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Jim Ross: 'Don't Blame Chyna's Death on WWE'

Jim Ross feels it's unfair to blame WWE for Chyna's death, complains about living in a society that passing the buck is prevalent instead of accepting responsibility for one's actions, and misses the irony in his own statement.

Chyna's personal responsibility doesn't mean WWE and Jim Ross have no responsibility.
Chyna's personal responsibility doesn't mean WWE and Jim Ross have no responsibility.

The recent death of Chyna continued to be a topic of conversation over the past week, partly due to her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, claiming that he believed she died from an accidental drug overdose because she had been "inappropriately taking her legally prescribed medication over the course of two to three weeks."

According to TMZ Sports, Anzaldo had reached a secret agreement for Chyna to be the focus of an episode of Intervention, the A&E documentary series where addicts are given the opportunity to undergo a 90 day all expenses paid treatment plan at a rehabilitation facility. In my opinion, Anzaldo comes off very badly for his failure to seek immediate help for Chyna.

However, Chyna's death at the relatively young age of 46 has led to some renewed focus on the high mortality rate of wrestlers who performed from 1984-2007 when abuse of steroids and prescription painkillers was endemic in the industry. For example, Dave Schilling of the Guardian noted how "deaths such as Chyna's are worryingly common in the world of WWE" and came to the conclusion that "as long as there is no counterbalance to the hegemony of WWE, stories such as Chyna’s will continue to come out with startling regularity."

Although I agree with Schilling that WWE wrestlers would benefit from forming a union, as their combined bargaining power would lead to them getting better pay and benefits, I'm hopeful that the WWE Wellness Policy instituted in February 2006 and tightened in the aftermath of Chris Benoit's double murder suicide will make sad stories like Chyna's much less frequent.

It's likely such op-eds critical towards WWE led to Jim Ross coming out to defend the company again on his blog on Friday, with his message being "Don't Blame Chyna's Death on WWE":

"Chyna still in the news as more speculation continues to flow regarding her untimely and sad passing a week ago. Now the talk is about what I speak of on this week's Ross Report podcast and that's about her continued use of prescription meds such as Ambien and Xanax. These meds are not long term solutions for the diagnosed issues that one might take them.

On a personal level, I consider Ambien to be extremely destructive if one takes it long term. Mixing Ambien with Xanax and alcohol increases the chances for the worst case scenario which we all experienced with Joanie's passing.

So, why did her doctors continue to prescribe these meds to Joanie when they should have known the eventual disastrous upshot of taking them long term? Plus the fact that they also should have known that Joanie was likely mixing them with alcohol based on her medical history.

Helping one escape the horrors of drug an alcohol addition starts with the person that one sees in their mirror IMO so to blame society, the WWE or any other entity regarding Joanie Lauer's tragic passing isn't fair or accurate.

I communicated many times with Joanie over the past year or so and it was generally about Joanie talking about the fact that she knew that she had to make changes in her life even though she fully realized that the battle would not be easily won. Even Joanie realized that the solution to her issues started with her and no one else which is never easy to admit. Joanie never blamed anyone else for her troubles  to me even though some people today are. These issues were far from being about her tenure in WWE, which was hugely successful by the way and, arguably, Joanie's happiest days, but more about the personal choices that she made after leaving WWE in 2001.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this matter is the fact that WWE would have fully paid for Joanie Lauer to get the best treatment for her issues had she simply asked them for the help as so many of her peers have done over the years. Again, this process starts with the talent essentially 'raising their hand' and admitting that they need the help and then allowing WWE to put the wheels in motion to start the process. Former talents can't be forced to go into rehab but if the individuals in need ask for the help, WWE is there to assist them.

However, I still feel that some will continue to blame WWE in some misguided and ridiculous manner for Joanie Lauer's drug and alcohol issues which is massively inaccurate.

We seemingly live in a society that passing the buck, fading the heat, etc is prevalent instead of accepting responsibility for one's actions and doing something to rectify the matter."

I would be failing in my duties as a wresting writer if I didn't point out the parts where I disagreed with Ross' statement, even though I agree that placing total or majority blame on WWE for Chyna's downward spiral would be very unfair.

  • Despite being "Joanie's happiest days", well, until she found out that Paul "Triple H" Levesque had cheated on her with Stephanie McMahon, it's seems likely that her abuse of prescription painkillers began during her time in WWE. Indeed, Matthew Randazzo V in his polemical book Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & The Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry, openly opines that pairing up two drug abusers in Eddie Guerrero and Chyna might have deepened both their addictions. Of course, it should be noted that whatever drug problems Chyna may have had before leaving WWE worsened significantly after she had left the company.
  • I'm not 100% confident that if Chyna had asked for help via WWE's former talent rehabilitation program that she would have received it, as she had publicly accused Paul Levesque of hitting her during their relationship breakdown and even insinuated on Twitter that he was into "little boys". My scepticism is because WWE publicly rescinded the offer for Tammy Sytch (aka Sunny) after she was critical of the program and Linda McMahon in a shoot interview. That said, as Chyna never asked for their help, WWE can't be blamed for her not receiving it.
  • My biggest problem with Ross' remarks is how he hides behind Chyna's "personal responsibility", so he doesn't have to address the obvious mistakes he himself and WWE made during his period as a company executive, including being WWE's head of talent relations throughout the Attitude Era. WWE abandoned their policy of routine random drug testing sometime in 1996 (due to cost cutting and feeling it wasn't a level playing field as WCW's drug testing program was a joke) and didn't reintroduce the policy until after Eddie Guerrero died of a heart attack in November 2005. Whilst WWE's decision may have been understandable when the company was in a bitter promotional war and struggling to break-even, the fact that they didn't immediately reintroduce the program once they had bought out WCW and had become hugely profitable is a black mark on WWE, the McMahon family and JR's stint as EVP of Talent Relations. That probably wouldn't have saved Chyna's life, but it likely would have prolonged some lives, and WWE deserves some heat for their tardiness in dealing with this issue of premature wrestler deaths in the past.
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