Sunday, January 31, 2010

Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ (Part 3)


Introduction (January 28)

Everything They Didn’t Want to Know and Were Afraid to Ask (January 29)


I remember that when my late uncle Sam Muchnick promoted pro wrestling in St. Louis, the security at his shows was run by off-duty cops. Where have you gone, Moose Mueller?

While researching my book about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, I spoke with Captain Richard Conklin of the Stamford police about Matthew T. Greenberg, the “Benoit Wikipedia Hacker.” Conklin confirmed that over the years some of the guys on the force have moonlighted as private security at World Wrestling Entertainment shows.

Outrageous conflict of interest? Or run-of-the-mill community back-scratching? I think most reasonable observers would conclude the latter.

But with Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE, now running for the U.S. Senate, I’d like to know a little more about higher levels of go-along, get-along local politics. I’d like to know, for example, whether her and her husband Vince’s position among Stamford’s leading corporate citizens served them in the pinch in June 2007, once the world realized that the guy who had made a mysterious edit of Benoit’s Wikipedia biography happened to live in the company’s home city.

On that score, Captain Conklin didn’t exactly allay suspicions.

Conklin seemed like a nice fellow. And through his work with a private database of pharmacy crimes, called RxPatrol, he has enjoyed an extra-regional reputation in law enforcement circles. (One further note: 2008, the year of our contacts, was one of several last decade in which Conklin earned the distinction of the city’s highest paid employee; that year he grossed more than $276,000 with the help of accrued overtime.)

But when it came to the kid who had bewildered the world with a Benoit scoop, the only transparency Conklin emitted was transparent nonsense.

In our first conversation, Conklin described young Greenberg to me as a juvenile of 12 or 13. I have no idea why Conklin didn’t at least realize that I already knew Greenberg was a young adult of 19.

Conklin also went off on an irrelevant tangent about the Greenberg family’s “modest house.” The captain didn’t get around to mentioning, however, that Matthew’s father Steven worked for the City of Stamford, in the finance department.

It gets worse. As noted in the previous post in this series, the report on the Benoit case by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia either erred or lied in suggesting that it was based on a viewing of the video of the Greenberg interrogation conducted by Stamford Detective Tim Dolan (as well as on what turned out to be a slapdash examination of the kid’s computer by a Darien detective, Chester Perkowski).

After some bureaucratic bobbing and weaving, Fayette County admitted to me that the only video in its possession was a snippet, which abruptly cut off after three minutes. Evidently, the Stamford cops had exhumed Rose Mary Woods – the secretary for President Nixon who “accidentally” erased incriminating Watergate tapes audio – to work on that task.

“Our original is OK,” Captain Conklin assured me. “I think they’ve requested [another] copy [in Georgia].”

Well, the Fayette County authorities artfully refused to confirm that. So I applied directly to the Stamford police for the video.

And the department said no. In a ludicrous argument nowhere supported in administrative or judicial case law, Captain Tom Wuennemann asserted that “voluntary statements” to police were exempt from Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, even in closed cases.

I appealed to the state Freedom of Information Commission – which, I am delighted to say, proved highly competent and helpful. A hearing was scheduled for November 2007. On the virtual eve of my trip to Hartford, Stamford gave up and released the vide. The case was dismissed.

The rest is YouTube history.

All this is explained in Chapter 9 of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. On March 25, I will be reading from the book, answering questions, and autographing copies at Borders in Stamford.

I hope former Mayor Dan Malloy drops by. Malloy, as you know, endorsed Governor Jodi Rell’s nomination of Linda McMahon to the state Board of Education, and now is running for governor himself. If Hizzoner comes, I hope he brings along Captains Conklin and Wuennemann.

But after jerking me around for months before making me waste a $50 cancellation fee for my airplane ticket, these distinguished public servants had better not be looking for comps.

NEXT (series conclusion): Key to Stamford Police/Wikipedia Story Is What WWE’s Hedged Timeline Reveals About Its Corporate Culture of Death

Irv Muchnick

Hartford Courant's Rick Green Stirs the Pot Again

“Muchnick Wants Piece of McMahon, Will Bookworm Oblige?”

Linda McMahon's Amended FEC Filing Shows How Her Campaign and WWE Are Joined at the Lip

The first analysis I’ve seen of the Linda McMahon campaign’s amended and more detailed filing with the Federal Election Commission was at The Day of New London, Connecticut. See “McMahon boosts Senate race spending,”

The most controversial information about McMahon’s vendors is outside my scope. I think we all realize that Linda has the best consultants money can buy. They include the Las Vegas damage-control maestro, Mike Slanker, straight from helping manage the scandal of Nevada Senator Mike Ensign’s affair with a campaign staffer; and the Bryan Cave law firm, whose revolving-door partners include Michael Toner, former chairman of the FEC.

We also can expect people to try to make some hay out of the fact that at the beginning of the campaign, McMahon operated it right out of World Wrestling Entertainment office space in Stamford before locating campaign headquarters in West Hartford. (The filing shows reimbursements to WWE for rent.) But don’t expect these efforts to go too far. They’re like claiming that the recent shift of WWE television programming to PG was not a routine demographic adjustment, but rather a fix to boost Linda. How do you begin proving in-kind corporate contributions in these cases, even if that’s de facto what they are?

As I’ve opined, President Obama got taken for a ride when he taped a greeting to the troops for WWE’s NBC holiday special from Afghanistan. The company followed with a press release patting itself on the back for support of literacy programs. This was a sotto voce pitch for Linda – who, as we all know, was set to become a French teacher before her dream in life got diverted to wanting to be on the receiving end of a tombstone piledriver by Kane.

But seriously, folks ... What I most want to know is why Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, WWE’s ubiquitous and happy-go-lucky lawyer, isn’t disclosed to the FEC as a McMahon campaign vendor. McDevitt must have billed somebody for the time spent attacking the credibility of ex-wrestlers who spoke negatively about Linda to the Connecticut and national political media.

Maybe I’ll drop Michael Toner a note and ask him what federal election law has to say about that.

With a cc to the general manager of the SmackDown brand.

Irv Muchnick

Ode to Norah Jones' 'Chasing Pirates'

The advantage of blogging is that you can publish whatever you want, whenever you want, on-topic or not.

Sometimes a guy just has to get away from the Connecticut Senate race, death in pro wrestling, and the copyright wars. To do that these days, I kick back and play Norah Jones’ “Chasing Pirates.” For my money, it is the most perfectly crafted pop single since “Conceived,” the minor 2006 hit by Beth Orton.

(And yes, I have a thing for felicitous female voices. Shoot me.)

“Conceived” had sent me diving into Orton’s full oeuvre, which turned out not to measure up to that song’s lightning-in-a-bottle incandescence. Jones, of course, is a different story, having burst on the scene with instantly recognizable and transcendent crossover talent that made her the It Girl of 2002. I don’t apologize for being slow to the party. That is my way. I discovered the Beatles in 1972.

Except for knowing what I like, I know squat about music. So before putting fingertip to keyboard, I rehearsed this essay with one of my sons, a trumpeter who played and occasionally soloed with the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble, and whose musical enthusiasms are both catholic and tasteful. Here’s the best I can come up with.

First, I do not recommend that you run out and view the music video of “Chasing Pirates” on YouTube. The video is a plausible exploitation of Jones’ multiracial beauty and waifish mannerisms, but the viewing experience has the unfortunate effect of reducing the song’s ethereal imagery to prosaic narrative. Instead, I suggest consuming the aural core without sensory filters. Don’t even download the audio track; just wait for it to land in its regular rotation on a radio station such as San Francisco’s KFOG.

What you’ll immediately notice about “Chasing Pirates” is that it’s built around a singular riff and bass line. That’s an old device of pop-hook manipulation. Bo Diddley did it. So did Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.” And, of course, the entire genre of funk beats us over the head with it. Now Norah Jones does it, but in a tantalizingly small package, and with the breathy and understated tones that have led some critics to deride her as “Snorah Jones.”

I have not been a partisan in that debate; I was not a fan, and knew Jones simply as a gifted musician with uneven material. But “Chasing Pirates” shows why her detractors have it wrong. Jones has the voice of an angel – obviously – but her stylings aren’t just seductive, they’re searching. Like jazz vocalists going all the way back to Louis Armstrong, she knows how to coo, illegally and irresistibly, off the beat.

