Sunday, February 28, 2010

Who Quashed Federal Steroid Investigation of WWE? McMahon Campaign's Open Question

A political insider pointed out to me that an element was missing from Brian Lockhart’s Hearst newspapers story Sunday on Linda McMahon’s “lucky break” – how, as Lockhart put it, “the White House and Congress dropped the ball in 2009 on an effort to investigate the use of steroids in professional wrestling.”

“Nothing happens without someone pushing it,” the politico said. “So who was the friend or powerful contributor who asked, on McMahon’s behalf, to have the investigation buried?”

I don’t fault Lockhart for not going further with this particular story. That’s the next piece of the puzzle. You can’t publish everything in one article. Hell, I could write a book – and come to think of it, I did.

Before getting to how I try to explain things in CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death – written after Linda McMahon was named to the state Board of Education but before she began her Senate run – let’s talk about the likeliest names in the gossip chain.

The camp of Rob Simmons, McMahon’s main rival for the Republican Senate nomination, can be counted on to whisper, as audibly as a shout, “Rahm Emanuel!” Linda’s pattern of bipartisan donations over the years includes what she has termed a “business investment” in Emanuel’s past Illinois Congressional campaigns, which Linda said were “not politically motivated.”

Of course, Emanuel is now President Obama’s chief of staff. The implication that Emanuel was the one offers subliminal bonus points for Simmons, since it was Emanuel’s recent ill-chosen description of administration critics as “fucking retarded” that helped set off the most furious attacks on the tasteless content of the television programming of McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.

Another obvious candidate for speculation as the Washington fixer is Lowell Weicker of the WWE board of directors.

Chapter 13 of CHRIS & NANCY, “Congress Cuts a Promo,” posits a theory that is both less and more nefarious: the idea that, because the industry under scrutiny was “only pro wrestling,” the public attention span was short and the political cost of failing to follow through was nil. This consideration gains greater weight from the way wrestling drug scandals juxtapose with those in legitimate sports.

By the late fall of 2007 the Benoit story had exhausted its media shelf life, at the moment when Barry Bonds was getting indicted for lying to the BALCO grand jury and Rogers Clemens was disputing his former personal trainer Brian McNamee’s statement in the Mitchell Report that he personally poked Clemens in the butt with steroids and growth hormone.

Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – which, as the Lockhart story notes, fanned on follow-up after conducting a pretty decent behind-the-scenes investigation – was the second to pipe up about scrutinizing wrestling in the wake of the Benoit murder-suicide. The first was Bobby Rush’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

(The Rush Subcommittee is under the House Energy Committee – whose chairmanship Waxman assumed after giving up Oversight and Government Reform in January 2009 with the 111th Congress. It also should be noted that Rush and Emanuel share Chicago political turf; indeed, the former is the only politician ever to defeat Emanuel’s boss, Obama, in an election.)

On November 21, 2008, I blogged a post headlined “Where Are They Now? Congressman Bobby Rush.” I accused Rush of being missing in action nine months after saying at a hearing (which every major sports league attended but Vince McMahon blew off), “This committee fully intends to deal with the illegal steroid abuse in professional wrestling.”

Three months before that bit of bluster, Rush had expressed the same sentiment in an email to a Baltimore Sun reporter. But the November 2007 Rush email turned out to be a month before the Waxman staff interviewed Vince and Linda McMahon. I suspect the fix was in at that point, and that the terms of the committee’s closed-door interrogation included a tacit deal that this would be the McMahons’ last words on the matter.

Whatever the explanation, on January 2, 2009 – in a classically buried Friday afternoon release, further buried by the fact that it came as George W. Bush was preparing to leave office and Barack Obama was preparing to to occupy it – Congressman Waxman published his letter to the White House drug policy office.

Three days later I wrote:

“One thing, and one thing only, mattered when the [Waxman and Rush committees] began their work in the summer of 2007: Would it culminate in public hearings on C-SPAN? At a closed interrogation by counsel and investigators, McMahon could play the royal asshole to his heart’s content. But would he — like the tobacco executives who denied with straight faces the link between smoking and lung cancer — really have the chutzpah to contend in a Congressional hearing room, in front of live cameras, that the wrestling industry’s early-death rate was anything other than off the charts?”

Irv Muchnick

Will Hearst Newspapers’ Linda McMahon Story Be a Game Changer?

Brian Lockhart of the Stamford Advocate and Hearst newspapers has filled a syringe with substance and injected it deep into the flabby gluteus maximus of Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign.

The heavily promoted front-page investigative piece was not released online. Eventually there should be a full-text link, and I’ll provide one when I have it.

The headline has, in small capital letters, “FIZZLED STEROID-ABUSE INVESTIGATION MAY BE …,” followed by, in larger capital letters, “LINDA’S LUCKY BREAK.”

Here is Lockhart’s lead paragraph: “The White House and Congress dropped the ball in 2009 on an effort to investigate the use of steroids in professional wrestling — a lapse that represents a break for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who is campaigning on her success as a businesswoman.”

Here is how Lockhart accurately quotes me at the end of his long story:

Irv Muchnick, a West Coast-based writer and blogger who will be in Stamford in March promoting a book on the [Chris] Benoit murder-suicide, called the responses by [Congressman Henry] Waxman and the [White House Office of National Drug Control Policy] to Hearst “hilarious.”

“It’s clear what’s going on here. They don’t want to do anything more with it,” Muchnick said. “You can see what a joke the dance of the government bureaucrats on this.

Muchnick said Waxman’s report is a very good document that could lay the groundwork for a future investigation of WWE but he said the California Democrat should have stuck with the issue this past year.

“They probably take on lots of things every year. Some they pursue all the way, some they drop altogether,” Muchnick said. “And some wind up in the middle with a castigating report that doesn’t mean much at the end of the day because it gets stuffed into a drawer.”

Once the full text of the article is available, I’ll comment more fully on it.

But today is a day for readers in Connecticut to read it for themselves and process a lot of new information, and for congratulating Brian Lockhart on an excellent job.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, February 27, 2010

WWE Releases Scott Armstrong, Recipient of Chris Benoit's Final Text Messages

World Wrestling Entertainment periodically purges names from its roster – sometimes for mysterious reasons of internal office politics, but most often as part of a routine process of cost-cutting or keeping talent fresh and developed.

Of the four people dropped yesterday, only one was “a big surprise,” according to the Wrestling Observer website: referee Scott Armstrong, an ex-wrestler whose real name is Scott James. Armstrong “was well respected in the role” and “they need referees and they aren’t highly paid.”

I don’t know if this move is significant or not. But after we get past the breaking news of the next few days, I’ll review for new blog readers Armstrong’s role in the events of June 2007, when WWE was dealing with the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit. Armstrong was one of Benoit’s best friends and one of two recipients of his final text messages, whose timing and disclosure were a source of controversy. (The other recipient was wrestler Chavo Guerrero.)

Irv Muchnick

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Linda McMahon's WWE 'Handled' The Undertaker's Heat

All of today’s talk about Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign entourage handlers reminds me of how her company, World Wrestling Entertainment, handles spontaneity.

Occasionally at WWE television tapings, a wrestler screws up his lines in an interview, or the planned “finish” of a match doesn’t go well. When that happens, they just re-shoot it. The difference between a political campaign and wrestling is that, in the latter, there are thousands of people eagerly telling “the rest of the story” on scores of forums in the fan blogosphere.

