Thursday, July 29, 2010

Linda McMahon Sends in the Goons on Richard Blumenthal

[posted 7/22/10 to]

“If I was stalked, so be it.” – Richard Blumenthal, political opponent of Linda McMahon

“Then it got to the point where I started getting followed…. I think they were Fairfax people for the WWF.” – Tom Cole, whistleblower of the pedophile scandal in Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment

To the extent that Connecticut’s Democratic Senate candidate, Richard Blumenthal, has lied about his acceptance of political action committee donations, then I’m all for calling him on it.

The Linda McMahon campaign has released what Hartford Courant columnist/blogger Rick Green described as a “brutal” video of Blumenthal attending a recent convention of a trade association of trial lawyers in Vancouver, Canada. For those of us familiar with McMahon family history, this also calls to mind Linda and Vince’s sources and methods.

In Tom Cole’s interview with the journal Wrestling Perspective about how WWE’s predecessor company fired him for resisting the sexual harassment of pedophiles supervising him, then settled his lawsuit and rehired him, then re-fired him, Cole recalls getting tailed by people whom, he concluded, were agents for the Fairfax Group private investigation firm.

On its website, Fairfax describes its “long history of recognized leadership in risk mitigation.” From the beginning, “Fairfax was recognized as the ‘go to’ firm for particularly sensitive and complex investigative, security and crisis management problems.”

Irv Muchnick

And More Ricky Steamboat

[posted 7/22/10 to]

Once again I’m pulling out as its own headlined item a comment added to this blog’s previous post by Keith Harris of Cageside Seats. Unlike the wrestling newsletter writers who pander far too much to fans who don’t want to hear how the sausage is made in the sausage factory, Harris processes the news like a sentient citizen of the real world.

Harris writes:

“The latest medical word is that it can’t be proven conclusively one way or another if the beating he took in the angle was or wasn’t related to his medical condition.” – Dave Meltzer, July 19th Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

A cynic would suggest that with Steamboat entering his fourth week in hospital and still in a great deal of pain, that WWE officials have stopped trying to downplay this disturbing incident to Dave and have decided instead that silence is the best policy.

I suppose this means Steamboat won’t be back in time to screw Nexus and cost them their match with John Cena’s team at SummerSlam (by the way, Bret Hart, yes the Bret Hart who had all those pesky concussion and stroke problems, was chosen for Steamboat’s spot in the match), as Bryan Alvarez flippantly suggested in his July 20th Figure Four Weekly Newsletter:

“You could also do a finish where the babyfaces win due to interference from another victim from NXT’s past, either Vince McMahon or Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat is still hospitalized and we don’t have a status report, but one would presume he’d be out within a month (and if he’s not, the situation is significantly worse than they are letting on). He could, for example, come down to the ring and trip up Justin Gabriel as he goes for his 450, leading to the babyface win and happy ending.”

Yes, let’s wheel Steamboat out and place him on TV ASAP, to prove to the naysayers that a burst capillary and bleeding on the brain is nothing serious to worry about. What a fairytale ending for WWE!

Irv Muchnick

Dave Meltzer Reports Ricky Steamboat ‘Still in Hospital and in Great Head Pain’

[posted 7/21/10 to]

The weekly update on Ricky Steamboat’s medical condition (with thanks to the July 26 issue of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter for staying on top of the basic facts) should make anyone’s blood boil:

Nothing really new on Ricky Steamboat other than he was still in the hospital and in great head pain. The fact that everyone has been completely quiet on the subject and that he’s been in for so long is troubling.

Irv Muchnick

WSJ Columnist Thomas Frank Does Good Culture-Mongering on Linda McMahon — But It’s Still Just Culture-Mongering

[posted 7/21/10 to]

As I’ve said till I’m bluer in the face than one of Linda McMahon’s wrestlers getting choked out, I don’t think the answer to the riddle of her Senate candidacy in Connecticut can be found in the deconstruction of World Wrestling Entertainment texts, sacred or otherwise.

Having said that, I must admit that the redoubtable Thomas Frank, The Wall Street Journal‘s affirmative-action lefty columnist, has produced a good one today: “In Connecticut, a GOP candidate with a class warrior past,” (full text available to subscribers only).

As impressive as Frank’s literary analysis might be, it pales in comparison with an examination of the real-life abuse inflicted on WWE’s “independent contractor” performers, up to and including waivers of liability for deaths themselves, of which there have been many.

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Connecticut media — just about everyone — have barely scratched the surface on that one.

Irv Muchnick

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dissident Wrestling Journalists Tell Linda McMahon Story More Faithfully Than the Leading Ones

[posted 7/20/10 to]

Dave Meltzer – who, I repeatedly emphasize, is most disappointing because he knows better – has resumed being a double-jointed joke in his coverage of the Senate campaign of former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

Last Friday The New York Times published a story on its front page headlined, “Scrutiny on a Run for the Senate Includes Her Pro Wrestling Hat.” I didn’t see a review of it on Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer website until the Saturday afternoon update, an eternal 36 hours after publication, and Meltzer’s analysis was bland.

Meanwhile, Cageside Seats – largely written by David Bixenspan and Keith Harris – got it right. Candidly, they got it more right than I did: I was too caught up in The Times’ inexcusable failure to discuss Chris Benoit and death counts, and gave reporters Raymond Hernandez and Joshua Brustein inadequate credit for what the article did accomplish, which was well captured by the Cageside Seats headline: “The New York Times manages to shed some light on WWE’s shady, vindictive nature despite avoiding their pink elephant Chris Benoit.”

The link to the post by Harris is

Yesterday brought more nonsense from Meltzer in his react to the Good Morning America piece focusing on Martha Hart’s lawsuit and grievances against WWE. “I don’t see the story as really hurting the campaign,” Meltzer opined, “but it was a negative on national television.” Like too much of what Meltzer says, this has the effect of simultaneously conveying everything and nothing. Usually when he writes about things that are shown on national television, his message is that image is the most important, if not the only, thing. But not when he, in his mysterious way, chooses to conclude otherwise.

Oh, I forgot: Meltzer did register GMA as “a negative” (for Linda personally? for the wrestling industry? for humanity?). So he can safely defend himself in the future, in the forums he carefully selects, against the charge – which happens never to have been made – that he is “covering up for” or “defending” the McMahons. Terms like “softpedaling” and “not reporting aggressively enough,” allowing for respectful and intelligent disagreement, are too subtle.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick Flashback: Linda McMahon’s Despicable June 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Interview

[posted 7/19/10 to]

Originally posted here on February 4, 2010.

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

Hot Tip to ‘Good Morning America’ — Show Linda McMahon’s 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Interview

[posted 7/19/10 to]

It’s nice that ABC’s Good Morning America has joined the pack in running negative stories about Linda McMahon’s experience as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and how that impacts her Senate bid.

The GMA piece this morning, viewable at, focuses on Martha Hart’s lawsuit against WWE for using images of her late wrestler-husband, Owen Hart, in a new DVD collection. The story even includes a clip of Linda McMahon earlier this year on The View, an ABC talk show.

But hey, ABC News, how about pulling this one out of the archives:
Linda McMahon’s Despicable June 2007 ‘Good Morning America’ Interview

Irv Muchnick

New York Times Falls for Both the Little Carnies and the Über Carnies

[posted 7/18/10 to]

From Great Britain, Mike Aldren of Wrestling Globe Newsletter tells me that the New York Times story on Linda McMahon made him chuckle for a different reason: the passage at the end about Dawn Marie’s purported charity Wrestlers Rescue, which she says she set up to support retired wrestlers.

According to Aldren, “Nobody seems to know where all the money has gone nor has anyone seemingly benefited from the money that Dawn has raised over the past three years. Her former friends have told me she uses the money to fly herself to conventions around the country so she can profit from autograph signings. She has agreements with several promoters where if she flies herself in she will get a free table to sell her merchandise. When I started asking reasonable questions, Dawn set her attorney on me, who admits Wrestlers Rescue is not a registered charity.”

