clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The New York Times manages to shed some light on WWE's shady, vindictive nature despite avoiding their pink elephant Chris Benoit

Over the weekend, the New York Times finally got round to investigating Linda McMahon's past, almost two months after exposing her opponent Dick Blumenthal to be a lying carny about serving in Vietnam, in an article entitled "A Senate Run Brings Wrestling Into Spotlight".  The piece, despite avoiding WWE's pink elephant Chris Benoit, did manage to shed some new light on WWE's shady, vindictive nature.  It revealed that the company ignored a cry for help from a depressed Chris Kanyon in 2008, who ultimately committed suicide this year, because he was suing the company at the time:  

The company has also pledged to provide treatment for current and former wrestlers struggling with addictions. But some wrestlers and their families deride that effort as window dressing.

In 2008, Chris Klucsarits, a former W.W.E. star, sought help through the assistance program. At the time, Mr. Klucsarits, known as Chris Kanyon in the ring, was suffering from depression, which he had battled for several years after being dropped from the W.W.E. roster because of injuries.

But Mr. Klucsarits never heard back from the company and, in April, was found dead in his Queens apartment alongside a suicide note, according to his brother Ken. "It didn’t seem like they were interested in dealing with him at any level," his brother said in a recent interview, referring to W.W.E.

Company officials said they did not contact Mr. Klucsarits after his inquiry because at the time, Mr. Klucsarits was involved in the lawsuit against the W.W.E. over the wrestlers’ status as independent contractors. It did reach out to his lawyer, and noted that the rehab program is for substance abuse not mental health issues.

Of course, the New York Times failed to note that his mental health issues were almost certainly exacerbated by his choice of career, between his concussions, drug use and sexuality in a macho industry where he felt pressure to stay in the closet to fit in, but I suppose that was too much to hope for.  I appreciate that the mainstream media will never fully understand the callous nature of the company, exhibited by them punishing Kanyon by writing a TV storyline that mocked his sexuality and put him at physical harm by forcing him to take several unprotected chair shots to the head, because that would require them to take more than a passing interest in covering professional wrestling seriously.

Also, of note in the article was that you can always rely on at least one former WWE wrestler who doesn't want to completely burn his bridges with the company to absolve the McMahons of any blame for his health problems and invoke the personal responsibility argument.  This time it was Al Snow who defended WWE, despite having neurological damage from his wrestling career that caused numbness on his right side, hearing loss and memory problems, and being cast aside by the company as a trainer when they canceled their affiliation with Ohio Valley Wrestling a couple of years ago:

"It would be nice if the promoters were responsible for it, but let me ask you this: Was the promoter responsible for the wrestler becoming a wrestler?" said Mr. Sarven

Dawn Marie Damatta also used the article as an opportunity to shill her Wrestlers Rescue "charity" in a national forum: 

Others said they had given up on the company changing and were trying a different approach.

Dawn Marie Damatta, who was at one time on the W.W.E. roster, recalled attending an event in Chicago a few years ago where retired wrestlers were signing autographs for fans.

There, she spotted a legend of the sport dozing off behind an autograph table before the man’s agent pushed him into the bathroom in a wheelchair.

"I said, ‘This man should be enjoying his life, he should be enjoying the fruits of his labor,’ " she said. "Instead, he is there signing autographs for $20."

Ms. Damatta started a charity called Wrestlers Rescue, to help cover health care and other basic needs of retired wrestlers. Still, she wishes that there was some oversight of the industry.

"Who calls this entertainment? Vince McMahon," she said. "Why? When sports regulators come after W.W.E., he can say we are entertainment. But this is as grueling as football, and it has a huge impact on the brain and body."

Unsurprisingly, Irv Muchnick panned the article for the aforementioned dismissal of the pink elephant in the room, Chris Benoit, in a blog update entitled "New York Times Sets a New World Record: 2,300 Words on Linda McMahon - Not One of Them 'Benoit' or 'Death'".  Mike Benoit later concurred with Irv's appraisal of the article

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.

Finally, Irv exposed Dawn Marie Damatta to not be as charitable as she purports to be in a blog update entitled "New York Times Falls for Both the Little Carnies and the Über Carnies":

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.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats