Loss Posted June 30, 2007 Report Share Posted June 30, 2007 On March 14, 2004, wrestling fans were given something by WWE that sounded far more like an Internet hopeful's fantasy booking than something a company with the philosophy of World Wrestling Entertainment would provide. Chris Benoit, after over 18 years as a professional wrestler, won the World Championship, and celebrated alongside his family, and his best friend in wrestling, Eddy Guerrero. Benoit's path to the top was an inspirational story and was capped off by a classic moment. I know wrestling fans who enjoyed the moment. I know wrestling fans who cried. I know wrestling fans who had their faith in pro wrestling renewed. I even know wrestling fans who stated they would never watch again, because the moment could never be topped. Chris Benoit had long been a favorite of both wrestlers within the industry and fans who followed the industry in much closer fashion than the casual observer. Since Vince McMahon's national expansion of the World Wrestling Federation in the mid 1980s, purists have derided him for making such an over-the-top spectacle of professional wrestling. While wrestling has always had a presence of wacky gimmicks and larger-than-life characters, Vince McMahon emphasized that aspect of wrestling in an attempt to take the industry to places it had never gone before. It was a new era, an era filled with action figures and clothing and pay-per-view, and was so far beyond anything that had been previously attempted or envisioned. A few of the old wrestling territories stayed in the fight for a few years, and were even briefly competitive, but McMahon and his vision won out in the end. The days of professional wrestlers working to convince an audience were largely over. The days of professional wrestlers performing to entertain an audience were just beginning. Distraught wrestling fans who missed the days of old, and new fans who were underwhelmed by the WWF's version of wrestling which was largely catered to small children, began searching out alternatives. They found wrestling in Japan, which more closely resembled the wrestling they grew up watching. The style was more physical and realistic, and was largely without hillbilly weddings, bird men, kings, Elvis impersonators and live animals. It was there that most wrestling fans discovered Chris Benoit. While Benoit had a few years of experience competing in Calgary's Stampede territory, it was in New Japan Pro Wrestling where he had his first real taste of success and received his greatest exposure. Perhaps Benoit reminded older diehards of the style they grew up watching, just as he educated newer fans on a style they found far more impressive and engaging. Benoit was really the antithesis of the circus atmosphere of the WWF. He was 5'8" and not very colorful, even though he was explosive in the ring. From the time Benoit debuted in New Japan in 1990 until March 14, 2004, he had an impressively high number of outstanding matches all over the world, far more than the majority of his peers. Extensive future tours of Japan, Mexico, Europe and the United States would make Benoit one of the most traveled wrestlers ever. Pro wrestling styles vary all over the world, and Benoit continued to develop a cult following among devoted wrestling fans for learning - and mastering - those styles. Despite this, he was never allowed to reach his full potential as a top star, because of perceptions that he lacked charisma and size. American wrestling audiences were - and still are - bred on loud-mouthed musclemen and flamboyant personalities like Hulk Hogan, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and Andre the Giant. There has always been concern that in a headlining position, casual wrestling fans would find him dull and not pay money to see him. When Benoit was able to climb his way to the top of WWE, it was seen as Benoit conquering the odds, and when he celebrated with his family and his best friend at the 20th Wrestlemania, at that point the most promoted and successful show in the history of American pro wrestling, fans of Benoit (and likely Benoit himself) felt vindicated. When we look back at that memorable post-match celebration now, what used to be remembered overwhelmingly as a hallmark moment now appears, like much of wrestling, to have been a lie. Eddy Guerrero, Benoit's best friend and another world champion at the time, died 18 months later from heart failure associated with years of steroid and drug abuse at the age of 38. Guerrero was another wrestler who was world-travelled and had missed opportunities due to his size, and that had recently risen to the top of the wrestling world. Wife Nancy, at one time a pro wrestling valet in the old Florida territory, Extreme Championship Wrestling and for Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, was strangled to death in her home at the age of 43. Son Daniel was also killed in his home at the age of seven -- disgustingly, with his father's wrestling finishing manuever, the Crippler Crossface. The perpetrator of the murders was the champion himself, Chris Benoit, who at the age of 40 killed his wife and son prior to hanging himself from his weight machine. Naturally, after such a horrific tragedy, the search for answers emerges. What follows is a breakdown of each of the major talking points currently circulating in the media, along with some points that should probably be discussed more than they currently are. Understanding Pro Wrestling and Wrestling Fans An exciting, adventurous and often ridiculous world unto itself, professional wrestling has its own set of customs, standards and even its own code of ethics. It is a very secretive business by nature, originating from carnivals where wrestlers attempted to "work" those looking on into thinking they were seeing a legitimate sporting contest. Wrestling has continually evolved over the years, but even with Vince McMahon's WWE embracing wrestling's status as a fake freakshow, the hush-hush culture continues to surround everything outside of the ring. When a pro wrestler is talented or lucky enough to find a successful persona, he begins living that persona almost all of the time. Duane Johnson, Terry Bollea and Steve Williams may not be names you recognize, but you have probably heard of The Rock, Hulk Hogan and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Those wrestlers are not identified by their fans, their bosses or even other wrestlers by their real names, and they do not typically achieve their greatest fame using their real names. It is common for wrestlers to get so wrapped up in their wrestling characters that they become delusional and have trouble distinguishing their wrestling lives from their personal lives. Debra Marshall, ex-wife of Austin, recently stated in a FOX News interview that the star often times had trouble making those distinctions. "He just changed his name legally to Steve Austin," she said. "That is not normal." Distinguishing between the man and the character likely becomes even more challenging when the differences are less pronounced. Chris Benoit was Chris Benoit, both in and out of wrestling. Chris Benoit also devoted his entire life to wrestling. "Chris never had another job," said former WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, a close friend of Benoit. "He