With a Friday morning column that was presumably ready to go since last Tuesday, the New York Post’s resident hater of all-things WWE related, Phil Mushnick would like us to remember the real victims of the Chris Benoit Double Murder/Suicide : crusading journalists whose warnings were ignored.
Look what it has taken for the media to finally begin to report that Vince McMahon has been operating a death mill the past 25 years.
Look what it took for the news media to finally learn and report that McMahon produces a TV show that regularly features physically fit and soon-to-be dead young men.
It didn’t take one death, or even 20, for the media to finally wake up. Hell, pro wrestlers have been steadily dying young since the early 1980s, when McMahon began to rule the industry.
And it didn’t take Monday’s suicide of a McMahon-made star, Chris Benoit. It took three deaths in one weekend in one home; it took Benoit’s murder of his son and wife for modern pro wrestling to finally be stamped with a skull-and-crossbones caution label.
Hell, Brian Pillman died at 35; Louie Spiccoli was 27; Chris Candido was 33. For all the drugs Eddie Guerrero relied on to become one of McMahon’s champs, it was miraculous he made it to 38.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude was 41; “The British Bulldog,” Davey Boy Smith, was 39. Curt Henning, “Mr. Perfect,” died at 44. “Road Warrior Hawk” made it to 45, which can be like 85 in pro-wrestling years.
Given cartoon names, they were real people. They are among the most renowned pro wrestlers who died young – just since 1995. There are dozens more from where they came from, and wound up. None of their deaths made for big, nationwide news.
Monday night, in the midst of a plot in which he was supposed to have been murdered, McMahon knew exactly what to do. He replaced that night’s USA Network show with a Benoit memorial. McMahon’s best ratings have been generated by tribute shows following the sudden, real deaths of his performers. He cashes in on these guys coming and going.
Pro wrestling manufactures death. And the guy who owns and operates the biggest factory, the boss who sets the standards, is Vince McMahon. And, though it took 25 years and the deaths this week of Chris Benoit, his wife and son, the media are finally beginning to notice.
Hoo boy. Phil’s made the same points about Vinnie Mac being a death merchant on a number of occasions. And while there’s some meat to said charges, Mushnick does his readers no favors by his willful selectivity. Nowhere in the above piece does Phil ponder the possibility that Benoit’s state of mind could’ve been affected by anything other than his vocation. Likewise, Phil relies on the ignorance of his editors in citing Louie Spiccoli and as “amongst the most renowned pro wrestlers.”
But the portion of Mushnick’s argument that holds the least water of all is his claim that McMahon cynically used Benoit’s death to cash in last Monday night. Given the WWE only learned of the bodies being found in Fayette a few hours before the broadcast (well, supposedly), it wasn’t as though the promotion had any opportunity to fully exploit the tragedy. Nor did the story hit the wire services or much of the internet until early that evening.
I’m not saying McMahon would pass on a chance for higher ratings. But had he opted to ignore Benoit’s death or just mention it in passing at the top of the broadcast, he’d have been pilloried by Mushnick and the WWE’s fan base alike.