June 29, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devil’s Advocate:
And I Thought the Wrestling Media Was Biased…

Well, how was your week? Yeah, me too. While there is no excuse for what Chris Benoit did, I will not speculate on the specifics until all of the facts that can be known are known. If you know my style, you already know I don’t like speculation, so this should come as no surprise because speculation is one thing I hate. After all, the whole reason for this weekly column and my blog is to point out media bias, leading reporting and inaccurate media reporting. And this was certainly the week for all of those aspects to occur (most of the time, all at once). Forget the wrestling media’s biases – compared to the real thing, they’re the Associated Press.

So for this week’s column, I figured I’d discuss the way the real media has covered the Benoit tragedy story. Late Monday night, when the early facts started to trickle out, I was shocked. In all the chaos, I told myself that this was a different type of wrestling death and WWE would probably be, for the most part, uninvolved. There have been many times (far too many) in the past where the media could have used a wrestlers death for their own agenda and to try and bring down WWE, but they didn’t. Eddie Guerrero’s death comes to mind. But this was different and really had nothing to do with WWE, or so I rationalized with myself at the time. Boy, was I wrong. The minute the word “steroids” came out of the mouth of Fayetteville County District Attorney, Scott Ballard at the press conference Tuesday afternoon, we were off to the races, facts be damned.

The media is using the steroid angle because, they will argue, it is a possible explanation, and therefore, should be discussed. But then again, so is the story WWE is trying to move forward – that Chris and Nancy were having marital problems over the care of their son, Daniel (who was diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome). The media fights back that WWE is trying to get people to stop talking about the steroid angle by going with this approach. While that may be a possibility, why is it okay for the media to focus on one unconfirmed explanation and not okay for the WWE to focus on a different unconfirmed explanation? There are probably a lot of possible explanations but the media is only focusing on one. Another strange twist to this story is the Wikipedia entry. For those who may have missed it, apparently Chris Benoit’s Wikipedia page was altered late Sunday night/early Monday morning, claiming that the family emergency Benoit missed the pay per-view for was the death of his wife, which was 14 hours before anyone else knew it. And the piece of this puzzle that got the ball rolling was that the IP address from whoever posted this, traced back to Stamford, Connecticut, where the headquarters of the WWE is located. If I may play devil’s advocate for a while (since that is the name of this column), let’s look at this one logically.

First off, all of the important people in WWE would be in Texas preparing for Vengeance and not in Stamford at the time of the posting. Secondly, there seems to be a conspiracy theory out there. Something like, Benoit texted or told someone that he indeed did kill Nancy and there was a cover-up. So much doesn’t make sense with that, but since it’s juicy, they are running with it. If it was a cover-up, why would someone post it on Wikipedia for the world to see? Wade Keller had this theory Thursday afternoon (which I would have either linked you to, or copy and pasted, but he has taken it down) where a disgruntled WWE employee posted it on purpose knowing it would come out eventually and would come back to haunt WWE for covering it up. Wade, don’t feed the trolls.

Ok, so let’s say someone knew, just for argument’s sake, and they were trying to protect Benoit. Wouldn’t someone go to the house, and do something (at the least, get rid of the steroids) to make the scene less problematic for WWE? I know that sounds insane, but at this point, I’m shocked no one is already accusing WWE of this. And my final argument on the “if someone knew” aspect would be, if someone knew beforehand, would they have gone ahead with the Raw tribute?

Did Vince and company say to themselves “he is a murderer, and it is going to come out, since WE called the police to go to his house, and WE didn’t go in and alter the crime scene in anyway to protect ourselves. Let’s have some media backlash!” Let’s use some common sense and logic here. You find out Chris Benoit is dead literally hours before you are to go on the air. This is Chris Benoit we are talking about, not someone with a checkered past. I think a tribute show was a fairly safe bet. There is no credit towards Vince for coming back from the dead and dropping that angle, there’s no credit for stopping the show in general, there are only slams for giving a murderer a tribute before anyone confirmed he was a murderer. And as for what many of the wrestlers said, they were just telling you about the Chris Benoit they knew. They weren’t lying, as far as I can tell. Everyone liked Chris, and they just found out he was dead. They told you how they felt, they weren’t lying to try and make him look less innocent. And, as I witnessed with my own eyes, WWE.com removed everything Benoit-related once the cause of death came out, which has led many to complain that Vince McMahon shouldn’t erase Chris Benoit from WWE’s history. So pick one and stick with it – was he wrong to give a tribute or wrong to call Benoit “a monster”? Vince is in a situation where he can’t win, again.

By the way, Meltzer’s take on the Wikipedia story is here:

In a really bizarre story regarding the story going around everywhere about Wikipedia at 4:01 a.m. on Monday posting that Nancy Benoit had passed away, long before authorities knew, and it was removed 20 minutes later due to a lack of confirmation, my belief is that it was nobody who knew anything. The edit came from Connecticut, but not from WWE headquarters. My feeling is that this is just a bizarre coincidence. The WWE later found that on its chat line at 8:41 p.m., during the PPV, after Benoit missed the show, someone on a WWE chat said that he missed the show due to his wife dying. Later, when the person was asked where he heard the story, he said, "Meltzer reported it." An hour later after the Wikipedia entry was taken down, someone from Australia edited it and again put that Nancy Benoit had passed away, attributing it to "several pro wrestling web sites." I didn't know of this until today when questioned by WWE who asked if Benoit had called me, which he hadn't, nor did I report it or know anything until Monday afternoon, after the WWE wrestlers were told. It appears it was a hoax started by someone and given credibility by usage of my name, no more than the daily fake stories people make up on MMA and pro wrestling chat boards, the appear to have led to the Wikipedia edit, this become a big story, and it may be nothing more to the story other than an eerie irony.

Apparently, no juicy conspiracy, just logic (imagine that). And, even if the above doesn’t explain this, is it really out of the realm of possibility that someone assumed the family emergency was the death of Nancy, or at the least, was trying to be funny?

All week I just shook my head at the minor inaccuracies. I rolled my eyes at all the wrestlers that came out of the woodwork to lambaste WWE with tales of rampant backstage drug abuse. (Side note: many of these wrestlers were last employed by WWE before the Wellness Program was instituted, and whatever your feelings are on that, it is still something that was put in place to help, and you can’t judge it if you never took part in it. Not to mention that some of the wrestlers have pre-existing grudges with Vince and company, i.e. Joanie “Chyna Doll” Lauer). But when I saw what Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera had to say on Thursday night, I pretty much was at a loss for words. And I promise you, it takes a lot for that to happen to me. I am sure a lot of readers have already seen or heard about it. If you haven’t, I am going to link you to PWInsider for a good reason, for once. Mike Johnson transcribed a lot of it and fought back with counter-points and logic (here). For those of you who don’t want to wait through the pop-ups, although for once, I really think you should, I’ll copy and paste the most non-researched, biased, dumbest, unbelievable thing I have ever heard on a “news” program.

"The authorities say, here is Chris Benoit. He kills his wife on Friday June 15th or Saturday June 16th. Did you know that on Friday June 15th, a woman named Sherri Martel also died of unnatural causes, related to drug use. Who is Sherri Martel? She is another woman connected to this, these group of professional wrestlers. Indeed, the guy who was the original husband of Chris' wife Nancy, the one he allegedly murdered, he was this other woman's, Sherri Martel's booker, and she died the same day Bill (referring to host Bill O’Reilly) - June 15th. Friday June 15th. The same industry, they all knew each other, it's one degree of separation."

Like I said, Mike Johnson has this one covered (here) so I don’t have to pick it apart, point by point myself. But I will say this though: how dare he try to implicate Kevin Sullivan for no reason other than to continue using a tragedy for ratings with an uninformed rant. Good grief. There is no doubt in my mind that a problem does exist in the wrestling world. But using a double murder-suicide, in which little to no real facts have yet to come out about, to further your own agenda is disgusting. If you want to bring the problem to light, take a few weeks, do some research and present it as a topic on one of your newsmagazine shows. The fact that Bret Hart is coming to the defense of the WWE at this point should tell you how badly the news media is screwing this up.

All I can urge people to do is not believe everything you read on the Internet, and now, don’t believe everything you hear on the news. This all hammers that point home. If professional journalists can get things this wrong, then everyone below them on the food chain can also.

I didn’t even want to write a column this week because I didn’t want to use this tragedy for my own column. But I think this column needed to be written because I try to stay on top of the media and call out their inaccuracies. While I usually cover the wrestling media, I think the mainstream media needed me to write this column this week.

Feedback is always welcome at figurefanatic@gmail.com and you can visit my blog here.

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