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Monday, July 02, 2007

Mainstream Media Misses the Mark

I have talked a bit about Nancy Grace and Shepard Smith in lieu of the Chris Benoit Tragedy. I have alluded to how WWE superstars are communicating through blogs and websites, while people like Brian Christopher and Lex Luger are brought on national TV in front of the mainstream audience for their opinions. However, the latest mainstream coverage I read astounds me.

Perhaps no one is better at sensationalizing the news than Bill O'Reilly. In the United States, there is certainly a liberal bias in the news. What do conservatives have as their answer to that? Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, the two most batshit crazy pundits I have ever seen.

Last night on "The O'Reilly Factor", we saw an additional example of the media's irresponsibility, as news networks scramble to somehow link professional wrestling to the murders of Nancy and Daniel Benoit and the suicide of Chris Benoit. Here is a peice of the transcript.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:* "Impact" segment tonight, Georgia authorities say professional wrestler *Chris Benoit *killed his wife, seven-year-old son,and then hung himself. The 40-year-old Benoit had a history of domestic violence, and cancelled a televised wrestling appearance just last Sunday because of personal reasons. Some suspect drug or steroid use may be involved in this case because *anabolic steroids* were found in his home. Joining us now from Chicago, former pro wrestler, *Jon Stewart*.

Now for as much as I know about professional wrestling, this one had me scratching my head. Jon Stewart? The Daily Show guy? Who the hell is Jon Stewart? I immediately went over to Wikipedia to further expand my wrestling mind, but shockingly even the mighty Wikipedia had no knowledge of him. On the show, Stewart immediately attempts to build credibility by making the following statements: "I've met him a couple times" followed by "I've known of him for 15 years."

Whoopdee crap Mr. Stewart, anyone who watched that international tag team tournament in WCW has more knowledge of him than you. You don't even need to go back to his time in Japan or Canada to outdo this so-called expert. Stewart insists that this is completely out of Benoit's character. You will likely hear that from most wrestlers and most wrestling fans, as legend tells us of how respectable and caring Benoit had been for the duration of his career.

O'Reilly immediately begins blasting him with loaded questions. "OK, but you did know that he was on steroids. And you know, once you get into that world of narcotics, illegal drugs, whatever you want to call them, your personality changes. Correct?"

Stewart's response? Yes.

The question is, was he responding to the first or second question. Well, if you are a 40 year old non-wrestling fan watching the O'Reilly Factor as you do every night, you probably think this is evidence of the evil drug abuser Benoit was. If you are a wrestling fan, you know that this guy has no business even being asked questions. Stewart later clarifies that he has never seen Benoit take steroids. That is likely because he only met Benoit at an autograph signing.

One of the rules of being interviewed is to never take the bait, and O'Reilly has Stewart as his personal wrestling representative puppet for the better part of the interview. O'Reilly speaks in long paragraphs and Stewart responds in one word confirmations. Stewart then cries out that the industry has to do something.

So who the hell is Jon Stewart? Well, we quickly learn of his agenda
of getting airtime in the face of the Benoit tragedy. This guy is the promoter of the new AWA. "at the AWA, if we have any suspected drug issues with any of our talent, they are immediately terminated that day. I don't even bother with a drug test. I don't want to see you around my company."

For those who don't know, the American Wrestling Association was at one point as big as what was then known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) which later turned into WWE. They broke in a lot of the best the business has ever seen, but when Vince Jr. took control of the then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) now World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and expanded nationally with a better TV product, the AWA could not compete and eventually folded in 1991.

In 1996, former AWA workers Dale Gagne (actually Gagner, and not part of the Gagne legacy that actually founded the AWA) and this douchebag, Jonnie Stewart relicensed the AWA name in the state of Minnesota and the AWA opened up as an independent promotion called AWA Superstars of Wrestling. They have taken it upon themselves to rewrite actual AWA history, giving Hulk Hogan not one but two former AWA title victories in order to establish more credibility.

In April 26, 2007 it was revealed that WWE has seeked legal action against Dale Gagne for the use of the AWA name, citing trademark infringement, as WWE owns the AWA tape library, so it's very likely both Stewart and Gagne have as many nice things to say about WWE as Lex Luger.