Irv Muchnick

Greatest Hits on the WrestlingBabylon YouTube Channel

[posted 7/18/10 to]

Irvin Muchnick confronts wrestling legend Bret Hart on CNN’s Nancy Grace, 6/29/07


Irvin Muchnick discusses CHRIS & NANCY with Gary Radnich on KRON4 News, San Francisco, 10/14/09


Report by Mark Davis, WTNH / Channel 8, New Haven, 3/23/10


“Catch Me If You Can,” report by Sabrina Van Tassel on L’Effet Papillon, France’s Canal + network, 5/25/08

Linda McMahon News Roundup

[posted 7/18/10 to]

A good one from David Collins of The Day in New London: “Just how big was Linda McMahon’s bankruptcy debt?”,

Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register interviews McMahon (including a short video) at She continues to get away with the misstatement that steroids are not performance-enhancers in pro wrestling because “You’re not expected to jump higher, throw a ball farther, run faster.” But you do gain a huge advantage if you look a certain way, so the steroid problem is much worse in wrestling than it is in legitimate sports.

Since I am not reporting on these matters as a political junkie, I will continue to direct attention to them. Linda McMahon is going through a tough patch of media right now. But in six months, absent reforms, junk entertainers will still be dropping dead at ridiculous rates, whether or not she is Connecticut’s next senator. Simply pointing out that McMahon is an empty suit won’t change things.

Irv Muchnick

Smart Guy, That Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal Inquirer

[posted 7/17/10 to]

Keep working hard and maybe some day he can become a successful newspaper columnist.

“Yankee Republicanism’s flag falls to Simmons”

Chris Powell, Manchester Journal Inquirer

Irv Muchnick

More Linda McMahon/NYT Fallout: Salon Magazine With Smug Liberal Standup Joke 27-C

[posted 7/16/10 to]

What’s next? The lame Jay Leno monologue gag or the Michael Moore documentary on how only George W. Bush would be stupid enough to vote for Linda McMahon? I somehow doubt that Linda is bursting into tears at ridicule that substitutes superciliousness for real scrutiny of her business practices.

“Why a wrestling queen would be a great GOP senator”

Irv Muchnick

How About ‘Corporate Success Story Or Death Merchant’?

[posted 7/16/10 to]

In its wisdom, Connecticut Capitol Report chooses as its react link to the New York Times Linda McMahon story a blog at the Christian Science Monitor website by one Matthew Kahn, an economics professor at UCLA. Let’s not let too much actual knowledge get in the way of our thumb-sucking here. Capitol Report’s link is headlined “McMahon ‘villain’ or ‘corporate success story’?” Kahn’s blog, part of his “Green Economics” series, is headlined “The cold economics of professional wrestling.” See

Herr Professor Kahn (who, by the way, seems at best semi-literate) is advertised by the Monitor as part of its “diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there.”

Kahn says the hazards faced by pro wrestlers are all about choice, and isn’t that interesting?

In fairness to Kahn, he was working from the Times article, which performed the superhuman feat of featuring 2,300 words about Linda McMahon without once uttering either “Chris Benoit” or “death.”

Or does not even a cluster of avoidable industrial deaths qualify as a public health game-changer in bread-and-circuses America?

Irv Muchnick

Mike Benoit on The New York Times on Linda McMahon

[posted 7/16/10 to]

Earlier I commented on the appallingly inadequate Linda McMahon article in today’s New York Times. Here’s more from Mike Benoit, the father of the late Chris Benoit, father-in-law of the late Nancy Benoit, and grandfather of the late Daniel Benoit:

The article in the NY Times should have the caption “Paid For By Linda McMahon.”

There are some interesting items in the article. The first one to jump out at you is their failure to talk about the Chris Benoit tragedy. WWE has banned anyone within their organization from mentioning the name. Do they also have that power over the NY Times? They also failed to mention Andrew Martin. I guess once you bring up Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, the Benoit name will follow.

Linda pats herself on the back for being responsible for the deregulation of the wrestling industry. This allowed them to script some of the extreme and very dangerous stunts into their matches. The rise in death rates within the industry coincides with deregulation. I believe that once any industry has no oversight, the first thing to go is safety.

Linda compares contract wrestlers to singers, golfers, and tennis players. I wonder if in any of the above contracts have death clauses.

Irv Muchnick

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Second Mixed Martial Arts Death: Brain Hemorrhage

[posted 7/16/10 to]

Mixed martial artist Michael Kirkham died of a brain hemorrhage on June 28, never reviving after being knocked unconscious two days earlier in a fight in Aiken, South Carolina. According to MMA and wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, this was “the second known fatality in a regulated MMA event in North America.”

Meanwhile, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat spends his third week in a Tampa hospital recovering from bleeding on the brain that nearly killed him. The original diagnosis was a brain aneurysm. The revised diagnosis was a burst capillary – not to be confused with a brain aneurysm or brain hemorrhage. Burst capillaries, which are caused by blunt force, usually heal up on their own. It can’t be proven conclusively one way or another if the beating Steamboat took, also on June 28, on WWE’s Raw show on USA cable is related to his medical condition.

Glad we got that all straight.

Irv Muchnick

New York Times Sets a New World Record: 2,300 Words on Linda McMahon – Not One of Them ‘Benoit’ or ‘Death’

[posted 7/16/10 to]

The New York Times has published its long-anticipated major piece on Linda McMahon by reporters Raymond Hernandez and Joshua Brustein: “A Senate Run Brings Professional Wrestling Into the Spotlight,”

There are quotes from people saying Linda is mean. And there are quotes from Linda saying no she isn’t.

We learn that wrestler Eddie Guerrero was found dead in 2005, possibly because of steroids and painkillers. We also learn that Chris Klucsarits (“Chris Kanyon”) was found dead earlier this year alongside a suicide note, a number of years after he was cut loose by World Wrestling Entertainment and fell into depression. That, we are given to believe, was very mean of Linda and Vince McMahon.

Two people found dead. Nowhere else in the story can you find a single use of any form of the words “dead” or “death.” There is not one reference to the pandemic of early deaths in the professional wrestling industry over which Linda and her husband preside.

Nor is there even one mention of Chris Benoit, who sensationally committed double murder/suicide in 2007, prompting an investigation by Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to which The Times gives the once-over-lightly treatment. (The story says nothing at all about the federal criminal investigation and trial of Vince McMahon and the company in the 1990s.) Benoit was around the ninth of around 21 industry performers to die before their 50th birthdays that year alone, but neither that fact nor anything in that area code of information or analysis makes the cut.

This is a remarkable document, stamping The Times as the Newspaper of UnRecord. It’s like a history of slavery without being bothered by the Amistad mutiny or the Dred Scott decision.

In one of his classic
Baseball Abstract annuals in the 1980s, Bill James evaluated Chicago Cubs outfielder Keith Moreland thusly: “He tries hard, throws hard, and covers more ground than the Ayatollah Khomeini.” When it comes to covering Linda McMahon, The New York Times types hard, spell-checks hard, and stretches almost nothing into nearly 2,300 words.

Linda McMahon is getting some negative press these days; presumably The Times’ entry adds to that trend, and that matters to people following the horse race. In addition, I realize that the very decision by the Gray Lady to publish at length on the theme that Connecticut’s Republican Senate candidate might be somewhat callous and ruthless makes its own kind of statement, no matter how shallow and trivial it might be. Further, Linda does herself no favors with stultifyingly prosaic corporate rhetoric in response to every close-to-the-bone allegation.

But your humble blogger does not grade on the curve. The Weekly Standard’s Linda McMahon profile was very nearly a bull’s eye. The Times’ is an embarrassment.

Irv Muchnick

Jiu-Jitsu? A Scenario for a Double-Agent Twist on ‘Mothers Opposing McMahon’

[posted 7/15/10 to]

Believe me when I say that I was all set to leave the Mothers Opposing McMahon mystery alone. Dave Meltzer, the most respected wrestling journalist, and Ted Mann, one of Connecticut’s top political reporters, agreed that MOM was a front organization of the Democratic adversaries of Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon. And it makes perfect sense.

But not so fast – this according to another source I also usually find on the money, who has asked not to be named at this point. This person emphatically emailed me, “Dem state committee not behind this.”

Though making mischief is the furthest thing from my mind, why don’t we all work this through for a moment.

