Muchnick’s Pro Wrestling Year in Review

WWE’s McMahon Fares Well in Connecticut Survivor Series (full text)
December 5, 2009
Senate Candidate Linda McMahon, Jeff Hardy, Umaga, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit
December 7, 2009

In which we breach wrestling’s only taboo: reality.

January 2

Congressman Henry Waxman, whose House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has sat for more than a year on its investigation of pro wrestling, forwards transcripts of its old interviews of Vince McMahon and others to the lame-duck Bush administration’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The National Football League refuses to certify Waxman’s punt as the longest in history because he was not wearing a helmet and shoulder pads.

Among other things, we learn from the Waxman investigation that World Wrestling Entertainment several months earlier had appointed a new testosterone Therapeutic Use Exemption consultant – a doctor working out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s “Shadyside” campus. This is appropriate, for the doctor’s predecessor WWE consultant had told the Waxman investigators, “There’s shadiness in almost every case.”

January 12

Lanny Kean, 48, “Cousin Junior” in the 1980s WWF tag team the Hillbillies, dies of a heart attack in Jamestown, Kentucky. Kean recently completed a drug rehabilitation program offered by WWE to all ex-talent. In his interview with the Waxman committee staff, Vince McMahon had said his motivation for underwriting drug rehab for former wrestlers could be summarized in “two words: public relations.”

The same day, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell nominates Linda McMahon, WWE’s chief executive officer, to the state Board of Education, and her appointment is later confirmed by the legislature.

January 16

Independent wrestler Paul Fuchs (“Paul E. Normous”), 33 years old, who had a bit role in the new movie The Wrestler, is found dead at his parents’ home in Sloatsburg, New York.

January 20

Rick Warren, a protégé of W.A. Criswell — the Von Erich family’s pastor at the First Baptist Church of Dallas – delivers the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration.

March 13

Andrew “Test” Martin, 33, is found dead in his condo in Tampa. “Test” – get it?

May 12

Dr. Phil Astin, who overprescribed painkillers, mood medications, and steroids for the late Chris Benoit, the late Johnny Grunge, the late Sherri Martel, and many others (including wrestlers Rey Mysterio, Buff Bagwell, Mark Jindrak, and Hardcore Holly) is sentenced to ten years in federal prison.


Batista suffers a torn bicep that requires surgery. In 2003 Batista missed action with a torn triceps; later in the year, while rehabbing the injury, he re-tore the triceps “in a freak accident while jogging with his wife.” Fans are shocked, shocked, when I assert out loud, rather than out of the side of my mouth, that these are steroid injuries.

The same month, the Raw TV show on USA cable incorporates the angle that Donald Trump purchased the brand from WWE. The network supports the shtick with a deadpan press release. WWE’s stock price drops, perhaps because some investors didn’t get the joke. Fox News questions whether securities laws were violated. On the Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 website update, Bryan Alvarez comments, “[T]here aren’t more important things to do in the financial world?”

June 10

The family of Nancy Benoit files a civil wrongful-death lawsuit against Dr. Astin and drug “Distributors X, Y, and Z.” WWE is not named.

July 22

Damien Steele, 34, a former indie and WWE development wrestler who retired in 2006, dies of a brain aneurysm.

August 27

Indie wrestler Peter Goodman, 29, dies of a painkiller overdose.

September 11

Jeff Hardy is arrested in North Carolina on charges of trafficking in steroids and prescription painkillers.

September 15

Linda McMahon resigns as CEO of WWE and opens her candidacy for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut.

September 22

Indie wrestler Matt “Riot” Lowry, 22, dies of head trauma.

November 5

Indie wrestler Adam “Firestorm” Dykes, 32, commits suicide. In a black coincidence, I was the last person interviewed by Dykes on the podcast he co-hosted with Ian Hamilton. (The show was taped the day before and broadcast the day after he killed himself.)

December 2

Under pressure from Congress, largely generated by the research and publicity efforts of ex-wrestler Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute, the NFL announces a major policy change in the protocols for players returning to action from concussions: they are no longer permitted to practice or play again the same day even if the symptoms have apparently cleared. The NFL also has fired the chairs of its concussion oversight and advisory committee.


Hulk Hogan, 56, and Ric Flair, 60, return from their Australia tour. Hogan will start running TNA and Flair may be headed there.

Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, 36, returns from the Hogan tour and dies of a heart attack. Fatu’s WWE contract “was terminated on June 11, 2009,” the company helpfully reminds everyone in its statement of condolence.

But things could be worse: the U.S. military reports that the suicide rate of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan doubled in recent years. No wonder Linda McMahon has made the cut to the final two candidates in the 2010 Republican Senate primary.

1 Comment

  1. kjharris says:

    I would have mentioned Mitsuharu Misawa’s death on June 13th. Though he rarely worked in America, his death due to a cervical spinal cord injury suffered while wrestling was probably the most extreme example of the pressure wrestlers are under to work hurt and the dire consequences that working hurt can lead to.