Contrast Jones in “Chasing Pirates” with Brandi Carlile’s “Dreams,” another current hit with spare architecture. Jones is a singer of preternatural depth. Carlile is a pretty good warbler – a modern-day Linda Ronstadt with a great instrument but a mediocre grasp of drama and dynamics. Dreams don’t usually scream, and Carlile (like Ronstadt mangling Roy Orbison) does too much screaming.

The last thing Jones’ pipes and phrasing facilitate is lyricism. I don’t know whether Jones writes her own stuff, and I have enough cynical background in the culture industry to realize that it’s a racket and the names on the credits don’t always tell the truth. I’m not going to bother looking it up because it doesn’t matter. Whoever composed the melody and words of “Chasing Pirates,” Jones’ performance owns them.

Check out the rhyme scheme of the chorus. Abandoning the cheap trick of rhyming at the end of the line – or the somewhat heftier technique of a false rhyme – Jones buries hers in the middle of the line “My mind’s racing / from chasing pirates.” The juxtaposition of “racing” and “chasing” is almost unbearable, allowing Norah to draw out “pirates” across the rest of the measure, and a little differently each time.

Enough exegesis. For the next two minutes and forty-two seconds, just shut up, listen, and weep.

Don't Sniff at Linda McMahon -- Cover Her

In a column in Sunday’s Hartford Courant, former Connecticut State Senator Kevin Rennie calls Linda McMahon a “bulldozer” who is poised to “steamroll” Rob Simmons, her main Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race. See,0,4909814.column.

Rennie has his reasons for saying this, all politically clinical ones, and they are worth reviewing. McMahon isn’t just wealthy, he believes; she is both rich and savvy, a lethal combination.

Rennie thinks McMahon is “hitting her mark” as a candidate with a personal narrative and an appetizing post-Scott Brown stew of New England Republicanism. The column tries for its own bullseye with an analogy between World Wrestling Entertainment programming and Ronald Reagan’s campy turns in Bedtime for Bonzo.

Here’s where, at a remove of 3,000 miles, I don’t so much dissent — Kevin Rennie sounds like a smart guy — as point out where the validity of his analogy begins and ends.

As I’ve said repeatedly, anyone confronting the McMahon family’s political ambitions, like their business ones, should start by not underestimating them. I don’t and I don’t. That is to say, I have no direct interest in the Senate election in Connecticut, and I do not think for a moment that Linda is stupid. I do think what she represents is dangerous, and what Rennie isolates as the “scary” precision of her focus-group machinery isn’t the half of it.

McMahon is no Reagan. That is not because elites have made the mistake of sniffing at both of them. It is because Bedtime for Bonzo, Knute Rockne, All-American, Hellcats of the Navy, Dark Victory, Kings Row, Death Valley Days, and the future president’s many other shlock classics were never produced by setting up dozens of his fellow actors for needless early deaths. And Reagan was not a boss, and bosses are accountable. Especially when health-care reform is in the air, and her company’s approach to occupational health and safety is basically that of coal mine owners before there were unions.

Whether McMahon proves to be a bulldozer or a buffoon understandably matters to politicos. What matters to the rest of a country whose culture and politics have already been infected by the values and manipulations of WrestleWorld is whether her candidacy becomes the setting for reining in those excesses, or taking them to a new frontier.

We’re watching with morbid fascination. Today you in the Nutmeg State are the canaries in our national coal mine.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Review Reset: What the Critics Are Saying About Irvin Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’

“Great read for anyone who cares about wrestling or is interested in true crime.” – Eric Lyden,,

“Muchnick provides a great public service in exposing what he describes as the WWE’s ‘Cocktail of Death.’ Now its 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.” – Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,

“The latest from Irv Muchnick, who has already authored one of wrestling’s All Time Top Five books with Wrestling Babylon, is hands down the most important wrestling book in years.” — Critic Derek Burgan,

“Incredibly well researched … an incredibly valuable resource.” – David Bixenspan, SLAM! Wrestling,

“Very few books are ‘good’ and even fewer are ‘important’ – but this book is both.” – Author and blogger Anthony Roberts,

“Muchnick goes where few others care to go.” – Mark Hanzlik, Sacramento News & Review,

“Incredible retelling of the tragic story, with all its odd twists and bizarre turns.” – Rich Tate,,

“Muchnick is hell-bent on discovering the essence of the cover-ups.” – Joe Babinsack,,

“[T]he best book published on the subject to date … Since that day in 2007 I’ve wanted to learn as much as I can about the tragedy and why it happened. If you’r like me then you’ll absolutely love the book.” – Steven Wilson,,

“WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt read this cover to cover and so should you.” – Alan Wojcik,,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ (Part 2)


Introduction (January 28)


The media frenzy surrounding the June 2007 double murder/suicide of World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit intensified when Internet sleuths determined that Benoit’s biography was edited at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, June 25, to note that he had missed the previous night’s wrestling show in Houston because of personal circumstances “stemming from the death of his wife Nancy.” This was more than half-a-day before the Benoit family’s bodies were discovered in their home outside Atlanta.

The Wikipedia insertion was quickly traced to Matthew T. Greenberg, a 19-year-old Stamford resident who had just completed his freshman year at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Because Greenberg lived in the headquarters city of WWE, an already curious story exploded.

It quickly fizzled, however, with the conclusion by the investigating authorities that it was all an awful coincidence.

A report by the Associated Press facilitated “closure” with the incorrect statement that the Wiki edit preceded the earlier-publicized transmissions of Benoit’s final text messages to two wrestler-friends. In fact, Benoit had sent those texts – and they were also, almost certainly, received by the wrestler colleagues – early Sunday morning, as much as 20 hours before Greenberg inputted the note about Nancy.

Further, the AP reporter who wrote the account misstating the chronology of the text messages and the Wikipedia mystery based his story largely on conversations with WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt, The reporter, Harry Weber, would tell me, “[T]here was confusion caused by police, WWE attorney and others as to the timeline,” and “I do believe some of the confusion caused by the timeline discrepancies provided by the WWE were [sic] intentional.” See “Jerry McDevitt, Lawyer for Linda McMahon’s WWE, Gets Mad at Me Again (Part 2),”

On June 29, Stamford Detective Tim Dolan questioned Greenberg for 25 minutes. The interrogation can be viewed on my YouTube channel in three parts:

Arguably, Dolan never asked Greenberg the key question of whether Greenberg had a connection with WWE. Inarguably, the detective failed to press in any depth whether Greenberg and the company had a direct or indirect connection.

Most pointedly, Dolan did not ask Greenberg at all about Chavo Guerrero, one of the two wrestlers to whom Chris Benoit had sent his final texts. The reason this omission was significant was that the Internet sleuths had already reported in considerable detail on past Wikipedia pranks of Greenberg and his circle of college friends – most notably, racist and misogynist juvenalia about, respectively, basketball player Ron Artest and wrestling personality/actress Stacy Kiebler. Yet Greenberg also recently had removed scurrilous vandalism at the Wikipedia page for Chavo Guerrero – raising the obvious question of whether Greenberg and Guerrero might have had a friendship or acquaintance.

Quoting Captain Richard Conklin, the Stamford Advocate reported, without naming Greenberg, that he had been interviewed by the local police on videotape. The Advocate reporter, Zach Lowe (now with American Lawyer Media), would tell me that he asked Conklin for the video at the time but was turned down.

In February 2008, eight months later, Greenberg was named in the report of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia, closing the Benoit criminal investigation. According to the summary, Stamford had forwarded, and Fayette County had attached to the public file, copies of both the interrogation of Greenberg and the forensic examination of his computer (on which the Stamford police were assisted by a detective with the Darien police).

But I discovered that these records were not included in the Georgia open records. That led to a tangled freedom-of-information fight with police departments in two states. More on that in the next post.

NEXT: Stamford Police “Accidentally” Fail to Give the Georgia Investigators with Wikipedia Hacker Video Interrogation

Irv Muchnick

East Coast Journalist: 'West Coast journalist who is dogging Linda McMahon coming to Stamford'

I greatly appreciate the mention in the blog of Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate, which can be viewed at

I also appreciate that Brother Lockhart didn’t bust my chops for repeating the phrase “closely watched Senate race” in consecutive paragraphs of the press release about my upcoming event at the Borders bookstore in Stamford.

Irv Muchnick

‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Author Muchnick at Borders in Stamford, Connecticut, March 25


Simon Ware,,(416) 694-3348

or Irvin Muchnick,

– the book about the murder-suicide of superstar pro wrestler Chris Benoit, which has landed in the middle of a closely watched U.S. Senate race – will be featured at a reading and signing by author Irvin Muchnick at Borders Book Shop in Stamford, Connecticut, 1041 High Ridge Road, on Thursday, March 25, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

This will be the anchor event of Muchnick’s statewide tour during the week before WrestleMania, and at a moment when the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Linda McMahon, is conducting a closely watched campaign for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. WWE is headquartered in Stamford.

“We’re looking forward to sending Irv to Connecticut; this is an important book and should be widely read,” said Simon Ware, publicity director of ECW Press. “CHRIS & NANCY is more than a wrestling book. It is a riveting true-crime story, and now it has been injected straight into the world of mainstream politics.”

Raffaello Piccoli, general manager of Borders in Stamford, added, “With our location, obviously, we have enjoyed great success with wrestling-related events. We look forward to an exciting evening of literary aggression.”

Muchnick previously authored the popular ECW Press book WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal. He is also the lead respondent in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, a landmark case for freelance writers’ rights, which is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.



Twitter: @irvmuch



'After Massachusetts, All Eyes Turn to Connecticut' (full text)

[originally published at Beyond Chron, January 21,, under the headline "After Connecticut, All Eyes Turn to Connecticut's Bipartisan Dysfunction"]

by Irvin Muchnick

Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts means that the next stop on the Obama backlash tour could be neighboring Connecticut, where another long-time Democratic Senate seat is up for grabs. Unlike Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd died only in the polls – prompting him to abandon a run for a sixth term. Dodd’s replacement as the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now expects a tough race against either Rob Simmons, a once-moderate former Republican congressman suddenly busy pandering to the “tea party” right wing, or Linda McMahon, the wife of pro wrestling hypemeister Vince McMahon and until recently CEO of their World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

I have been checking in with Beyond Chron readers from time to time on the McMahon candidacy. She vows to spend as much as $50 million of the nearly billion dollars in personal wealth she and Vince have accumulated since taking their company public in 1999. And though she still trails Simmons, let alone Blumenthal, she is the figure in this race who personifies the bread-and-circuses pathologies of late-empire American culture and politics.

Early on, McMahon’s opponents put undue resources into viral YouTube clips of such lowbrow Masterpiece Theatre gems as her son-in-law, wrestler Triple H, simulating sex with a corpse, and Linda herself kicking an announcer in the cojones. These attempts to embarrass someone incapable of embarrassment only play into the faux-populist hands of the Nutmeg State’s direct descendent of P.T. Barnum.

In her first unfiltered exposure to the voters on Sunday’s Face the State, the panel of Connecticut reporters – in admirable contrast with network TV cream puffs Matt Lauer (NBC) and Kate Snow (ABC) – focused on lax occupational health and safety standards of the company co-founded and operated by McMahon (who, of course, sports the additional gall of opposition to health-care reform).

During the McMahons’ domination of their business, hundreds of wrestlers have died young from drug abuse and brain damage; they are the canaries in the coal mine of a generation of athletes from the steroid era of legitimate sports. Linda McMahon acquitted herself poorly on these questions, and overall exuded a painfully unsenatorial bearing – but that will quickly pass in the Republicans’ euphoria over Scott Brown and in a new flurry of slick McMahon campaign commercials. (The Face the State interview is viewable at

McMahon, who is no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura, is best understood as the banal corporate face of one of the sleaziest operations in the land, but also one nurtured over the years by Connecticut’s political establishment – former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker is a charter member of the WWE board of directors. (Citing their long friendship, Weicker had endorsed Dodd before he dropped out.)

Where Linda is most shaky to the tea-baggers is in Republican bona fides; the record shows that she is a bipartisan money-grubber. Nearly half of her political donations over the years have been to Democrats, including contributions to Rahm Emanuel’s congressional campaigns in Illinois. In something of an “I didn’t inhale” moment, McMahon explained those at a campaign appearance – captured on a truly illuminating YouTube segment – as mere costs of doing business, which were “not politically motivated.”

It is not known whether Emanuel, now President Obama’s Chief of Staff, returned the favor by being instrumental in the Nobel Laureate’s disgraceful decision to provide WWE’s Tribute to the Troops, a Bob Hope-style holiday special of patriotic gore on NBC, with the imprimatur of a taped presidential greeting to the men and women in uniform in Afghanistan.

But the apotheosis of McMahon’s genius for strange bedfellows is none other than Joe Lieberman, lightning rod for all things Democratic, independent, and just plain perverse in Connecticut politics. In 2002 Lieberman, a champion of “family values,” was on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council, which had to pay $3.5 million to WWE to settle a lawsuit after PTC’s president, Brent Bozell, spearheaded a pressure campaign on advertisers to boycott WWE programming. PTC had made defamatory statements falsely holding WWE responsible for the deaths of four children.

Yet by 2006 Linda McMahon and her husband were donating $2,000 to Lieberman’s Senate re-election campaign. Why, she was asked on Face the State.

“Ideology,” McMahon answered.

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, blogs at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ (Part 1)


Chapter 9 of CHRIS & NANCY, my book about the Benoit murder-suicide, delves into the bizarre tale of the 19-year-old Stamford resident and UConn student who posted on Wikipedia the nugget that Nancy Benoit was dead – some 14 hours before the family’s bodies were discovered.

For the special edification of those following the U.S. Senate race of Linda McMahon, co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, it is time to review that tableau and its implications. Toward that end, this piece introduces a new multi-part blog series.

Matthew T. Greenberg, now either 22 or about to turn that age, was not involved in the Benoit crimes. And indeed, his Wikipedia edit may have been nothing more than an eerie coincidence. Greenberg’s significance is that the police in Stamford (where WWE headquarters also happen to reside) went out of their way not to press the key questions of how and where he acquired his possibly accidentally accurate information.

To show the full extent of Stamford PD’s bungling, I had to go all the way to the “courthouse steps” of an appeal hearing at the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, before the city’s corporation counsel finally coughed up the videotape of the shoddy interrogation of Greenberg. That footage is now viewable on my YouTube channel,

Just as Greenberg surely was not involved in the Benoit rampage itself, neither was WWE. Vince McMahon didn’t do it. Nor did Nancy’s goofy previous wrestler-husband. Or the one-armed man from The Fugitive. Or the butler.

However, this billion-dollar publicly traded corporation did heavily manage the account of what it knew and when it knew it. And the thesis of CHRIS & NANCY is that this backstory goes a good distance toward explaining the overall death pandemic in an industry whose mega-profits are underwriting Linda McMahon’s $50 million campaign for high public office.

The Wikipedia Hacker subplot of the Benoit story emerged in the context of the two different timelines of Benoit events promulgated by WWE. One was published on the company’s entertainment website and quickly expunged. The other was published on the corporate business website.

What exactly did happen with Matthew Greenberg? That is not something CHRIS & NANCY presumes to answer. In addition, the book doesn’t explore why Stamford PD was so passive and inept. For all I know, it was just another day at the office, despite the fact that the Benoit case was the focus of frenzied international media coverage.

But with Linda McMahon’s Senate candidacy, it is now worthwhile at least to put out there for deeper consideration a few other aspects of the biggest public relations crisis in the history of one of Stamford’s and Connecticut’s leading corporate lights.

For example: Dan Malloy, the mayor of Stamford, is now running for governor. Like another Democrat, Susan Bysiewicz, Malloy last year endorsed Governor Jodi Rell’s appointment of Linda McMahon to the state Board of Education. (Though, unlike Bysiewicz, Malloy does not show up on the Republican McMahon’s list of campaign contributions.)

Read on and enjoy. Or not. If you have a tip, you can send it to

Irv Muchnick

WWE Stars Chris Jericho And 'Hurricane' Helms Arrested was the first to report that World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers Chris Jericho and Gregory “Hurricane” Helms were arrested for public intoxication early Wednesday in Erlanger, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. The mug shots of these WWE employees — excuse me, independent contractors – can be viewed at

Chris Jericho was one of the late Chris Benoit’s best friends. But that didn’t keep Jericho from joining the cast of CNN’s Larry King Live to yuk it up in a pre-WrestleMania promo appearance in March 2008, nine months after Benoit murdered his wife and their seven-year-old son, and killed himself. Here’s an excerpt of the LexisNexis transcript of King’s exchange with Vince McMahon, the WWE chairman and husband of current U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon:

KING: How is the business since the death of Chris?