If you read carefully the blog about MOM by Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, you can see that Green might not actually be implying that MOM is a Democratic front. Instead, Green is wondering – with his own brand of mischief – whether “Dads Against Dick” (Blumenthal) could be far behind.

Now suppose you were running against Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee for senator who now has to live down being a serial stretcher of the truth about his military service “during” the Vietnam War. Also assume that your operatives determined that an effective tactic would involve attacking Blumenthal on the Vietnam issue, but not frontally. (Remember, the McMahon campaign lost style points for crowing that it had fed the damaging Blumenthal video to Raymond Hernandez of The New York Times.)

We’ll add one more element of supposition: that it always looks better if you launch a personal attack only after you are yourself personally attacked first. (In case you can’t tell, I never get enough of Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid. Wash the car! Paint the house!)

So you arrange to be attacked by an apparent Democratic front group that is actually two full removes from authenticity.

Further, you base the phony attack on yourself on a motif that is already a proven flop: the raunchy content of World Wrestling Entertainment programming. If there’s one thing we all should have learned by now, it’s that no one except a few moralistic nags cares about WWE’s poor taste or misogyny or homophobia.

Not only that. By focusing the faux McMahon attack on WWE television content and YouTube clips – clearing the way for reenergized attacks on Blumenthal for his Vietnam misstatements – you continue to crowd out mental shelf space for the issue that Linda McMahon truly fears: how she enabled a corporate culture responsible for the deaths of many of her employees, plus many many others throughout the industry for which her dominant company sets the tone.

OK, enough of all that. It’s a hot day out here in Northern California, and I’m off to buy a sweet tea at McDonald’s. I’m advised that I can get one in return for all of the above, plus a buck.

Irv Muchnick

‘Is Anyone Not Clear?’

[posted 7/15/10 to]

The Twitterer @thetrough — alias Ted Mann of the
New London Day – posts, “Is anyone not clear that Mothers Opposing McMahon is a Dem group? Their release came out on state party letterhead. Duh.”

Touché, brother Ted.

Now: Is anyone not clear that the current edition of The Weekly Standard, a national conservative political magazine, has done a far better job than the Connecticut media of holding Linda McMahon accountable for the insane numbers of deaths in pro wrestling on her watch? Duh.

Irv Muchnick

Wrestling Newsletter Writer Thinks He Has Proof That ‘Mothers Opposing McMahon’ Is a Democratic Front Group

[posted 7/15/10 to]

A couple of days ago I passed along Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green’s blog item about the group Mothers Opposing (Linda) McMahon. Green made the plausible stretch of speculating that MOM is something less than a spontaneous organization of female parents aghast at the family-values lapses of the Connecticut Republican Senate candidate, who is also the Mommy Warbucks of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Yesterday Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter asserted the same speculation as fact. In a web update headlined “Dems cover group for anti-McMahon,” Meltzer wrote, “It’s actually the Democratic State Central Committee behind the group.”

Green has not responded to my email requesting elaboration. However, a Connecticut politico told me that before publishing his blog post, Green, “as you would expect,” asked DSCC “point black if they were behind it and they said no.” The source added that while MOM’s YouTube video says its author is “CTDEMS,” “anyone can use that as a user name.”

Meltzer told me that the basis of his own story was “a piece of literature I got [that] said ‘Paid for the Democratic State Central Committee Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.’”

I asked Meltzer whether he confronted DSCC with his information, but he didn’t answer.

Draw your own conclusions. Mine is that, although it would be less than shocking to confirm that MOM is a front group, even one set up by DSCC, Meltzer did not prove it. What drives me nuts about him, more than particular problems of bottom-line accuracy, is the defiant confidence with which he presents his own particular mix of hard reporting and free-floating gossip as the final and authoritative word on any subject.

Meltzer is also selective with his exacting standards. In the current print edition of the Wrestling Observer, he follows up on the brain aneurysm – excuse me, the burst capillary – recently sustained by 57-year-old wrestling legend Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. According to Meltzer, at press time Steamboat “was still hospitalized in Tampa. He may be hospitalized as long as another week.”

Meltzer adds, “The latest medical word is that it can’t be proven conclusively one way or another if the beating he took in the angle [on WWE’s Raw show] was or wasn’t related to his medical condition.” Well, no shit!

Irv Muchnick

Another Wrestler Suicide Attempt

[posted 7/14/10 to]

British wrestling journalist Mike Aldren reports that wrestler Chris Hamrick, 43, who worked for the original Philadelphia-based ECW, attempted suicide on Tuesday. From Aldren’s Wrestling Globe Newsletter:

He had posted some strange messages on his Facebook page including, “BIG announcement tonight. Stay tuned. Its to die for!” followed later by “Hey world I just took 25 sleeping pills. Goodnight !” He had also sent out what were described as unusual text messages to friends. Last night authorities visited Hamrick’s residence in Rutherfordton, NC, to check on his welfare. He’s said to be getting the help he needs now with the support of his family.

I’m not familiar with Hamrick. According to his Wikipedia bio, he was once used by World Wrestling Entertainment in a skit on Raw.

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon’s Role in the WWE Pedophile Scandal Still Hangs, Unpublished, in the Politicos’ Air

[posted 7/14/10 to]

The overall excellent new article about Linda McMahon in the conservative political magazine The Weekly Standard says that if World Wrestling Entertainment is Linda McMahon’s “calling card, it’s also her chief weakness. The WWE may be a billion-dollar company, but the success is accompanied by some unpleasant history, ranging from charges of drug use and sexual misconduct to complaints of business double-dealing. The scandals are numerous and have been heavily detailed in investigative articles and books, though they are hotly disputed by the McMahons.”

One scandal that writer Jonathan V. Last didn’t touch was the pedophile ring exposed in the early 1990s inside the company then called TitanSports / World Wrestling Federation. The Weekly Standard is not alone; just about the entire Connecticut campaign press corps is sitting on this sordid story. My blog has covered it in these posts:

“How Linda McMahon Managed the WWE Pedophile Scandal’s Damage Control,” April 19,

“Linda McMahon’s Role in the WWE Pedophile Scandal: Additional Resources,” April 20,

(The general subject of company sex scandals is covered in a chapter of my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon. That chapter was republished on this blog on May 15 at

The main additional resource is a lengthy two-part interview of one of the pedophile ring victims, Tom Cole, years ago in a journal called Wrestling Perspective ( Below are the Linda McMahon nuggets from the Cole interview. (I have the full interview in hand but was asked not to post it until Wrestling Perspective has it up on its website.)

* Cole settled his lawsuit with the company in March 1992 just before the old Phil Donahue Show devoted an episode to the subject. Cole said WWF put him up all week at the Sheraton Hotel in Stamford, and Linda sent over a car and $5,000 for him to use in a shopping spree.

* At the Donahue shoot, Cole sat in the studio audience alongside Linda and a wrestling personality, “The Lovely Elizabeth” Hulette (who, by the way, would die of a drug overdose a decade later).

* After Cole returned to work for the company, “I was under subpoena by the federal government for the sex scandal for the WWF, the steroid scandal that they had and everything else. The WWF at the same time wanted me to share information with them about what the government was asking and I did. But every time I went before the government, I was to the point where it was driving me nuts. I said to Linda, ‘I don’t want to share any more information. I can’t handle this anymore. I just want to work. I don’t want to be bothered with all this stuff. I don’t want to tell you anything anymore.’ She got really pissed and things started deteriorating [and] I knew I probably wasn’t go to be there much longer.”

* After Cole was fired from his second stint with the company, which lasted a little more than a year, WWF appealed his unemployment insurance claim. “They kept appealing my case, appealing my case and the last time, Linda McMahon went to my unemployment hearing. I brought up the subject of what I had gone through with the molestation when I was a kid from the sexual harassment and everything else. Linda hated the fact that I brought that up and said, ‘That has nothing to do with this. That’s not pertinent to what’s going on now.’”

