Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Will Senate Candidate Linda McMahon Talk About Pro Wrestlers Dying from Drug Overdoses on Her Watch?

Will Senate Candidate Linda McMahon Talk About Pro Wrestlers Dying from Drug Overdoses on Her Watch?

By Evan Weiner

September 16, 2009

3:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) – There is yet another Republican running for the Senate seat held by the Democrat Christopher Dobbs in Connecticut. Linda McMahon, the Chief Economic Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, has decided that she is qualified to replace Dodd in the November 2010 election.

Here is the problem for the wrestling CEO, how does Linda McMahon explain the many deaths of performers, some with ties to her organization and others who were employed by competitors, caused by the usage of illegal substances. Substances that were banned in legislation that went through the Senate in 1990, the very institution she would look to join.

Those deaths that should have rattled and ravaged her business, the wrestling industry. Fortunately for Linda McMahon, her husband Vince, their son Shane and daughter Stephanie and her husband Paul Michael Levesque a.k.a. Triple H, there is very little scrutiny of the industry.

The drug issue, which seems to cloud hovering over Major league Baseball for years, is for the most part a non-issue even though Linda McMahon’s husband was indicted in November of 1993 on charges of possession of steroids and conspiracy to distribute steroids. McMahon beat the rap after a jury came back with a not guilty verdict on July 22, 1994. In 2005, McMahon’s wrestling circuit was still wrestling with drug issues and following the death of Eddie Guerrero, the McMahons imposed new drug testing policies.

The number of wrestlers who have died before their 50th birthdays is staggering. Most of the deceased performers overdosed or died of heart attacks.

Linda McMahon needs to be asked about the whole illegal drugs issue. Wrestling resides in a murky area in sports and entertainment. The genre has some athleticism but in 1989 Vince McMahon testified before the New Jersey State Senate that his product was not a bona fide competition and that wrestling matches were staged events. McMahon was trying to catch some tax breaks from the state of New Jersey for his live shows and his pay-per-view TV offerings.

The United States Congress went after Major League Baseball with a viciousness after a number of factors influenced them including the International Olympic Committee’s fit of pique in 2003 after Major League Baseball refused to let stars compete in the Olympic Games that included IOC criticism of baseball’s drug testing procedure and a threat that New York would not get the 2012 Summer Olympics unless baseball knuckled under to the IOC. That caught Congress’s attention along with Jose Canseco’s tell all book about banned substance usage in baseball. Congress also made some noise by also calling in National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League people to testify in what really were dog and pony shows.

Perhaps Linda McMahon fits the position after all.

For whatever reason, Congress has never go after the entertainment industry about the usage of illegal substances or looked into banned substance usage by teenagers who are not athletes.

If Linda McMahon is running for a Senate seat, maybe it is time for some Congressional committees to review professional wresting. The carnage has been documented and the toll is large especially compared with the number of deaths attributed to drug overdoses in Major League Baseball. The answer in baseball appears to be zero, although Ken Caminiti died of a drug overdose in 2004 at the age of 41. Caminiti was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1995 and discussed his steroids usage with a reporter from the America magazine Sports Illustrated in 2002. Caminiti did not have steroids in his system at the time of his death.

Mrs. McMahon is getting more coverage than normally allotted to first time candidates because she has been involved in the on going storylines of the World Wrestling Entertainment. What is going to be interesting is to see how the local NBC affiliate in Hartford handles Mrs. McMahon’s campaign. General Electric’s NBC unit has had a very long relationship with the WWF/WWE. Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal sports and Olympics, is one of Vince McMahon’s best friends. NBC has throughout the past two decades given exposure to the WWF/WWF in form of TV specials and NBCUniversal’s USA Network has the cable TV rights in the United States to McMahon’s product.

McMahon’s failed football league, the XFL, was co-owned by NBC in 2000-01. It was Ebersol’s assistant NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer who pulled the plug on the XFL, not Ebersol after the league lost millions of dollars.

Mrs. McMahon will boast of building a company that has more than 500 employees in Connecticut and the truth is that Vince and Linda McMahon took out loans and mortgaged and hocked everything they had to push the World Wrestling Federation (Titan Sports) beyond a northeastern United States base in a gambling to make the WWF a national property in the U. S. They rolled the dice and gambled that Wrestlemania in 1985 would put them on the map.

The McMahon’s empire was built on a house of cards and a naiveté of other wrestling promoters in 1983-84. The McMahon’s bought out Vince’s dad’s Capital Sports in 1982 and changed the business. Because Capital was based in the US northeast and promoted shows in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and south to Washington, it was thought the McMahons had deep pockets because of the markets and some TV deals. Wrestling was a regional business with promoters having handshake deals not to invade other territories.

Those other regional wrestling operators watched as the McMahons signed their talent (as independent contractors) and thought they could not match the McMahon’s deep pockets. They thought wrong; the McMahons had no money and were literally living from show to show. The McMahons desperately needed the pay-per-view Wrestlemania show at New York’s Madison Square Garden to score big.

It did.

Mrs. McMahon is correct that she is a businesswoman who helped shape a fast growing business in Stamford, Connecticut over on Holly Hill.

The McMahons got lucky.

If reporters are not diligent and in this political climate of my team is better than your team stuff of talk radio and cable TV that passes for journalism, Mrs. McMahon may catch another break. She needs to be held accountable for the deaths of the performers in her business from drugs. She is a flawed candidate but will anyone bother to look at the other side of wrestling beyond the Undertaker character that appears on the McMahon family TV productions and house shows?

The democracy deserves an answer.

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