MCMAHON: Business wise it’s excellent.

KING: Really? You weren’t affected at all?

MCMAHON: No. Not — certainly not in the short-term. You know, it’s one of those things that will live with you forever, you know what I mean?

And it could have happened to any company. It could have happened to any sports team. It certainly happens, you know, in the post office a lot or whatever. And it’s really, really…


Eight days before Chris Benoit went on his rampage, he had an exchange of bawdy text messages with Greg Helms. The latter’s contribution was, “[H]ow is a woman’s pussy like a warm toilet seat? — They both feel nice but u can’t help but wonder who was there before you!”

More recently Helms has bragged on Twitter about the joys of getting shit-faced drunk.

I know, I know ... tabloid trash, as John Edwards used to say.

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sports Concussions Reach the Connecticut Legislature

The Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch blog reports that the Democratic majority in the state Senate seeks to make Connecticut the third state in the nation — after Washington and Oregon — to pass legislation requiring more stringent protocols for student-athletes for concussions.


That’s a long way from banning chair shots by the Nutmeg State’s biggest exporter of popular culture, World Wrestling Entertainment. But some would say it’s a start.

Irv Muchnick

'Connecticut Newsmakers' Makes None

I took a pass on commenting instantly on Linda McMahon’s appearance on Sunday’s Connecticut Newsmakers on NBC30 in Hartford. Interviewer Tom Monahan’s questions, especially regarding World Wrestling Entertainment health and safety issues, broke new ground, and his follow-up to self-serving answers was nonexistent.

James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch more than compensated for what others might term my atypical reticence.

In an analysis whose headline called this the former WWE co-owner’s “latest uninformed mainstream interview,” Caldwell wrote, “If there’s one thing McMahon has proven to be talented at during this Senate campaign, it’s answering an unsophisticated question with an unsophisticated answer.”

Caldwell article is viewable at

Irv Muchnick

CHRIS & NANCY Is No. 2 in Pro Wrestling at Amazon

Irvin Muchnick’s CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is currently No. 2 among pro wrestling books listed at The only hotter-selling pro wrestling title is WWE Encyclopedia.

‘You’ll absolutely love this book’ ...

“Since that day in 2007 I’ve wanted to learn as much as I can about the tragedy and why it happened. If you're like me then you’ll absolutely love this book.”

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Linda McMahon’s Opponent Continues to Hammer WWE on Talent Health and Safety

For the second straight Sunday, Linda McMahon appeared on a morning television news interview program; yesterday it was Connecticut Newsmakers on NBC30. I haven’t seen online video yet, but will promptly post the link when I do.

And for the second straight Sunday, the campaign of McMahon’s principal opponent for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, Rob Simmons, followed her appearance with a detailed research piece alleging contradictions between her interview statements and the record.

Most of the Simmons release, which is viewable at, again focuses on the occupational health and safety standards of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company McMahon co-founded and served as CEO.

You don’t have to have a dog in the Simmons-McMahon fight to realize that this is very important information for the Connecticut media and voters — as well as everyone outside the state — to ponder.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jerry McDevitt, Lawyer for Linda McMahon’s WWE, Gets Mad at Me Again (Part 3)


After apparently stewing over it for a month, Jerry McDevitt, World Wrestling Entertainment’s ever-quotable lawyer, this week decided to tell the world, through another one of his serial screeds to me, that he didn’t like this blog’s report on how WWE had played fast and loose with the truth in a statement to ESPN about the studies of the brains of dead wrestlers Chris Benoit and Andrew “Test” Martin.

(See “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” December 14,, and “Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE Lies to ESPN (Part 2),” December 16,

Evidently, McDevitt hadn’t wanted to bring artificial free publicity to “my” lie. However, after I emailed a separate question this week about WWE’s Washington lobbying, it must have reopened bad memories. He couldn’t stop himself.

“ I also understand,” McDevitt emailed me on January 20, “that you have accused WWE of lying to the media when it said it had requested information on the scientific work involved in the post-mortem exam of Chris Benoit’s brain, and had never received a response.”

He added, “I have recently corresponded” with Dr. Julian Bailes, the prominent West Virginia University neurosurgeon who is at the center of the controversy, to clear everything up.

I’ll say McDevitt corresponded “recently”: his letter to Dr. Bailes was dated January 19. You can view it at at

McDevitt attached his letter in a second email to me, in which he says, “Kindly retract your latest lie about WWE.”

Ah, sir, but it is you who is lying. The proof is in the second paragraph of the Bailes letter, which renders my name “Irving Muchnick.” Everyone knows that there is no “g” in Irvin Muchnick. Only a lazy, no-account lawyer would fail to have his paralegal go to my website and make sure my name was spelled right. Since when did you morph into Susan Bysiewicz?

Let me just say that I ordinarily don’t waste time giving spelling lessons to worthless mouthpieces. Usually I just ignore them, because they’re not worthy of even the cheap heat they seek. But in this case I’m so mad that I’m making an exception.

Moving right along to the substance of McDevitt’s letter, he tells Bailes that WWE retained Dr. Joseph Maroon as its medical director “several years ago.” As best I can determine, WWE hired Maroon around March 2008 – 22 months ago and, unquestionably, as a result of the public pressure after the Benoit murder-suicide. The lion’s share of the credit goes to Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute and to Dr. Bennet Omalu, who at the time was affiliated with SLI.

Of course, if it turns out that the date of Maroon’s hire – which does not appear to have been announced in a company news release or website announcement – was actually, say, February 29, 2008, I’m sure McDevitt will get back to all of us to straighten out my latest “lie.”

On another subject, it’s funny how McDevitt makes such a big deal to Bailes out of whether WWE ever received a response to a 2007 letter to Nowinski. At the same time, McDevitt keeps a discreet silence on the fact that the company’s medical director as of “several years ago” met on October 1, 2008, with Dr. Omalu, as well as with Dr. Bailes himself.

The doctors don’t want to comment on any of this, for an excellent reason. They’re pushing behind the scenes for entities like WWE and the National Football League to start doing the right thing about brain trauma. I, on the other hand, have no designs on a future relationship with WWE or Jerry S. McDevitt, Esq.

Well, except for one. I’d love to go to a party with Jerry some day. There couldn’t be anyone anywhere more skilled at the game of Spin the Bottle.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jerry McDevitt, Lawyer for Linda McMahon’s WWE, Gets Mad at Me Again (Part 2)


In our current system of news delivery, a huge chunk of mainstream coverage is still shaped by the major wire services. When the Chris Benoit murder-suicide broke in Georgia in June 2007, not even the newspapers in Connecticut – home of current Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment – had much independent coverage; they either reproduced in their entirety the accounts of the Associated Press or used them as rewrite templates.

WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt, perhaps the company’s chief spin doctor during this moment of crisis, is in one of his periodic saber-rattling snits with me. So while he picks at a nit in my 2008 blog coverage that I’ve published fully and openly, let’s also take a look at how McDevitt covered himself with glory and credibility in the early days of the Benoit story.

In a dispatch at 10:34 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time on June 27, 2007 – less than 48 hours after the Benoit family’s bodies were discovered – the AP Atlanta bureau’s Greg Bluestein wrote the following:

Meanwhile, authorities in Georgia were investigating a link between Benoit and a Florida business that may have supplied him with steroids.

Prosecutors in upstate New York who have been investigating the company’s drug sales said Benoit received deliveries from Signature Pharmacy and, which sold steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone on the Internet.

Six people, including two of the pharmacy’s owners, have pleaded guilty in the investigation, and 20 more have been arrested, including doctors and pharmacists.

“That’s something that sounds like we ought to be investigating,” [District Attorney Scott] Ballard told the AP on Wednesday.

A lawyer for MedXLife co-owner Dr. Gary Brandwein scoffed at allegations that his client’s company sold steroids to Benoit.

“I’ve only read that in the paper. I have no direct information about that whatsoever,” Terence Kindlon said Wednesday, adding that prosecutors in Albany County, N.Y., were trying to “distract everyone’s attention from the fact that their case is disintegrating.”

Brandwein, a 44-year-old osteopath from Boca Raton, Fla., has pleaded not guilty to six counts in New York state court related to the criminal sale of a controlled substance. He was accused of signing and sending prescriptions without ever seeing patients.