* WWF was represented at the hearing by Laura Brevetti. This was the same lawyer who would defend Vince McMahon and WWF at the 1994 federal steroid-trafficking trial. The story of Brevetti and her “fixer” husband, Martin Bergman, who was alleged to have attempted to suborn the testimony of Vince McMahon’s former secretary, is told in a 1995 New York Post article, “Tampering Cloud Over Wrestling Big’s Trial,” the full text of which can be viewed at

Irv Muchnick

Superb Weekly Standard Article on Linda McMahon

[posted 7/14/10 to]

“WrestleMania in Connecticut”

Writer Jonathan V. Last hits all the important notes, politically and otherwise.

I learned several things I didn’t know before — such as the source of Lowell Weicker’s close relationship with the McMahon family.

My few quibbles with Last’s reporting are not worth recording at the expense of simply urging everyone to go read the story. The main quibble is the way he seems to allow to go unchallenged World Wrestling Entertainment’s assertion that it “changed the culture” of the pro wrestling industry to make it safer. The opposite is the case. Closely related is the false notion that wrestlers do not gain a competitive advantage from steroids because matches are theatrical performances rather than contests. This difference is actually the root of why the cosmetics of steroid enhancement are the big difference-maker — and also why, since Linda McMahon and her family set the standards, they bear responsibility for the human fallout behind their megaprofits.

But the most important thing is that, at last, a major outlet has taken on Linda McMahon and death, without smirks and without totally missing the point.

Irv Muchnick

Mothers Opposing McMahon?

[posted 7/13/10 to]

The Hartford Courant‘s Rick Green now wants to know who’s behind a purported organization calling itself MOM — Mothers Opposing (Linda) McMahon. See “If Mothers Opposing McMahon Really Exists ...,”

It’s a fair question and I don’t know the answer.

But if I were organizing such a group, I know who I’d be recruiting first:

The mother of Chris Benoit (and mother-in-law of Nancy Benoit and grandmother of Daniel Benoit).

The mother of Andrew Martin.

The mother of Umaga....

The initial call-through list would be very long.

Irv Muchnick

WWE Board Member Lowell Weicker Takes Responsibility for Everything Except Being a WWE Board Member

[posted 7/13/10 to]

I see that Lowell Weicker, Connecticut’s lion in winter, has been fairly effective with his latest shoot-from-the-lip nostalgia tour and curmudgeonly charm offensive.

Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green writes that “we could use another Lowell Weicker in the governor’s office.” See “Lowell Weicker Is Back On The Scene With A Lot To Say,”,0,7750450.column.

And Dennis House, the host of WFSB’s Face the State, challenges cowardly critics of one of Weicker’s legacies, the state income tax, to raise their voices if they have alternative policy proposals. See “Why has no one stepped up to challenge Weicker?”,

Look, folks – I don’t live in Connecticut and I don’t know the history of its income tax. If I did, I’m pretty sure I would have supported Weicker’s work in that area. I might even have admired the body of his career in the Senate and the governor’s mansion.

But in the 2010 campaign season, we don’t need the lionization of Weicker. He talks a good game on health care reform, but he has served on the boards of directors of corporate parents of the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. Of course, he’s also a founding director of the publicly traded incarnation of Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment, whose profits are now bankrolling the Senate campaign of its former CEO, Linda McMahon, to the tune of $50 million.

In his Courant column, Green writes that Weicker defends WWE, which he calls “family entertainment,” and praises McMahon. “But he says that McMahon has made a fatal mistake in embracing her party’s opposition to health care reform.”

Green does not appear to have pointed out to Weicker that the debate over whether WWE is family entertainment is a false one, distracting from the real rap on Linda McMahon. Green certainly does not record that Weicker has made his own “fatal mistake” is associating with and collecting stock options and dividends from the leader of an industry responsible for scores of avoidable worker deaths.

Until Weicker is willing to take responsibility for his own role in public health – as represented by the occupational health and safety standards of a company which he nurtured and from which he now profits – I don’t advise anyone to pay attention to his bloviations about the unwillingness of Connecticut’s current generation of political leaders to make hard choices.

Irv Muchnick

More Concussions, You Say? I Don’t Remember No Concussions

[posted 7/12/10 to]

Q Are you aware of any incident where a wrestler in a match received a concussion?

A No.

Stephanie McMahon Levesque to the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, December 2007

Last week this blog reviewed the story from a 2000 World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view show at which Kurt Angle was knocked unconscious during a match with Stephanie McMahon’s husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque – in which Stephanie herself played a prominent non-wrestling role.

Angle is the Joni Mitchell of wrestling – he has seen concussions from “both sides now.” In his main event match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania in March 2003, Lesnar botched a “shooting star press” from the top rope and was so out of it that Angle had to improvise the finish. It is one of the famous moments in recent pro wrestling history; the footage is all over YouTube. Angle recalls the circumstances in an interview viewable at

As most people know, Lesnar is now the heavyweight champion of the mixed martial arts promotion UFC. His wife, Rena, was “Sable,” the first WWE “diva” to pose for the cover of Playboy. Rena’s ex-husband, wrestler Marc Mero, now owns a gym near Orlando, Florida, and tours schools giving anti-drug lectures and holding up the list of the dozens of his colleagues who died young. Mero also says that on many occasions during his wrestling career he had no memory of where he was at the end of the match.

But no worries – Stephanie McMahon Levesque was not “aware of any incident where a wrestler in a match received a concussion.”

Congressman Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House committee to which Stephanie told this tall tale, never held the public hearings that would have exposed the lie and spurred reforms of wrestling industry occupational health and safety standards.

Three years later, Stephanie is narrating treacly U.S. Senate campaign TV commercials for her mother.


“Now Don’t You Go Accusing Linda McMahon’s Daughter of Lying to Congress,” July 9,

“Concussions? I Don’t Remember No Concussions,” July 10,

Irv Muchnick

Monday, July 19, 2010

Muchnick Flashback — ‘Linda McMahon Campaign Coverage: A Guide for the Perplexed’

[posted 7/11/10 to]

Originally published here on April 12.

TED MANN, New London Day: Broward County records reveal that Linda McMahon operated an international slave trade out of her husband Vince’s yacht, the Sexy Bitch, in Boca Raton, Florida.

IRV MUCHNICK, Wrestling Babylon Blog: As I show in my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, the mainstream media focus too much on trivial issues. The real story here is how many slaves died in transit.

@jodilatina on Twitter:
See the latest YouTube video of Linda wowing them at the Naugatuck Valley branch of the Ladies Aid & Missionary Society! Followed by Linda and Kate Snow in a pie-throwing contest on NBC’s Dateline!

When I was a CIA agent I helped coordinate several undercover operations to disrupt the slave trade.

The point is that we can’t grow the economy until we get government off the backs of slave traders.

RICK GREEN, Hartford Courant:
Who wore the hotter-looking suit on Dateline – Linda or Kate Snow?

I am eminently qualified to make legal rulings on the slave trade of the Republican from whom I received campaign contributions and whom I then endorsed for the state Board of Education, where she served even longer than I ran for governor.

BRIAN LOCKHART, Stamford Advocate:
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, it doesn’t matter.

As attorney general, I vigorously prosecuted Connecticut’s slave traders. As senator, I will do everything in my power to support them.

SUZAN BIBISI: This interview is over. Ms. McMahon is running behind schedule for her shoot on “The View.”

KEVIN RENNIE, Hartford Courant columnist and former state legislator:
A slave trader with a slick media campaign vs. a guy who voted for card check when he was in the House of Representatives? No contest.

CHRIS HEALY, state Republican Party chair: What did you say, Kevin? Linda’s check to Suzan didn’t clear yet?

President Obama supports our troops and I take campaign contributions from wherever I can find them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fucking retarded.

LINDA McMAHON: I don’t remember any of this. It happened yesterday and we should be talking about the future not the past. WWE is constantly evolving its slave-trade practices. We need a senator who will incentivize small business with an independent-contractor work force and plenty of corporate tax breaks.

VINCE McMAHON: [unseen and unheard]

Poised and well-spoken, Linda McMahon makes for a surprisingly strong candidate. According to our exclusive inside industry source, George “The Animal” Steele, the allegations against WWE were dismissed back when he was still teaching PE at a Detroit high school.

DAVE MELTZER, Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Everything that everyone else has just said, I already knew.