Then, for those of you who haven’t heard, there’s the incident from this Sunday’s “Elimination Chamber” pay-per-view show from St. Louis, which illuminated – literally – the demands of the McMahons’ industry, as well as identifying the people who bear the occupational health and safety risks in its service.

In the midst of the elaborate production number that was his ring entrance, Mark Calloway, who plays “The Undertaker,” very nearly met the real one when a mistimed release of pyrotechnics engulfed him in flames. Some of the people at the arena, but almost no one watching at home, could tell something was amiss when Calloway threw off his jacket and hat, abandoned his next entrance spot, and doused himself with water. A show-must-go-on trooper, Calloway not only went through with his main-event match but even refused to shorten it from the planned half-hour length.

A later medical examination showed first- and second-degree burns on The Undertaker’s chest and neck. WWE flack Robert Zimmerman said, “Thank God he was fine. It basically amounted to a sunburn.” Yeah, right. Lather up with a little SPF 6,000 next time, Mark.

Wasn’t it Harry Truman who said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the squared circle”?

Irv Muchnick

‘If Linda McMahon Is P.T. Barnum’ … today at Beyond Chron

I’ve spent months hammering at the glossed-over business record of Linda McMahon, the Meg Whitman of Connecticut. McMahon, wife of World Wrestling Entertainment kingpin Vince McMahon, is the former CEO of WWE who is running strong for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat Chris Dodd is vacating. The McMahons are spending up to $50 million of their nearly billion-dollar junk-entertainment family fortune to buy the seat, and they may just succeed.

If they do, it will be time for a word from our sponsor: P.T. Barnum, the 19th century Connecticut circus entrepreneur who, as a politician, proved quite a bit more progressive and effective than expected. After profiting from minstrel shows, Barnum in the state legislature was, first, an abolitionist and, later, a fiercely benign advocate of improved post-Civil War race relations. As mayor of Bridgeport, he was credited with modernizing the water-supply system.



Hear Irv interviewed today at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time on Home Turf with Corey Costello, ESPN Radio in Bakersfield, California (live stream


See the display of Irv’s book
, CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, at Borders Books & Records in Farmington, Connecticut (

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Muchnick Interview Likely To Air 3:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN Radio/Bakersfield

Irvin Muchnick’s taped interview with Corey Costello on Home Turf on ESPN Radio, 1230 AM in Bakersfield, California (and, is expected to be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, February 26.

'Hearst Readies McMahon Steroids Story'

That’s the main headline — in capital letters — at Capitol Report, Capitol Report, in turn, links to a Sunday newspaper promo of the story in the Connecticut Post.

Should be a good read.

Irv Muchnick

WWE, TV-PG, and TV-14

Quite frankly (as Vince McMahon is so fond of prefacing his oily monologues), I had no intention of making whatever is risqué or questionable about World Wrestling Federation television content a centerpiece of my critique of Linda McMahon’s Senate candidacy.

And I still don’t. The story here is that people are dying by the bushel, needlessly, for uninterrupted junk entertainment that has lined Linda’s pockets with centimillions – which in turn are bankrolling a self-funded, improbable, and mendacious “outsider” race for high public office.

But yesterday a source inside the wrestling industry, who I consider unimpeachable on this type of information, tipped me in an email: “It may be of interest to you to note with the McMahon campaign and all the things WWE says, they’ve quietly re-rated the Tuesday night show TV-14 instead of TV-PG.”

When I pressed for details, the source added, “It changed last night with the debut of NXT.”

As WWE acknowledged yesterday in its statement about a “miscommunication between Syfy and programming guides,” NXT was indeed listed as TV-14 in cable and programming guides – though not onscreen Tuesday night, I’m told by some readers who watched it.

Fair enough: a miscommunication. But from there we get deep into inside-wrestling territory. It naturally raises eyebrows for this miscommunication to have occurred with the launch of a brand-new show. Does that make the miscommunication more explainable – or less?

Now along comes a story today by wrestling journalist Mike Aldren, on the site SLAM! Wrestling, headlined “’We’re not PG,’ says Cryme Tyme’s Shad.” The story’s lead sentence is, “Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme has blown WWE’s claim of being PG-rated out the water.” Read on at

(Disclosure: I have written a number of pieces for SLAM!, whose producer, Greg Oliver, also was one of my three co-authors of the 2007 ECW Press book BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport.)

Presumably, WWE will say that Gaspard spoke out of turn – as wrestlers and others often also do, for example, on their personal Twitter feeds – and reinforce that the company is PG across the board, no matter what he said.

The last thing a general reader needs to know is that ECW, the brand NXT is replacing, had roots as the edgiest and most risk-taking wrestling promotion in the world, before its founder, Paul Heyman, sold it to WWE. Indeed, the original Philadelphia-based ECW stood for “Extreme Championship Wrestling.” (To make things even more confusing, ECW has nothing to do with my publisher, ECW Press, which got its name decades ago for even more obscure reasons.)

ECW, and now NXT, is WWE’s third-tier and least-watched brand. So if WWE indeed was floating a trial balloon with a one-shot listing of one of its programs as TV-14 – which could, if necessary, be withdrawn and ascribed to a “miscommunication” – NXT would be the place to do it.

To quote what guest host Walter Matthau once said on Saturday Night Live after cast member Garrett Morris did a segment singing an opera aria, “Now let’s get back to the rest of the crap.”

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE Quietly Shifts Programming Back to TV-14

CLARIFICATION: See “WWE Cites ‘Miscommunication,’ Says TV-14 Listing Was a Mistake,”


As former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon launched her campaign for the Senate seat in Connecticut last year, WWE re-rated its programming from TV-14 (“may be unsuitable for children under 14 years of age”) to TV-PG (“parental guidance suggested”).

Many charged WWE with softening its content for the convenience of the McMahon campaign. At the most vociferous end of this line of argument, the change could even be construed as an illegal “in kind” corporation campaign contribution.

Now look at what happened last night on WWE’s first edition of NXT – a rebranding of the Tuesday night wrestling show, formerly called ECW, on the Syfy cable channel. With no announcement of its impact on demographics or advertiser profiles, WWE has listed NXT back at TV-14.

This comes, of course, following a season of releases of YouTube videos, embarrassing or otherwise, which highlight some of WWE’s most historically raunchy content. And it gives Linda McMahon critics, inside and outside the campaign, another juicy target.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the next editions of Raw and SmackDown to find out if the change will apply across the board or only to NXT. I’d ask WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt, but he might start calling me names again.

Irv Muchnick

‘If Linda McMahon Is P.T. Barnum, Then Connecticut Is in More Trouble Than We Know’

The above is the headline of my piece running Friday at Beyond Chron, the San Francisco online newspaper.

For those readers who expect nothing but Linda-bashing from me, this one will have some surprises.

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ (Part 4 — Conclusion)

This post concludes the series on this blog — interrupted more than three weeks ago — on how the Stamford Police Department handled the June-July 2007 investigation of Matthew T. Greenberg, a 19-year-old University of Connecticut student and local resident, who edited the Wikipedia page of wrestler Chris Benoit to state that Benoit missed a show because his wife Nancy had died. The edit was made half-a-day before the Benoit family’s bodies were discovered.

The subject is explored in depth in my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. I will be making appearances in Connecticut next month to promote the book at the Borders stores in Stamford (Thursday, March 25) and Farmington (Saturday, March 27).