Telephone messages left for attorneys for Brian Schafler and Greg Trotta two other co-owners of MedXLife were not immediately returned Wednesday. The two men have pleaded guilty to felony third-degree diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, admitting they helped get drugs in 2006 for customers in upstate New York who had no medical need for them.

McDevitt said the drugs found in Benoit’s house were legitimately prescribed. “There’s no question, none of these drugs are out there, none of these drugs came from Internet pharmacies,” he said.

Also, on June 27 – most likely within hours, one way or the other, of this AP story – the district attorney of Albany County, New York, David Soares, issued a statement including the following paragraph:

After learning about the tragic deaths over the weekend, we were able to confirm that professional wrestler Christopher Benoit received packages from Signature Pharmacy and “wellness clinic” MedXLife.

At around 3:15 p.m. Eastern time on June 25, Mitchell Howard of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office had been one of several detectives called to the crime scene to assist in the investigation. After the search warrant was obtained, he would write in the case supplemental later released with the sheriff’s report, “I located a box of human growth hormone in a small refrigerator in the room over the garage.” The final report by Detective Ethon Harper developed the additional detail that the bottles were labeled “Recombinant Human Growth Hormone” from a Chinese company, GeneScience Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

GeneScience Pharmaceutical, owned by a Chinese national named Lei Jin, who had been educated in the U.S. and had homes in both countries, marketed one of the most popular underground growth hormone knockoffs of the time, under the brand name “Jintropin.” Today Lei Jin is a fugitive from an indictment issued for him in Rhode Island in the wake of federal busts, code-named “Operation Raw Deal,” later in 2007. Jin forfeited millions of dollars in assets that were seized under provisions of the Patriot Act. The next year, on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government de-licensed Jintropin, which had been legitimately marketed there. GeneScience Pharmaceutical is out of business.


Later that last week of June 2007, a second wave of the Benoit media frenzy ensued over the report that an anonymous online editor, some 14 hours before the bodies were found, had already changed Chris Benoit’s biography at Wikipedia to state that his wife Nancy was dead.

In a story whose first transmission was at 9:57 p.m. GMT on June 28, AP’s Harry R. Weber wrote in part:

WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt said that to his knowledge, no one at the WWE knew Nancy Benoit was dead before her body was found Monday afternoon. Text messages released by officials show that messages from Chris Benoit’s cell phone were being sent to co-workers a few hours after the Wikipedia posting.

Nearly a year later, on June 14-16, 2008, I exchanged emails about this with Harry Weber. Here are the relevant excerpts:


Mr. Weber,

I’m writing a book about the Benoit murder-suicide in Georgia last June – see the links below.

Reviewing for the umpteenth time the contemporaneous news coverage, I have an important question about some information you may recall, based on the AP story about the edit of Benoit’s Wikipedia bio. (Some versions of the piece have your byline, some Jason Bronis’s, and some both of your names.) Could I have a few minutes of your time to explore this? Phone would be better but email is OK. Thanks for your attention.



What’s the question?




The wire story says text messages from Benoit were sent “a few hours after the Wikipedia posting.” Not true — the messages were sent around 4 a.m. Sunday and the Wikipedia edit was fully 20 hours later, at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The bodies were discovered around 2:30 p.m. Monday. One of the things I’m investigating is the 30-hour gap between when those texts were first sent to two other wrestlers and when the World Wrestling Entertainment timeline claims company executives were told of them.

WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt is quoted in your story. Did you speak to him? And was he the source for saying that the Wikipedia edit preceded the text messages? Depending on your answer, other questions would flow from that.



To be clearer, the story should have said the messages were “received” by various people after the wikipedia posting, rather than were ’sent’ after the posting. At that early stage in the case, there was confusion caused by police, WWE attorney and others as to the timeline.

Thanks for pointing it out.

We spoke to McDevitt at length, but the sourcing for the story stands as written.

Hope that helps.



Thanks, Harry, that does help.

Now: Since you were aware that the sending of the texts preceded the Wikipedia edit, is there a reason why the story didn’t explain that?

One possible reason that occurs to me is that someone might have asserted to you that, regardless of the time stamp on the text messages, they were actually RECEIVED subsequent to the Wikipedia edit. And, further, that you should exercise your discretion not to get into all that in this particular story (maybe because you were persuaded that the Wikipedia thing truly was a hoax, had nothing to do with the crime itself, etc.).

You’re quite right that there was timeline confusion, which you can’t lay at the feet of those reporting the best information they were being given. What I’m trying to figure out is if some of the confusion was deliberately sown, and if so, by whom.




Off the record, I do believe some of the confusion caused by the timeline discrepancies provided by the WWE were intentional. We used a lot of discretion and news judgment and the best information available at the time.





Can I develop this further with you — off the record, of course — in a phone conversation?




I will try to call you when I am in the office Monday.





Thanks so much.



Gently following up here. Thanks, Irv




Sorry for not getting back to you. I’ve been hesitant because AP does not allow reporters to comment outside of AP or discuss our stories beyond what we have reported. I must exercise caution and not proceed any further.

I think you are on the right track in the line of inquiry you are pursuing. Good luck!





Thanks, Harry. I want to protect my sources in addition to being thorough and fair. This statement by you in the first round of our exchange would seem to have preceded any restrictions: “To be clearer, the story should have said the messages were ‘received’ by various people after the wikipedia posting, rather than were ’sent’ after the posting. At that early stage in the case, there was confusion caused by police, WWE attorney and others as to the timeline.” If you’re uncomfortable with that, please let me know what we could do about it. Also, if a solution to this or my overall body of questions might include kicking me upstairs to one of your editors for more expansive comment, that should be considered.

This wire story was the gold standard — and, really, just about the only complete example — of takeout coverage of the Wikipedia affair. As I close in on the clear discrepancies in WWE’s timeline (and who knows why; it has nothing to do with the commission of the crime itself).... I can’t play hippity-hop-at-the-barbershop with what shapes up as a clear example of how [McDevitt] was subtly misleading the public about the timing of Benoit’s final text messages.

Please give me your further thoughts.





I did not agree to participate in your book, nor do I. I was simply trying to be helpful from one journalist to another. Please don’t make me regret being helpful to you.





Harry, I’ll do the very best I can do. But, respectfully, your last response does not answer my last question. There was nothing whatsoever deceitful about my approach to you, and I do not — as you would not — feel bound by a retroactive assertion that a statement was off the record.




I will have no further contact with you and I will be forwarding all of our e-mail exchanges to AP’s lawyers.



And as you do, I’ll ponder the question, “Whatever happened to a good old-fashioned published correction?”

NEXT: Jerry McDevitt spins WWE’s spin of the ESPN brain institute story

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'All Eyes Turn to Connecticut Senate Race' ... today at Beyond Chron

“Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts means that the next stop on the Obama backlash tour could be neighboring Connecticut.... And though Linda McMahon still trails Rob Simmons, let alone Richard Blumenthal, she is the figure in this race who personifies the bread-and-circuses pathologies of late-empire American culture and politics....”


by Irvin Muchnick

Beyond Chron

Jerry McDevitt, Lawyer for Linda McMahon’s WWE, Gets Mad at Me Again (Part 1)


For those of us interested in cleaning up the death cult into which pro wrestling has devolved, one possible tactic is transparency. Or to use its less-flattering description, “publish and be damned.”

And for a bland blog with that goal, the colorful Jerry McDevitt, lawyer for Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, is the gift that keeps giving. With defenders like this, who needs accusers?

As a writer for American Lawyer put it last October, McDevitt “is one of the more quotable lawyers in the Am Law 100 world, a skill that apparently extends to the written word.” The reference was to a series of blustery emails to me in June 2008, during the research for my book about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, CHRIS & NANCY. I eventually incorporated the texts of those emails into a 400-part series on my Twitter feed.

This week McDevitt dropped me another line – this time turning his answer to an unremarkable inquiry about WWE’s lobbying data into a platform for a belated attack on this blog’s month-old, and unrefuted, report that the company somehow didn’t get around to letting ESPN know that its medical director had been shown the research on Benoit’s damaged brain in 2008.

So, once more unto the breach.