never delivered newspapers or anything. He was a wrestler." When attempting to understand the Benoit tragedy, it is also important to understand professional wrestling. While there are many wrestlers currently doing interviews and appearing on television shows who are making every effort to be as genuine and honest as possible, there are also wrestlers that are exploiting this tragedy to put themselves back in the spotlight, or speaking in strong defense of WWE in the hopes of being rehired by the company. Wrestlers instinctively defend wrestling against any attacks from the outside, because they are trained to do so from their first day in the business. Since 2001, when rival organizations World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling bit the dust, McMahon and WWE have had a monopoly on the American pro wrestling scene. Because of this, most wrestlers choose their words carefully when speaking publicly to avoid being blacklisted. Marshall indicates that since speaking out, she has received phone calls from friends within wrestling criticizing her for "hurting the business." Between 3:51 AM and 3:58 AM on June 24, text messages were sent by Benoit to two wrestlers in WWE who were close friends. The messages were cryptic and called "out of context" by the recipients. His physical address was provided, and he indicated that the dogs had been fed and the glass doors were open. He provided bank account information and even left a voice mail for one individual where he said, "I love you." No action was taken by the recipients until 12:30 PM the following day, at which time they presented the information not to authorities, but to WWE. WWE, to their credit, requested a welfare check of the Benoit home within 15 minutes, but over 24 hours passed before action was taken from the original text messages. Admittedly, while his friends may have been concerned, they likely could not have imagined the situation being this bad. However, it is worth emphasizing that they sat on the information for over a day and then chose to report the information to their company instead of police. If anything, this is indicative of the secret society that infiltrates professional wrestling. "You just don't snitch in wrestling," said Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, during an episode of Donahue in 1992. Meltzer at the time referred to another instance, when professional wrestler Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death in a locker room in Puerto Rico in 1988, and wrestlers were hesitant to notify the authorities because of the insular mindset that dominates the business. Meltzer also feels that while having psychologists on staff for WWE is a good idea in theory, it would probably not be successful. "There's nothing wrong with that idea," he said, "but you also have to know the mentality of many, if not most, wrestlers, is that they wouldn't go to a counselor. That is seen as weakness as a lot of guys who are athletes and even not athletes wouldn't do it, just as they don't go to doctors with ailments that they probably should." When a wrestler states that he saw no warning signs and that Benoit was mild-mannered and reasonable, it is important to consider the source of the statement. While Benoit was considered one of the nicer guys in pro wrestling for many years, it is still professional wrestling, and the statement does not carry the same weight it would outside of that universe. We know Benoit to have a 1998 DUI arrest, to have ended his first marriage due to adultery, to have taken drugs and to have been physically violent toward his wife. The respect for Benoit's abilities as a performer was strong enough that it is possible many wrestlers overlooked any warning signs or character flaws outside the ring. While wrestling fans typically express gratitude and respect toward the wrestlers they enjoy watching, fans also have a natural tendency to forget the wrestlers in the ring are human. Benoit was scheduled to appear at WWE's Vengeance pay-per-view in Houston, Texas on Sunday. He did not appear, informing the company he had a "family emergency". This was the only information available at the time. "Benoit better be on life support or attending a funeral of a loved one because there is no excuse," exclaimed one fan in the feedback section on the WrestlingObserver.com website the day after the pay-per-view, prior to the murders being reported. Such outbursts and ridiculous statements from fans are not uncommon. Fan expectations have steadily increased, especially in the last 10-15 years. Many fans are quick to point fingers when their favorite wrestlers die young; yet many wrestling fans are certainly contributing to the problem. In November 2005, when Eddy Guerrero passed away, fans everywhere mourned the loss of the talented wrestler. Guerrero was 5'6", and not especially big, and his death, at the age of 38 years old, was partially attributed to years of steroid abuse. Guerrero was always an incredible wrestler, but did not start receiving a main event reaction from crowds until sometime in 2003, at which point he was considerably larger than he was in the seven years prior when he had been featured on national television regularly. WWE made the decision to have the 5'3" Rey Misterio win the World Championship for the SmackDown! television show at Wrestlemania XXII in 2006. Misterio had for years been a popular star and was at this point one of the biggest draws for the company. However, a segment of fans rejected the idea, arguing that the idea of Misterio facing bigger wrestlers in a main event match was not "believable", and voiced their contempt over the decision. In 1997, the WWF introduced a new concept match referred to as Hell in the Cell. The match took place in a larger-than-normal cage that surrounded the ring and ringside area, and also had a roof. In the first Hell in the Cell match, the action spilled outside and to the top of the cage. Shawn Michaels fell from the side of the cage through the ringside announce table. At this point, the bar had been set for a ridiculous fall to occur any time one of these matches occurred. The second Hell in the Cell match occurred in June of 1998 at the King of the Ring pay-per-view and saw Mick Foley, known at the time as Mankind, be thrown off the top of the cage through the ringside announce table, chokeslammed through the cage and also chokeslammed once again on a bed of thumb tacks in the ring. His opponent, the Undertaker, was wrestling the match with a broken ankle. Fans reacted in overwhelmingly positive fashion to these death-defying stunts, which were done because Foley felt that his feud with Undertaker was stale and that the match needed something special. As he indicated in his book Have a Nice Day, he was also concerned about fans turning on the match. WWE has since made attempts to tone down the wrestling style and ban unsafe moves, which has resulted in either frustration or and apathy from wrestling fans. These points of view are the same points of view that drive wrestlers to take steroids and painkillers, resulting in them seeing an early grave. Pro Wrestling and Steroids Roid Rage The most common media talking point, which has been consistent in virtually all print and television media, is whether or not roid rage played a role in the death of these three