ARCHIVE 9/2/07: Bracing for a Benoit Bombshell

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The investigations of pro wrestling’s death culture can expect to take an intriguing new turn this week with new revelations by Michael Benoit, the father of wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife, their son, and himself over a weekend in late June.

Bracing for a Benoit Bombshell

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

The investigations of pro wrestling’s death culture can expect to take an intriguing new turn this week with new revelations by Michael Benoit, the father of wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife, their son, and himself over a weekend in late June.

Michael Benoit is scheduled to appear Thursday, September 6, on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” and “Nightline.”

In recent days the focus has been on upcoming Congressional investigations and on the suspension by World Wrestling Entertainment of wrestlers found by the Albany, New York, district attorney’s office to have placed Internet orders for steroids, human growth hormone, and ancillary drugs from Signature Pharmacy of Jupiter, Florida.

At the same time, however, the Benoit family and that of Chris Benoit’s murdered wife, the former Nancy Toffolino, have begun legal skirmishes over the disposition of the wrestler’s multimillion-dollar Georgia home and other estate assets. (Benoit also left behind two children from his first marriage.) A potential dispute has arisen over the order of wife Nancy and son Daniel’s deaths, as this could impact the application of a Georgia “slayer” statute that prohibits murderers and their heirs from benefiting from such crimes.

It was in that context that Michael Benoit last week raised before the court the issue of Chris Benoit’s “diminished capacity,” and this no doubt will be at least part of what he intends to reveal in his upcoming ABC interviews. “Diminished capacity” could refer to the effects that steroids and other drugs played in Chris Benoit’s mental state. But our sources suggest that there may be an additional element: chronic brain injury from the traumas of this wrestler’s especially reckless performance style, which included diving head butts from the top rope.

Chris Nowinski, a former wrestler who has devoted himself to research and education in this area, was quoted in early media reports as believing that a form of post-concussion syndrome may be part of the explanation for Benoit’s murderous rampage. Nowinski asked the authorities in Georgia to examine Benoit’s brain tissue. Nowinski at first was rebuffed; later a brain examination became part of the postmortem studies, but it wasn’t clear whether it would reveal much because of the advanced state of decomposition. (In addition to the lapse before the discovery of the family’s bodies, it was a very hot weekend in Fayette County, around 93 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air conditioning in the house had been turned off.)

Of course, if there is indeed evidence of a brain-injury syndrome among wrestlers, and of specific indications with this particular wrestler that were ignored, they will lengthen the list of metaphorical headaches for World Wrestling Entertainment.

Irvin Muchnick

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