Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chris Benoit Story Takes Dave Meltzer & Company Out of Their Comfort Zone

SEE ALSO:

* Podcast of Muchnick’s November 23 interview with host Sarah Meehan of UnderScore (Hardcore Sports Radio, Sirius Satellite 98): http://muchnick.net/underscore112309.mp3

* CHRIS & NANCY Holiday Errata Project: http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/chris-nancy-holiday-errata-project/

* An Exchange with Sean Radican of Pro Wrestling Torch: http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/an-exchange-with-sean-radican-of-pro-wrestling-torch/

“Dave’s reaction to your book seems odd and he does a hell of a job covering wrestling, so I’d like to see a concrete response from him about all of this at some point before making a judgment.”

I agree with all parts of these observations about Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter by Sean Radican of Pro Wrestling Torch. The next question is, “Why?”

It is now commonly accepted by many people of various political persuasions that the American media failed to expose the flaws in President Bush’s claim that Iraq was well along in its development of weapons of mass destruction – the major immediate justification for launching the war there.

Most of the sports media now agree, in retrospect, that it was wrong to hoot down Steve Wilstein, the Associated Press reporter who noticed that Mark McGwire had a jar of androstenedione, a steroid precursor then banned by many other sports, while he was setting his baseball home run record in 1998.

Yet in wrestling, Meltzer, with a spasm of macho posturing, so far refuses to confront levels of the Benoit story that he both helped me research and himself ignored or downplayed at the time.

Sean Radican has said “everyone should read CHRIS & NANCY.” Whether or not you ultimately share his generous conclusion that it’s “a very compelling read,” I don’t think his core recommendation can be responsibly denied by fans who profess concern for the performers they spend hundreds of hours a year cheering and booing.

At the conclusion of my interview Monday on Hardcore Sports Radio’s UnderScore, host Sarah Meehan said: “I know what you’re saying. With respect to the fans and the way that fans react to things, this isn’t OK what continues to happen in and around the world of professional wrestling.... And regardless of the filters through which we view the sport or the entertainment that it is, it still is a very real phenomenon what happens to these people.”


Irv Muchnick


=====


Reviews of CHRIS & NANCY can be viewed at these links:


Mark Hanzlik / Sacramento News & Review

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1317548

Randy Shaw / Beyond Chron
http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

David Bixenspan / SLAM! Wrestling

http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html

Writer Anthony Roberts

http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651

Rich Tate / Georgia Wrestling History
http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210

Joe Babinsack / Wrestling Observer
http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/

Muchnick's Interview on 'UnderScore' (Hardcore Sports Radio) in Podcast Form

The November 23 interview of Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, on UnderScore on Hardcore Sports Radio (Sirius Satellite Radio 98 or hardcoresportsradio.com), with host Sarah Meehan, can be heard at http://muchnick.net/underscore112309.mp3.

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Exchange with Sean Radican of Pro Wrestling Torch

Sean Radican (Pro Wrestling Torch writer and radio host) emailed today. On November 5, Sean wrote on Twitter, “Everyone should read Chris & Nancy by Irv Muchnick. It is a very compelling read.”


Irv, I have been meaning to ask you and I don’t think it was addressed in the book. Once WWE management knew Benoit was most likely the killer before the tribute show aired, what should they have done in your opinion?

I don’t think the AP reported Benoit as the likely killer until after Raw was already on the air and one thing I’ve been thinking about is that WWE wouldn’t be the ones to break that news to the public.



I responded:

Sean, you ask a good question, and you are right that CHRIS & NANCY didn’t address it. I was more interested in what happened than in what didn’t happen. Also, you’ll recall that I had some sympathy for those who would defend WWE against reflexive anti-wrestling critics who were always quick to use this or any other excuse to pile on. And I said as much on MSNBC on June 26, 2007. I really only focused on the phony tribute show after Meltzer strongly encouraged me to do so. Dave hadn’t made that big a deal out of it in his own contemporaneous coverage, and when it became apparent that he had been privy to virtual smoking-gun evidence, I found his muting of that story illustrative of a revealing characteristic of all the coverage.

The short answer to your question is, I don’t know what WWE should have done. I know they shouldn’t have published two timelines; had McDevitt tell the media that none of Benoit’s drugs were from Internet pharmacies; run fast and hard with the Fragile X diversion; or told AP that the Wikipedia edit preceded Benoit’s final text messages.

Though I didn’t write this in the book, some have suggested that they should have just canceled their programming that night. That’s what the Cincinnati Reds did when umpire John McSherry died of a heart attack minutes after the first pitch on Opening Day in 1996. That’s what the Chicago Cubs did after the St. Louis Cardinals’ Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in 2002. That’s what the Los Angeles Angels did when Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year.

Some of the people who made this suggestion didn’t even do so on humanitarian grounds, but simply because, for any business other than pro wrestling, it would be Discretion 101 not to say or do much of anything until more was known.



Here is Sean’s last word, and it’s a good one:

I’ve been trying to make sense of all of the information from your book and it’s a load to handle. I’m wondering why the issues you brought in the book weren’t pursued by the journalists that knew about them. I thought Meltzer’s coverage of the Benoit incident was strong. I thought the Torch’s coverage of the incident was very strong as well as it happened and in the aftermath. Dave’s reaction to your book seems odd and he does a hell of a job covering wrestling, so I’d like to see a concrete response from him about all of this at some point before making a judgment.