individuals. "The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage," said the WWE press release on Tuesday. "The wife's feet and hands were bound and she was asphyxiated, not beaten to death. By the account of the authorities, there were substantial periods of time between the death of the wife and the death of the son, again suggesting deliberate thought, not rage. The presence of a Bible by each is also not an act of rage." Vince McMahon emphasized this point of view once again when interviewed by Meredith Vieira on NBC's Today Show on Thursday. This has also been substantiated by other wrestlers who are not currently under contract to WWE. "I've never seen a 48 hour roid rage," said Joe Laurinitis, who achieved wrestling fame as Road Warrior Animal, on MSNBC on June 27. "Most roid rages I've seen have been five minutes and then you apologize for blowing up. Your blood pressure is up and you're blowing a cork. I just think there are so many contributing factors. I've seen Chris with his son Daniel. Chris loved that little boy. There was something else psychological happening to have him flip out and blow his cork like that and do what he did." "I don't believe it's a roid rage story," said Dave Meltzer on his website on June 28. "I don't rule out steroids being one of numerous aspects that could have played a part in the story. There were numerous stresses, personal, professional, and Chris had a dark side." Even those who think roid rage possibly played a part in the crime believe other factors to be at play. "Steroids should be on the media radar this week, but not judged in comparison to a bodybuilder or athlete or gym rat who use steroids," said Wade Keller, editor of the Pro Wrestling Torch. "Benoit had many other factors that could have made the effects of steroids - either being on them or withdrawal from coming off of them - much worse." Keller's theory is one that has not been discussed much, but is certainly a possibility. "What's also frustrating on the other side of the coin," he said on his website, "is that people are saying it couldn't have been roid rage because it appeared to be a calculated series of events over the course of several days. This seems obvious, but I'll say it: Isn't it possible - worth exploring, not right to rule out - that Benoit killed his wife in a fit of 'roid rage', and then afterward calmed down and killed his son ... The weekend may have been triggered by roid rage, but then turned into a sad spiral downwad for Benoit as he tried to figure out how to deal with having become a murderer - perhaps in a fit of roid rage." It is also worth noting that Geraldo Rivera's accusations that Benoit broke Sabu's neck in 1994 in a fit of roid rage are completely unfounded and without merit. The incident has been reported in detail for years by those who cover the industry, and is considered to be a freak accident. Referring to this as a simple case of roid rage is oversimplifying what is really a very complex story, something the Associated Press seems to have picked up on June 30. "I can paint any number of scenarios that explain this without invoking 'roid rage'," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, in an interview with the AP. "Roid rage tends to be impulse control. This event happened over two or three days. It has the earmarks of some calculation." Why Wrestlers Use Steroids Wrestlers have been using anabolic steroids for decades. The drug has proven to be lucrative for a high number of wrestlers. Wrestlers who struggled for years to get noticed by promoters have gone on steroids, increased in size, and received unprecedented opportunities. Large, chiseled men who never had aspirations of getting into pro wrestling have seen the amount of money they can make in the business, walked off of the street, and been given more opportunities out of the gate than smaller wrestlers who have been with the company for years. There are only a few spots available in wrestling for main event performers. Wrestlers who work main events, selling out shows, drawing big money on pay-per-view and selling large amounts of merchandise, obviously make far more money than wrestlers confined to the middle of the card or the opening match. Steroids increase the speed of the healing process as well. While precautions are typically taken, and wrestlers are trained not to hurt themselves, injuries still occur, even among wrestlers who are highly skilled and have been active for many years. Only the most severe injuries usually result in time off, and most wrestlers hope to avoid missing time. Since WWE contracts are structured in a way where performers have a low downside guarantee and are paid based on the number of shows they work and their place on the card, there is pressure to work through injuries. "I think this is one of the things fans over look when they watch wrestling or consider getting into it," said former WWE wrestler Lance Storm on his website in May. "They realize that there is a risk of getting hurt in what we do but I don’t think they fully grasp the toll this business takes on one's body. The risk isn’t really of getting hurt, or even injured, those are both givens, the risk we are taking is of serious injury." Wrestling fans also have notoriously short memories, and a long absence could result in a loss of momentum and star power. No matter how talented or successful any wrestler is in a main event position, there is always a roster full of wrestlers ready to jump into open spots when someone goes down. "A lot of guys in our industry, we're not reaching our peak until we're well into our thirties," said former WWE wrestler Sean Waltman, better known as X-Pac or the 1-2-3 Kid, "and by that time, your natural level of testosterone is declining rapidly. And that's an important thing as far as your overall sense of well-being. Just like when a woman goes through menopause, she experiences a lot of mood swings and depression will set in. When your male hormone, testosterone, starts declining like that, a man does that, too. That's the whole mid-life crisis thing. All of that can be attributed to this." Wrestling also requires a great degree of strength. There are wrestlers who have no desire to become overly muscular who simply use steroids to assist in performing their routine job duties. Bodyslamming and suplexing 250 lb. men 4-5 nights a week is no easy task. "I'd bet 150 shows per year would be the norm for most guys," said Meltzer on his website on July 1. "Millions of dollars can be made off of bodies enhanced by steroids and HGH," said Storm, "so until the penalties for being caught become greater than, or at least proportional to, the potential rewards this problem is going to get worse." This hopefully strongly emphasizes that steroids provide many rewards for professional wrestlers. Most wrestlers see the potential risks involved as being unquestionably outweighed by the rewards. WWE Wellness Policy Positives In response to the death of Eddy Guerrero, WWE did institute a wellness policy in February 2006. WWE, to their credit, has kept the policy in effect and continues to perform random drug testing administered by an independent agency. Some wrestlers have been removed from the road, fined and suspended in cases of wellness exam failures. In one more famous case, a main event wrestler, whose