O'Reilly continues by stating that 60 professional wrestlers aged 45 or younger have died within the last ten years, and Stewart confirms this. This is a completely bullshit statistic. If they are are counting 60 guys since 97, they are certainly not just including active mainstream American wrestlers, and under those circumstances the numbers could be much higher.

There is certainly no data on every independent, Mexican, Japanese, and European wrestler to die in the past ten years. I listed the really significant younger deaths of professional wrestling in the article on my thoughts on the Benoit tragedy. Unfortunately, it was a high number, but it certainly was not 60, and they didn't all come from the past ten years.

Stewart then returns to shilling his product. "My AWA - my woman's champion, 47 years old, Sherri Martel, died last week of an apparent overdose. Bill, it's madness." I wonder if Sherri Martel even knew she was the champ. I seriously doubt Hogan knows he's a former two time AWA champion. Freaking Evan Karagais through down their belt and walked out on the new AWA, and I don't believe that he's the only one.

So there you have it, two nutbags trying to determine how much they can blame WWE for Chris Benoit's actions. That, my friends, is mainstream journalism at its finest. If there is any industry in America that truly needs reformed, look no further than your major news outlets.

4 comments:

Tim Haught said...

I told you at PWP, we create controversy. I actually received a response from AWA Vice President Jon Stewart about this article. Check it out:

Tim,

I was directed to your blog about my appearance on Fox News. I am sorry that, apparently, I have ruined your week. Will you forgive me? I guess since you do not know me, my twenty years in wrestling have been a dream. Will you tell Pat Tanaka that I guess we were both dreaming when we worked for Jarrett in 1986 and we ate, drove and worked with each other....I am sure he'll be interested in that newsflash. I guess you can tell that to Rowdy, Slaughter, Dusty and Mick Foley too.....we were all dreaming in 2006. I guess the fifty matches for the AWA on ESPN were made by a evil CIA team.

I am sorry that resurrecting the old AWA out of bankruptcy hurts your wrestling feelings also. Apparently..the Federal Trademark Office and the State of Minnesota would like to talk to you about how we "stole" the name.

Sorry for not being on Wikipeida....I WAS. My page was vandalized by two fans SO bad that an Editor from California removed it. Sorry...should I get my family attorney on the case?

Seriously though......you are right about one thing....I need to get more specific about my talking points. All I tried to say is:

1. I met Chris in passing in Japan. But like a young worker, whom I have never met, that quotes my interviews word for word when I worked for Verne Gagne on ESPN....I know alot about Chris. He was the Cal Ripken of wrestling. (work ethic, durability, dedication, gentlemen)

2. Wrestling, Vince, steroids and drugs are not soley to blame....BUT....if you have inner demons or psychological problems working as a pro wrestler might bring them to the surface faster than working as a manager for Best Buy. Does that make sense?

3. It is none of my business if a wrestler wants to destroy his life BUT when tow innocent people are murdered...the gloves have to come off and anyone with the guts to expose the dark side of this business has a moral responsibility to come forward.

There are sweethearts in this business.....like Tanaka. But there are also people worse than Satan. The business can be Utopia at times but more times than not, (especially in the 80's and 90's) the business can make you feel like Charlie Sheen in Platoon or Ralph Machio in The Karate Kid...tortured, tormented with no one to turn to. Being in wrestling is sometimes like running with a pack of vicious wolves. Talk to Tanaka about the "biz" for ten minutes....your jaw will drop open.

Thank you for allowing me to explain myself....I will try to take your criticism and apply it when I go on FOX Network TV (not cable) this Sunday at 9:00CST and the Jay Thomas Show on Monday on Sirius radio.

Cordially,

Jon Stewart
Vice President
AWA Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
jonalanstewart.com
AWASTARS.com


Here is my response to Jon:

You didn't ruin my week. I simply stated that you are not an authority on the Benoit situation. The whole thing seemed to be opportunism at it's worst on both sides.

