Introducing “WWE Responds to Hearst’s Story on the Abortive Waxman Committee Steroid Investigation” (1st in a series)
WWE Corporate Flack Is One of the Hardest Jobs in America (2nd in a series)
Hearst Story on Waxman Committee Dropping the Ball on WWE Investigation Is Unimportant – Just Take Dave Meltzer’s Word for It (3rd in a series)
Brian Lockhart and Hearst Pointed Readers to the Entire Waxman Committee Primary-Source Record (4th in a series)
Atrocious Occupational Health and Safety Standards of Linda McMahon’s WWE a Public Health Issue (5th in a series)
Inevitably a post like this one will be read more by wrestling fans than by politicos. I would never assert that this proves the former are less intelligent than the latter – certainly not after reading The New York Times and The Washington Post on Linda McMahon.
Still, there’s no doubt that in order to care about the level of detail required for a thorough analysis of the work of Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, you need to be either blessed or cursed with ... shall we say, an obsession with certain things not known to carry conversation in polite company.
Of course, half-breed that your humble blogger is, I accept the challenge.
In the third part of this series a couple of days ago (see link above), I blasted Meltzer for doing the exact opposite of what a good journalist is supposed to do – which is to make a good-faith effort to understand the essence of a story, and to communicate it to his audience. In summarily dismissing the importance of the report in Hearst Connecticut newspapers last Sunday on the denouement of a federal investigation of World Wrestling Entertainment, Meltzer invited the real world not to take him seriously.
However, Meltzer’s coverage of the “ten questions” to Linda McMahon from her Republican Senate opponent in Connecticut, Rob Simmons, offers more promise. Here the Observer has been educational and, despite my particular disagreements with Meltzer, done more good than harm.
Just before the publication of the March 10 issue of the Observer, Meltzer discussed the ten questions on his Internet radio show with Bryan Alvarez. It’s a measure of the idiosyncracies of Meltzer’s journalistic mission that in this instance I think his spoken words packed a bigger punch than his sometimes bewildering written account. (I asked Meltzer and Alvarez for permission to publish their audio clip, but they have not responded.)
Overall, Meltzer recognizes that the Simmons letter, which the Observer calls “grandstanding” (and no argument with that), has both “valid and invalid” points.
On Question 3, about Vince McMahon’s statement to Congressional staffers, “I don’t know if there are really any long-term effects of steroid usage,” Meltzer calls it “not the smartest answer Vince has ever given a question.” Any response by Linda would have to choose between acknowledging that her husband and business partner had spoken ignorantly or, alternatively, choosing to go on record “as saying something opposition will nail her to the cross for saying because of all the doctors that will disagree with it.”
On Question 5, about the elimination of WWE drug testing between 1996 and 2006, “I don’t know if there is an adequate answer,” Meltzer writes. The original suspension of the testing was due to the fact that the company was losing money in a promotional war with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling, which also enjoyed a competitive advantage by not testing. WWE, however, went into orbit in 1998, had a successful public stock offering the next year, and has been mega-profitable ever since – all while performers associated with the company dropped like flies. Only the high-profile November 2005 death of a top televised star of the moment, Eddie Guerrero, spurred WWE to reenact testing.
Question 6 is why Vince McMahon, an admitted past steroid user, is not tested like all the other WWE talent. Meltzer writes that Vince’s answer to Congressional investigators – that he’s in his 60s and not his 20s – is not “such a great answer. I mean, I get it, but still.”
Question 7 is a multi-parter on Chris Benoit. Meltzer does some shucking and jiving about WWE’s therapeutic use exemptions. (Basically, Benoit needed testosterone because his past abuse had maimed the ability of his own endocrine system to produce it.) As for Linda McMahon going on Good Morning America to divert public attention to the rumors of young Daniel Benoit’s “retardation,” “yes, she screwed up big-time,” Meltzer agrees.
Question 8 explores the general question of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE’s) and the 2007 statement to Congressional investigators by WWE’s medical review officer of the time, Dr. Tracy Ray, “There’s shadiness is almost every case.” Meltzer: “Well, truth is, it is very possible, like with Benoit, there was just medical reasons for certain TUE’s, although Benoit is also proof a person who needed it also abused it.” OK ...
Question 9 concerns the period in the 1990s when WWE was under federal investigation for illegal steroid distribution — a process that led to Vince’s indictment and ultimate acquittal at trial. (See my December 28, 2009, post “Linda McMahon’s Husband Vince Fought the Law, and the Law Lost,” http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/linda-mcmahon%E2%80%99s-husband-vince-fought-the-law-and-the-law-lost-complete-text-as-a-single-post/.) Yet in 2007, when asked if she had been surprised that 40 percent of WWE performers tested positive in the penalty-free “base line testing” phase of the launch of the new Wellness Policy, she said no. Meltzer: “There is no good defense for this, given the body count in the industry, and there is no answer to this other than double talk.”
Question 10 is “How much did you save by eliminating drug testing [between 1996 and 2006] and, given the enormous cost in lives and health of your performers, was it worth it?” Meltzer: “As noted with other questions, there are no answers for that period other than double talk.”
Now for my dissents from Meltzer:
* On Question 2, for some reason, he seems to think that a Democratic opponent of McMahon’s would not use this type of information in a general election campaign because the economy is in bad shape and WWE’s past would not be as important an issue. “Now, it is possible,” Meltzer allows. “A high profile wrestler going nuts or dying while she’s a candidate and there would be hell to pay. Unlikely, but not impossible.” Come again?
* Question 4 is about Eddie Fatu, just such an individual who went nuts or died — the person who, as Umaga, worked the main event of the 2007 WrestleMania and, last December, died of an overdose of three kinds of prescription pills. Here Meltzer really needs to learn the value of paragraph breaks, as he mixes so many facts, pieces of speculation, and opinion in the course of 31 sentences that it’s impossible to figure out what he is saying, other than that some semblance of a halfway decent answer might be imprisoned somewhere in the recesses of his own fertile mind.
* Which brings me to Question 1 and Meltzer’s dismissal of the Rob Simmons camp’s Rahm Emanuel innuendo as a possible explanation for the abortive Waxman Committee investigation. Whether the Simmons suggestion is a low blow or not, the question is a legitimate and open one, as I’ve argued in my earlier post on Meltzer’s appalling incuriosity about the implications of last Sunday’s Brian Lockhart investigation for Hearst. What is perhaps most amusing here is the huffy stance of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that wrestling – let alone wrestling-cum-high-stakes-politics – should be a uniquely innuendo-free zone.