name recognition goes beyond pro wrestling, was released from a seven-figure contract because he refused to seek help. In June 2006, Rob Van Dam, at the time the world champion of both the RAW and ECW television shows, and Sabu of the ECW brand were arrested for marijuana possession. WWE's response was to quickly have Van Dam drop both championships on television before suspending him for 30 days. When Van Dam returned, the company no longer invested in he and Sabu as top stars. Sabu was later released and Van Dam opted not to renew his contract when it expired earlier this month. WWE also released a wrestler earlier this year for appearing for work in no condition to perform. The wellness exam tests for steroids and recreational drugs, and also requires a cardiovascular exam. Negatives WWE has been inconsistent in the way they have reprimanded talent. When the policy was first implemented, those who failed were fined and/or suspended. In many cases, they were taken off of the road completely. We saw a more lenient approach to the wellness policy after July 2006, when just before the Great American Bash pay-per-view event, many wrestlers scheduled to perform in high-profile positions on the show were removed from the card due to elevated liver enzymes, which may or may not have been associated with steroid use. Since that time, many wrestlers have failed wellness exams, and rather than be removed from the road causing disruption to company storylines, they have been fined and kept on the road. In March 2006, just before Wrestlemania, the company's biggest event of the year, one of the wrestlers scheduled to headline the show was caught smoking marijuana in the locker room, even in front of individuals who were backstage who were not WWE employees. While WWE did respond by suspending this wrestler, he returned in a high-profile position. This wrestler, a former world champion, trashed a hotel room in Europe for reasons that have never been reported and was sent home from the tour. This happened earlier this year. Because so many top wrestlers were injured and the company was struggling to continue storylines without them, the decision was made not to suspend or terminate the wrestler, but rather to fine him and continue pushing him as one of the top stars in the company. It is worth noting that in 2005, this wrestler was injured and made an appearance on Monday Night RAW, the company's flagship show while injured to do an interview. At this time, WWE chairman Vince McMahon remarked - on the air - that the wrestler was starting to look small. That is not the only incident of a wrestler's loss of size being made fun of on the air. In another occurrence, a younger wrestler who had failed wellness exams early in the implementation of the program began to show a rather obvious loss of muscle mass. A wrestler known as Triple H, one of the company's biggest stars, mocked the wrestler for losing so much weight so quickly in a backstage skit. Triple H is the son-in-law of McMahon and the husband of Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, the head of WWE's creative team that oversees television storylines. There is an undeniable pressure from WWE management to look a certain way and to be of a certain size, both before and after the implementation of the wellness policy. "Somebody says you need to put 25 pounds on your upper body," said Larry DeGaris, who teaches sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis and moonlights on the independent wrestling circuit as "The Professor" Larry Brisco, in an interview with the AP on June 30. "Well, if you have an athletic background and have been around sports for a while, you know there's only one way to do that. Nobody needs to tell you. It's just a tacit understanding." The company previously implemented a drug testing policy in 1992 before dropping the policy in 1996. This was in response to a steroid scandal that plagued the company in the early 1990s. Vince McMahon was acquitted in July 1994 of charges of steroid distribution. While the new policy is more extensive in that it includes cardiovascular testing, it differs from the previous policy in that the subject is not required to urinate in front of the examiner. The possibility of using another individual's urine is much greater in this policy, and many wrestlers have remarked off the record that this has happened, and that only a fool would fail a WWE wellness exam. Even when the examiner is watching the wrestler urinate, there is still a way to fake the test. "Nothing is unbeatable," said Sean Waltman. "Now they've come up with prosthetic penises that look like real penises that have a real heating system in them to heat the clean urine that you would put in there to body temperature." Waltman adds that when WWE was previously conducting drug testing, wrestlers would quickly find ways to buck the testing system as well. "We started figuring out in our drug addict minds that, okay, they test at house shows, but they don't test us at TVs because there's too much going on at TVs," he said. "Same for pay-per-views. And they don't test us in non-English-speaking countries, so if we go to Europe, we can get away with smoking a joint." Waltman adds that the WWF tried to get around this at one point by surprising the wrestlers by drug testing them just before a pay-per-view in 1995. "So we show up for the pay-per-view," he said. "Bam, they got us. There's signs up. 'Drug testing' ... We're dirty because we smoked pot the night before. We're like, oh shit! So guys were going in and taking the test. I was avoiding it all day long. Finally Dave Hebner cornered me. He tricked me into going in. He said, 'Somebody wants to talk to you.' He had taken a sign down on a door. I walked through the door and, bam, there they were with the cups ready. So I'm telling the guy that's doing the test, 'Uh, I can't really piss.' He could tell I was nervous. I didn't want to get caught. Nobody wants to get caught because it costs you money and you get suspended. He goes, 'Give me two hundred bucks and I'll piss for you.' I'm telling you, two hundred dollars never left my wallet and went into somebody else's hands so quick in my life. I didn't even think that the guy could have been dirty himself if he was pissing into the cup. This guy actually couldn't piss for everybody, but I think he pretty much took a couple hundred bucks from several people in the company and ended up dumping their samples out. That was the only time that I could tell you that that test was beatable. It was because of a corrupt person who was administering the tests." This has actually been substantiated by WWE in the past. "Anybody who wants to beat it can beat it," said WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt in an interview with USA Today in March 2004, where he was arguing that drug testing would serve no purpose in wrestling. "The only ones who are caught are stupid," he added. In addition, it is possible to pass WWE's wellness exam and still test positive for steroids. The exam only monitors increases in steroid levels, not whether or not steroids are present. A normal person who had never used steroids would test at 1:1. An olympic failure would be 6:1. To fail WWE wellness exam, drug levels would need to be at 10:1. Top wrestlers can also afford designer steroids which do