I think another story coming out of all of this extends down to wrestling ignoring all of the evidence of the damage of blunt-force trauma to the brain through chairshots and various moves where wrestlers get dropped right on their head. It’s a real shame there was no awakening in the industry as a result of the Benoit incident.

I’ve stopped rating matches where there’s an abundance of dangerous chairshots, head-dropping, etc.... I see it mostly in TNA and ROH. TNA is the worst when it comes to dangerous in-ring activity. Their wrestlers just about kill themselves in the ring. It’s a huge concern of mine.

CHRIS & NANCY Holiday Errata Project

Earlier this month Dave Meltzer offered an odd Wrestling Observer Newsletter Good Housekeeping Seal in a post on his website’s discussion board: “Irv had a story to write, and his story was how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon. Whether the truth jived [sic] with the story was immaterial.”

One sentence later — and with no indicaton that he grasped the contradiction — Meltzer wrote: “... I [helped] him proof his book.”

Why Dave chose to frame this non-review review of CHRIS & NANCY in personal terms, as a false “claim” by me of a “falling out” between us that he full well knows I’ve never made, is a mystery. I think most intelligent readers would prefer, instead, that he proceed with his usual thorough job of reviewing a book’s findings and interpretations.

In my own words, among the many findings and interpretations of CHRIS & NANCY is the story of how the wrestling media, catering to their fans, downplayed or self-censored stories about the Benoit case – precisely when their unique knowledge of a peculiar industry could have had the hygienic effect of lending momentum to calls for reform by challenging WWE’s credibility. Examples in the book:

* To my knowledge, neither Meltzer’s nor any other major fan organ has examined why WWE published two different timelines of events prior to the discovery of the Benoit murder-suicide.

* Also never reported, certainly not in any depth, were the implications of the 30-hour gap between when Chavo Guerrero and Scott Armstrong received Chris Benoit’s final text messages and when WWE called 911.

* Meltzer, again setting an understandable but unhelpful tone for the fan media coverage, dismissed any possible significance in the premature edit of Benoit’s Wikipedia page, which later proved to have connections to these timeline issues.

(My book also breaks a fourth story, about the strange and immediate presence of Dave Taylor near the crime scene, which Meltzer and company likewise have failed to pick up.)

One answer to the question of whether I take seriously the responsibility of making the truth “jive” with the story came more than a year before CHRIS & NANCY was published. In June 2008, WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt complained that I was mistaken in asserting on my blog that the company had sat for an extended period on information about certain wrestlers’ purchases of steroids and growth hormone from Signature Pharmacy. I immediately ran a correction. For his part, Meltzer never reported either WWE’s legal threats (a story in itself) or my response to them. In the process, he issued a lookaway pass to the base source: erroneous information in a prominent and nearly year-old Observer report (which, by the way, never resulted in a complaint from WWE and was never corrected).

Below is a list of the factual errors and problems that readers of CHRIS & NANCY so far have brought to my attention, followed by my responses. Anyone wishing to add to the list can email errata@muchnick.net; cc newstips@wrestlingobserver.com.

===============

Johnny Grunge’s real name

In his review for SLAM! Wrestling, writer David Bixenspan noted that Johnny Grunge’s last name was incorrectly rendered as “Dunham.” His name was Michael Durham.

*****

Chavo Guerrero’s clip on the June 25, 2007, Raw

Also in the SLAM! review, Bixenspan wrote that I erred in stating that Chavo Guerrero’s remembrance of Benoit on the WWE website was different from the testimonial Guerrero did on Raw. I believe Bixenspan is correct: the clip transcribed by me on pages 117-18 of the book was not a web exclusive but simply a reposting of his Raw speech that night.

My source was Meltzer, but there could have been confusion in our exchange of emails on this point. In order to assess all this, Dave would have to add his explanation to mine here. He said nothing about the passage when he fact-checked the book.

Since Meltzer had reported that both Chavo Guerrero and William Regal either looked out of the ordinary or said things out of the ordinary on Raw, I sought the precise example for the former. (Regal’s example was crystal-clear: he said in his interview that Benoit was the best wrestler he’d ever faced, but otherwise wanted to reserve comment.) I came across a Chavo clip that had been posted at wwe.com. I mentioned to Meltzer that it seemed straightforward – so I wondered if this was a web-exclusive clip recorded at a different time. Meltzer replied that yes, it was. Perhaps he misunderstood the question. Or perhaps Meltzer thought there was something subtle in Chavo’s clip that I missed. Or Meltzer’s report of Chavo’s withdrawn demeanor was based on something else entirely in the June 25, 2007, edition of Raw. Again, Dave would have to speak up to clarify that. But David Bixenspan was right in calling out this factual error.

*****

Scott James / Scott Armstrong


A reader complained that it was awkward and misleading for me to refer to Scott throughout the book as “Scott Armstrong,” after footnoting, in the first reference, without further explanation, that the police report called him “Scott James.”

I should have explained that Scott Armstrong is his wrestling name and Scott James is his real name. My sole intention here was to use throughout the name with which most readers were most familiar. I was not intending to imply that the authorities’ use of his legal name had any significance one way or the other.

*****

“Three Amigos”

A reader complained that “Three Amigos” was the name of the late Eddie Guerrero’s finishing move (a series of suplexes) – not a term to describe the bond of Guerrero, Benoit, and Dean Malenko.

Mike Benoit, Chris’s father, was the source for the statement that Guerrero, Benoit, and Malenko privately called themselves the Three Amigos. I did not say, nor intend to say, that this was an official gimmick or group, such as the Four Horsemen.