The only issue I have with you and the e-mail you sent is when you say:

"I am sorry that resurrecting the old AWA out of bankruptcy hurts your wrestling feelings also. Apparently..the Federal Trademark Office and the State of Minnesota would like to talk to you about how we "stole" the name."

That implies that I used the word stole in my article as a direct quote. No where in my article did I use the word stole. In my opinion, you are trying to make a name off of another promotions legacy. I would say whether or not that is good or bad, but quite frankly I am fairly indifferent. Nothing having to do with your appearance on Fox News, your wrestling promotion, nor your e-mail "ruined my week" nor "hurt my wrestling feelings."

It's unfortunate that you want to put yourself in the public eye but cannot take the criticism that comes from being a public figure.

I appreciate that you took the time to actually respond. That's actually kind of cool. I probably have the same amount of credibility in talking about you as I feel you have talking about Benoit. You and I seemingly agree on a lot of the situation when your talking points are clear. Bill O'Reilly makes it his job to twist people's words and ask loaded questions, so I certainly don't blame you for the contents of the interview.

I am really happy that my article got to you and got a response, because it means that I am really doing what I view is my job.

I have absolutely nothing against you personally. I just think that the media has been irresponsible with their reporting, and even moreso than yourself with the choices of people like Luger and Chyna as "experts." The media is attempting to paint a picture in which the WWE is somehow to blame, and they are obviously choosing interview subjects who would have some reason to be at odds with Vince McMahon and his company.

I really did not mean to downplay your contributions to the business. I have more respect than that. I am just trying to write interesting articles in touch with public opinion.

I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming TV and radio appearances, and with the promotion of the AWA.

Thanks for reading my article.


And Jon's final response to me:

Tim,

Thanks for the reply. Please know that I was "tongue-n-cheek" when I wrote that I "ruined" your day. Of course I didn't. You where just so hostile in your remarks that it was a little shocking. I ran for US Congress in 2000.....I can take criticism, but just because I was not a famous wrestler, does not mean that I haven't witnessed the business first hand for twenty years and am able to expound on the "lifestyle" for the media and public to digest whether it is about Chris, Vince or anyone else. I was asked to talk about the "biz"...plain and simple.

I went on TV not to "look at myself on tape" but to wake up the public and media who do not have a clue on our business...you must agree with that. I am not beholden to Vince so I can talk the truth, and I am an expert on the industry and because of my degree in Psychology, a knowledgeable person on mental health. The amalgam of this business helped Chris' demons come to the surface.....and help contribute to the deaths of over 60 guys. If no one spoke up, I turned down the opportunity to shed light on the industry and this happens again....what does that say about me? I am a selfish coward. I mentioned the AWA once...in passing, not "hey go to our web site" and bloggers acuse me of "shilling"...it is just crazy.

Wrestling is one of my life endeavors...I have a right as a promoter and worker of twenty years to speak up....that is why I am doing a "media tour" for lack of a better word. So that maybe the business can go back to the days when the boys drank a little after the matches, wrestled 10 times a month and wrestled for twenty or thirty years. Additionally, I am currently trying to start a Wrestling Performers Association, much like a health and pension fund for the NFL, so exposure and pressure by guys talking the truth, might help Vince agree to fund this Association....thus helping a Snuka, Iron Sheik and future wrestling retirees.

I just wanted to explain that....and thank you again Tim for your gentlemanly response in your previous email....I appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Jon Stewart

Kariyanine said...

Tim,

The reason the media is having the likes of Luger and Chyna on is because the WWE has put a media embargo on their talent. The only people who can interview WWE talent is the WWE. Luger and Chyna are big names and people know of them so they are the ones that are going to get air time. Sure we would rather hear from guys in the WWE but at this point we are only going to get the likes of Luger and Chyna.

Tim Haught said...

Decent point Chris, but there is pro WWE talent out there that is not under contract that knows Benoit better. Jericho is the only one that is really pro WWE that was close to Benoit that has been in the media, but what about other wrestlers who have left on good terms like the Big Show?

Jim said...

I pretty much agree with you about Jon Stewart and I didn't have a clue who he was either despite a fairly good knowledge of pro wrestling history. Still, based on his exchange with you he seems like a pretty cool dude...