not show up on these tests. These supplements are purported to possibly cost as much as $20,000 per month. In March, Olympic gold medalist turned pro wrestler Kurt Angle was one of many clients implicated in a DEA pharmacy raid. Among the drugs uncovered to have been prescribed to him were nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, and Trenbolone, a veterinary therapy not approved for human use. Prior to the wellness policy being implemented, Vince McMahon had publicly scoffed at previous attempts to require drug testing of his performers. "We are performers, we are showmen, he'd be drug testing everyone on Broadway. He'd be drug testing the circus,'' said McMahon in 2000, when Senator Thomas Libous (R-NY), wanted to require drug testing in New York. "If in fact he's trying to single us out, that is unconstitutional,'' McMahon added. WWE also did not run any shows in Portland, Oregon, once a strong wrestling market, from 1993 to 2003, until a ruling defining "wrestling entertainment" opened the door for them to come back without performers being drug tested. An additional note of value is that when the Wellness Program began, Vince McMahon stopped paying himself with a performer's contract, which ensured that Vince would personally not have to complete the wellness exams like other independently contracted talent. "I am ... appalled at the fact that Vince McMahon is trying to play off the idea that there is not a steroid use problem in the WWE," said Debbie Hernandez, wife of the late Ray "Hercules" Hernandez, in a public statement on June 29. "After Ray died," she continued, "I was too devastated to open up a discussion regarding the deadly role that steroid use plays in the lives of these wrestlers, but now, after seeing yet another tragedy, I must speak up." Hernandez died of a heart attack at the age of 45. WWE has benefitted for many years from the perception that because wrestling is fake, wrestlers somehow are not real people taking real risks. Fragile X Syndrome It was initially reported that Daniel Benoit was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder known as Fragile X Syndrome, a form of mental retardation. Fragile X patients require a tremendous amount of one-on-one care, which could have cost the Benoit family hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. It is known that Nancy visited Dr. Phil Astin III on June 21 or June 22 to discuss possible treatment options and care for her son. Benoit did not tell any of his friends within wrestling about his son's diagnosis and is rumored to have turned down assistance offered for Daniel at one time because he did not want himself or his child to become the face associated with the condition. "I don't know anybody, myself or any of his close friends, his co-workers, his boss, who knew or suspected anything about him having Fragile X," said Chris Jericho, a former WWE wrestler and one of Benoit's closest friends. "Yet as soon as I read the symptoms of Fragile X, it fit Daniel to a T all across the board. The lack of social skills, hard to make eye contact, intense shyness, flapping the hands, ADHD, and even to the point of his ears being a little bigger, his head being a little larger. You don't think much about that; some kids grow into themselves over the years. But now that you read it, you can kind of see where this all ties in." Nancy's family disputes that Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome. "To them, he's always been a normal, healthy, happy child with no signs of illness," attorney Richard Decker said. "And that's not from a distance. That's from day-to-day contact." This was substantiated on July 2 by the Fayetteville County Sheriff's investigators and the District Attorney's office. "A source having access to certain of Daniel's medical reports reviewed those reports," they said, "and they do not mention any pre-existing mental or physical impairment. Reports from Daniel's educators likewise contradict the claims that Daniel was physically undersized. The educators report that Daniel graduated kindergarten and was prepared to enter the first grade on par with the other students." It is still rumored that Chris and Nancy fought over the long-term care of Daniel. Benoit took an extended leave of absence from WWE in 2006, presumably to assist Nancy in caring for Daniel after she had neck surgery. Post Concussion Syndrome At this time, Benoit's brain has not been examined for post concussion syndrome. “Part of me hopes there was something wrong with his brain," said former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski, Harvard graduate and author of the book Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis. "The Chris Benoit I knew was always more concerned with everyone else's well being than his own." Nowinski indicated that efforts were made to have the brain of Benoit examined, but that he had been unsuccessful up until that point. The case has been moved from Fayetteville County to the Georgia state level, which could escalate the chances of a brain examination being completed. Nowinski was forced to retire after a very short wrestling career due to the problems associated with PCS. Nowinski is not the only wrestler that has had to retire due to the effects of PCS. In late 1999, former wrestling star Bret Hart, who was wrestling for World Championship Wrestling and was their World Champion at the time, was kicked in the head during a match against fellow wrestler Bill Goldberg and suffered a concussion. Within weeks, he had suffered numerous other concussions and was forced to retire at the age of 42 years old. He later sustained another head injury, which caused him to suffer a stroke and partial paralysis at the age of 44. It is hoped that Benoit's brain will be examined, not to justify his actions, but rather in an effort to uncover as much of the truth as possible. It is certainly a possibility that if Benoit was suffering from PCS that it contributed to his mental state at the time of the murders. It was reported late in the day on June 29 that Benoit's brain may have "liquified" due to the high temperature inside the home, and his brain may not be able to be examined. Deaths In Wrestling One aspect that has gotten considerable coverage from the media is the high number of deaths since 1985 of wrestlers under the age of 45. The problem has been that some are saying that 80 wrestlers have died in the past 10 years, some are saying 60 in 10 years, some are saying 60 in the last 20 years. 