Let’s set things up with the full background of my retraction of a June 2008 blog item. The following text is from pages 255-256 of CHRIS & NANCY:

In the spring of 2008 I corresponded with Gary Davis, World Wrestling Entertainment’s vice president of corporate communications, with questions about timeline discrepancies. In his second and last email to me, on April 1, Davis said, “I recognize you have an interest in this subject, but why are you asking for this information, how do you intend to use this information if it is provided, and what is it that you think this information, if provided, is going to prove?”

From June 16 through June 18, 2008, WWE’s chief outside counsel, Jerry S. McDevitt, emailed me a series of legal threats; those messages and my responses to them were published on my blog.

One of my blog posts erroneously suggested that McDevitt had misled the public by insisting that WWE acted within days in the summer of 2007 to suspend company performers who were revealed to be on the customer list of an Internet steroid connection, Signature Pharmacy, under investigation by the district attorney of Albany, New York. My assertion that WWE had waited more than two weeks before suspending the talent who had violated the company’s wellness policy relied on a report by Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. Investigating McDevitt’s complaint, I concluded that Meltzer was wrong in that detail, and I ran a retraction on my blog. Later conversations with Christopher Baynes of the Albany DA’s office and Mark Haskins of the New York State Narcotic Enforcement Agency confirmed McDevitt’s chronology of the WWE suspensions. [My email exchanges with McDevitt, and with both Gary Davis and Jennifer McIntosh of WWE, are included in the companion disk. See “Order the DVD” at the back of this book.]

For Meltzer’s part, I believe he exercised poor journalistic judgment by neither correcting the item himself nor informing his readers of my dispute with McDevitt – which, after all, had arisen out of my straightforward citation of a prominent nine-month-old report in the Observer. Curiously, according to Meltzer, McDevitt never sought a retraction from him. As I like to joke, on its worst day, the Observer has dozens of times more readers than my blog has on its best.

NEXT: Jerry McDevitt plays the Associated Press like a cello

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Campaign and WWE Play Shell Game With Media Inquiry

Here’s a story about the Linda McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment media relations offices that we can safely expect will not come up in McMahon’s interview on The View.

A source at The Sun, the British newspaper, tells me that it had asked Ed Patru, the spokesman for McMahon’s Senate campaign, for comment on its just-published interview with wrestling manager-promoter Jim Cornette. The impeccable rationale was that McMahon was CEO of WWE for the whole period covered by Cornette’s criticisms concerning such topics as the pushing of bodybuilder types and the introduction of a wellness policy for PR cover.

Patru replied that, since the references seemed to be entirely to WWE, he encouraged the journalist to seek comment from the company.

The subsequent email to WWE and follow-up by a senior editor were ignored. At the same time, a WWE flack wass corresponding with the paper on another, non-controversial matter: providing a photo of wrestler John Cena.

Alphonse, meet Gaston.

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FLASHBACK: 'K&L Gates in Bizarre WWE Smackdown'

Before taking the full plunge into the alternate universe of Jerry McDevitt, lawyer for Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment -- see previous item -- I advise Connecticut politicos who just recently started following this blog to begin with a piece published three and a half months ago at the blog of American Lawyer magazine:

“K&L Gates in Bizarre WWE Smackdown”

by Zach Lowe

October 2, 2009

Irv Muchnick

K&L Gates: We Did No Washington Lobbying on Behalf of WWE in 2009

Jerry McDevitt, Pittsburgh-based partner of the law firm K&L Gates – which both is a legal counsel for World Wrestling Entertainment and was one of its registered Washington lobbyists – has responded to my email to him yesterday requesting further information on WWE federal lobbying efforts in 2009. (See yesterday’s item on this blog, “Did Linda McMahon’s WWE Do No Federal Lobbying in 2009 – Or Just Not Report Any?”)

McDevitt wrote in part, “We filed two quarterly reports – for the first and second quarters – in 2009. We also reported the termination of the registration in the second quarter, and thus there are no subsequent reports. In both we reported no lobbying activity, which should be of assistance for those who, like you, have a hard time understanding what zero means.”

McDevitt said that questions about WWE’s other registered lobbyist, APCO Worldwide, would have to be directed to that firm itself.

I say McDevitt “wrote in part” because the second half of his message to me challenged my December 14 post, “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008.”

I will dedicate future posts to a full airing of this controversy and to the history of my dealings with Jerry McDevitt during the research for my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. I also will reproduce the copy McDevitt provided to me of his letter yesterday to West Virginia neurosurgeon and brain researcher Dr. Julian Bailes. That letter, in turn, attaches a copy of McDevitt’s September 25, 2007, letter to Chris Nowinski, the former WWE wrestler who started the Massachusetts-based Sports Legacy Institute. (The Nowinski group, incidentally, was featured in the most recent edition of the HBO program Real Sports.)

In a nutshell, my report last month disclosed that WWE’s own medical director, Dr. Joseph Maroon, met in 2008 with directors of Bailes’ West Virginia brain institute, including Dr. Bennett Omalu, who previously had been affiliated with Nowinski’s organization. Maroon was solicited for comment but did not respond.

I wrote that WWE’s statement to ESPN — “WWE has been asking to see the research and test results in the case of Mr. Benoit for years and has not been supplied with them” (emphasis added) — was “grossly, and characteristically, misleading” and that the background “reveals that ‘lie’ may not be too strong a word.”

McDevitt, for his part, says my report itself is a lie.

Readers, I think, are capable of reading the whole record and resolving this dispute for themselves.

More soon. The power is out here at home during storms in Northern California, and it is hard to post stuff today as rapidly as I would like.

Irv Muchnick

Wrestling's Jim Cornette Rips the McMahons

Simon Rothstein of UK’s Sun has a hard-hitting interview today with Jim Cornette, the pro wrestling manager and executive who is now with the promotion Ring of Honor. See “‘It is shocking if an ex-wrestler is actually found in good health,’”

Cornette blasts Linda and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment — which he has both worked for and competed against — for encouraging the drug culture that is largely responsible for the industry’s death pandemic.

It’s worth noting that both ROH and TNA (for which Cornette also has worked) have occupational health and safety issues of their own. TNA, in particular, has an atrocious record of steroid and painkiller abuse, and a testing regime even less reliable than WWE’s “wellness policy.” For example, TNA just signed accused North Carolina drug dealer, and wrestling star, Jeff Hardy after WWE dropped him.

Nonetheless, for the general public the preponderance of the heat appropriately falls on WWE, the industry bellwether and standard-setter. The McMahons’ talent-rewards system in the eighties and nineties pushed impossible physiques that, for the most part, could be attained only with dangerous drug intake.

The other piece of the puzzle is the hard-core performance style, popularized here by the original ECW out of Philadelphia. Chair shots, weapons, and moves with crazy physical risks exacerbated concussions and dependence on painkillers. WWE didn’t invent the can-you-top-this? mentality, which buried wrestling’s more sane magic-show tradition. But WWE had the market power in the late 1990’s and the first decade of this century to reject those elements; instead, the McMahons embraced and co-opted them.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick’s Beyond Chron Piece to Analyze Linda McMahon Senate Race After Scott Brown Win

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will have a column in Thursday’s edition of Beyond Chron, the San Francisco online newspaper.

The piece, headlined “After Massachusetts, All Eyes Turn to Connecticut’s Bipartisan Dysfunction,” will analyze Linda McMahon’s U.S. Senate race in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory yesterday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Did Linda McMahon’s WWE Do No Federal Lobbying in 2009 – Or Just Not Report Any?

I am trying to figure out whether World Wrestling Entertainment, the former company of Senate candidate Linda McMahon, did Washington lobbying in 2009 – and, if so, in what dollar amounts and on what specific matters pertaining to federal legislation, regulation, and oversight.

The Center for Responsive Politics ( maintains an online database of filings by registered lobbyists. The database shows $0 in spending on behalf of WWE last year.

However, CRP’s communications director, Dave Levinthal, clarified that its $0 entry does not necessarily mean that the company did not do any lobbying at the federal level last year. It merely means that any lobbying efforts did not rise to the $10,000 threshold of reporting requirements. Each of WWE’s lobbyists could have done $0 worth of work – or $9,999.

A story on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, headlined “Law to Curb Lobbying Sends It Underground” (, suggests that lobbyists are finding ways around strict new regulations imposed by Congress over the last two years.

Linda McMahon watchers can legitimately wonder whether WWE is an example of this phenomenon. The CRP database shows that the company’s lobbyists spent $260,000 on its behalf in 2007 – the year of Congressional probes following the Chris Benoit murder-suicide – and $80,000 in 2008.

