Friday, June 29, 2007

Benoit and the Future of Wrestling

I haven't written much else on the Benoit murder-suicide this week because I'm writing about it elsewhere, but simply looking at the progress of the story, a few things are striking:

* The WWE has been incredibly aggressive in their public posture, which is unexpected. They initially released a statement attacking the media for suspecting steroids might have been involved. They then released, of their own accord, a detailed timeline of the affair and the Benoit text messages, which now seems to have disappeared from their website. (Or maybe they've just moved it?) Vince McMahon then went on the Today show and walked away from the earlier statement on steroids. As an organization, the company is acting oddly. Why were they so defensive about steroids? Why were they trying to build a timeline proving what they knew and when they knew it?

* Then there's the Wikipedia story:

Benoit's Wikipedia entry was altered early Monday to say that the wrestler had missed a match two days earlier because of his wife's death.

A Wikipedia official, Cary Bass, said Thursday that the entry was made by someone using an Internet protocol address registered in Stamford, Conn., where World Wrestling Entertainment is based. . . .

WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt said that to his knowledge, no one at the WWE knew Nancy Benoit was dead before her body was found Monday afternoon.

(A slightly scary footnote to this is that it was reporters who noticed the Wikipedia change, not the police.)

* And then there's the not-unexpected steroid subplot, by which we learned that Benoit's doctor has had his license suspended. Federal officials raided his office on Wednesday night. But I haven't seen many remarks on this obscure detail about Daniel Benoit:

Needle marks were found in Daniel's arm, said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. He said authorities suspect "that the boy had been taking growth hormones for quite some time," and are hoping to prove that with toxicology. The boy, Ballard said, was diagnosed with a form of dwarfism.

Daniel was found face down on his bed, but authorities said they do not know whether he was sleeping when he was killed. Ballard said authorities believe the child was asphyxiated using a choke hold.

So there you have a wrestler who may have had his 7-year-old son on the juice and who may have used a wrestling move to kill him.

What does this all add up to? This may be wrestling's perfect storm. If all of these facts bear out as the investigation continues--and maybe they won't--then I think we may be looking at the end of professional wrestling as we know it.

The logic of this investigation may well propel us to a point where (1) Lawmakers get involved and attempt to clean up the industry and/or the publicly-held WWE comes under enormous pressure to get rid of its majority owners (the McMahon family). At this point, I'd say that both outcomes are possible, and maybe even likely. And judging from the WWE's behavior in recent days, I suspect that they have a similar read of the situation.

Update: Bruce Hart obviously has bad feelings toward the WWE (and rightly so), but here's his assessment of Benoit:

"The last time I saw him he was in pretty rough shape mentally," said Bruce Hart, son of the legendary Stu Hart. "I didn't know all the details but I knew it wasn't good. I was not at all shocked (by what happened).

"If I could see and determine that in a few visits, how the hell could they (World Wrestling Entertainment) not have known something was wrong? (In my opinion) I think the WWE needs to re-evaluate what it is doing here."

Update 2: An anonymous person claiming to be the mystery poster from Stamford, CT, now says that he/she was just speculating about Nancy Benoit's death and was just passing on rumors he/she had heard/read elsewhere and that it was all just a huge and terrible coincidence.

Maybe this is true. I imagine this is why police have TARU departments.


Anonymous said...

Vince McMahon better hope like hell that somehow the immigration debate or a Supreme Court vacancy blows the summer up. Because the full details of the build-up to the Benoit incident will hit the fan in July, when Congress doesn't have much else to worry about. Someone will hold a hearing. And somehow, I don't think that answers like "I'm Vincent K. McMahon, DAMMIT" will satisfy the committees.

Anonymous said...

Vince McMahon has always bought his way through the legal system, he is responsible, he had a make shift drug policy to say he had one, but the bottom line is he made not had forced steroids down the wrestlers throught, but it was common knowledge only the muscled out wrestlers made the prime time or went broke, he did not care or he would not have worked them 300 days a year, look at all the wrestlers who died young, it was the industry that killed them, Vince got rich off it, he needs to face criminal charges, pro baseball they would face charges, why should vince be any different, the wrestlers need a union and the departemnt of labor on their side!

Anonymous said...

A different take on who was responsible for the whole thing was seen at