I also reviewed the story in this blog series, whose previous posts were:

Introduction (January 28)

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

The Two-State Police Records Stonewall (January 31)


In demonstrating that the Stamford police botched the Greenberg/Benoit/Wikipedia investigation, I do not assert that the upshot is that the police, Greenberg, and/or World Wrestling Entertainment conspired to cover up early knowledge of the Benoit family members’ deaths in Fayette County, Georgia.

Nor do I assert that that one or more of these parties did not conspire. The bungling of the investigation is manifest; the open questions raised by it, legitimate. And the Senate candidacy of Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE, makes it entirely appropriate to raise those questions anew.

1. Why did the police not question Greenberg in depth about possible connections to WWE?

The video of his interrogation shows that Detective Tim Dolan never even raised on his own the fact that Greenberg resided in the home city of WWE — itself the focus of a media frenzy. In addition, the detective asked no questions at all about a possible association between Greenberg and wrestler Chavo Guerrero.

It is known that amidst various acts of Wikipedia vandalism, Greenberg actually cleaned up defamatory material on the page of Guerrero – who also happened to be one of the two friends of Chris Benoit who received Benoit’s final text messages. These messages were sent in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 24, 2007. Greenberg made his Wikipedia edit of Benoit’s page at 12:01 a.m. Monday, June 25. The bodies were found around 2:30 p.m. Monday.

(The video of Greenberg’s 25-minute police interrogation can be viewed in three parts at my YouTube channel, The City of Stamford released the video to me after months of refusing to do so, and with my appeal hearing pending before the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission.)

2. Why did the specialist whom Stamford PD directed to examine Greenberg’s computer not seek information on the wrestling fan websites, blogs, and discussion boards he visited on June 24, 2007?

During the interrogation, Detective Dolan had said that was the whole point of the computer forensic exam ultimately conducted by Detective Chester Perkowski of the Darien police. But Perkowski’s short, perfunctory report made clear that he confined his search to whether there was evidence only of whether Greenberg had advance knowledge of the Benoit crimes themselves. Perkowski later confirmed this to me in a phone interview.

1. Why did the Associated Press, in closing its reporting of the Wikipedia matter, falsely state that Benoit’s final text messages were transmitted after the Wikipedia edit?

AP reporter Harry Weber told me, “[T]here was confusion caused by police, WWE attorney and others as to the timeline.” Weber also said, “I do believe some of the confusion caused by the timeline discrepancies provided by the WWE were [sic] intentional.”

Irv Muchnick

Monday, February 22, 2010

Muchnick Interview Thursday on ESPN Radio in Bakersfield

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed Thursday, February 25, by host Corey Costello on Home Turf on ESPN Radio, 1230 AM in Bakersfield, California. The program airs 3-6 p.m.

Muchnick’s interview will be taped earlier Thursday. If the exact broadcast time of the interview is known in advance, it will be posted on this blog and at Muchnick’s Twitter feed (@irvmuch).

ESPN Radio in Bakersfield also streams live at

Washington Post and Linda McMahon: Bird-Cage-Liner Notes

The Linda McMahon profile in this morning’s Washington Post, which I slanmed in an instant analysis last night, isn’t worth the ink that it doesn’t cost to say much more about it.

The main question, both inside the Beltway and inside Connecticut, is: Will anyone pick up on the story of how Congress – the body to which McMahon now aspires – circulated a little self-serving hot air, then quietly dropped its investigation of drugs and death in her World Wrestling Entertainment?

The subject is fully covered in Chapter 13, “Congress Cuts a Promo,” of my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. I’ll be making appearances on Thursday, March 25, at the Borders in Stamford and Saturday, March 27, at the Borders in Farmington.

I’ll send another of my postcard invitations to Jason Horowitz of the Post. If Horowitz attended one of those pricey journalism schools, he absorbed how to write in reverse-pyramid form but little else.



On his blog today, the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green correctly observes that the Post article “turns over no new ground.”

Green also points out the reporter’s most notable evidence of enterprise – again in service of the YouTube LindaMania that I consider a substantive campaign loser. The Post offers the full background on the scene in which McMahon’s daughter’s husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, shtupps a mannequin inside a coffin at a funeral home. During the shoot, auteur Vince McMahon directs Levesque to “do it harder and make more noise and stuff.”

At Pro Wrestling Torch, James Caldwell nails the story’s “unchecked and unchallenged” Linda McMahon quotes. But even the estimable Caldwell misses how the quote he cites – an argument by McMahon that steroids do not enhance performance in pro wrestling – remains unchallenged on two levels.

McMahon says, “The thing of it is, there is no competitive advantage for using steroids – it’s not going to make you jump higher, run faster, hit the ball farther or anything like that.”

So Linda not only is denying that mere cosmetic enhancement offers an advantage in wrestling (a position defied by her company’s systematic push of muscled and/or larger talent). She also seems to be claiming that they don’t work as aids in legitimate athletic endeavors, either. And the Post lets the quote just sit there.

Someone please get the descendents of Woodward and Bernstein a copy of Steroids for Dummies.

Finally, the campaign of Rob Simmons, McMahon’s main Republican opponent, is sending around excerpts of the Post profile with the claim that they show her attempting to distance herself from WWE. Good luck with that one.



For history on a publicly traded corporation with market capitalization of a billion dollars, the Post doesn’t go out and find Lowell Weicker, a former Connecticut senator and governor, now a charter member of the WWE board of directors and living in Virginia. No, the paper goes straight to the horse’s – or animal’s – mouth: Jim “George ‘The Animal’ Steele” Myers, a mid-card comedy character from the 1980s.

The Animal informs us that, like the original flame-throwing Sheik, who promoted in Myers’ hometown of Detroit, Vince saw the advantages of having his wife handle the business side whenever the boys stormed the office to complain about their payoffs.

Yet another sterling example, one presumes, of Linda McMahon’s qualifications for the Senate on the basis of her success “in a business that is very testosterone-loaded.”

I don’t suppose the McMahons’ lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, will be maintaining that The Animal is not current, was never an important figure in WWE, or has an axe to grind.

Irv Muchnick

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Washington Post Profile of Linda McMahon Proves That Wrestling Is Real – It’s Journalism That’s Fake (Part 1)

About nine-tenths of the way through nearly 2,500 fawning words on Linda McMahon in Monday’s Washington Post, reporter Jason Horowitz writes that she explained the evolution of World Wrestling Entertainment’s drug-testing policies “in 1997 congressional testimony.”

Playing to perfection the role of passive mark to U.S. Senate candidate McMahon’s Über-Carny, Horowitz thus manages to whiff on the single most important aspect of her background. It is also very nearly the only important one: the role of her WWE in presiding over an industrial death mill that peaked with the 2007 double-murder/suicide of WWE star Chris Benoit.

Benoit and his wife Nancy were the ninth and tenth of 21 pro wrestling personalities who died before age 50 in the year 2007 alone. Yet the name Chris Benoit is nowhere to be found in the article.

And in lieu of 2007, we get 1997. That’s ancient history, folks!

Pointlessly, like any writer masking the fact that he doesn’t have the goods, the Post guy wastes space on style points, congratulating himself for skepticism. But it’s more like cynicism – empty, unaccompanied by knowledge or context. When they finish reading this one, the minions at McMahon campaign headquarters will be dancing in the streets of West Hartford.

McMahon and WWE, the Post tells us, “developed a primer for reporters,” and one example is this: “’How many wrestlers have died while under contract with the WWE?’ Only five!”