Irv Muchnick

Monday, November 23, 2009

Muchnick Interview Today on Hardcore Sports Radio

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed today, Monday, November 23, by host Sarah Meehan on UnderScore on Hardcore Sports Radio. The interview is at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time (12:30 Pacific). Hardcore Sports Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 98, also streams programming both live and in podcast archives at http://hardcoresportsradio.com.

Reviews of CHRIS & NANCY can be viewed at these links:



Mark Hanzlik / Sacramento News & Review

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1317548



Randy Shaw / Beyond Chron

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html



David Bixenspan / SLAM! Wrestling
http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html


Writer Anthony Roberts

http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651


Rich Tate / Georgia Wrestling History

http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210


Joe Babinsack / Wrestling Observer

http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Superstar Billy Graham, Disgruntled Former Independent Contractor

The retired wrestler Superstar Billy Graham, once a champion of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment), is hitting the media and campaign bricks to denounce Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, wife of Vince and until recently CEO of WWE.

This story in the Hartford Courant covers it all: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-superstar-mcmahon-critic-111.artnov18,0,2728609.story.

I have only one thing to add. According to the Courant, Graham is a “bitter former employee.”

Actually he’s a bitter former independent contractor. Remember, pro wrestlers are not employees.


Irv Muchnick

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Answer to James Caldwell's Question ...

“What do you think” of Google Books Settlement 2.0, see:

Until You’ve Studied James Grimmelman on Google Settlement 2.0, Don’t Bother Me

http://freelancerights.blogspot.com/2009/11/until-youve-studied-james-grimmelman-on.html



Irv Muchnick

Thank You, James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch

I opened my email this morning to the most important message I’ve received in some time.

It was from James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch. And no, it had nothing to do with Chris Benoit or pro wrestling. That’s the point.

Though I’ve never talked about it with him, James apparently knows that, in my other life, I’m a writers’ rights activist, a former executive at the National Writers Union who became a litigation consultant and then led a slate of objectors to a global class-action settlement against periodical publishers and electronic database companies for ripping off freelance journalists’ previously published works. After 15 years of work in this area, including more than five on the objections in this case, it is before the United States Supreme Court. With perfect pitch, in my humble opinion, the justices renamed the case Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick. Oral argument was heard on October 7, and a ruling should be issued some time between now and June.

Meanwhile, a highly publicized proposed settlement of the infringing practices of Google’s book-scanning project is before U.S. District Court in New York. I am not involved in that case, but its issues are related to mine. Yesterday was the deadline for the parties to file a revised settlement in response to hundreds of objections and comments from authors, foreign governments, and the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

The revised settlement was filed late yesterday, and James Caldwell’s email forwarded to me a link to an instant analysis of it from The Wall Street Journal.

“What do you think?” James asked – that was his entire message.

Well, James, the short answer to your question is that I don’t yet know what I think. I will, however, be closely reading the new settlement language and the coverage of it, and I’ll be commenting on my other blog, http://freelancerights.blogspot.com.

In the meantime, my sincere thanks for taking the time to ask. Since email is such a blunt instrument, there is no way for me to know if your query was na├»ve, earnest, or sarcastic. Most emails don’t flaunt their agendas. They are just emails.

But whether this was your intention or not, your email had the effect on me of a nudge. A nudge away from Benoit and on to something else, anything else. And for that, James, I thank you.

Clearly, I’ve taken my latest round of getting in the faces of wrestling fans and their journalists about as far as it can go. Dave Meltzer, among others, believes I have pushed the envelope too hard in my effort to promote my book and the culture of death it exposes. In my judgment, Dave has not pushed the envelope hard enough. It is a disagreement.

So at this point, in addition to thanking James Caldwell, I want to thank Bryan Alvarez, who also does not share my viewpoint on all things Benoit, for giving a struggling author a discounted rate on the advertisement for CHRIS & NANCY currently running on the secondary pages of the Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 website.

I also want to thank David Bixenspan (SLAM! Wrestling), Joe Babinsack (Observer/Figure 4 website), and Rich Tate (GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com) for their thoughtful reviews. Thanks in the future to all others who take the time to write thoughtful reviews.

Thanks, too, to Derek Burgan (Pro Wrestling Torch), who has put himself out there in support of my work on various Internet radio shows and discussion boards.

Finally, thanks and Happy Holidays to Dave Meltzer, whom I have read for many years and anticipate reading for many more to come. I can only echo all the positive things I said about Dave in Chapter 11 and the Acknowledgments of my book.

Dave, maybe some day you and I and your world can go ’round and ‘round again on the real background of another controversial tale of mine, which is not part of CHRIS & NANCY: the story of Randy Orton and the suicide attempt.

But that’s for another day. Right now, let’s move things over to Freelance Rights.


Irv Muchnick

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dave Meltzer's Weak Defense of CHRIS & NANCY Review Blackout

Dave Meltzer, by far the most influential journalist in pro wrestling, continues to hide behind the pack mentality of his lowest-common-denominator readers.

He is defending, none too persuasively, his stubborn refusal to explain in any depth what he thinks of my book about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. And he is doing so on a sophomoric discussion board on the premium version of his website, rather than in his widely read Wrestling Observer Newsletter. This is intellectually dishonest.

Yesterday, from Great Britain (where is covering the next UFC mixed-martial arts event for Yahoo Sports), Meltzer went on his board to issue his latest papal bull. “How many wrestling books have come out in the last five years? How many have I reviewed? Let me know the percentage,” he wrote.

As Meltzer knew, most of the replies were variations of “hear, hear!” – but these were also predictably crude and shallow. It was a pathetic bit of pandering from someone who knows better.

Moreover, Meltzer still didn’t win everyone over.

“I think Dave’s original reporting on the murders was excellent, some of his best work ever under the most trying of circumstances,” one poster said. “However, I wouldn’t go so far to say it was flawless or Dave uncovered everything there was to know about the tragedies. You can certainly disagree with some of his opinions. I for one thought he went way too easy on WWE for paying tribute to someone they knew was a murderer, even though he was gutsy enough to break that story.”

The poster, “kjharris,” added: “We also know Dave helped Irv by fact checking [CHRIS & NANCY]. Assuming Dave was diligent in doing this and Irv took Dave’s advice, which to be fair may be faulty assumptions, there shouldn’t be many factual errors in the book. So most disagreements will be based on Irv’s interpretation of the facts, which should be open to some debate.”

In conclusion, this person said, “It’s unusual though for a pretty important book release to get completely ignored like Chris & Nancy has been. Most noteworthy books at least get a paragraph in the appropriate section talking about how good the book is and any new information that is broken in the book at the time of their release.”

Obviously, Meltzer can review or not review whatever books he chooses. What is at issue is that he regards himself a serious adult, and most of the time he acts like one. The preponderance of intelligent opinion is that he and his work would be well served by his going on the record about CHRIS & NANCY with more than a couple of throwaway lines on a discussion board.

As another poster pointed out, my book is about a few things more important than “who is going to be in the main event of the next Wrestlemania.”



Irv Muchnick

Thursday, November 12, 2009

‘Muchnick goes where no one else cares to go’ — Sacramento News & Review

Full text of Mark Hanzlik’s review in the Sacramento News & Review of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is viewable at this link:

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1317548

Dave Meltzer’s Correspondence With Me Exposes ‘Uncomfortable But Necessary Question’

As I’ve been discussing on this blog, Dave Meltzer – whose Wrestling Observer Newsletter covers its industry obsessively and often brilliantly – so far has found it beneath his dignity to review my new book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death.

To put this in perspective, CHRIS & NANCY is the only book looking seriously at the official record of one of the biggest general crime stories of 2007, as well as one of the biggest stories in wrestling history. It is also, almost certainly, the current bestselling independently published wrestling book in America (trailing only Hulk Hogan’s new book and various authorized biographies and pap published under the WWE imprint).

Instead of writing a review – good, bad, or indifferent – in which he focuses his unmatched body of knowledge on important issues raised by the book, Meltzer chose to go on a tiny discussion board at his own subscription website to dismiss my unremarkable answer to a question by a podcast interviewer about my book’s criticism of the Observer’s coverage of the Benoit story.

With exaggerated rhetoric designed to marginalize that criticism rather than grapple honestly with it, Meltzer said, “Irv had a story to write, and the story was how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon. Whether the truth jived [sic] with the story was immaterial.”

Is that really the story of CHRIS & NANCY? Readers will have to decide that one for themselves.

In so deciding, they should also, I think, be asking themselves why the usually prolix Meltzer, in this instance, seems to think that such an obscurely planted and unsubstantiated pronouncement substitutes for a proper review.

As I recount in CHRIS & NANCY, Dave and I have been friends since 1984.My criticism of aspects of his work was leveled privately and unflinchingly before the book was published.

It was also expressed in our voluminous email correspondence during the research of the book, on which he was a tremendous help. (“Tremendous help” may be an understatement: he fact-checked my manuscript before it was submitted to my publisher. This makes especially puzzling his suddenly risen charge that I did not exercise due diligence.)

Let’s look at one sliver of that correspondence. On November 24, 2008, I sent Meltzer an email with the subject line “Uncomfortable but necessary question.” Here is the full text:


I ask this respectfully, and with the goal of being accurate about emotions as well as facts.

Since you realized by the middle of the Raw tribute feed that Vince had to know he was honoring a murderer, (a) why didn’t you just say so directly at the time? and (b) why, specifically, would you write without qualification that Vince was terrific that day with his distraught wrestlers in Corpus Christi, when you knew he was actually working them as props for the tribute?

My first take on the answers:

One, I get the vibe that in your decades of covering this peculiar and complex industry, you have real sympathy for the point of view that the show must go on. (You also refused to judge Vince for his on-the-fly PPV decisions with the Pillman and Owen Hart deaths, and if anything, you were closer to Pillman in particular than to Benoit.)

Two, you didn’t want to give aid and comfort to the enemy while they were piling on. Dan Abrams and the other cable TV people didn’t do any serious work in raising the suspicion that WWE knew, and they probably would have issued the same charge/innuendo even if they had known full well knew that it wouldn’t prove out. I felt that tug of fairness myself, and I obviously am not nearly as much of a fan as you are. But despite my distaste for pandering to the anti-wresting crowd, I don’t know that I could have withheld confirmation of such an important basic fact. I feel, and I don’t think you disagree, that the Raw-was-a-work story was important beyond the general proposition that wrestling promoters routinely lie; it was important in the sense that wrestling’s ultimate insane premature deaths could give legs to meaningful scrutiny of a scandalously inadequate wellness policy, which in turn might spur reforms.

