(Updated 7:33 p.m.) The father of Chris Benoit, a pro wrestler who killed himself and his family in 2007, claims he’s never met Richard Blumenthal, but said it was Blumenthal’s U.S. Senate campaign that flew him into Hartford Monday to discuss his personal experiences with the WWE and the wrestling industry.
Michael Benoit, who spoke for close to an hour before taking a question, alleged that former wrestling executive and U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon is only running for the Senate to head off any attempt to regulate the industry.
Benoit says it was the numerous concussions, which caused the chronic traumatic encephalopathy that led his son to kill his wife and his 7-year-old son.
Benoit, who lives in Canada, spoke to a group of reporters Monday at the Hartford Hilton.
As he recounted the last few years of his son’s life and the events which followed his death, Benoit admitted he may be coming off as the “bitter father,” but he’s determined to make changes to the wrestling industry. And he said McMahon’s decision to run for U.S. Senate may have been a blessing in disguise, since it gave him a platform to talk about the McMahon’s and the WWE.
He said the McMahon’s are responsible for helping deregulate the wrestling industry and limited drug testing after Vince McMahon was indicted for steroids in 1993.
“They took away the safety net,” Benoit said. “Why on earth would you lobby against drug testing?” He said even though the WWE has implemented a Wellness Program, the wrestling industry still has no oversight.
While a high amount of steroids was found in his son’s body, Benoit said it’s unclear whether those were taken before the murders or before the suicide which required his son to lift more than 200 pounds of weights in order to hang himself. Benoit said it was the repeated concussions with no time to heal that led to his son’s brain damage and a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Benoit believes the brain trauma is responsible for his son’s death and the events leading up to it.
“Since 2008, WWE has taken significant steps in the area of head trauma,“ WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman said. “If a WWE performer shows symptoms of a concussion or has suffered a concussion, then that WWE performer will not be cleared for a return to wrestling until he/she passes an ImPACT test and is cleared clinically by a certified physician.” Click here to read the company’s Wellness Policy.
Asked to respond to Benoit’s press conference Monday, McMahon’s campaign sent out a statement saying: “Chris Benoit murdered his family, and he alone is responsible for that. It is outrageous and reprehensible that Dick Blumenthal’s campaign is now suggesting someone else is responsible for this heinous crime.”
“The public overwhelmingly rejects the irresponsible notion that a murderer’s behavior ought to be excused and instead someone else should be held accountable,” Ed Patru, McMahon‘s communications director, said. “And frankly, it’s deeply troubling that Dick Blumenthal would take this governing philosophy to Washington and write laws in a way that reflects this thinking.”
But Benoit, who has never met Blumenthal, said it’s the McMahon’s actions in the wake of his son’s death that speak louder than words. He said he wouldn’t have shown up Monday if the Blumenthal campaign had coached him or asked him to say anything specific.
“The people of this state want somebody who cares not for the people that work for her to go and represent them in Washington?” Benoit said. “My belief. Mike Benoit’s belief. The only reason that lady wants to go to Washington is to protect the dollars the WWE makes.”
Benoit’s press conference ebbed and flowed between his personal experience with the WWE and the McMahon’s to the deregulation of the industry back to the death of his son.
“We didn’t get a card, a letter, a phone call, flowers nothing from the CEO of the WWE. And who was the CEO? Linda McMahon,” said Benoit. “This is the person that the State of Connecticut is thinking about sending to the Senate of the United States.”
Benoit said the McMahon’s knew his son had died because the Sunday after he was found by authorities, the McMahon’s ran a tribute show to him. He said tribute shows are some of the companies highest grossing shows.
More than 10 days after his son’s death Benoit said he did receive a phone message from Vince McMahon, but he never returned the call. To add insult to injury, Benoit said his son is still owed $40,000 to $50,000 for his last three weeks of performances. He said he hasn’t filed a lawsuit to recover the money, but when Benoit’s two surviving children are over the age of 18 they may be able to go after it.