Though possible, it is hardly intuitive that WWE, a global corporation with market capitalization of around a billion dollars, would have done no federal lobbying at all last year.

I emailed WWE’s Pittsburgh-based outside counsel, Jerry McDevitt, and requested more information. McDevitt’s law firm, K&L Gates, is one of the company’s registered lobbyists. (The other is APCO Worldwide, a well-known lobbying firm with offices in Washington and throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.) I will publish here any response I get from McDevitt.

I also emailed McMahon’s campaign spokesman, Ed Patru, and will pass along whatever he says about this. I made the point to Patru that I believe McMahon, in the name of the transparency of a candidate for public office, should consider disclosing her former company’s lobbying efforts at a level above and beyond a strict and narrow interpretation of current threshold reporting requirements.

And the question, I believe, is made even more pertinent by the news that the Federal Election Commission asked the McMahon campaign to amend its recent filing to disclose in detail not just expenditures but also the names of vendors and contractors that performed services for it. The deadline for the amended filing is January 28.

Jim Barnett, campaign manager for McMahon’s Republican rival, former Congressman Rob Simmons, added another factor that warrants a close and detailed look at WWE lobbying: McMahon’s rather ridiculous claim that her campaign contributions to former Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel – a Democrat who worked in the Clinton White House and is now President Obama’s chief of staff – were “not politically motivated” but, rather, investments in WWE’s business interests.

Barnett told me that he is interested in whether Linda’s contributions to both Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee could be regarded as part of the history of lobbying efforts by a candidate who is running as someone outside the political establishment.

“After all,” Barnett said, “she called her campaign donations ‘a cost of doing business.’”

Irv Muchnick

Monday, January 18, 2010

‘The King’ Lambastes Linda McMahon’s ‘Face the State’ Performance

And you thought I was unflattering to Linda McMahon.

In a post by a Republican blogger who calls himself “The King,” McMahon’s shot yesterday on Face the State is criticized as “unprepared, unqualified, and uninteresting.” Then The King goes on to tell us what he really thinks.

I don’t agree with every single thing this commentator says, here or elsewhere. But those of you who want to know what in-state critics of McMahon are saying should not fail to read this thorough and entertaining evisceration, at

In case there are wrestling fan-readers who were wondering, this “King” is not former wrestler and now World Wrestling Entertainment announcer Jerry “The King” Lawler, who recently completed his latest unsuccessful run for the mayoralty of Memphis.

Irv Muchnick

What the Critics Are Saying About Irvin Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’

“Great read for anyone who cares about wrestling or is interested in true crime.” – Eric Lyden,,

“Muchnick provides a great public service in exposing what he describes as the WWE’s ‘Cocktail of Death.’ Now its 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.” – Randy Shaw, Beyond Chron,

“The latest from Irv Muchnick, who has already authored one of wrestling’s All Time Top Five books with Wrestling Babylon, is hands down the most important wrestling book in years.” — Critic Derek Burgan,

“Incredibly well researched … an incredibly valuable resource.” – David Bixenspan, SLAM! Wrestling,

“Very few books are ‘good’ and even fewer are ‘important’ – but this book is both.” – Author and blogger Anthony Roberts,

“Muchnick goes where few others care to go.” – Mark Hanzlik, Sacramento News & Review,

“Incredible retelling of the tragic story, with all its odd twists and bizarre turns.” – Rich Tate,,

“Muchnick is hell-bent on discovering the essence of the cover-ups.” – Joe Babinsack,,

“WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt read this cover to cover and so should you.” – Alan Wojcik,,

Vince McMahon to Frank Deford: ‘I Have Proof I’m Not a Mobster!’ (Part 3 of 3)

In February 1992 Linda and Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation was fending off death by tabloid torture. For the full background, see this blog’s “Linda McMahon’s Husband Vince Fought the Law, and the Law Lost (Part 2 – 1992 Drug and Sex Scandals,”

In the course of these developments, Frank Deford did a commentary on National Public Radio urging Hulk Hogan, whose name was on a brand of children’s vitamins, to come clean about his years of abuse of anabolic steroids.

Vince McMahon called Deford to complain. At one point in their conversation, McMahon screamed, “I have proof I’m not a mobster!”

Which was funny, because Deford had alleged no such thing.

Irv Muchnick

Frank Deford, the ‘Wrestling Media,’ and Me (Part 2 of 3)

To state the painfully obvious, my name doesn’t belong in the same paragraph as Frank Deford’s in any discussion of journalistic or literary accomplishment.

When my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon was about to be published, I’d never met Frank Deford. In fact, I still haven’t. But I looked him up in the Yellow Pages, under “Nice Guys,” and asked him for a blurb. Frank read my advance pages and supplied this: “Irv Muchnick knows wrestling like Anna Wintour knows fashion, and his intriguing collection of ring tales is written with passion and savage humor.”

Deford’s real patronage in wrestling journalism, though, has been on behalf Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and deservedly so. I am a nephew of a legendary wrestling promoter from another era, Sam Muchnick; working from that base and as a general journalist, I have followed this unique entertainment form with fascination, but also with some aloofness. But Meltzer is the hardest of hard-core fans. He has forgotten more about wrestling than I’ll ever know.

As for Frank Deford, a Princeton guy, he is one of the most erudite sports writers ever, as well as one of the best, but he has a latent fondness for kitsch. Early in his career he penned a classic look at Roller Derby behind the scenes, Five Strides on the Banked Track. And notwithstanding Vince McMahon’s accusation in connecton with the profoundly unfunny practical joke recounted in the previous item, Frank has a fabulous sense of humor.

When Deford tapped Meltzer to write a wrestling column for The National in 1990-91, it helped Meltzer’s underground ‘zine reach a new audience. In addition to publishing his exhaustive and widely quoted wrestling newsletter, Meltzer today is a columnist for Yahoo covering the emerging international sport of mixed martial arts.

In his 2007 NPR commentary praising Meltzer’s wrestling death study, Deford called him “the most accomplished reporter in sports journalism.”

Unfortunately, in my own view, Meltzer’s coverage of the death pandemic in the wrestling industry was not nearly as aggressive as it should have been in the wake of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. Some of my reasons for holding this opinion are fully developed in CHRIS & NANCY – a book that Meltzer, oddly, refuses to review, thereby supporting its thesis.

And, indeed, while some of the best information about the excesses and perversity of the business underwriting Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign comes from fan media stalwarts like Meltzer, these outlets also practice their own versions of self-censorship, mirroring that of the mainstream media. For example, in the latest issue of the Wrestling Observer, Meltzer quoted McMahon’s Republican opponent Rob Simmons’ criticisms of WWE occupational health and safety standards. Meltzer didn’t get around to mentioning that Simmons issued his statement in response to a request to all four candidates from my blog.

NEXT: Vince McMahon to Frank Deford: “I have proof I’m not a mobster!” (Part 3 of 3)

Irv Muchnick

When Linda McMahon’s Husband Stole Frank Deford’s Shoes (Part 1 of 3)

On Sunday’s Face the State, Linda McMahon touted her experience “in a business that is very testosterone-loaded.” I wonder if she had in mind an incident her husband Vince recounted in his December 2007 interview with staff investigators of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Vince had been asked about a National Public Radio commentary in which Frank Deford cited a study of pro wrestling deaths by Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

First, McMahon dismissed Meltzer as “a gossip columnist.” Then he suggested that Deford held a grudge: “[H]e has no sense of humor and he doesn’t like me. We were bowling one night and I borrowed one of his shoes and he never found it. And so he had to walk home in a bowling shoe and one of his others, and he was upset about that I understand.”

As a public service to the citizens of Connecticut, I now provide you the full background of this bizarre episode.

I also am emailing this item to Ed Patru, spokesman for the Linda McMahon campaign, in case he or she cares to comment on it.

In 1991 Deford was editor of the short-lived daily sports newspaper, The National, for which Meltzer wrote a pro wrestling column. (Connecticut resident Deford, the celebrated Sports Illustrated writer and book author, happens to record his NPR segments at WSHU radio at Sacred Heart University, where Linda McMahon is on the board of trustees. Many faculty there were none too happy in May 2007, when Vince McMahon was chosen as the keynote speaker at commencement.)