JERRY McDEVITT, WWE lawyer: Not only have you implied that Linda McMahon became a near-billionaire – giving her the resources to run a self-funded $50 million campaign – via profits from a sleazy business. You are also casting innuendos that she may have been involved in criminal activity. I am researching whether these statements breach the “reckless disregard for the truth” libel standard of New York Times v. Sullivan….

LOWELL WEICKER, WWE board member: Stop it right now, all you ankle-biting midgets! I am in favor of health-care reform, except as it might apply to the occupational health and safety standards of this company. I have a solemn fiduciary responsibility to our stockholders, including me.

TOM DUDCHIK, Connecticut Capitol Report: Moosup police break up dog-fighting ring; mayor says “at least the curs had balls that clank, like Weicker”; click HERE for photos of the foxiest state TV news babes.

Irv Muchnick

More Chilling NFL Concussion Anecdotes

[posted 7/10/10 to]

Catching up on some old business, I want to make sure I point everyone to Alex Marvez’s Thursday column at

“Cleeland’s post-NFL battle with concussions”

Concussions? I Don’t Remember No Concussions.

[posted 7/10/10 to]

Q Are you aware of any incident where a wrestler in a match received a concussion?

A No.

Stephanie McMahon Levesque to the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, December 2007


(Thanks to Keith Harris and David Bixenspan for this information. It is in their comments on a previous post but merits its own post.)

At World Wrestling Entertainment’s SummerSlam show in 2000, Linda McMahon’s son-in-law Paul “Triple H” Levesque knocked fellow wrestler Kurt Angle unconscious with the former’s “Pedigree” move. The injury was caused by the failure of a gimmicked prop. Linda’s daughter Stephanie was a central figure in the storyline and saw everything first-hand and at uncomfortably close range.

For details, see

In his memoir It’s True! It’s True!, Angle recounts the incident in full. You can view the relevant excerpt at

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Mingles Among the People, With Whom Her ‘Image’ Remains Good

[posted 7/10/10 to]

Ted Mann of The Day in New London today has a passable piece of boilerplate coverage of the Linda McMahon campaign. See “McMahon gets warm welcome at Sailfest,”

McMahon indeed exhibits a certain facility for retail politics along with her saturation mass-media buys. Her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal, indeed has the burden of proving that his sloppy and hyped accounts of his military service don’t disqualify him before the voters. And it is indeed a crazy political year in which insiders posing as outsiders have an advantage over run-of-the mill insiders.

But is boilerplate good enough? It is a question worth putting politely to Mann, a good reporter whose earlier coverage kicked open the door on one of the most explosive elements of McMahon’s record as a businesswoman: what any reasonable reader might conclude was her obstruction of justice when her pro wrestling company was under federal criminal investigation in the 1990s.

The Day kicked that door open. However, it hasn’t tried to close the loop on the story of how McMahon passed along a tip allegedly originating with a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania. Nor has it touched at all the story of how the McMahon family’s trial lawyer’s husband later leaked smears of government prosecutors and tried to suborn the testimony of Vince McMahon’s ex-Playboy model secretary.

In a passage that makes today’s story read more like he’s covering his ass with both hands than like he’s telling two sides of a story, Mann writes: “If Democrats are hoping that McMahon’s Republican bid for the U.S. Senate will be undone by the controversies over steroids and the premature deaths of the wrestlers who have worked for the company on which she and her husband have built a fortune and entertainment empire, the candidate’s visit to New London on the opening afternoon of Sailfest was the other side of that coin.”

Oh really? Please show me where anyone in the Connecticut media has given substantial attention to “the premature deaths of the wrestlers who have worked” for WWE. From where I sit, the acceptable language in mainstream media to this point remains something along the lines that WWE says a grand total of five performers have died under contract, while a pesky critic or two are believed to maintain that the toll is worse than that.

A “controversy,” you see.

Give Mann and The Day a gentleman’s C. We’re not even at midterms yet, so there’s hope they’ll get their marks up.

Irv Muchnick

Now Don’t You Go Accusing Linda McMahon’s Daughter of Lying to Congress …

[posted 7/9/10 to]

On December 14, 2007, Stephanie McMahon Levesque was interviewed by staff investigators of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The session was among several involving top executives and contractors of World Wrestling Entertainment – including Stephanie’s father Vince McMahon and mother Linda McMahon. The investigation had been prompted by the June 2007 double murder/suicide of WWE star Chris Benoit.

True to family form, Linda played the buttoned-down corporate CEO in her interview, while Vince played the royal asshole in his. Stephanie, for her part, gave grossly misleading testimony about the concussions sustained by their company’s performers.

For example:

Q Okay. Have ringside doctors or treating physicians ever diagnosed a wrestler with a concussion and reported this to WWE?

A That I am aware of, no. There was a doctor who issued a warning to us, you know, that this person could develop a concussion but currently didn’t have signs of it, and that person never wound up developing one.

Q Okay. Are you aware of any times where wrestlers have I guess self‐reported ‐‐ where wrestlers have self‐reported to you that they received concussions and this information came from the wrestler rather than a treating doctor?

A Not that I am aware of, but I am not saying that that never happened.

Q Right.

A Just not involved me.

Q Okay. All right. Are you aware of any incident where a wrestler in a match received a concussion?

A No.

Q Does WWE have a policy for time off if talent suffers a concussion?

A Yes. We go with the recommendation of the treating physician.

Q Okay. How about in cases where talent has suffered multiple concussions?

A Well, in the case ‐‐ the only case I can think of, this person was ‐‐ actually, I think he is still under contract to us. And he suffered a number of concussions and has wound up, I think, forming a foundation to look into concussions. But clearly he no longer performed for us. We are not going to put anybody in danger.

Q Okay. You have indicated that you are not aware of a case where a wrestler has received a concussion. Do you believe that WWE wrestlers are at risk for concussions because of the nature of their work?

A I think, under certain circumstances, yes.

Q Can you describe those circumstances?

A Well, inherently any move can be done incorrectly. You really are giving your life to the person that you are in the ring with. It is much more than guys just punching each other. Every move, even a simple body slam could go wrong, and you could land on your head. That, in and of itself, is very, you know, it is a very skilled move to do. You wouldn’t think it just watching it, but it is. So, I mean, I would think if anything went wrong, certainly you would be at risk for concussion.

Q Would a chair shot to the head or a pile driver on an unpadded surface, would those present concussion risks?

A Not ‐‐ I mean, a pile driver, no, because your head never actually hits. And a chair shot, there is a particular way to hit someone with a chair. And again, if you screwed up and hit someone wrong, then sure. Or if you slipped on a pile driver and let somebody go, absolutely.

Q Okay.

A But the moves as they are supposed to be performed, I would say, no.

Q Okay.

A And mistakes do happen, certainly, as in life.

Q So if you had an unskilled wrestler and there was some concern that ‐‐ you have described, I think, Hulk Hogan as not a very good wrestler.

A Right. Which I didn’t really realize I was on the record and wasn’t thinking about that. But yes, he ‐‐

There’s much more in the full 138-page transcript – viewable at – and I’ll get to the related topics in the next posts.

As Mike Benoit, Chris’s father, notes, Stephanie’s mush-mouthed testimony is especially interesting in light of the remembrance this week, on the Cageside Seats blog, of Chavo Guerrero’s terrifying 2004 concussion. Stephanie was among those who came to the ring to check on Guerrero.

“It appears,” Mike Benoit says with artful understatement, “that the whole family has selective memory.”


Thirteen months after Stephanie McMahon Levesque’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee interview, Congressman Henry Waxman punted the transcript, along with hundreds of other pages of background material, to the White House, on a Friday afternoon during the Bush-Obama interregnum, and called it a day. Waxman never explained why he sat on the information for more than a year and never held public hearings.

The same month Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell appointed Linda McMahon to the state Board of Education, and her political career was off and running.

And this week Stephanie’s husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his arm.

Not that we’re accusing him of being a steroid user. Or his wife of lying to Congress.

Irv Muchnick

Now Don’t You Go Accusing Linda McMahon’s Son-in-Law of Using Steroids ...

[posted 7/9/10 to]

Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the World Wrestling Entertainment star who is the husband of Linda and Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, had surgery this week to repair a torn tendon in his arm.

Torn tendons of this sort, a recently added line item in sports medicine literature, are steroid-induced, almost without exception. Tendons connect muscle to muscle; when muscle groups become overdeveloped, the connective tissue collapses.

Irv Muchnick

Muchnick Queries Congressman Anthony Weiner of the House Judiciary Committee

[posted 7/8/10 to]

I’ve put the following questions to Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

When he responds, I’ll let y’all know.


* Dr. Joseph Maroon was among the National Football League representatives who testified before the Judiciary Committee last year in hearings that blew open the concussion issue and spurred the league’s shakeup of its committee. Can you comment on Dr. Maroon’s testimony and in what measures you think, as a result of that testimony, he is part of the NFL’s past problem on brain injury policy and can be a credible part of its future solutions?

* Since Dr. Maroon is also medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment, can you also address whether the Judiciary Committee should and will do a parallel probe of brain injuries in the pro wrestling industry?

WWE: No More Legend Beatdowns After Steamboat (Unless, That Is, They’re Really Important to the Plot)

[posted 7/8/10 to]

Want to know what Senate candidate Linda McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment is really like, after the “soap opera” lights have dimmed? Follow it for a week or two or three. Something new will happen to show you how fast and loose this company plays, not only with the truth but also with its employees’ lives.

The hits keep coming following this blog’s appropriately skeptical coverage of WWE’s official explanation of the life-threatening brain aneurysm – excuse me, burst capillary – sustained last week by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

The latest is from Mike Aldren of Wrestling Globe Newsletter:

Backstage talk at the tapings this week was that although the company line is that Steamboat’s bleeding on the brain had nothing to do with the TV angle on 6/28 — and it may well not do — they probably won’t be doing any beat downs on legends ever again. WWE people noted to us that this has been said a few times before, dating back over a decade, when Bubba Ray Dudley powerbombed a then 77-year-old Mae Young from the stage through a table during an episode of Raw at the Meadowlands.

Irv Muchnick

What Linda McMahon and Her Husband Told CNN in 2007 About Concussions and Pro Wrestling Chair Shots

[posted 7/8/10 to]

World Wrestling Entertainment’s double-talk about last week’s Ricky Steamboat brain aneurysm – excuse me, his burst capillary – sent me back to what Linda McMahon and Vince McMahon said on the November 7, 2007, CNN documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling.

Earlier that year WWE star Chris Benoit murdered his wife and their seven-year-old son before taking his own life. After Benoit’s father donated Chris’s brain to the Sports Legacy Institute, founded by retired pro wrestler Chris Nowinski, Dr. Bennet Omalu (then affiliated with SLI) found that Chris Benoit had dramatic evidence of a syndrome Omalu has named Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Asked about all this on CNN, Linda McMahon said: “These studies, you know, have not been – they’ve not been proven, if you will.”

Vince McMahon added: “And the only we’ve done really is from a conservative standpoint is just don’t use chairs to the head. But other than that, you know, it’s what is in the ring. You know, accidents do occur. It’s not ballet, as they say.”

The truth is that chair shots to the head continued in WWE until January 2010, two years and two months later, by which time Linda McMahon was running for a United States Senate seat in Connecticut.

Of course, as revered WWE announcer Jim Ross assured everyone at the time of the announcement of the ban, it had nothing to do with Linda’s political ambitions. WWE just wanted to make things safer for its performers.

The transcript of the 2007 CNN special can be viewed at

Irv Muchnick

Meltzer Handles Steamboat Story Ably in New Wrestling Observer

[posted 7/7/10 to]

More expansive and less cryptic than in his daily website updates, Dave Meltzer does a decent job with the Ricky Steamboat story in the July 12 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

Even though World Wrestling Entertainment stated that the doctors believe there is no link between Steamboat’s life-threatening “burst capillary” (at first called a brain aneurysm) and the televised beatdown he took a week ago Monday, Meltzer notes that “the timing of everything is going to make people suspicious.” He adds:

The WWE’s benefit of the doubt on something like this is not high, perhaps even non- existent, given company statements after the deaths of Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero. The company over and over proclaimed Benoit to have not been using steroids due to their testing and his having passed a test, when subsequent drug investigations and medical records of his doctor revealed the opposite. It later came out Benoit had failed three of his four steroid tests as well, but had an exemption due to endocrine damage. At the time of his death, the amount of testosterone in his system was more than all but two athletes in history who had failed California State Athletic Commission steroid tests. They also floated a story almost immediately that Benoit and his wife were arguing about raising their son, who was suffering from Fragile X disease. There is no evidence that Daniel Benoit had the disease, which was denied by his parents and several family friends, as well as his school was never alerted to it. In Guerrero’s case, the company had Vickie Guerrero claim within days, before results of the autopsy came in, that Eddy’s drug use years earlier during his WCW days, even though later it came out that his own best friends alerted Jim Ross to his problems and Ross forced Guerrero into rehab while working in WWE. Later investigations of his Phoenix doctor showed Guerrero was using steroids and Growth Hormone up until the time of his death.

Irv Muchnick

More on Chavo Guerrero’s 2004 Concussion

[posted 7/7/10 to]

Important new information (at least new to this blog) from Keith Harris at Cageside Seats:

"Did WWE downplay the severity of Chavo Guerrero’s 2004 concussion to the wrestling media?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

NFL Explains: Maroon Still on Committee, Only Concussion ‘Leadership’ Has Changed

[posted 7/7/10 to]

In the last post I tried to draw National Football League spokesman Greg Aiello out a little more on the status of NFL/Pittsburgh Steelers/World Wrestling Entertainment neurologist Dr. Joseph Maroon.

Aiello now clarifies that the NFL brain injury policy committee “is a work in progress and will not be static. The co-chairs can amend it as necessary. The co-chairs have asked two other doctors that served on the previous committee – Dr. Joe Wackerle and Dr. Thom Mayer – to participate on the revised committee (officially called the NFL Brain and Spine Injury Prevention Committee).”

According to Aiello, the reported “break from the past” more accurately refers to the leadership of the committee. “The leadership is completely new and the co-chairs have been given the authority to run the committee as they see fit.”

In the June 1 New York Times story headlined “Concussion Committee Breaks With Predecessor,” new co-chairs Drs. H. Hunt Batjer and Richard G. Ellenbogen said they were influenced by a comment by Congressman Anthony D. Weiner, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, who said: “You have years of an infected system here that your job is to some degree to mop up.”

I will say, in fairness to Maroon, that much of the criticism of the concussion committee has revolved around studies downplaying the decline in cognitive function of former pro football players. He perhaps has been less involved in that particular aspect than in management of contemporary injury prevention and treatment. But to the extent that the whole NFL concussion operation has been publicly discredited — and I think it has been — what the new co-chairs were promising seemed to be a broom that would sweep clean.

Alex Marvez, senior NFL writer for, tells me that there are six established committees for the “NFL Brain and Spine Injury Prevention Committee,” and as of nine days ago, Maroon was not listed on any of them.

Marvez will have more on the concussion issue tomorrow in his column.

Irv Muchnick

NFL Spokesman Aiello: WWE Medical Director Maroon Still ‘Works With’ League Concussion Committee

[posted 7/7/10 to]

National Football League spokesman Greg Aiello says Dr. Joseph Maroon “will continue to work with” the league’s committee on head, neck, and spine injuries.

In light of recent statements by the NFL’s new committee co-chairs, Drs. H. Hunt Batjer and Richard G. Ellenbogen, that they are making a complete break with the league’s past leadership on this issue, I am seeking to learn more about Maroon’s role and the exact membership of the reconstituted committee.

Maroon – a neurologist who is a team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers and, since 2008, also has been medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment – has served on the NFL committee for an undetermined number of years. He also was among the league-affiliated doctors who were roundly criticized for their passivity and tainted research on concussion syndrome during their Congressional testimony last year.

In an email to me today, Aiello wrote, “Dr. Maroon will continue to work with the committee on head, neck, and spine injuries and will attend the committee’s next meeting scheduled for later this month. You also asked about his status with the Steelers. I do not believe Dr. Maroon’s role with the Steelers has changed, but you would have to confirm that with the Steelers and Dr. Maroon.”

