Editor’s note: I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Benoit. Linda McMahon wants to be a U.S. Senator not to protect the people, but to protect the family business from federal regulation.
YOUR VIEW: MICHAEL BENOIT
Watching from afar, I’ve observed with interest the U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut because of my experiences with Linda McMahon and her business, World Wrestling Entertainment. While she spends millions of dollars earned through her professional wrestling empire to flood Connecticut’s airwaves and mailboxes promoting her Republican candidacy, state voters should know there is another side to McMahon and the WWE.
My son, Chris Benoit, 40, was one of WWE’s top superstars. In June 2007, our lives changed dramatically, when he tragically killed his wife, son and himself. The press jumped on steroids as the cause of his actions. But tests showed that brain damage in the form of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, not steroids, was responsible for our loss. CTE, caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, can bring on serious disorders such as a loss of emotional control, addictions to drugs and alcohol, depression, aggressive and violent behavior.
Most people view wrestling as fake and the McMahon family pushed that theory to avoid regulation. But in its lust for higher ratings and dollars, WWE began demanding that performers use more weapons and dangerous stunts in wrestling matches. Although matches are rigged and scripted, the harsh physical abuse in the form of blunt force steel chair shots to the head and power bombs through tables onto cement floors are real. I believe that this change in the industry is responsible for the majority of deaths it experienced in the last 20 years.
Another WWE wrestler, Andrew Martin, was 33 when he died. What did Andrew Martin have in common with my son? He was one of many of McMahon’s former wrestlers who died prematurely, and he was the second wrestler to have his brain examined for signs of CTE after death. Martin had the same shocking brain damage as my son. The human skull is not designed to withstand and protect the brain from the abuse the McMahon’s insisted their wrestlers endure. Yet, since the late ’80s, these are the matches into which the McMahon’s have pushed their talent.
USA Today in 2004 published research stating that wrestlers are 20 times more likely to die before the age of 45 than are pro football players. What has the McMahon family done to make pro wrestling safer? They will spend up to $50 million to get Linda elected to a position where she could head off any effort to regulate their business.
The WWE and Linda McMahon evade any responsibility for the early deaths that their industry suffers at an astronomical rate. After the Martin tests were completed, I sought to educate the McMahons about the scientific findings on brain trauma and how their wrestling stunts could cause this serious and fatal health issue. They were having none of it. It was clear, the McMahons were more interested in making hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of these wrestlers, whom they regard as little more than circus animals to be ridden until their value expires.
On CNN in 2007, Vince McMahon, Linda’s husband, said they had stopped wrestlers from smashing each other’s heads with chairs. That practice, however, was not ended until January of this year — scores of “head shots” later. There are still all sorts of weapons and stunts that the McMahons use to equally dangerous effect. For a sport that is “fake,” there is an all too disturbing reality.
You might say that these young wrestlers make their own choices, and that is true. And the McMahons entice them with prospects for fame, wealth and glory that few achieve. If this were any other business or sport, there would be congressional hearings and laws passed to reform this dirty and dangerous enterprise. The McMahons have steadfastly held that wrestlers are just independent contractors and not entitled to health care benefits, pensions or unionization to represent their best interests.
This is how Linda McMahon made the money she uses for her Senate race. This is how she ran her business. This is the true character behind the fancy, Hollywood advertisements. I pray the people of Connecticut do not allow her to buy her way into the world’s most distinguished legislative body.
•Michael Benoit lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada.