ARCHIVE 5/22/08: Tips for the Wrestling Media on How to Improve Your Benoit Coverage

Published May 19th, 2009, Uncategorized

Tips for the Wrestling Media on How to Improve Your Benoit Coverage

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The sad truth is that most wrestling news organs, many of which bristle at being labeled mere fan organs, have not distinguished themselves with their coverage of the aftermath of the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide. There was a flurry of good initial coverage, not all of which consisted exclusively of eye-rolling over Nancy Grace saying Benoit was depressed at being demoted from the Four Horsemen. Then coverage quickly gave way to business as usual – analysis of TV ratings down to the quarter-hour; storyline deconstruction to a fare-thee-well; a Ric Flair lovefest, which as far as I could tell mentioned not once the milestone of the first post-Benoit WrestleMania. (No one, for example, commented on how tasteless and fawning to his boss Chris Jericho was in March on Larry King Live when Benoit was quickly raised and even more quickly dismissed.)

For a branch of journalism trading disproportionately in gossip, a suddenly stern standard arose for how much out of the literally hundreds of thousands of words that pass weekly through the “wrestling journalism” mill was worth devoting to the numerous half-formed questions emerging from the public record of the Benoit police investigation.

Of course, saying so out loud invites your humble blogger to be called all kinds of names, but my scrawny frame is covered by thick skin. What’s more important is that the first anniversary of that horrific weekend in unincorporated Fayetteville, Georgia – June 22-24, 2007 – is approaching, and tomorrow always offers an opportunity to do things better. Toward that end, here’s a primer.

Muchnick Suggestion 1: When it comes to Benoit coverage, don’t kid yourself into believing that less is more. The idea that readers have “Benoit fatigue” in a tragically made-to-order tabloid story is a scoundrel’s argument. Like most things about pro wrestling, the argument is too clever by half. And like all forms of self-censorship, it translates at the end of the day into concealment, not exposure.

Muchnick Suggestion 2: The issue of whether the Raw tribute to Benoit was a work is long settled. The answer is yes – it was. How many at World Wrestling Entertainment, besides Vince McMahon, were in on the work? Beats the hell out of me, but that’s irrelevant. How many people were in on the Montreal screwjob in 1997?

Muchnick Suggestion 3: So move on, folks. The live question is how much more WWE knew about the grim unfolding scenario in Georgia both immediately after, and perhaps even prior to, the initial 911 call at 1:16 p.m. Monday, June 25. And if so, when did they know, what did they know, why did they seek that information, and what, if anything, did they do with it? I don’t have the answers to those questions, and may never pin down all or even any of them. But are they legitimate questions? Give me a break.

Muchnick Suggestion 4: Stop being so neurotic. This is not national security; it’s a story of an entertainment industry with a pandemic of young deaths, for which the sensational Benoit case provides an extraordinary window of scrutiny. There are a jillion directions fresh reporting could take. For starters, the two wrestlers who were sent text messages by Benoit in the wee morning hours of Sunday – yet, according to the WWE timeline, didn’t make them known to the top people in the company until Monday afternoon – are not like Voldemort in Harry Potter, “those-who-can’t-be-named.” They have names: Chavo Guerrero and Scott Armstrong.

To sum up: Let a hundred flowers bloom. Raw, unprocessed information is useless for telling truth to power. But so is no information. Stop playing rope-a-dope. Go for it.

Irv Muchnick