60 in the last 22 years is correct. It is an alarming statistic, and the media should be more careful to state it correctly. It isn't something that deserves to lose its impact or credibility in being overstated. The truth is scary enough. "I think the problem lies in the lack of checks and balances in our industry, and the fringe celebrity status wrestlers receive," said former WWE wrestler Lance Storm in a commentary on his website in June. "It doesn’t help that the majority of these wrestling deaths happen well after the wrestler is out of the spotlight." Vince McMahon said on the Today Show on June 28 that only five wrestlers have died while under contract to his organization, and that he could only speak to those five wrestlers. That is incredibly misleading and irresponsible for many reasons. Of the 60 wrestlers who have died under the age of 45, while it is technically true that only five were under contract to him at the time of death, 32 of the 60 wrestlers worked for his organization at some time, and most of them had extended runs with the company that lasted more than one year. It would be unfair to blame Vince McMahon for all deaths in wrestling. Some of his detractors do more harm than good by attempting to lay the blame on him to that degree, and make him look better than is deserved as a result. However, Vince McMahon has been the most influential individual in wrestling for the past 25 years. It is an undisputable fact that he prefers to make superstars out of wrestlers of a specific body type. There are exceptions to that, but most of the biggest stars in the history of the company, especially prior to 1992 when the steroid scandal hit, were massive guys at their peak. Former NWA World Champion Jack Brisco, one of the biggest stars of the 1970s and one of the greatest pro wrestlers in history, was interviewed July 1 by the Orlando Sentinel about his current thoughts on wrestling. Brisco indicated that he would not have a job in today's wrestling world, presumably because of his look. Brisco noted that most of the top wrestlers of his era are still alive. "If somebody tries to call one of McMahon's stars in 30 years," said Brisco, "there won't be anyone around to answer the phone." Wrestling Deaths Since 1985 The following is the list the media is currently using of wrestlers who have died before the age of 45. Please keep in mind that there are wrestlers that are not listed here, and that this list only includes wrestlers in the United States. If wrestlers dying at a young age in Japan and Mexico were added to the list, the numbers would increase substantially. Chris Von Erich - 21 years old, committed suicide Mike Von Erich - 23 years old, committed suicide Louie Spiccoli - 27 years old, overdosed on somas and alcohol Art Barr - 28 years old, overdosed on alcohol and painkillers Gino Hernandez - 29 years old, overdosed on cocaine Jay Youngblood - 30 years old, heart attack* Rick McGraw - 30 years old, heart attack Joey Marella - 30 years old, car accident Ed Gatner - 31 years old, committed suicide Buzz Sawyer - 32 years old, possible heart attack or overdose Crash Holly - 32 years old, overdosed on somas and alcohol Kerry Von Erich - 33 years old, committed suicide D.J. Peterson - 33 years old, car accident Eddie Gilbert - 33 years old, heart attack and cocaine overdose The Renegade - 33 years old, committed suicide Owen Hart - 33 years old, fell from ceiling of arena in accidental stunt Chris Candido - 33 years old, post-surgery complications; blood clot from broken angle suffered in ring Adrian Adonis - 34 years old, car accident Gary Albright - 34 years old, heart attack; enlarged heart Bobby Duncum Jr. - 34 years old, overdose Yokozuna - 34 years old, heart attack; morbid obesity Big Dick Dudley - 34 years old, kidney failure Brian Pillman - 35 years old, heart attack; enlarged heart Marianna Komlos - 35 years old, breast cancer Pitbull #2 - 36 years old, overdose The Wall/Malice - 36 years old, heart attack; long-term drug use Leroy Brown - 38 years old, heart attack Brian Hildebrand - 38 years old, cancer Eddy Guerrero - 38 years old; heart attack, enlarged heart Davey Boy Smith - 39 years old; heart attack, enlarged heart Johnny Grunge - 39 years old, sleep apnea Vivian Vachon - 40 years old, car accident Jeep Swenson - 40 years old, heart attack Brady Boone - 40 years old, car accident Terry Gordy - 40 years old, heart attack; blood clot Bertha Faye/Rhonda Singh - 40 years old, suicide Billy Joe Travis - 40 years old, heart attack Chris Benoit - 40 years old, committed suicide, murdered wife and son Larry Cameron - 41 years old, heart attack during wrestling match Rick Rude - 41 years old, heart attack; overdose Randy Anderson - 41 years old, cancer Bruiser Brody - 42 years old, murdered by stabbing Miss Elizabeth - 42 years old, overdosed on alcohol and painkillers Big Boss Man - 42 years old, heart attack Earthquake - 42 years old, bladder cancer Mike Awesome - 42 years old, committed suicide Biff Wellington - 42 years old, heart attack or stroke Ray Candy - 43 years old, heart attack Nancy Benoit - 43 years old, murdered by husband Dino Bravo - 44 years old, murdered by mob hit Curt Hennig - 44 years old, heart attack; long-term cocaine use Bam Bam Bigelow - 45 years old, heart attack; overdose possibly due to cocaine and anti-anxiety drugs Jerry Blackwell - 45 years old, post-surgery complications; tumor removed from brain stem Junkyard Dog - 45 years old, car accident Hercules - 45 years old; heart attack, heart disease *Youngblood was rushed back into wrestling after rupturing his spleen It is truly alarming data. Please note that the majority of the wrestlers listed died of heart attacks. Also, Chris Benoit is not the first wrestler to commit suicide this year, nor is he the first wrestler to hang himself this year. Mike Awesome hung himself on February 26. "From my 17 years in the business, I know probably 40 to 45 wrestlers who dropped dead before they were 50," said Storm in an interview with the AP on June 30. "It's an astronomical number." Deaths of those close to Chris Benoit "I really look at [so many wrestlers close to him dying so young] as the turning point of Chris's life," said Dave Meltzer, "where he lost his best friend, he lost his best friend in Japan, and he lost the guy that would make him laugh when he was in the worst mood possible." Among those Chris Benoit was very close to who are on the list above are Eddy Guerrero, Johnny Grunge, Victor Mar, Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Brian Pillman, Brian Hildebrand and Larry Cameron. Grunge specifically was a former neighbor of Benoit and was known to diffuse tension when he and Nancy were arguing by making Benoit laugh and calm down. "The list is really long and I just think that that depression from all of that, you know a 40 year old guy," Meltzer added. "They were closer to him than to most people." "Chris' closest friend in the world was Eddy Guerrero," said Bryan Alvarez, editor of the Figure 4 Weekly Newsletter and contributor to WrestlingObserver.com. "He could cry to him. He could tell him everything. After Eddie died, I talked to Chris. He was broken man. It was about this period of time that people started noticing weird behavior, paranoid behavior, which would indicate he was using a lot of drugs," Alvarez added. "He was alone. He was on the road a lot, having to perform at a high level, having to look a certain way. I think the drug use escalated, and his whole world basically fell apart." Alvarez also indicated that Benoit kept a journal after Eddy Guerrero's death where he wrote to him regularly. "He was somewhat of a spiritual guide for me," Benoit said of Guerrero. "I do not believe that I will ever find someone that I will bond with and be able to understand and be understood as I was with Eddie." Dr. Phil Astin III On Wednesday, the Associated Press conducted an interview with Dr. Phil Astin III, Benoit's physician, who indicated that he had seen Benoit in his office on June 22, but that he did not seem distressed. Astin, who declined to comment on whether or not he had prescribed anything to Benoit that day, said he prescribed testosterone