If this is the best that the leading newspaper in our nation’s capital can produce, then it’s no wonder the Republic is in trouble. Now we know why stories such as the Iran-Contra scandal and the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq played out right in front of the noses of elite journalists, who don’t find a way to report and analyze them until it’s too late.

The Post piece not only screws up by a decade the year of McMahon’s statements to Congress; it doesn’t even accurately identify her 2007 “testimony.” This wasn’t public-hearing testimony, but a many-holds-barred interview of McMahon by staff members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Benoit murder-suicide – an international news story that summer – had finally put the wrestling industry’s generation-long drug culture and death pandemic under some semblance of scrutiny, and this was one of two committees grabbing headlines in the backwash.

But after staff investigators grilled Linda McMahon, her husband Vince, and others, the chairman of the committee, Congressman Henry Waxman, decided he’d get more mileage from the syringe-made abscess on baseball player Roger Clemens’ ass cheek than from hearings on the occupational health and safety standards of a lowbrow entertainment industry. So Waxman instead sent a long letter, in the middle of the Bush-Obama interregnum, lambasting the McMahons and their phony “wellness policy,” to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy. And thereby washed his hands of the matter and effectively ended the investigation.

Henry Waxman – there’s another name nowhere to be found in this Washington Post story.

The Linda McMahon profile is at I’m writing this late Sunday night. More from here tomorrow.

Irv Muchnick

‘Simmons still fuming over Morning Joe snub; carries around Muchnick’s book…’

The above is the headline over an item this morning at the delightfully snarky Capitol Report (

English translation: Neil Vigdor of the Stamford Advocate and Hearst newspapers has a long piece today on Rob Simmons, Linda McMahon’s main obstacle to the Republican nomination for in this year’s U.S. Senate race in Connecticut. See The article includes this passage:

Simmons said McMahon’s record when she was chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment is fair game and doesn’t consider it to be negative to bring up issues regarding steroid abuse, violence or the premature deaths of several stars.

“I don’t call that mud-slinging,” said Simmons, who brought to the interview a book on the murder-suicide involving former WWE wrestler Chris Benoit and his wife, Nancy.

Which reminds me: The McMahons, the Levesques, and the Weickers still have not responded to my postcard invitations to attend my reading at Borders in Stamford on March 25 for CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. Just 32 days away!

Irv Muchnick

Friday, February 19, 2010

Linda McMahon's WWE Needs a Declaration of Dependence

James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch has a good analysis of a New York Times article about President Obama’s position on taking on companies that abuse the category of independent contractors for what are really regular employees, and what it could mean for World Wrestling Entertainment. See (which includes a link to the root Times story).

Readers of this blog will recall that I included a question on independent contractor reform in a hypothetical list that I hoped Rick Green of the Hartford Courant would raise when he interviewed Linda McMahon last week.

Irv Muchnick

Will 'Heel' Vince McMahon Turn 'Babyface' After WrestleMania to Support Linda's Campaign?

On Raw, Linda McMahon’s husband Vince, the hated potentate of their World Wrestling Entertainment, has “broken the leg” of poor, lovable Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

Where all this leads, of course, is to a “street fight” at WrestleMania on March 28. It will come a scant three days after my book signing at Borders in Stamford for CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, and a day after my similar event at the Borders in Farmington.

At the big show, this explosive feud, simmering for a dozen years, should have its “blowoff.” Vince will get beaten to within an inch of his life, sending home happy the more than 60,000 fans in attendance at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona and the more than a million who forked out $44.95 to watch it on pay-per-view.

But is that really the end? Hardly. In wrestling, as in politics, storylines never completely resolve. They grow, they fester, they evolve. And right now the first family of WWE has its eye on the prize: a U.S. Senate seat for the Über-Carny herself, Linda McMahon.

So what makes the most sense to me is that, right after WrestleMania – perhaps as a subtle consequence of something planted within that show itself – “Mr. McMahon” somehow remakes himself again as a good guy. In wrestling parlance, the “heel” will become a “babyface,” turning all the hatred and heat inside-out in service of a new feud and a new agenda.

Predicting wrestling storylines is, quite literally, a fool’s errand. After all, McMahon vs. Hart pits a 64-year-old professional exhibitionist against a 52-year-old ex-wrestler who has made it as far back as you can come from a 2002 stroke that partially paralyzed him. At WrestleMania, one or both could sustain a fake coronary or cerebral thrombosis – or a real one. (I’m sure neither minds my teasing the possibility; it sells tickets.)

Moreover, any smart wrestling promoter (or prognosticator) knows the limitations of “the power of the pencil.” In other words, you can’t script the future. You can only show off your focus groups to Kevin Rennie, then go with the flow.

There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that the Booking 101 playbook calls for Vince McMahon to make the big switch this spring. Wrestling demands it. So does his wife’s campaign. So does his wife’s campaign’s sinecure press spokesperson’s husband — the state Republican Party chairman, who is drooling over what else Linda’s $50 million self-funded campaign can buy.

Through an intermediary, a spokesman for the Taliban declined to comment.

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kelly Kelly Skit Was PG-PG Dumb-Dumb. (And By the Way, WWE Death Touches Her, Too.)

Senate candidate Linda McMahon calls World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw show, Monday nights on USA cable, the longest-running weekly episodic series on television. When the content is questioned – for example, when her son-in-law Triple H humps a corpse or her husband Vince McMahon forces Trish Stratus to strip down to her panties and crawl on all fours like a dog – Linda explains that the intense pressure of writing weekly soap opera scripts for her “very testosterone-loaded business” sometimes causes WWE to “push the envelope.”

Meet Linda McMahon, your avant-garde candidate to deliberate on Supreme Court appointments and advise and consent on foreign treaties!

On this week’s edition of Raw, the guest host was Jerry Springer, and the opening skit was so immensely stupid that I don’t know of anyone who is defending it. Not women, whom McMahon is supposedly targeting in her campaign. Not wrestling fans, who cringe. Not proponents of WWE’s suddenly Linda-friendly PG-tagged programming. Methinks there was a quality-control problem here.

In the skit, which I won’t belabor – go find it on YouTube yourself – WWE diva Kelly Kelly discusses getting pregnant while drooling males, from the TV announcers to various comedy-figure wrestlers, vie for the honor of claiming to be the father.

The main reason I bring up all this is that Kelly Kelly (real name Barbara Blank) was the girlfriend of ex-WWE wrestler Andrew “Test” Martin, who died 11 months ago in Florida, at age 33, from an overdose of painkillers.

Martin’s brain, like that of Chris Benoit, was subsequently studied and found to have sustained severe brain damage from the cranial chair shots and other stunts gleefully marketed by WWE.

When ESPN reported this last December, WWE said, “While this is a new emerging science, the WWE is unaware of the veracity of any of these tests, be it for Chris Benoit or Andrew Martin.” Even though Dr. Joseph Maroon, the company’s “medical director” of “several years” (according to lawyer Jerry McDevitt) had met a year earlier with the doctor, Bennet Omalu, who is spearheading research into a brain-trauma phenomenon he calls Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

What people are most asking about from this Monday’s Raw is where mean old Vince McMahon’s feud with lovable Bret Hart is headed, and what it all means for Linda McMahon’s Senate race. I’ll post some thoughts on that tomorrow.

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wrestler Dave Taylor, Bearer of Benoit Secrets, Now With WWE's Rival

British wrestler Dave Taylor, who was released by World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008, has landed as a backstage agent for Total Nonstop Action, a rival promotion. TNA, on Spike TV, soon will be going head-to-head with WWE, on the USA network, in Monday night cable programming.