Irv



Here is Dave’s November 26 reply:


I really didn’t seriously think about the ramifications until a few days later. Vince was terrific with distraught wrestlers and it is possible to be that way and making the decision he made.

I don’t really have sympathy for the show must go on mentality anymore. I had sympathy for the position that someone after the unexpected situation with Owen Hart could make a decision under pressure that didn’t think things out. I lost sympathy when, intead of just saying that, they came up with the idea that there would have been a riot if the show was canceled, as if baseball fans riot when games are rained out.

However, at that time, while it was a story, to me the big story was what caused Benoit to do what he did, and when it came out he was using the drugs everyone would have expected, an analysis of the ways to make the drug testing policy more honest and effective.



And my November 27 follow-up:


Yes, Dave, but …

You acknowledge that it was a story, if not the big story from your perspective. You write tens of thousands of words every week analyzing every aspect of the business and the coverage of the business, and you regularly make distinctions between big and small stories and discuss how in your judgment they are and are not connected. I simply don’t understand ignoring why WWE published an official tightened-up timeline to defend against criticism that they knew going into Raw, and I don’t see sitting on the fact that you knew with great specificity that the company had no substantive defense against that charge.

I could see, for example, saying something along these lines: “I don’t think whether they knew before Raw is anywhere close to the most important issue. Chris, Nancy, and Daniel are just as dead no matter how tastefully or tastelessly WWE handled it in the first 24 hours, and the truth was that in the midst of the frenzy no one was going to cut them a break. But it has to be said that I learned, hours before Raw went on the air, that company executives knew it was murder-suicide. Like a lot of others, I had a hard time believing Chris could have murdered his son in particular, but when the police details emerged Monday night I realized that Vince had indeed made the call to do a tribute for someone he would almost immediately be writing out of WWE history, and that while he was holding the distraught talent together in Corpus Christi, he was also deceiving them as well as the public.

“The most important issue, going forward, isn’t any of this; it’s the drugs Chris ingested in great quantities, and what impact that will have on the wellness policy and on the business when that becomes clear from the toxicology report. But part of that debate will be shaped by general credibility, and WWE heads into it with none after working a TV audience with a Benoit tribute and then trying to bury the speculation about that by publishing a vague and rewritten timeline of what it knew and when it knew it….”

Irv




To me, Dave Meltzer never opened up further about this.

Now CHRIS & NANCY is out, and he’s still refusing to open up about the deeper implications of how the symbiosis of the wrestling media and the wrestling industry contributed to the petering out of calls for post-Benoit reforms.

Is that a cover-up? I don’t think so. I think it is an analysis of how the world works – a world that includes the Dave Meltzers who, like all of us, sometimes fall short of the mark.


Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Voices of Sanity on Dave Meltzer’s CHRIS & NANCY Review Blackout

I was clearly unfair in broad-brushing the Wrestling Observer discussion board as a Dave Meltzer echo chamber. The “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave” and “Irv Muchnick rips The board” threads include a couple of dissenting voices.

“kjharris” wrote that “it’s a little creepy and sad that Dave Meltzer hasn’t reviewed [CHRIS & NANCY]“:

“Chris Benoit’s double murder suicide was one of the biggest stories of the decade. For all Irv’s flaws in marketing the book on his blog, his book is the most well researched book on the subject. Dave has reviewed plenty of WWE DVDs that trifle in significance to the subjects raised in Irv’s book. He’s probably going to review Hulk Hogan’s latest work of fiction too. Pointing out the inaccuracies in WWE’s or Hulk Hogan’s latest versions of history makes for entertaining informative reading, but it’s like shooting fish from the barrel. Or should we just wait till the next wrestler death or seizure or drug test failure or arrest to bring up the drug problems that are still rampant within the industry? And the cycle continues…”

“DanNJ316” agreed:

“I haven’t read Muchnick’s book, so I can’t comment on it. But if Dave feels that there are inaccuracies in the book, then I’d like to hear about them from him. Let’s get everything out in the open. We’re not talking about who’s main eventing Wrestlemania here, we’re talking about arguably one of the biggest stories in wrestling’s history. To be honest, Dave is dropping the ball by choosing to ignore this book, and not doing a proper review of it. He reviews every other wrestling book that comes out. The fact that he wouldn’t review this book is pretty glaring.

“I understand his thought process about not wanting to get into a pissing contest with Muchnick, and whatever else. But this story isn’t about that, it’s so much bigger than that. Dave needs to put his personal issues with Muchnick aside, and do what needs to be done. Get the truth out there. What about Muchnick said in the book is true, what’s a lie, and then let the people decide what they want to believe. This is not a story that can just be swept under the carpet, and forgotten about.”


(One poster replied that Meltzer doesn’t review “every” wrestling book, but the basic point obtains.)


Irv Muchnick

Wrestling Observer Discussion Board: Into the Den of the Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

Yesterday your humble blogger took his virtual book promotion to a place where few have ventured: the “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave [Meltzer]” thread of the discussion board at the website of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

A grand time was had by all. And I must say that I was thoroughly trounced in this high-minded debate. I mean, it was a pure beatdown. A bloodbath.

A poster by the name of “worshiptheram” kind of summed it up:

“irv gotta stick up the butt / he’s gotta stick / up the butt.”