for Benoit because Benoit had low levels of the hormone from his past steroid use. "He was in my office on Friday to stop by just to see my staff," said Astin. "He certainly didn't show any signs of any distress or rage or anything." On June 28, state and federal agents raided the office of Dr. Astin, taking computers and medical records from his office. TMZ reports that Astin once had his medical license suspended for "repeatedly prescribing several controlled substances to patients in excessive quantities or for excessive periods of time and prescribing for other than legitimate purposes", and was found guilty of unprofessional conduct in 1992 for overprescribing amphetamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers and narcotics. After having his license suspended on 30 days, he was placed on probation for five years and fined $2000. Astin was reinstated in 1997, but suspended once again in 2001 for "reasons related to competence or character". It has also been noted that Astin had autographed pictures of many professional wrestlers on his office wall. Atlanta has been at times a common place for many pro wrestlers to live, especially those who worked for the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling, whose offices were based in CNN Center before being moved to nearby suburban Smyrna in 1999. The company folded in 2001 and its assets were then sold to Vince McMahon's WWE. The Associated Press is now issuing conflicting reports regarding Dr. Astin's previous suspensions, stating it was his father who was found guilty of unprofessional conduct in 1992, and his father that was placed on probation until 1997. Dr. Astin's mother's house was raided June 29, and Astin at that time had not been seen for two days. "The raid on Dr. Phil Astin and looking for information has apparently spread from just looking for information on Chris Benoit to information on other wrestlers that he treated," said Dave Meltzer on July 1. On July 2, Astin was arrested, with records showing that prescribed over 1 million doses of numerous drugs over the past two years, many of them prescription painkillers and anabolic steroids, and many of the prescriptions were un-dated, which is illegal. "Dr. Astin prescribed these drugs like candy," said a federal agent at a press conference that day. It was also indicated at that time that Benoit was receiving a prescription for a 10-month supply of steroids every 3-4 weeks. Astin was released on $125,000 secured bond July 2 with numerous conditions, including surrendering his medical license and agreeing to be monitored with at home with an ankle bracelet. "It is a complete credibility loss when it comes to the drug policy that the company can't afford at this time," said Dave Meltzer on July 2. "And quite frankly, since Benoit was regularly tested during this entire one year period, it is impossible to have confidence in the drug policy with the release of this information. Benoit was off for several months in 2006 and likely not tested during this period, but he should have been tested at least four times minimum during a period it would appear he was taking heavy doses of steroids." On July 2, it was reported that Benoit was identified by DEA agents as "an excessive purchaser of injectable steroids", as discovered in an investigation of the Marietta-based RX Weight Loss. Dr. Astin is not the first physician this year to be investigated under similar circumstances. In March, Dr. David Wilbrit of Arizona went under investigation for writing 3,879 prescriptions over the Internet for steroids and HGH. Wilbrit was linked to pro wrestlers, including Eddy Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Rey Misterio Jr, Gregory Helms and Adam Copeland, the current world champion of WWE's SmackDown! television show, who wrestles under the ring name Edge. All prescriptions were from 2004 and 2005, prior to the implementation of WWE's wellness policy. WWE spokesman Gary Davis simply said in response that company policy does not allow for prescription drugs obtained from the Internet. Med X Life Chris Benoit was a former customer of MedXLife, a pharmacy based in South Florida that was recently implicated in an upstate New York investigation of illegal steroid sales. In April, two of the company's owners plead guilty to drug charges in Albany County, New York, admitting they helped get prescription drugs for patients who had no medical need for them. The prescriptions were then filled by Signature Pharmacy of Orlando. The pharmacy was selling steroids, HGH and testosterone on the Internet. Terence Kindlon, lawyer for MedXLife co-owner Dr. Gary Brandwein, denied allegations that his client's company sold steroids to Benoit. WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt has emphasized that the drugs found in Benoit's home were legally prescribed. "There's no question, none of these drugs are out there, none of these drugs came from Internet pharmacies," he said. Whether this is the case or not, this only emphasizes the ease with which steroids can be accessed for those who have the money and are willing to expend the effort. Domestic Abuse On May 12, 2003, Nancy petitioned for divorce and filed a restraining order against Chris, citing that he lost his temper in an argument and threatened to strike her and cause damage to their belongings. She stated in the document that she was "in reasonable fear for petitioner's own safety and that of the minor child." She withdrew the papers in August when they reconciled. The news of this has resulted in some wives of pro wrestlers speaking out in the media. The most vocal of those has been Debra Marshall, who was married to both Steve McMichael and Steve Austin. At the time Debra was married to Austin, he was the biggest star in wrestling, and was, as she correctly puts it, "the biggest moneymaker in WWE". "Everyone thought we had this wonderful life, had this big house, worked together," said Marshall. "I have lived it. I have lived domestic abuse. I don't even want to think about what Nancy went through." Marshall insists that Austin was on steroids and that she personally saw him do steroids, which she believes contributed to his violent outbursts. "I could go into horror stories," said Dave Meltzer in a Spring 1990 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. In addition to other steroid-related horror stories, he also mentioned "a wrestler who really didn't want to use steroids while his wife was pregnant because during fits of roid rage he had punched her, but at the times there were pressures from the top because he was getting too small." WWE announcer and former head of Talent Relations Jim Ross insists that he was close to both Chris and Nancy and was unaware of any domestic disputes, and said he spoke to them both recently. "She said things were fine at home," Ross said in his blog on Thursday. "As well as Nancy and I knew each other, if that had not been the case, she would have inferred otherwise I assure you ... those who have or are loosely associated with wrestling and who are making statements with little or no background of the facts of this matter or who simply want another 15 minutes are in a large sense pathetic." Evidence has been provided to the contrary, as a note was placed in Nancy's safe deposit box recently that stated, "If something