Chapter 10 of my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death discusses how Taylor and his wife Lisa were near the crime scene in Fayette County, Georgia, on June 25, 2007, almost simultaneously with the police — and hours before the general public knew it was a crime scene. The Taylors and another woman were carrying plates of deli food, perhaps to console their friends, the Benoits, upon learning that there was a death in the family. Or to make it so appear.

As I recount in the chapter, “Squire David Taylor Drops by Green Meadow Lane,” Taylor twice lied to me about all this, claiming that he was in Texas with the WWE crew.

Why did Taylor lie? Beats the hell out of me.

What was Taylor’s mission? Most likely, monitoring the situation on the ground for Linda McMahon’s company.

Irv Muchnick

'If Linda McMahon Manufactured Cigarettes, We Wouldn't Be Having This Discussion'

Hartford Courant editorial cartoonist and columnist Bob Englehart:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Profile of Mr. Suzan Bibisi, Husband of Linda McMahon's Campaign Staffer

There’s a nice piece in the Connecticut Mirror about Chris Healy, the Republican Party state chairman. See “Healy: It’s not about the old college try,”

But stepping out of good-old-boy mode here for a moment, I wonder why the article doesn’t mention that Healy’s wife, journalist Suzan Bibisi, has a high-paying — and some say do-nothing — job with Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign.

Officially, I believe Bibisi is supposed to be a press spokesperson. However, the one time I directed a query to her, I heard back from Ed Patru.

The campaign’s report to the Federal Election Commission shows that Bibisi drew checks totaling $13,700 between November 30 and December 31. Patru, meanwhile, earns about $9,000 a month, according to the review of the FEC filing by the Hartford Courant’s Daniela Altimari.

Irv Muchnick

What I Want to Ask Former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy

A couple of Democratic candidates in the Connecticut governor’s race, Ned Lamont and Dan Malloy, are lobbing verbal grenades at each other over who is the more “outsider” in this political year of the outsider. (Or so the politicos tell me.)

Ned Lamont is the guy who upended Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Senate Democratic primary, but lost to Lieberman, running as an independent, in the general election. Malloy was the long-time mayor of Stamford.

Rick Green, blogging for the Hartford Courant, says Lamont and Malloy are having “hissy fits”:

Brian Lockhart, blogging for the Stamford Advocate, says Lamont unloaded an “out-of-nowhere nuclear assault” on Malloy:

Me? I just want to point out that Lamont — who, like Linda McMahon, lives in tony Greenwich — spent $16 million of his own money on his campaign four years ago. This year Linda is expected to spend $50 million.

And I have one of my off-the-beaten-path questions for Malloy, about how the Stamford police botched the investigation of the 19-year-old local college student who, on June 25, 2007, posted on Wikipedia that Chris Benoit’s wife was dead — 14 hours before the three family members’ bodies were found in a murder-suicide.

Breaking news about Linda McMahon and retard jokes diverted me from the conclusion of my blog series on the “Benoit Wikipedia Hacker,” which I will post in the near future. In the meantime, here are links to the first three parts of the series:

Introduction (January 28)

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

The Two-State Police Records Stonewall (January 31)

Mayor Malloy last year endorsed Governor Jodi Rell’s nomination of Linda McMahon to the state Board of Education. Now, Linda was manifestly qualified for that position, but I’m just sayin'....

I sent Malloy a postcard invitation to my March 25 reading at Borders in Stamford for CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. If Hizzoner responds, I’ll let y’all know.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon's $1 Million Checking Account

With the hook of Linda McMahon’s Senate candidacy, Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant has an interesting backgrounder on super-rich, self-funded candidates in general. See “Do the Richest Candidates Hold an Edge Over Competition?”,,0,3949602.story?page=1.

McMahon has a million bucks in her checking account. I hope her checks are free.

Irv Muchnick

Friday, February 12, 2010

'Wrestling Media' School Mainstream Media

Let’s go back for a moment to the Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore character on WWE television — a mentally handicapped person who is systematically mocked and humiliated.

James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch has a wonderfully original take on this that involves a rare commodity: actual reporting. (Much of the background of Caldwell’s article came from a column by another solid Torch writer, columnist Bruce Mitchell.)

See “The real story on Eugene (Nick Dinsmore) is not questionable TV content, but Dinsmore himself,”

Irv Muchnick

Media on Linda McMahon: Getting Better

Confronting an absurdly credible U.S. Senate candidate, the mainstream media are starting to get their footwork down.

Today, on Morning Joe, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell had a lively exchange with Linda McMahon about drugs and death in her World Wrestling Entertainment. The YouTube video is flying around but I can’t find the link. Here’s the video file:

A couple of comments from Hartford Courant columnists/bloggers, followed by my own.

Colin McEnroe called it “Kabuki” ( “This would have been a little better if O’Donnell had a tiny bit of substance — which, heaven knows, is available — to back up his bluster. In fact, O’Donnell’s challenge to McMahon had a paradoxically glandular, brainless WWE quality. Oh well. Somebody else will do a better job.”

Rick Green called it “LindaVision” ( “What’s most revealing about this is that everybody’s getting a big chuckle talking about drug abuse. Score a big one for Linda McMahon.”

As someone who has had a ringside seat for McMahon-enabling cynicism for a generation, I’m a little more sanguine on this one.

To McEnroe, I would point out that cable gum-flapping is what it is — but take a look at how far we’ve come in this discussion.

To Green, I would agree that the other panelists may be getting “a big chuckle” — but Linda McMahon isn’t one of them. She’s busy regurgitating her glib response, which rambles across everything up to and including the pads WWE installed outside the ring to protect wrestlers taking big “bumps.”

To everyone, I would urge you to notice what she doesn’t try to get away with saying any more. She no longer begins this rehearsed sound bite by maintaining that “only” five wrestlers have met early death on WWE’s watch. Heck, 11 performers for one WrestleMania show alone (in 1991) went on to die before age 50. [See "The Question: Linda McMahon (Still) Can't Answer It (complete 7-part series as a single post), January 10, 2010,]

Today’s edition of Morning Joe, and Rick Green’s thoughtful column in today’s Courant, “Mean-Spirited Fiction, That’s a Fact,”,0,6958559.column, are invaluable companion pieces as the campaign proceeds to strip the fluoropolymers off Teflon Linda.

Irv Muchnick

Hartford Courant's Rick Green on Linda McMahon's 'Mean-Spirited Fiction'

Chilling. Compelling.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Further Notes on the WWE Wrestlers and Applied Pharmacy

Some clarification on the post here yesterday about the six wrestlers named in the case against the Applied Pharmacy figures who were convicted this week in federal court.

Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Adam “Edge” Copeland, Gregory Shane “Hurricane” Helms, Oscar “Rey Mysterio” Gutierrez, and the late Eddie Guerrero indeed all were linked to Applied, but the links are not directly based on the trial record. The 2007 series of articles at the Sports Illustrated website — which are more commonly described as explanations of the athlete names that emerged during the prosecution of Signature Pharmacy, another “compounding” drugstore that did business over the Internet and in association with “wellness” clinics and unscrupulous doctors — was the source of the item published yesterday at the website of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

In their March 19 2007, article, SI reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim wrote that Copeland and Helms were documented to have received Human Growth Hormone. And “virtually all the other [wrestlers named -- among them, Angle, Orton, Gutierrez, and Guerrero] allegedly received a wide variety of anabolic steroids” from Applied Pharmacy.