I would provide a link to this precious piece of intellectual property, but that wouldn’t be right, as it’s behind the premium subscription wall at f4wonline.com. I don’t want to be caught violating the Digital Millennium Act and the Berne Convention. (One poster expressed surprise upon learning that I had published the legal threats of World Wrestling Entertainment lawyer Jerry McDevitt on my Twitter feed. “That doesn’t strike me as particularly scrupulous,” the poster said.)

Speaking of Berne, “allergic2light” from Zurich, also in Switzerland, brought some important perspective to the colloquy.

“I think we can agree that there is a symbiotic relationship going on here between you and our board,” he wrote.

“allergic2light” also hit the nail on the head when he noted that I had “admitted to using [my] blog as a ‘marketing tool.’”

He further broke down the flaw in my writing, which he dubbed the “Muchnick Paradox” – presumably coming soon to a literature graduate studies seminar near you.

“Additionally, your arguments are absurd, because they are terribly negative.” Yeah, I’ve got to work on weeding out all that negativity from my investigation of a double murder/suicide.

Remember that this all started when Dave Meltzer told the board that he had fact-checked CHRIS & NANCY – but was now ignoring it because I had refused to let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CHRIS & NANCY -- A Guide for the Perplexed

CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is a book that everyone is talking about – and exactly five writers have reviewed. Listen to all the gossip. Then read the reviews for yourself:



Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

“Muchnick provides a great public service in exposing what he describes as the WWE’s ‘Cocktail of Death.’ Now it’s up to wrestling fans to demand action, or else continue seeing their heroes die early from avoidable deaths, often ending up destitute after enriching the McMahons.”


=====


Rich Tate, GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com


http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210


“Incredible retelling of the tragic story, with all its odd twists and bizarre turns. The actions of no one are spared…. Highly recommended for anyone willing to relive the horrific events to find out what was overlooked during the official investigation and see who is or who isn’t talking anymore.”


=====


David Bixenspan, SLAM! Wrestling

http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html

“The good parts are absolutely fascinating, and the bad parts were at least expected for the most part. The fact that the flaws largely come from exploiting holes in the official story and searching for the truth make them more tolerable than they would be otherwise.... [I]ncredibly well researched and ... an incredibly valuable resource about the subject.”



=====


Author and blogger Anthony Roberts


http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651


“an immensely interesting and readable book, not just for steroid users but anyone who thought that something was rotten in Denmark when they heard about Chris Benoit murdering his family and killing himself.... [I]f you’re interested in professional wrestling or anabolic steroids, this book should be high on your list of must reads.”


=====


Joe Babinsack, Wrestling Observer website


http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/


“[H]ow did the WWE handle the big picture and help to ensure that this was one more footnote in the dustbin of the history of untimely deaths of athletes associated with the professional wrestling industry?... We should all at least be trying to make better sense of it all, not pretending it never happened.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dave Meltzer, CHRIS & NANCY, and Me (Part 2)

As noted in the first post of this series, wrestling journalist extraordinaire Dave Meltzer has issued his first ex cathedra comments about my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. In the book, I take some shots at what I consider the shallow coverage by the wrestling media – at whose apex rests Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter – of the aftermath of the tragedy.

Unlike GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com (which gave the book a rave) and SLAM! Wrestling (which published a mixed review), Meltzer has yet to say in his own voice exactly what he thinks of CHRIS & NANCY. The Observer website did publish a review by one of its regular online contributors, and its daily update has linked to other reviews, and I appreciate that. But if Meltzer’s position is that this book is beneath engaging himself, he ill serves both his readers and the public issues embedded in the Benoit story.

Over the weekend, Meltzer jumped into a thread on his site’s discussion board, headlined “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave,” in a way that I think is both unfortunate and juvenile. Especially so since he demonstrates elsewhere, week after week, that he is capable of writing with more care, precision, and thought.

“Irv Muchnick on Big Dave” started with a subscriber’s posting on the board of a three-minute clip from my interview on a Georgia Wrestling History podcast. Did Meltzer even listen to it? The answer isn’t clear. He appears to have been most interested in finally finding the right platform for addressing CHRIS & NANCY without really addressing it. Dave is too smart not to know that his “amen corner” of discussion board cultists will reflexively buy his dismissive tone, or whatever he is selling. So we can expect the heated follow-up debate on the board to be along the lines of “Muchnick: Threat or Menace?”

Meltzer also knows better than to reduce my take on the Benoit story to “how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon.” That is an awfully Manichean, black-and-white reading of a lot of gray.

As an independent journalist and author, I don’t apologize for looking at the evidence and concluding that Meltzer covered the Benoit scandal surrounding narrative less thoroughly and faithfully than he told, say, the tale of the “Montreal screwjob” at the 1997 Survivors Series. And I think the superiority of the coverage of treachery in showbiz choreography, over coverage of the corporate spin of three brutal deaths in the real world, is revealing.

On the WON discussion board – a forum specializing in exaggeration, ad hominem drivel, and sheep-like groupthink – Meltzer says I opportunistically “claimed a falling out” with him. Those are his words, not mine. In my words, we have had differences of opinion and perspective. In CHRIS & NANCY I call this “a clinic in the vagaries of ‘wrestling communication.’”

But as long as we’re on the subject, let me add that the book also points out that this isn’t the first time Meltzer has found it convenient to play-act aloofness from a non-trivial criticism of his work.

In June 2008 Jerry McDevitt, the lawyer for WWE, had a lively email exchange with me. (I recently re-ran the full text in a 400-part Twitter series.) In the middle of the exchange, I blogged that WWE had sat for weeks on the Signature Pharmacy information from the Albany district attorney’s office before suspending the talent involved in that scandal. My accusation was wrong. I promptly ran a retraction.

