A journalistically challenged correspondent – “The Daw,” email@example.com – thinks I’m picking on poor billion-dollar World Wrestling Entertainment: “You somehow villify WWE for mentioning the fact that he was released…the guy REFUSED to go to rehab.”
Well, here’s the thing, “The.” I don’t send out flacks to try to absolve WWE of accountability for the death pandemic in the industry it dominates by telling the half-informed that “only five” wrestlers have died while under contract to the company.
Nor do I use a website statement of condolence to Umaga’s family, friends, and fans as a platform for butt-covering.
As the Wrestling Observer website reminds us today, Umaga was released by WWE in June 2009 “after a drug test failure and refusal to go to rehab. He died after returning from an Australian wrestling tour headlined by Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. At the time of his death, both WWE and TNA were vying for his services and he had told people he had agreed to return to WWE.”
As for WWE’s touching concern for Eddie Fatu’s “wellness,” consider this:
* The company’s website information on the mechanics of the Wellness Program suggests that Fatu would have been tested as many as 20 times during the 22 months between his “first strike” and his termination. The first strike was his suspension for landing on the Signature Pharmacy list in August 2007. According to WWE, “After a Talent tests positive and receives a strike, that WWE Talent is tested an average of 16 times for a period of one year.”
* Fatu was immediately fired upon getting his second strike when he refused to go to rehab. Are we supposed to believe he had zero drug-test failures from August 2007 to June 2009?
The happy hairshirts can have their day. I’ll stick to trying to make something good come out of Fatu’s death – the something that has yet to come out of Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit’s. That something is cleaning up the out-of-control pro wrestling industry, which is now underwriting Linda McMahon’s $50 million U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut.