WWE Distances Itself From Benoit Tragedy

The suicide of wrestler Chris Benoit, whom authorities believe killed his wife and seven-year-old son before hanging himself in the family’s Georgia home, has thrown WWE into a defensive posture as it attempts to distance itself from Benoit’s actions and the renewed taint of steroids.

In a detailed statement released Tuesday night, the WWE posits that “all drugs found in (Benoit’s) house were believed to be legal prescriptions.”

Several news organizations are reporting that authorities found anabolic steroids in the house that may have been prescribed.

“Steroids were not, and could not, be related to the cause of death (asphyxiation),” the WWE statement continues. “The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage. The wife's feet and hands were bound and she was asphyxiated, not beaten to death. By the account of the authorities, there were substantial periods of time between the death of the wife and the death of the son, again suggesting deliberate thought, not rage. The presence of a Bible by each is also not an act of rage.”

In a second statement, the company released the contents of five text messages Benoit sent to WWE coworkers early Sunday morning. Four of the five messages contained Benoit’s address and one instructed recipients where to find the family’s dogs: “The dogs are in the enclosed pool area. Garage side door is open”

The WWE – a publicly traded company with a fan base that includes millions of children – maintains that Benoit passed an “independently administered” drug test in April 2007.

Benoit’s wife Nancy, who was a manager/performer on WWE programs, was previously married to the WWE writer Kevin Sullivan, who in the ‘90s concocted a storyline in which she had an affair with Benoit. The couple divorced when life began to imitate art.

The WWE pre-empted a planned three-hour Raw on Monday night to pay tribute to Benoit. But on Tuesday night’s ECW on Sci Fi Channel, McMahon reversed that stance, telling fans that there would be “no more mention of Mr. Benoit tonight,” rather he continued, the program would be “dedicated to everyone who has been affected by this terrible incident.”

Benoit’s murder/suicide also scuttled the controversial “Is McMahon dead” scenario that had been playing out over the last three weeks and had angered (and confused) some WWE fans.

“It …really goes beyond what the (WWE) should be and used to be,” wrote a fan on the Phantasytour.com message board. “It’s a horrible story line and just crosses the line.”