Like tens of thousands of others, I had gotten this erroneous fact from a prominent and unambiguous story nearly a year earlier in … the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Yet, so far as I know, Meltzer has not informed his readers:

* that WWE never complained to him about his root report (suggesting that, for all his huffing and puffing, the corporation regards WON as, at worst, harmless); or

* that his report of how slowly WWE acted on Signature Pharmacy information warrants correction.

Look, we all make mistakes – David Bixenspan busted CHRIS & NANCY for a couple in his SLAM! review, and I acknowledged them. I’m sorry that Dave Meltzer is so reluctant to admit his own fallibility, and relies so heavily on an army of followers who now, no doubt, will proceed to interpret these posts as those of “a jerk who tries to claim that everything is Big Dave’s fault.”


Irv Muchnick

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wrestler-Broadcaster Adam Firestorm Commits Suicide at 32

Adam Dykes, who worked for independent pro wrestling promotions in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest as “Adam Firestorm,” committed suicide last Thursday night. He was 32 and leaves a wife and a young son.

I happened to be the last guest he interviewed on Ringside Live, the blogcast he co-hosted with Ian Hamilton. The interview was taped Wednesday and broadcast Friday night.

After the interview Wednesday, I sent an email to producer Colin Vassallo, thanking them for having me on Ringside Live and asking him to forward to Ian and Adam my appreciation of their intelligent questions.

I also looked at Adam’s bio at TheRingsideLive.com, which stated that he had won his only match against Bryan Alvarez, another indie wrestler in the region and the publisher of Figure Four Weekly. Bryan confirmed this. (Bryan was going to be the next guest on the show this coming Friday.)

On Saturday morning, I received an email from Colin saying that Adam had died. Later in the day SLAM! Wrestling reported that it was a suicide.

Though I did not know Adam except for this single interaction, it is apparent that he had a large network of friends. I extend my sincere condolences to all of them, and to his family.



Irv Muchnick

Dave Meltzer, CHRIS & NANCY, and Me (Part 1)

Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, has broken his sphinx-like silence on my book about the Benoit murder-suicide.

Meltzer did not choose to do so in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Though a contributor to his website, Joe Babinsack, recently reviewed CHRIS & NANCY, Meltzer himself has not reviewed the book in his weekly print edition. I have no idea whether he intends to write a review in the future.

Over the weekend, however, Meltzer did go on one of the discussion boards at his site to participate in a thread headed “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave.” The discussion was prompted by the posting by a subscriber of a three-minute clip of my interview a week ago Friday on the podcast Ringside Rap with Rich Tate and Mike Sempervive. The former had invited me on the show after positively reviewing CHRIS & NANCY at his site GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com.

You can listen to the interview excerpt at http://muchnick.net/ringsiderapclip.mp3. (The other voice is Tate’s.)

You can’t access the full “Irv Muchnick on Big Dave” thread at the Wrestling Observer website unless you are a subscriber. But here is the full text of Meltzer’s post:



Irv had a story to write, and his story was how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon.

Whether the truth jived with the story was immaterial.

He also liked to claim a falling out with me and him when he knew that wasn’t the case, given that long after our so-called falling out I was there helping him proof his book.

He was looking for me to respond and thus in his mind, help sales, so my decision was to ignore it even though there are people who have begged me to rip on him for his portrayal of me.

The only negative thing I wrote was when he was going crazy trying to post daily news updates and taunting Chavo Guerrero and Scott James to talk with him, and pretty much becoming a laughing stock, I told him he was killing his credibility by doing so and was very blunt in doing so. He felt it was a means of marketing the book and that criticism created another hook with the idea he and I had a falling out.



I’ve told Meltzer directly that I think his post is unfortunate. A fair reading of CHRIS & NANCY is not that it is a story of “how the wrestling media covered up for Vince McMahon.” You can read Chapter 11, “How the Media Massaged It (Tabloid, Mainstream, and Fan Flavors)” and the “Notes on Sources” and decide for yourself.

“Whether the truth jived [sic] with the story was immaterial” is a cheap shot, given how much Meltzer knows about how much research went into the book – including my openly expressed criticisms of him both in our email exchanges and in the book. He has a 30,000-word weekly forum, so he has the capacity to devote a few hundred to his opinion of all the ways in which CHRIS & NANCY fell short.

I have not used the term “falling out” to describe our relationship

“Helping him proof the book” is weasel language – it implies that I enlisted Meltzer for help with copyediting. As he knows, I invited him to read the entire book in manuscript form and was grateful that he did. The purpose was fact-checking and, obviously at his own discretion, interpretation.



Irv Muchnick

Friday, November 6, 2009

Muchnick Internet Interview Friday; Links to CHRIS & NANCY Reviews

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed Friday on the Internet wrestling program Ringside with Ian Hamilton and Adam Firestorm. The show streams at TheRingsideLive.com beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time (4 p.m. Pacific).

CHRIS & NANCY continues to be the hottest-selling independently published wrestling book at Amazon (behind only Hulk Hogan’s book and WWE branded merchandise).

