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By Dave Scherer on 2007-07-13 12:09:31

Almost three weeks after the murder-suicide at the Benoit house, in sadly typical fashion the media is getting every bit of mileage out of the story, or at least their version of it, that they possibly can.  For three weeks, I have seen shoddy and blatantly false reporting on the supposedly credible news channels.  I have seen whores come out of the woodwork looking for their chance to spew their personal venom or further their own cause at the expense of a tragedy where three people died.  There has been so much conjecture, assumption and blatant agenda pushing that I shudder now every time I see "The Benoit Story" being covered in many outlets because you know what, these people aren't covering the story any longer.  

No, now they are now just trying to get ratings for their TV shows or clicks for their websites and it's downright disgusting to me.  How do I know that they are doing that?  I have been contacted by numerous news outlets and when I don't and won't say what they want to hear, they find someone else who will.  I had one conversation with an AP reporter who brought up the "wrestling deaths" list.  On it were people who were, at best, indy wrestlers, part time promoters, people who died in accidents and people who had been out of wrestling for years.  I told the reporter, "Why are you clouding the issue by including people on the list to make it seem like a big problem when if you just talked about the people who really fit the criteria that, in and of itself, would clearly make the point you are trying to make?"  On the other end of the phone was silence.  He found another reporter to comment instead.

That was fine by me because it's my belief that appearing on a show or  being quoted in a story that is knowingly going down a sensationalistic track or where I know that at least some of the facts will be incorrect makes me complicit to what they are doing and that will never happen.  What this kind of bush league reporting does is make everyone lose any respect for the two people who were murdered.  That has been totally lost in the weeks since the murder, and it's wrong.  Really, really wrong.  In place of respect and sympathy for Nancy and Daniel Benoit are people trying to make money and get themselves over, all at the expense of three dead people.  It's downright despicable.

Instead of focusing on what happened people are looking to put WWE on trial, painting a picture of company that is purely evil, which makes its supporters tell a story of one that is purely good.  The way the battle lines have been drawn, people are picking sides where in truth there is no clear right or wrong here.  You see people ripping WWE so of course, they have to defend themselves.  What gets lost in the muck are the actual issues that should be in play here.  WWE is neither the heel or the angel here.  There are positives and negatives where they are concerned.  Instead of looking at the big picture, the national and in same cases wrestling media just polarizes on certain things.  

Let's look at both sides, for once.  Does WWE have some things that they could make better?  For sure.  They could:

  • Change the Wellness policy to eliminate the "it's OK to use steroids if you have a doctor's note" stipulation.  It's a loophole and it allows wrestlers to go to unscrupulous doctors and get drugs that they don't really need.  Also, if a guy fails the test, make it public knowledge and suspend the guy for a month.  There should be no more hiding a positive test from the public and allowing the guy to work unpaid.
  • Change the culture of the company so that the perception is no longer there that a big body, even one lacking in talent, will get you a big push.  If the company stops pushing a guy just because he's unnaturally huge, it will send a message to everyone that size alone will not get you a big payday.  Plus, as history has shown, pushing overly huge guys on top has mixed results and they have made a lot of money when their top talents were "just big", like The Rock and Steve Austin.
  • Add more comprehensive cardiovascular, as well as neurological, testing.  What's sad here is that everyone in the media assumes and "reports" that Chris Benoit did what he is alleged to have done because of "roid rage".  They do it because it is a buzzword that gets ratings and clicks, even though "roid rage" is a momentary thing, not one that lasts the better part of two days.  I think it's fair to say that if people want to assume anything, it's that something snapped in his head and made him do something that no one who knew him thought he was capable of doing.  It's no secret that Benoit has taken a lot of blows to the head over the years, as have many wrestlers.  Comprehensive neurological testing may have found changes in his brain and could have prevented this tragedy.
  • Make psychologists a part of the company's medical team.  For the same reason they need to implement neurological testing, they also need to have psychologists meet with the talent periodically just to get a read on where their head is.

But, by the same token, they have done a number of positive things to try and help the boys.  They have:

  • Implemented the Wellness Policy and have been testing regularly.  They have had positives and the testing has helped.  The program isn't perfect, for sure, but it's a start.  If they improve elements of it, it can be even more effective.
  • The company has a long standing history of helping any talent that comes forth with a substance abuse problem.  All someone has to do is ask and they will get help.  Expecting the company to be all knowing is just not realistic.
  • They have banned some big moves in an effort to cut back on injuries.  They have also instructed the talent to work more ground-based matches in an effort to cut down on injuries and wear and tear.

So when you look at it like this, it's clear that while there is certainly room for improvement, WWE has not been asleep at the wheel either.  Unfortunately, getting a balanced look at the story is just not something that is happening very often of late.  But, they do happen from time to time.  In a few rare cases, we have also seen some people that aren't out to "get themselves over" or "further their agenda" but rather truly care about the issues at play here.  I saw one of those people yesterday. 

I was at the gym yesterday and saw Lance Storm on ESPN's "Outside The Lines".  I have to tell you, Lance made as much sense as anyone who has commented on the Benoit tragedy yet.  In fact, I put more stock in what he says than those of other experts for a number of reasons:

  • He is well known to have never done drugs (and from personal knowledge I fully believe that to be the case).
  • He is a retired (for the most part) worker and unlike most of the other experts who have been doing running commentary, he has no agenda to promote or axe to grind, he just told the truth.
  • He has been around the business long enough to both know what it was like 10 years AND one year ago, so he knows how things were and how they are.  TMZ ran a really sensationalistic story yesterday where Terri Runnels talked about "Soma Comas".  Let me tell you this.  10 years ago, a lot of guys were using Somas.  That is the truth and I got to see some of the effects up close and personal.  5 years ago, less guys were using them.  Today is there still use?  Sure, some guys are still doing them, and other pain pills.  Only a fool would argue otherwise, but writing a story about Soma Comas as if it's happening today the way that it was 10 years ago is like talking about Bill Clinton as if he were still the president.  Unlike Runnels, who hasn't been around WWE for years, Storm talked from legitimate experience, and did so currently.

The key points he made were that the WWE Wellness policy loophole that allows guys to take steroids if they have a doctor's note.  He also said that far too often, guys in the business convince themselves that the only way that they can live with the rigors on the road is by taking pain pills and other drugs.  He said it makes him angry that people say that they need to take drugs to deal with the rigors of the road.  He said it's a crock.  He pointed out that WWE now has doctors at all the shows and has top of the line medical equipment and tests there for the wrestlers.  In essence, he said that while WWE is accountable for their workers, they are also accountable for themselves.  In the end, they take drugs because they say they need to take drugs and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

In the end, that is what it comes down to.  Everyone involved, WWE and the wrestlers, has a role in what happens to the workers.  You just can't pin the blame on one side or wrap what happened at the Benoit home up in a nice little package with a bow because there is far more to what happened than that.

Yesterday, someone got it and my hat is off to Lance Storm and ESPN for not taking the easy out.  It was a welcome change from the garbage reporting that other news outlets have been doing of late.  Unfortunately, since he didn't sell what the media whores wanted him to, that will probably be the last time we hear from him.



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