I emailed back to Aiello this two-part follow-up:

* Is it correct to interpret Dr. Maroon’s “working with” the committee as distinct from his continuing to be on the committee?

* The above is prompted by the statements of your new concussion co-chairs in the June 1 New York Times report on the Johns Hopkins conference. In that story, Drs. Batjer and Ellenbogen were said to be “reconstituting their committee from scratch. [Batjer] said that six members had been selected so far, none of them holdovers from the prior regime.” To clarify, can you please provide both the membership list of the old committee and the membership list of the current committee?

Irv Muchnick

Do WWE Doctors Serve WWE Wrestlers? Or Just WWE?

[posted 7/6/10 to]

The purpose of PR is to emit candy-coated bullshit. The purpose of journalism is to expose candy-coated bullshit and make people think.

Last week semi-retired pro wrestling legend Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat almost died from bleeding on the brain, a couple of days after he was on the receiving end of “worked” punishment on World Wrestling Entertainment television. The original diagnosis was a brain aneurysm. Once Steamboat was out of the woods, the diagnosis was changed to a “burst capillary.” And WWE went out of its way to emphasize that the injury had nothing to do with the performance of Steamboat’s TV “angle.”

You don’t have to be a medical expert to respond, “Hmmm ...” You only have to know a bit about the uses and abuses of the English language.

In July 2007 Dr. Kris Sperry, the chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, released his toxicology report on Chris Benoit, who the previous month had killed himself after murdering his wife and their son. Sperry said the tests showed “elevated levels of testosterone” but “no anabolic steroids.” The coroner was under intense pressure from WWE to put it just that way, so that Benoit’s astronomical levels of prescribed testosterone under a “therapeutic use exemption” would not be fused in the public mind with his astronomical use of steroids and growth hormone, some of which was produced overseas and shipped by an Internet pharmacy. On CNN’s Nancy Grace, wrestling newsletter writers Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez were the first to point out that, hey, testosterone is an anabolic steroid.

Last year WWE performer Batista went on the shelf for the umpteenth time with a tear in his upper arm. Previously his injuries were identified as “torn triceps.” This time WWE called it a “torn bicep.” Triceps, bicep, shmicep – anyone with a brain knows that this type of chronic injury was never evident in the medical literature prior to the steroid era. The same for the torn pectoral that put WWE’s No. 1 star, John Cena, out of action in 2007-08.

Recently I have put a lot of this blog’s resources into examining the WWE medical team, led by medical director Joseph Maroon and his University of Pittsburgh Medical Center colleague, cardiologist Bryan Donohue. The story is how a client like WWE calls in the doctors for political cover, and in the end Orwellian language overwhelms the best interests of the athletes. The real role of sports medicine, as opposed to the ideal one, is a story told in the football movies North Dallas Forty and Any Given Sunday. For journalists covering the Linda McMahon Senate campaign, who would like to take a break from parsing dueling sound bites, it is a story worth telling again, fully and well.

Irv Muchnick

What Chavo Guerrero Told Chris Benoit’s Dad About His Own Concussion and Bleeding on the Brain

[posted 7/6/10 to]

I hope that Mike Benoit, Chris’s father, does not again become so dissatisfied with my coverage of traumatic brain injury and its role in the deaths of Chris, Nancy, and Daniel – and who knows how many other pro wrestling personalities – that he stops talking to me. Mike’s inside information is too valuable to lose.

In the name of honest reporting, I continue to believe that there are problems of proportionality in the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy research pioneered by Dr. Bennet Omalu. Since multiple factors play into the psychological condition of depression, chicken-and-egg issues remain to be teased out and resolved. At this point CTE can be confirmed only through postmortem brain tissue analysis. As the anecdotes pile up, peer-reviewed science will be looking in minute detail at the individual facts of each known case, and establishing patterns of where alcohol and substance abuse predated or dovetailed with multiple-concussion syndrome. In sum, over time we will all get a better picture of how everything fits together.

But there is no question that the CTE folks are on to something very, very important. And that the powers-that-be wish they would all just go away. And that the public needs to be informed and challenged to tell the powers-that-be to stuff their best-case-scenario rationalizations.

All of which brings me back to Ricky Steamboat, whose recent non-concussion brain injury prompted me to check in with Mike Benoit a few days ago.

It turns out that when Mike made his original comments about Steamboat (see the July 3 post at, Mike was not aware that Steamboat had participated in a WWE television “angle” earlier in the week. In retrospect, that might only make Benoit’s remarks even more resonant.

Now he is sharing some newsworthy follow-up thoughts:

Back in July 2007, the week after my family’s tragedy I spoke to Chavo Guerrero by phone. We had already donated Chris’s brain to Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute for testing. I did not share that information with Chavo but asked him his thoughts on an article about Nowinski talking about CTE. Chavo response at the time was “no way was Chris suffering from post-concussion syndrome.” Chavo went on to share with me that he was recently returning from a concussion during which he had also suffered from bleeding in the brain.

I remember the time WWE came to Edmonton while my son was still working for New Japan. Chris took me down to meet the boys one of which was Scott Hall. Chris considered Scott a friend from their journeys together in Japan. Have you seen Scott lately? He is a shadow of the man I met that day in Edmonton. The most disturbing part of that visit was seeing Davey Boy Smith, dressed in his wrestling gear and unable to walk to the ring due to substance abuse.

Mike Durham (“Johnny Grunge”) was one of my son’s friends in the Atlanta area. It is not well known that Mike’s wife had a restraining order on him prior to his death. I also understand that Mike took a full bottle of prescription pills given to him the day before his death by Dr. Phil Astin.

Brian Pillman was a very nice young man when I met him back in the eighties while he worked with my son in Stampede Wrestling. This was certainly not the same person shortly before his death. Again, look for the change in behavior.

Eddie Guerrero – believe me when I tell you that a tear still comes when I think about this man. I believe he was the only true friend my son had in the business. Look at the issues Eddie had in his life. Could he have also been a victim of an out-of-control industry?

There are so many stories out there about wrestlers’ lives that have fallen apart. I think we are finally beginning to understand what may have caused so many senseless deaths.


In the next post, I’ll get to how the medical experts influenced by the corporate interests of sports entertainment sometimes help us understand things better – and sometimes use technical babble to confound common sense.

Irv Muchnick

Connecticut Post Editorial Fingers Weicker’s WWE Ties

[posted 7/5/10 to]

An editorial in today’s Connecticut Post emphasizes much the same point I made in a post here last week about the Lowell Weicker appearance yesterday on Face the State. The Post goes after the former senator and governor’s disparaging remarks about Richard Blumenthal. I focused on Weicker’s defense of Linda McMahon. The newspaper and I converge on the idea that Weicker, a member of board of directors of World Wrestling Entertainment, is a less than disinterested commentator.

“If Weicker didn’t have such close ties to McMahon, it’d be fine for him, as a former politician, to say whatever he wanted about the current race,” says the Post in “Weicker, on WWE board, blasts McMahon,” “If he were just a run-of-the-mill WWE board member, we’d take his comments for what they were and discard them. But Weicker’s history coupled with his close ties to McMahon make it inappropriate for him to publicly thrash Blumenthal.”

My June 30 post, “WWE Board Member Lowell Weicker Spins for Linda McMahon,” is at

Irv Muchnick

Connecticut Newspaper Editorial: Source of Linda McMahon Profits Is Less Important Than Opponents’ Hypocrisy

[posted 7/5/10 to]

Please do not construe this as an endorsement of her opponent Richard Blumenthal’s candidacy, but I’m seriously worried that an editorial writer for the Waterbury Republican-American is going to pull a mental muscle.

An intellectual lackey for Linda McMahon in the Connecticut Senate contest might have been content to concede that her World Wrestling Entertainment is capitalism’s face of corporate sleaze, and Blumenthal has his own problems, and leave it at that. But not the Republican-American! In “The Democrats’ glass house,”, the newspaper editorializes that it’s all her opponents’ fault. For, it seems, where WWE falls short of the mark in the family-values department, the company “only holds a mirror up to the putrid, destructive, defective culture of sex and violence created and exalted by the Democrats.”

Well. What’s a person to do in America these days if she wants to make hundreds of millions of dollars, and use $50 million of it to buy a Senate seat?