Reviews of CHRIS & NANCY can be viewed at these links:


Randy Shaw / Beyond Chron
http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

David Bixenspan / SLAM! Wrestling
http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Benoit/2009/10/22/11493831.html

Writer Anthony Roberts
http://www.anthonyroberts.co.za/?p=3651


Rich Tate / Georgia Wrestling History

http://gwhforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=news&thread=8210

Joe Babinsack / Wrestling Observer
http://www.f4wonline.com/content/view/10962/

Thursday, November 5, 2009

'Muchnick provides a great public service' -- Beyond Chron

Full text of Randy Shaw’s review in Beyond Chron of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is viewable at this link:

http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/_Book_Exposes_Pro_Wrestling_s_Cocktail_of_Death_7522.html

Monday, November 2, 2009

Muchnick's GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com Interview in Podcast Form

Irvin Muchnick’s October 30 interview on Ringside Rap on the Georgia Wrestling History Radio Network, with Mike Sempervive and Rich Tate, can be heard at http://www.georgiawrestlinghistory.com/gwhrn/home.html.

WWE on Muchnick’s CHRIS & NANCY — The Final Twitter Feed, November 2

Follow @irvmuch at Twitter.

PARTS 397 – 400 (the end)

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 397 Yes, I did mean to say your email of this morning, not yesterday. I will shortly publish,

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 398 in order and as three individual dedicated posts, your email this morning

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 399 followed by the two earlier shown to you.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 400 THANKS FOR FOLLOWING THIS SERIES, WHICH NOW CONCLUDES. More info: http://muchnick.net/dvdinfo ...

Muchnick's Chalenge to Wrestling Internet Radio Host Gary Cubeta

FOR FURTHER BACKGROUND, SEE:

CHRIS & NANCY: The Great Debate

CHRIS & NANCY Dustup at Fan Discussion Board




Muchnick to Cubeta

Monday, November 2, 2009 9:36 AM

From: Irvin Muchnick

To: Gary Cubeta


Dear Gary:

The publicist for my publisher, ECW Press, passed along your invitation for me to appear on your Internet radio show. Of course, I accept, but with three conditions that I think are reasonable under the circumstances. Let me list them and provide the full background for the readers of my blog and email list.

The conditions are:

1. Just you and me – no other guests.

2. The interview is live, not taped.

3. You begin the interview by reading the complete Introduction to my book CHRIS & NANCY.

Last week you posted a negative review on the Amazon page for CHRIS & NANCY. Below is the review in its entirety. (I came away with the impression that you regretted that Amazon didn’t provide an interface for block letters with crayon.)


My God what a depressing book … Torture to read … The case is closed. Benoit did the terrible crime and then killed himself. What else is to be said? … my opinions, yours may vary


On your Friday night show, you debated the virtues and defects of CHRIS & NANCY with wrestling book and DVD critic Derek Burgan. On the Wrestling Classics discussion board over the weekend, you conceded, “I had my hat handed to me in that debate.” (http://wrestlingclassics.com/.ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=103539;p=1; PDF version at http://muchnick.net/wrestlingclassics.pdf)

You had initiated the Wrestling Classics discussion board thread on CHRIS & NANCY, where the consensus seems to be that you failed to articulate why you consider it “the worst wrestling book ever.” Eventually you made two halfway coherent points: (a) that a Benoit book serves no purpose because it is well established that Chris Benoit committed the crimes, and (b) that you don’t like my writing style. On the latter point, you said I use too many big words and my sentence structure is too complex. (The only supporting example on the thread, not provided by you, was a sentence from one of my earlier books.)

That is why I attach the condition that you begin the interview by reading the entire Introduction. Your show has a lot of time and the Intro is only around 1,000 words – shouldn’t take that much time, and it sets up the content and style of my book in full context. Needless to add, you can proceed to fire away with whatever questions or comments you choose, and can read whatever other passages you consider poorly written or condescending. (In the Wrestling Classics thread, you offered this insightful gem: “i’ve spoken with a lot of insiders off air and they don’t think he can write either.” Believe it or not, these anonymous critics have not reduced me to tears.)

I look forward to your response.

Irv Muchnick

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WWE on Muchnick’s CHRIS & NANCY — The Twitter Daily Dozen for November 1

For a live feed of this continuing series, follow @irvmuch at Twitter.

PARTS 385 – 396

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 385 but it does not attempt to weasle out of or undermine the retraction, which is all that’s germane

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 386 * Under the same principle as the publication of your complete email of yesterday (“more is

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 387 more”), I also am happy to publish subsequent to my second post an additional email by you

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 388 including the text of your paragraph beginning “Secondly,” as well as, perhaps, other general

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 389 commentary about whatever you find unsatisfactory about me

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 390 and my style of running corrections.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 391 Jerry McDevitt email to Irvin Muchnick, 6/18/09 4:05 p.m., “RE: Muchnick to McDevitt”

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 392 It was not my email of yesterday that you proposed to publish in less than complete fashion.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 393 It was the one this morning. As to the rest, you have my position on the adequacy

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 394 of your purported retraction and what is needed here. I do not intend to comment further,

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 395 and will do what is warranted when I see what you now do.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 396 Irvin Muchnick email to Jerry McDevitt, 6/18/09 4:33 p.m., “RE: Muchnick to McDevitt”

Just for Fun — Looking Back at ‘Night and the City’

I have a piece at SLAM! Wrestling today on the 1950 film noir classic Night and the City, which was set in London’s pro wrestling scene. The movie starred Richard Widmark but included two wrestlers, Stanislaus Zybszko and Mike Mazurki, in powerful supporting roles.

Link: http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/Movies/2009/07/09/10082721.html


Irv Muchnick