTLING BABYLON documents the premature deaths of nearly 100 wrestlers over the last generation from drugs and related aspects of the pro wrestling lifestyle. That information has been cited both by commentators and by a member of Congress urging investigation of the billion-dollar pro wrestling industry.

Michael Holmes, senior editor of ECW Press, said: “We are delighted to be publishing what certainly will be the most authoritative and best-written full-length account of the Benoit tragedy and its implications. Irv Muchnick’s WRESTLING BABYLON is both one of the most important and one of the most commercially successful books in our company’s history. We expect CHRIS AND NANCY to break more new ground.”

ECW Press (site:; blog: was recently recognized by Publishers Weekly as one of North America’s fastest growing and most diversified independent publishers.

Information about and updates on CHRIS AND NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death can be followed at

Media inquiries:

Simon Ware, Publicity Director, ECW Press
(; tel. 416-694-3348)

- or -

Irvin Muchnick (