Absent the heated partisanship, I actually have sympathy for the point of view that the McMahon family’s success story is a sick twist on Horatio Alger. But I don’t buy the heated partisanship. The Republican-American seems to be saying: Don’t do as Linda does, don’t do as Dick says — just vote Republican.

Irv Muchnick

Ricky Steamboat Case Puts Linda McMahon Campaign Spotlight on Pro Wrestling Brain Injuries

[posted 7/4/10 to]

Last week the national media decreed that pro wrestling’s “image” had become a factor in Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign in Connecticut.

But that was last week. What we’re going to find out this week is whether the wrestling media, which criticize McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, but only to a point, are willing to go long and deep with the Ricky Steamboat story. By telling it in plain English, they have an opportunity to improve the industry and save lives. If they revert to Morse code, they have none.

Last Monday WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat got “beaten up” on USA cable’s Raw as part of an “angle” in which upstarts from WWE’s lower-tier NXT brand attacked a bunch of old legends. Steamboat, 57, a backstage agent for the company, recently had returned to wrestling part-time, probably because he enjoyed it and because it also boosted the fledgling career of his wrestler-son Richie.

Playing up the Monday night angle, WWE said Steamboat was badly injured in the brutal attack. In the story line, Steamboat sustained “broken ribs.”

On Wednesday, however, the angle turned real and macabre, as Steamboat, suffering from disabling headaches, was admitted to a Florida hospital. He was fighting for his life with what doctors originally diagnosed as a brain aneurysm.

Over the weekend, the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that the diagnosis had been changed from an aneurysm to a “burst capillary.” Steamboat had bleeding on the brain, the key symptom of an aneurysm, but in this case the bleeding was caused by the ruptured blood vessel, which usually heals over time and is not, in and of itself, a life-threatening condition.

Where the story gets interesting is in Meltzer’s explanation that a burst capillary is caused by “blunt force.” I think Meltzer was implying quite clearly that what ailed Steamboat was a direct consequence of an industrial accident on Monday night. Good on Meltzer for advancing that information.

In my own mind the distinction between a burst capillary and an aneurysm isn’t entirely clear. A layman might conclude that Steamboat has an aneurysm brought on by a burst capillary.

I take this suggestion in two directions – one specific and one general.

Specifically: Aneurysms and very closely related phenomena are found as a cause in lists of untimely pro wrestler deaths. In the appendix of my book Wrestling Babylon, Scott “Hog” Irwin, at 35 in 1987, and Shinja Hashimoto, at 40 in 2005, are listed as dying from aneurysms. Javier “Oro” Hernandez, 21, died from an aneurysm sustained during a match in 1993.

Mazakazu Fukudu, 27, died in 2000 from “a cerebral hemorrhage from a blow in the ring.” A burst capillary, in other words.

Last July retired WWE developmental wrestler Damien Dothard (“Damien Steele”), 36, died from an aneurysm. Two months later, a wrestler on an independent circuit, Matt “Riot” Lowry, 21, died from an aneurysm.

Generally: It is not surprising that in this physical and dangerous sport, there are head injuries caused by trauma, and that traumatic head injuries are not confined to the classic concussion syndromes isolated by the research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, on which Chris Benoit’s father Mike is campaigning to raise public consciousness.

And there will always be injuries of all kinds to the head and every other part of the body, with or without chair shots or extreme-rules gimmicks and weapons.

With all that said, it is near-billionaire Senate candidate Linda McMahon who is in the crucible of this discussion at this moment, and properly so. WWE’s occupational health and safety standards have been atrocious, especially in proportion to its profits and industry dominance. The company’s much-hyped medical and drug-testing teams have demonstrated little or no Hippocratic independence. Now a legendary semi-retired wrestler, late in his sixth decade of life, lies in intensive care as a consequence of a “soap opera” shtick the whole world viewed a week ago on TV.

Will my friend Dave Meltzer and his fellow newsletter writers pound this story as hard as they pound former pro wrestler Brock Lesnar’s mixed martial arts heavyweight championship win on Saturday night in Las Vegas? Or will they bob and weave, leaving bread crumbs and clues and hieroglyphics, but no sustained energy or priority for connecting the dots and holding themselves and their readers to their share of responsibility for the welfare of their TV heroes?

NEXT: I solicit a second round of thoughts from Mike Benoit.

Irv Muchnick

Ricky Steamboat Thoughts (Part 2, Chris Benoit’s Father Comments)

[posted 7/3/10 to]

I solicited the following comment from Mike Benoit:

I sincerely hope Rick Steamboat gets better.

If we could only go back and test all the wrestlers that have passed in the last 20 years for Chronic Tramautic Encephelopathy. I believe it would explain a lot of addictions and behaviors. Unfortunately there will be a lot more to test in the future. CTE is a disease caused by trauma to the brain. It is impossible to know if or when it will manifest itself. I say, look for the behavior, broken relationships and issues with drugs and or alcohol and loss of emotional control. Friends and family are the first ones to see it. They need to be educated to recognize the symptoms to be able to seek help. Last but certainly not least do everything possible to make contact sports safer especially for the children.

Benoit père has been criticized in a lot of quarters, including this one, for talking about head injuries to the exclusion of every other possible factor in the tragedy of his son’s family. But maybe today in particular all of us should just shut up and listen to Mike.

I mean, it is not as though the findings about CTE have gotten anything other than progressively stronger in their implications, as more wrestlers have died, absent Chris’s drama and media frenzy, and as the studies have extended to football players (most recently Chris Henry).

And it is not as though World Wrestling Entertainment medical director Joseph Maroon, who was brought in by the company to be a voice of authority and preventive safety, has credibility at this point. The National Football League, which used Maroon in the Congressional hearings last year as the whistle was getting blown on its own lapses in the field of brain injury, totally overhauled its concussion policy committee and announced a complete break with past doctors and their tainted research.

Maroon – as this blog has shown and no one else has picked up – also let WWE lie to ESPN about his and the company’s access to the West Virginia Brain Injury Institute’s Benoit study.

And Maroon and one of his cronies at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, WWE cardiologist Bryan Donohue, are mixed up with an unregulated supplement company, yet didn’t find the time in their WWE cardiovascular screening to notice that 400-pound Eddie “Umaga” Fatu – who was fired by WWE in June 2009 and died of a heart attack while he was negotiating to return in December 2009 – had an enlarged heart.

This year WWE banned chair shots to the head – long after having falsely represented to CNN that it had already done so. When people suggested that the choreographic policy change was politically inspired, company shill Jim Ross said naw, they wouldn’t do a thing like that. They just had their performers’ best interests at heart.

This week, before the facts of the Rick Steamboat tour of intensive care were in, good ole boy JR blogged the following: “I seriously doubt that anything wrestling related had any thing to do with Rick’s aneurysm.”

Pathetic. And outrageous.

Irv Muchnick

Ricky Steamboat Thoughts (Part 1, Medical Update)

[posted 7/3/10 to]

According to Dave Meltzer at the Wrestling Observer website, Ricky Steamboat’s angiogram has convinced his doctor that the bleeding in his brain was caused by a capillary burst. Meltzer adds, “Capillary bursts most frequently come from blunt force.”

Meltzer says Steamboat is stable and fully responsive in a Tampa hospital, where he is expected to remain another five days: “The brain bleed is considered the serious issue, as capillary bursts usually heal themselves up.”

The original diagnosis of a brain aneurysm is now, at best, ambiguous. The website has the following information:

A brain aneurysm, also called a cerebral or intracranial aneurysm, is an abnormal bulging outward of one of the arteries in the brain....

Brain aneurysms are often discovered when they rupture, causing bleeding into the brain or the space closely surrounding the brain called the subarachnoid space, causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured brain aneurysm can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, brain damage and death.

According to this site, one in 15 people in the U.S. will develop the condition in their lifetimes. For pro wrestlers, the rate is obviously a lot higher. The death appendix of my book Wrestling Babylon lists several examples, and I can think of at least two obscure independent wrestlers in the last year who died suddenly and young from aneurysms.

NEXT: Comments of Mike Benoit, Chris’s father.

Irv Muchnick