Meltzer wrote a story for The National that was highly critical of the then World Wrestling Federation’s main “angle,” or storyline, for that spring’s WrestleMania show. The McMahons brought back a wrestler named Sergeant Slaughter, a superpatriot hero of the mid-eighties, to feud with Hulk Hogan. Slaughter was turned into not just a bad guy but a traitor, joining forces with a purported associate of Saddam Hussein and against his own country during the first Gulf War. To promote this shtick, WWF even sent Hogan on a tour of military bases.

Quoting WWF’s competitor promoters, Meltzer’s piece questioned whether this descent into poor taste was a bit much even for wrestling. (In reference to other controversial storylines, Linda McMahon yesterday acknowledged to the Face the State panel that there have been times when WWE “pushed the envelope.”)

In the end, the Sergeant Slaughter angle was both controversial and not as successful as designed: the McMahons originally booked the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for WrestleMania before slow ticket sales prompted them to move the event to the smaller indoor Los Angeles Sports Arena.

A short time later McMahon and Deford found themselves together at a country club bowling alley for a birthday party for John Filippelli, a veteran TV sports producer who at the time was in charge of WWF broadcast operations. After everyone changed into bowling shoes, McMahon and one of his top aides, former wrestler Pat Patterson, made off with one of Frank Deford’s street shoes and one of his wife Carol’s, and never returned them. Vince and Pat found this hilarious.

After the transcript of McMahon’s Congressional interview was published, I verified this story with Deford. “I’m rather amazed that McMahon would bring this up, but it’s a pretty accurate account of him acting like a horse’s ass,” Frank emailed. “Really weird.”

NEXT: Frank Deford, the “wrestling media,” and me

Irv Muchnick

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Linda McMahon’s Opponent Says Her ‘Face the State’ Remarks Don’t ‘Face the Truth’

The campaign of Rob Simmons, Linda McMahon’s main opponent in the Republican Senate primary in Connecticut, immediately turned around a statement picking apart her defense of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wellness Policy on Face the State earlier today.

The document — entitled “Face the Truth” and using, as a subtitle, the McMahon quote in the headline of my previous blog post — can be viewed at

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon: ‘I’ve Worked and Been in a Business That Is Very Testosterone-Loaded’

Linda McMahon’s hoped-for half-hour of dross and drivel on Face the State today was rudely interrupted by tough questions focused on her past as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Host Dennis House and reporters Daniela Altimari and Brian Lockhart did a good job nailing McMahon on the contradictions between her experience, and lack of same, and her qualifications to become a United States senator from Connecticut. Lockhart was especially skeptical and effective, but the overall package well exposed flaws in this candidate that will only magnify as the campaign proceeds.

The money quote came early on when McMahon, addressing a question about her skill set, used the most unfortunate choice of words imaginable to refute any suggestion that she was “shy and retiring.”

“I have worked and been in a business that is very testosterone-loaded,” McMahon said.

Cue the laugh track. It is a business so “testosterone-loaded” that her employees — er, excuse me, independent contractors – drop dead at actuarially impossible rates. This sound bite was a perfect bridge to the subsequent interrogation about WWE’s joke of a “wellness policy” at the very moment the company’s co-founder seeks public office based, in part, on her opposition to health-care reform. That opposition, and retiring Senator Chris Dodd’s support of it, surely factored into the decision of WWE board member Lowell Weicker’s earlier endorsement of Dodd.

Lockhart also got McMahon to concede that WWE’s talent contract places all risk on the wrestlers and none on the company (though the exchange didn’t get around to noting that the contract has the language “including death” and explicitly absolves WWE even in the case of “the promoter’s negligence”).

In another devastating passage, Lockhart noted McMahon’s 2006 campaign contribution to Senator Joe Lieberman. Interestingly, the reporter did not focus on the partisan dimension of the controversy (Lieberman is a Democrat-Independent; McMahon is a Republican). Nor did Lockhart harp on what I often cite: Lieberman has heavy-handed “family values” chops and was on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council, which paid seven figures to WWE to settle a defamation suit. Rather, Lockhart pointed out that Lieberman was the consummate insider in his reelection fight four years ago, whereas McMahon is disingenuously trying to position herself as a political outsider.

In a bit of amusing byplay as she defended WWE’s record, McMahon apologized for referring to the company as “we”: “Old habits are hard to break.” At another point, talking about where she sits in the polls, she said she was doing better in the “ratings” than she expected at this stage.

I will be commenting further on this important interview and raising what I consider the best follow-up questions to McMahon’s dismissal of criticisms of the Wellness Policy.

The video is up at and is highly recommended.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, January 15, 2010

Linda McMahon’s WWE Past Matters: Connecticut Political Journalist

Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate has a great blog post today reflecting on his experience as an interviewer at last night’s taping of Face the State with Linda McMahon. (The program will air at 11 a.m. Sunday on Channel 3 in Hartford.)

I urge everyone to read “‘She understands how to meet a payroll,’”

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Linda McMahon Steroid-Death Q’s Take Up ‘Entire Segment’ on ‘Face the State’

Linda McMahon taped Face the State on Thursday evening. The program, hosted by Dennis House, will air Sunday at 11 a.m. on WFSB, Channel 3 in Hartford.

In a blog post teasing the content, at, House said: “The panel of Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant, Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate and I spent the half hour (24.5 minutes after commercials) questioning McMahon about why she is running, what the message is now that Dodd is out, and the polls that show her losing badly to Blumenthal. We also devoted an entire segment to steroid use at the WWE, and asked McMahon if she felt responsible for the steroid related deaths of WWE wrestlers. After the taping one of our producers felt we spent too much time on the WWE, and after the show airs I expect that some critics will say we didn’t spent enough time. Bottom line: we crammed in as much as we could.”

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon, Über-Carny

Linda McMahon — who gets her first unfiltered media exposure on Sunday’s Face the State – is the target of a new hit piece from the Rob Simmons campaign entitled “Linda McMahon’s Many Myths.”

The subtitle deconstructs the rival Connecticut U.S. Senate Republican candidate’s tall tales “about her former company’s health policies and her commitment to the Republican Party and conservative fiscal principles.” See

I’m not going to touch the second half of Simmons’ charges, because they involve internal partisan politics that Nutmeggers can sort out for themselves.

But I’m obviously delighted to see the occupational health and safety record of World Wrestling Entertainment front and center in the consideration of McMahon’s candidacy.

As someone who knows a thing or two about the carnival-world-on-steroids that spawned her, I also have a few observations on “Linda’s myths.” Here I think the Simmons campaign, if anything, understates the case.

From where I sit, Linda is the banal corporate face of one of the sleaziest operations in America, and that’s saying a mouthful. People assessing her fitness for public office should, first, acknowledge that she is a top-rank businesswoman by her own terms. Then they should regard Linda, like her husband Vince, not as a garden-variety myth-maker so much as an Über-Carny. By that I mean that the McMahons tell huge lies, whoppers, then dare “respectable” society to call them out for them — and risk exposing their own hypocrisy in the process.

The wrestler death mill that they run out of Stamford is the main focus of my reporting. As far as other big lies go, I’ve spotted two of them so far. I’m sure there will be more.

Linda McMahon launched her public life with her appointment to the state Board of Education, a patently ill-fitting assignment. Like a football coach overselling his credentials as an “educator,” she originally put on her resume a degree she never earned; when caught, she wrote it off as a misunderstanding. Now she’s proceeding with the narrative of the girl who wanted to be a French teacher before fate took one of its odd turns and she wound up building the biggest brand in junk entertainment.

Somewhere Linda’s son-in-law, Triple H, along with the Undertaker and Chris Jericho, must be sitting in a production truck busting a gut over that one.

Linda’s second whopper is in the current controversy over her contributions to the Congressional campaign of Rahm Emanuel, a Clinton and Obama top adviser. Again, remember that I personally couldn’t care less whether she gives money to Democrats, Republicans, or True Finns (like the former WWE main eventer who just offed himself at age 47). I’m only interested in the Truth Squad dimension of her explanation of this, which is now circulating on YouTube at

McMahon explains these donations as business investments. And she asserts that they were “not politically motivated.”

Bill Clinton, famously, acknowledged smoking marijuana but maintained, “I didn’t inhale.”

Watch yourself, Linda McMahon, Über-Carny. You’re getting into Bill Clinton territory here. The problem with that is, you’re no Bill Clinton.

Irv Muchnick