happened to me, it was Chris." The attempt to smear those outside the company who are speaking out reflects poorly on WWE. Wikipedia On Thursday, it was reported by FOX News that web time stamps indicated that Chris Benoit's Wikipedia was updated about 14 hours before police found the bodies of the Benoit family. There was briefly controversy surrounding this because the IP address of the update traced it back to Stamford, Connecticut, which is home to World Wrestling Entertainment, even though the IP address did not match any of the servers of the WWE offices. The individual who updated Chris Benoit's Wikipedia page issued an anonymous public statement Friday apologizing for the coincidence. Thursday on MSNBC, Meltzer explained that a live wrestling chat was taking place during Sunday's Vengeance pay-per-view from Houston, Texas. An individual in the chat posted at 8:41 PM that the "family emergency" reported as the reason Benoit missed the show was because his wife Nancy had passed away, before adding that "Meltzer said it." WWE questioned Meltzer later to see if he was contacted by Benoit Sunday, which he indicated he was not. Apparently, an individual in the chat saw this information and immediately updated Benoit's Wikipedia entry. The update appears to have been a hoax and strange coincidence. Federal agents seized the individual's computer Friday. Sherri Martel and Kevin Sullivan Former pro wrestler and valet "Sensational" Sherri Martel passed away in Alabama on June 15, 2007 at the age of 49. Police do not suspect foul play, but it has been indicated that the death was not due to natural causes. Geraldo Rivera stated in error on FOX News that Martel died on the same day Nancy Benoit was killed, which is completely incorrect, and suggested that the deaths are all linked, which they certainly or not. In addition, Rivera indicated the incorrect dates of text messages Benoit sent to his friends within WWE. Rivera indicated that Benoit was sending text messages during the Vengeance pay-per-view, which is also incorrect, as it has been confirmed that the cryptic text messages sent to friends were sent at 3:28 AM on the morning of June 24. Rivera indicated a "link" between Kevin Sullivan, former pro wrestler and ex-husband of Nancy Benoit, and Martel, by stating that Sullivan was her "booker". The term booker is being misused by Rivera. In wrestling terms, a booker oversees storylines for a promotion. Martel worked for the defunct World Championship Wrestling from 1994-1997 as a valet, and during this time period, Sullivan was a booker for WCW, not for Martel as an individual. Wrestlers do not have individual bookers, and the only link between the two would be this vague one at best. In 1996, Sullivan was overseeing the creative direction of WCW, and was still married to Nancy. Chris Benoit, who was married to another woman at the time, was a fairly new talent in the company. Benoit was recognized as an extraordinary wrestler who had a lack of charisma. Sullivan felt that Benoit needed an engaging storyline to reach the next level, and concocted a story where Nancy and Chris would run off together, thus creating the illusion that Benoit stole Sullivan's wife. To sell wrestling fans on the idea that the storyline was real, Sullivan encouraged Nancy and Chris to be seen in public together and to share hotel rooms. Life would eventually imitate art, as Nancy and Chris would fall in love during the storyline, breaking up both of their marriages in the process. Sullivan was in a position to keep Benoit from reaching the next level as a result, and from there on purportedly made efforts to end any attempts of Benoit to climb the ladder to the top of the promotion. Sullivan was ousted from his booking position after several changes in power structure within WCW, before ending up back in the same role in early 2000. Benoit saw the writing on the wall and felt that he would never receive a fair opportunity under Sullivan, and at that point bolted to WWE, along with his friends Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn. Prior to Benoit and friends jumping, Sullivan attempted to earn Benoit's trust by having him win WCW's World Championship, but Benoit jumped anyway. Despite personal issues between them in the past, Sullivan has spoken diplomatically of both Chris and Nancy in the press. "She was a nice person," said Sullivan of his ex-wife in an interview Wednesday. "We just went our separate ways. She was nice and very loving and I'm sure she was a good mother." Sullivan said he never associated with Benoit outside the ring. "I really don’t know his personality," he said. "But I'm sad for all three, especially the child." Benoit's Personal Character Indications from those who have spoken on television in the wake of the news who once worked with and knew Benoit are that the incident was a complete shock, and that Benoit showed no warning signs of self destruction ahead of time. "It's almost a tale of two cities, a tale of two people," said Jericho. "There was the Chris Benoit that had these horrendous acts of extreme psychopathic lunacy in the last days of his life. Then there's the Benoit I myself travelled with, lived with, said I love you to on many occasions; he was my mentor, one of my best friends, and was a brother to me in so many ways. The 15 years I knew him and the two days he did these horrible horrible acts, it's hard to kind of discern the two. That's why we have to find out what would make a mild-mannered, polite, influential tremendous person and performer to do such things. Is steroids a reason? I think it goes much deeper than that. I think we're seeing a man with some severe psychological, troubled issues who held them in for far too long and they combined to cause him to snap in such a horrible way." Jericho is not the only individual in wrestling who spoke highly of Benoit. "I always thought Chris Benoit was the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet," said Bryan Alvarez in the latest issue of Figure 4 Weekly. "One day he asked for my address. He ended up sending me a chair from the PPV where Eddy Guerrero won the WWE Title. There was also a really nice note in there. I showed it to my buddy Vinny, and I remember at the time we thought, 'How could a man so great be so nice?' It seemed impossible. So apparently it was." Those who worked closely with Benoit in the past 18 months saw things differently. WWE wrestlers are not currently allowed to speak to the media, but some have indicated anonymously to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that it was known that Benoit had been having problems with Nancy for some time. Many wrestlers felt he needed counseling, but did not approach him about it. Additional evidence also suggests that the murders were calculated. Two weeks ago, Benoit is said to have taken out a life insurance policy on himself, listing his ex-wife Martina and his two children from his first marriage as beneficiaries. "Nancy had for a long time believed this relationship would end violently and in a bad, bad way," a former colleague told the Sun-Sentinel June 28. "She always said the two of them were doomed to hurt each other. But she never imagined Daniel would get in the crosshairs." Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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