Prior to this week’s conviction in the Applied trial, an Arizona physician, David A. Wilbirt, and his fiancée, Candace V. Toler, both already had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally dispensing and distributing anabolic steroids, and Wilbirt’s “patients” included the wrestlers.

My post yesterday errantly said it was quoting Dave Meltzer. I actually was quoting the daily update on the website of Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. Yesterday’s update was written by Meltzer’s associate Bryan Alvarez, publisher of another wrestling newsletter, Figure Four Weekly.

This is all much ado about nothing in one basic respect: Pro wrestlers and WWE performers appear disproportionately on the celebrity and athlete customer lists of all the busted and shady Internet pharmacies. On that, you can Apply your Signature. The business experience Linda McMahon touts in her Senate campaign is in an exceedingly dirty business.

Irv Muchnick

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Memo to Courant's Rick Green: Four Questions for Linda McMahon

Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green is meeting Tuesday with Linda McMahon. He says so in a blog post last Friday, “Linda McMahon, Retard Jokes and the WWE Soap Opera,”

I would have headlined the item “Linda McMahon’s ‘Retard’ Problem – And Ours.” It’s a generally wise takeout, especially where Green writes, “She very well may be the next U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Which makes it all the more important to ask a few more questions about this button-downed-CEO’s judgment.”

Where I think the piece falls short is where just about everyone else does. Playing “gotcha” with YouTube clips won’t get it done in the game of pseudo-populist jiu-jitsu.

On Friday afternoon I talked with a politico on the ground in Connecticut, who expressed amazement that the footage of the humiliation of WWE character Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore didn’t seem to be sticking to Linda. My response was that, after decades of following McMahon family wrestling’s race to the bottom, whatever does or doesn’t move the outrage needle has ceased to surprise me.

Now, as Lincoln and Douglas once again flop around in their graves like mackerels, Rick Green prepares to confront Linda McMahon. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that tete-a-tete.

Here, free of charge, are a few questions I hope Green asks.



Linda [Rick Green should say], state legislation has been introduced to protect high school athletes from what research is showing to be long-term brain trauma from improperly treated concussions. I have written about this issue both in my column and on my blog.

One of the pioneers in the research on sports-related brain trauma, Dr. Bennet Omalu, has studied the brains of dead WWE wrestlers Chris Benoit and Andrew Martin and concluded that they suffered from severe, occupation-caused brain damage.

WWE has tried to discredit and dodge that research. Why?

At best, your company sits at approximately the same stage of the denial-and-action cycle that the National Football League occupied five years ago. You even hired as your medical director Dr. Joseph Maroon, also an NFL consultant, who has been far from the most enthusiastic advocate of embracing the findings of Dr. Omalu and others in this field.

Worse, WWE – which has dominant market power in the wrestling industry and thus could promote safer standards with much less inconvenience than the NFL – continues to build around hard-core gimmicks like “tables, ladders, and chairs” matches. A promo for a recent WWE pay-per-view show hyping “TLC” matches showed animated cuckoo birds encircling the head of wrestler Chris Jericho after he took a chair shot. (And it should also be noted that Jericho recently has been involved in two publicly embarrassing outside-the-ring incidents.)

Even worse than that was WWE’s statement to ESPN that it had sought and been denied access to Omalu’s Benoit brain research – a statement that turned out to be based (depending on your interpretation) on either aggressive hairsplitting or an out-and-out lie. In fact, WWE medical director Maroon met with Omalu and others at a West Virginia brain research institute in 2008 and was given full access to the Benoit studies. [See “Jerry McDevitt, Lawyer for Linda McMahon’s WWE, Gets Mad at Me Again (Part 3),”]

So, Linda: Are you proud of WWE’s record of foot-dragging, which has allowed it to continue and expand the completely unnecessary practice of chair and weapons shots, in a choreographed entertainment that could easily thrive without that element?



Linda, the two controversies last week over forms of the word “retarded,”indirectly related to you, overshadowed a more substantive third one, directly involving you.

In an interview about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide on ABC’s
Good Morning America on June 28, 2007, you stated: “[T]he focus of this is really turning more to the tension that must have been happening between a husband and wife over, you know, the management and the schooling and the rearing of this child who had the mental retardation.”

What an appalling display of bullspin. The report that 7-year-old Daniel Benoit had Fragile X Syndrome was just a rumor that WWE stoked to deflect attention from the company’s deeply embedded culture of drugs and early death, of which the Benoit case was just the most dramatic example. WWE withdrew this innuendo a day later, but the damage was done.

No one in his right mind thinks that Daniel Benoit’s medical condition, whatever it was, had a tenth as much to do with this tragedy as the heavy doses of steroids, growth hormone, and prescription painkillers and antidepressants that Chris Benoit had chronically ingested. The toxicology report would show that Chris had a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1! Yet your sound bites that week emphasized that he had “passed” his WWE drug tests. That turned out to mean not that the tests showed anything in the neighborhood of normal drug levels, but that he had a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of a WWE “therapeutic use exemption.”

Linda, are you proud of your little PR swerve about Daniel Benoit’s “retardation”? He was a real person, not a fictional TV character who you could rather outlandishly claim was “inspirational.”

And is this the template for how you intend to manage crises in Washington?

In your answer, please don’t advise me to read the website poop sheet on the “Wellness Policy.” It’s a meaningless document because your consultants are just clerks or administrators; your husband Vince alone, and not an independent authority, interprets the tests and metes out or withholds talent discipline. One of your contractors, Dr. Tracy Ray, admitted to Congressional investigators, “There is shadiness in almost every case….”



In January 2009, Congressman Henry Waxman, then chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a lengthy letter, with attachments, to the President’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The letter sharply criticized the WWE Wellness Program. The congressman asked this White House office to “examine the systematic deficiencies in the testing policies and practices of professional wrestling” uncovered by the committee’s investigation.

Linda, if you are elected to the Senate, will you ask President Obama to follow through on Waxman’s letter?



One feature of President Obama’s newly released budget is what he has termed the misclassification of regular employees as independent contractors. The president estimates that his proposal in this area would reduce the federal budget deficit by an annual $7 billion.

WWE performers are, controversially, classified as independent contractors. This means both that the company does not pay payroll taxes on them and that wrestlers get no vacation, health insurance, or retirement benefits.

Linda, what is your position on the administration’s proposal for independent-contractor reform?

Over the last month and a half, Rick Green has had a lot of fun with my efforts to publicize my book CHRIS & NANCY. And I’ve had fun with his fun. But I think Green and I agree on what is no laughing matter in all this: the prospect of Linda Edwards McMahon moving her office from East Main Street in Stamford to Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill.

If Green doesn’t choose to ask the questions above, I hope he is armed with a pocketful of even better ones.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Great Moments in Email, Part 4

From Gilbert Anthony Navarro II:

“Mr. Muchnick I know you’ve done a lot of good, but this vendetta is getting insane.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

'CHRIS & NANCY' Author Muchnick's Connecticut Borders Tour Concludes in Farmington, March 27


Simon Ware,,(416) 694-3348

or Irvin Muchnick,

CHRIS & NANCY – 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 book-signing event with author Irvin Muchnick at Borders Books & Music in Farmington, Connecticut, 1600 South East Road (next to the West Farms Mall), on Saturday, March 27, at 1:00 p.m.

This will conclude Muchnick’s statewide media and bookstore tour during the week before WrestleMania, and at a moment when the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Linda McMahon, is campaigning for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. WWE is headquartered in Stamford (where Muchnick will be appearing Thursday evening, March 25, at the Borders, 1041 High Ridge Road).

“We’re delighted that Borders is hosting Irv’s important book in two important markets of a state that all of America is watching,” said Simon Ware, publicity director of ECW Press.

Matthew Kelly, sales manager of Borders in Farmington, added, “There is no better time and place to be featuring CHRIS & NANCY than the eve of WrestleMania and in the Greater Hartford area.”

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



For Linda McMahon's WWE, Depraved Is As Depraved Does

A couple of days ago I noticed that there was a research breakthrough for Fragile X, a genetic disorder that is a leading cause of mental retardation, autism, and other defects. It was an opportunity for me to review for Connecticut blog readers the sleazy story of how Linda McMahon, as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, tried to exploit reports that Chris Benoit’s son had Fragile X while she was managing the fallout of the Benoit murder-suicide in an interview on Good Morning America on June 28, 2007. I did a five-part series with the full background, the interview transcript, and a burr to politicos to go find this damning video.

But little did I know that my comparatively high-minded citation of McMahon’s disgusting use of the word “retardation” would get immediately buried in the fury over yet another tasteless old WWE television clip on YouTube. Indeed, mine was, at best, the third-most-resonant example in the last 48 hours of variations of “retardation” in damaging stories associated with perhaps the weirdest major Senate candidate in the history of the Republic.

First, Sarah Palin called out Rahm Emanuel – to whose Congressional campaigns the McMahon family has contributed – for saying liberal activists were “fucking retarded.”

Then, with the warp speed familiar to contemporary attack politics, the video quickly surfaced of Linda’s son-in-law, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, destroying a mentally handicapped character named “Eugene” in a 2004 WWE steel-cage match.

I wonder if Kevin Rennie is readying his next Hartford Courant column on the ruthlessly efficient war room of McMahon’s Republican primary opponent, Rob Simmons. Last week Rennie called the McMahon machine’s market research scary-good. Rennie was half-right.

In future posts I’ll be breaking down, from my perspective, the roles of Rahm Emanuel and of Mr. Family Values himself, Joe Lieberman. For me, this is not a partisan issue. In Connecticut today, and throughout the country, there is plenty of sleaze to go around.

And I’ll be trying to return everyone’s focus to the real Linda McMahon scandal: the public-health nuisance that professional wrestling has turned into on her watch.

Meanwhile, for McMahon, the lesson is clear: She can run from her WWE past, whose mega-profits are underwriting her $50 million campaign – but she can’t hide.

Or as Forrest Gump might have said, “Depraved is as depraved does.”

Irv Muchnick

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Linda McMahon's Despicable June 2007 'Good Morning America' Interview

In the kind of move that has led the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green to label your humble blogger “unpredictable,” I took a detour yesterday with a five-part series focusing on World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon’s performance on Good Morning America on June 28, 2007.

In the interview, McMahon desperately – and, largely, with success – diverted attention from drugs and death in pro wrestling in the days after the umpteenth drugged-up wrestler, Chris Benoit, died young – and in this case took out his wife and their 7-year-old son along with him.

McMahon said, “[T]he focus of this is really turning more to the tension that must have been happening between a husband and wife over, you know, the management and the schooling and the rearing of this child who had the mental retardation.”

The interview transcript is at The video should be unearthed and broadcast alongside McMahon’s expensive TV commercials for her Connecticut U.S. Senate campaign. It is despicable: Linda’s female soft-shoe to husband Vince’s male tap-dance sound bite the same week that no one could have foretold that Chris Benoit was “a monster.”

Perhaps that is what Linda McMahon meant when she bragged recently on Face the State about her success “in a business that is very testsosterone-loaded.”


An email from a blog reader whose opinions I respect (but who asked not to be identified) points out that my book CHRIS & NANCY does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Daniel Benoit had Fragile X Syndrome. The majority opinion of my mind is that Daniel did have a serious medical condition, perhaps Fragile X; this reader is more inclined to believe that the Vancouver woman who said her late husband had talked to Chris about becoming a Canadian spokesperson for Fragile X research engineered a hoax.

At a minimum, the reader said, the Vancouver woman could have been aware of Daniel’s condition only if someone some years earlier had unethically breached the confidentiality of his medical records.

The reader is quite right that we don’t know the full and accurate story on Daniel, and may never.

The reader concedes that this does not matter much in the narrative of Linda McMahon’s scurrilous exploitation of the rumor on Good Morning America.


One of the odd aspects of my interpretation of the Fragile X story is that, for once, it puts me in the same camp as WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt.

After the family of Nancy (Benoit) Toffoloni complained, Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard retracted the suggestion that there had been something wrong with Daniel.

WWE flack Gary Davis then said, “I think we have to go with what the district attorney has said as being the best up-to-date information available right now.” Davis added that “we were just as caught up as everyone else” in the idea that Daniel had Fragile X.

But McDevitt, playing the role of bad cop as only he can, continued to insist to People magazine and others that “we believe the evidence will show” that “the situation with Daniel was a source of tension in the relationship between Chris and Nancy.” The day before she was murdered, Nancy had spoken on the phone with the family physician, Dr. Phil Astin (now serving a ten-year federal prison for overprescribing drugs to, among others, Chris, Nancy, and two other now-dead wrestlers), about what McDevitt termed “the needs of the child and how they would be met.”

Irv Muchnick

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Linda McMahon and 'Fragile X Syndrome' (Part 5)



Chris Benoit’s Son’s Medical Condition Sets Off a Media Frenzy

Linda McMahon Goes on “Good Morning America”

Let’s Go to the Videotape


With the current state of the public record, it is impossible to say for certain whether young Daniel Benoit had Fragile X Syndrome. In CHRIS & NANCY, I suggest that he probably did – a conclusion that has not exactly earned me brownie points with the Benoit family survivors, most especially his in-laws.

It just doesn’t make sense to me that the woman in Vancouver would make up the story about her late husband talking to Chris Benoit about becoming a Fragile X spokesman. Benoit’s turndown of that request is consistent with the consensus portrait of him as ultra-private. Possible secrecy about his son’s condition, including shielding the information from close family members and friends, is also common in the whole heartbreaking dynamic of how parents try to cope with the disorder.

For me, the clinchers are:

(a) DA Scott Ballard may have been loose-lipped but I don’t think he’s nuts.

(b) Daniel, at age 7, had just graduated kindergarten. I have not heard a good explanation as to why he would have been in kindergarten at 7; most kids do it at 5.

(c) Nancy Benoit’s friend and next-door neighbor confirmed that they had conversations about some unspecified medical condition of Daniel’s.

So I don’t think Linda McMahon and WWE planted this story.

I do, however, believe they covered themselves in disgrace by furiously and haphazardly exploiting it to direct attention to everything but the elephant in the room: the tremendous stash of drugs in the Benoit home and the tremendous quantity of drugs in Chris Benoit’s body. The latter already had been found in WWE “Wellness Policy” drug tests, which were trumped by a “therapeutic use exemption,” and soon would be confirmed in post-mortem toxicology reports.

Did the spinmeisting by Linda McMahon in her Good Morning America interview – half-baked assertions, almost immediately withdrawn but not until they had served as a temporary but important diversion – add up to the skills and qualities the people of Connecticut would like to see in their next United States senator? We’re about to find out.


Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon and 'Fragile X Syndrome' (Part 4)



Chris Benoit’s Son’s Medical Condition Sets Off a Media Frenzy

Linda McMahon Goes on “Good Morning America”


The audio of an interview Linda McMahon did for the ABC News Good Morning America website on June 28, 2008, can be heard at In the interview, McMahon uses many of the same talking points in her television interview the same day with Robin Roberts, but this one does not have the exact language on TV referring to”the management and the schooling and the rearing of this child who had the mental retardation.”

I can no longer find the Robin Roberts TV interview online. Surely the video still exists, and if someone has it and can pass it along to me ( or put it up on YouTube, that will be another valuable record for the 2010 Senate campaign. There is no point in my trying David Westin, the president of ABC News; Westin did not respond to my queries about the doctoring of the website transcript of a recent interview with McMahon promoting the piece that ABC’s Kate Snow did about her for weekend World News Tonight.

NEXT: The DA and WWE Back Off; What Does It All Mean?

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Goes on 'Good Morning America' (Part 3)



Chris Benoit’s Son’s Medical Condition Sets Off a Media Frenzy


On June 28, 2008, Linda McMahon was interviewed by Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America. Here’s the money quote from Linda:

“And as we found out over the last, literally, probably over the last 48 hours, we found out about Daniel’s illness, which we did not know.... But we do understand now, in fact, I think the, the focus of this is really turning more to the tension that must have been happening between a husband and wife over, you know, the management and the schooling and the rearing of this child who had the mental retardation.”

(The full transcript can be viewed at

NEXT: Let’s Go to the Videotape

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon and 'Fragile X Syndrome' (Part 2)




After World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Chris Benoit strangled his wife Nancy, snapped their son Daniel’s neck, and suspended himself by the throat from a home gym exercise machine, one aspect of the media frenzy concerned the medical condition of Daniel. (The bodies were found on June 25, 2007, after a weekend-long chain of events.) All this is explained fully in my book CHRIS & NANCY. During my book research, I blogged contemporaneously about this subject at these links:

“Crossing the T’s on Fragile X,” September 28, 2007,

“Back to Daniel Benoit and Fragile X Syndrome,” May 8, 2008,

In a nutshell:

(1) The loose-lipped district attorney of Fayette County, Georgia, scene of the crime, told the media that Daniel’s arm showed needle marks from injections of Human Growth Hormone by his parents, who were said to be concerned about the boy’s size. He was “small, even dwarfed,” DA Scott Ballard said.

(2) Hearing these reports, a woman in Vancouver, British Columbia, a Fragile X parent and activist, told a radio station there that her late husband had once contacted Chris Benoit (a native Canadian celebrity) about the possibility of Benoit’s becoming a Fragile X spokesman in Canada.

(3) Nancy Benoit’s family fired back in outrage, saying Daniel was a medically normal child. The chastened district attorney recanted.

And in the middle of all this, Linda McMahon, CEO of WWE, helped directed a 48-hour corporate media campaign, which exploited the vague and undocumented Fragile X story to divert public attention specifically from the large stash of steroids, growth hormone, and other drugs found in the Benoit home, and generally from the hideous culture of death in her industry.

NEXT: Linda McMahon Goes on “Good Morning America”

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon and 'Fragile X Syndrome' (Part 1)


Far from the clamor of electioneering, families across the country were heartened this week by a possible research breakthrough for cures of a genetic disorder called Fragile X Syndrome.

What this has to do with the Linda McMahon Senate campaign in Connecticut is like most things related to pro wrestling and death: tangential but revealing. For details, read on.

But first let’s use this opportunity to educate whoever is reading this on the tragic phenomenon of Fragile X and on today’s important news in the hope for a cure.

Lauran Neergaard, who covers health and medical issues for the Associated Press, did a thorough story yesterday about the clinical trials for a pill to treat Fragile X. A good link is

According to the National Fragile X Foundation (, Fragile X is the most common inherited cause of mental impairment. The syndrome occurs in approximately 1 in 3,600 males and 1 in 4,000 to 6,000 females. There are various symptoms, with divergence between the genders. The majority of males with Fragile X show significant intellectual disability, from learning disabilities to severe mental retardation and autism.

NEXT: Chris Benoit’s Son’s Medical Condition Sets Off a Media Frenzy

Irv Muchnick

Program Note: Blog Series on Stamford Police and ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker’ Interrupted by Breaking News

There is still one part to go in our series “Linda McMahon Chronicles: Strange Tale of the Stamford Police and the ‘Benoit Wikipedia Hacker.’”

Because of a breaking new series of posts on another aspect of World Wrestling Entertainment’s despicable spin of the June 2007 double murder/suicide of star wrestler Chris Benoit, I’m going to hold off on the conclusion of the Stamford/Wikipedia story. I’ll get back to it in due course – and closer to the date of my March 25 book signing, at Borders in Stamford, for CHRIS & NANCY.

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hartford Courant's Rick Green Pushes Muchnick Challenge to Linda McMahon

Rick Green, a columnist for the Hartford Courant, is one of the Connecticut journalists who gets it. What else am I supposed to say about someone who just blogged for the fifth time in 37 days about how my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death is inconveniently shadowing the Senate campaign of Linda McMahon?

I will even forgive Green for continuing to call me “the Desperate Sportswriter from California.” As D.W. said in one of the Arthur books, “I’m not little and I’m not lost!”

In “Muchnick Invites Linda McMahon for a COCKTAIL OF DEATH,”, Green reproduces the front and back of the postcard I just snail-mailed to McMahon’s Greenwich home, asking her — and her husband Vince and family members, and her World Wrestling Entertainment board of directors, and her campaign contributors and vendors — to join me at my March 25 book reading at Borders in Stamford, the home city of WWE.

I don’t think Linda will mind. After all, as she said on Face the State a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve worked and been in a business that is very testosterone-loaded.”

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Invited to Muchnick Book Signing for ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ in Stamford

Linda McMahon — Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment — has been invited to the book signing for Irvin Muchnick’s CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death at Borders Book Shop in Stamford on March 25.

Here is the text of Muchnick’s postcard invitation:

You are warmly invited to the reading

and book-signing for CHRIS & NANCY:

The True Story of the Benoit Murder-

Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail

of Death
, at Borders Books, 1041 High Ridge

Road, Stamford, on Thursday, March 25,

7-9 p.m.

This invitation is being extended to, among

many others, Linda McMahon and Vince

McMahon; Paul “Triple H” Levesque and

Stephanie McMahon-Levesque; all members

of the WWE board of directors; and all Linda

McMahon campaign donors and vendors.

Please RSVP to We look

forward to seeing you March 25 at Borders!

A facsimile with four examples from the postcard mailing can be viewed at The examples are:

Lowell P. Weicker Jr.
A former Connecticut U.S. senator and governor, Weicker is on the board of directors of WWE.

Lowell P. Weicker III.
The son of Lowell P. Weicker Jr., “Trey” Weicker is a Linda McMahon campaign contributor.

Dan Malloy. The former mayor of Stamford and a Democrat, Malloy endorsed Linda McMahon, a Republican, when Governor Jodi Rell nominated her for the state Board of Education last year. Malloy is now running for governor himself.

Jerry S. McDevitt, Esq. McDevitt, a partner in the law firm K&L Gates, is WWE’s chief outside counsel.

For further information, contact Irvin Muchnick at



Twitter: @irvmuch