More on Lance Cade, McMahon and the fate of wrestlers

Thanks to a flurry of interviews given after his release in April from the WWE, there's lots of first-person detail from Lance McNaught, aka Lance Cade, about the nature of life as a pro wrestler, especially one struggling his way up from the developmental stage to the spotlight of Monday Night RAW.

McNaught died earlier this month, after struggles with a prescription drug addiction and a WWE-funded rehab stint, apparently of heart failure.

(Here's today's story on the bad blood between McNaught's family and Linda McMahon over the Senate candidate's comments about the wrestler's death.

Here's one: Health insurance and the career wrestler

In one section of his interview with Kenny Bolin, a wrestling manager who worked with McNaught early in his career and who recorded a rambling, profane and intriguing podcast interview with him in April, McNaught talks about the unsure mid-point of his professional development.

McNaught and his wife were living in Cincinatti, he tells Bolin, when he received word that he would have to start wrestling in Louisville, Ky., home of Ohio Valley Wrestling, then a developmental division of the WWE. But there was a problem: wrestlers don't have health insurance, and McNaught's wife, Tanya, was pregnant with one of the couple's two daughters.

Tanya had a job, McNaught said, and that's how he and the expected child would be covered for health care.

"Now we have to move to Louisville," he said. "Well, we can't. How are we going to pay for this baby to come with no health insurance?"

The solution for the McNaughts: Lance McNaught said he commuted, six days a week, from Cincinatti to Louisville, a distance of about 100 miles.

It's an intriguing point mainly because we sometimes hear from people (Linda McMahon, for instance) who suggest that coverage of her business record at the WWE is happening in lieu of reporting on "the issues." Seems like access to health insurance -- and especially the complex arrangements families make in order to secure coverage through an employer -- is very much an issue that either McMahon or Dick Blumenthal will face in the U.S. Senate, particularly if Republicans pick up enough Congressional seats that repeal or gutting of the Affordable Care Act becomes more than a daydream for conservatives.

Two: "Eddie and Chris," but which Eddie and Chris?

A reader writes about today's story on McNaught's post-WWE interviews and the family's feelings about the company's reaction to his death. A wrestling fan, the reader zeroed in on a quote from an interview McNaught gave April 5, to PWInsider.com, a subscription-only wrestling site.

In it, McNaught expands on his allegation that WWE "says one thing and does another" in caring for wrestlers who battle addiction and health problems.

(The WWE strongly disputes that characterization, noting their payment for McNaught's drug treatment, among other things.)

In that segment, McNaught refers to "media attention that this has gotten since Eddie and Chris" died.

Given the timing of the interview and McNaught's release, I interpreted that as a reference to the two most recent former WWE performers to have died untimely deaths: Chris Klucsarits (aka "Chris Kanyon") who died of an apparent suicide at 40, and Eddie Fatu (aka "Umaga") who died of a heart attack.

But the reader makes a convincing argument -- given McNaught's mention of "media attention" -- that he's actually referring to a different "Eddie" and a different "Chris," two wrestlers who had also died relatively recently, and prematurely.

Those would be Eddie Guerrero, who died of acute heart failure in 2005, and Chris Benoit, who killed his wife and son before taking his own life in 2007.

There is, sadly, no way to tell now specifically who McNaught meant (I just listened again to that portion of the tape, and the context does not make it clear) but I think the reader makes a good point in noting that the earlier deaths were more high-profile, particularly Benoit's, and that they were both still under contract to WWE when they died, whereas Fatu and Klucsarits had already been released, in part because of their recurrent addiction problems.

My correspondent concludes:

"Shocking, isn't it, that the names 'Eddie' and 'Chris' can each refer to more than one wrestler who has prematurely died in the last few years?"

Three: A WWE rebuttal

Talking to WWE's spokesman Rob Zimmerman last night, we went around and around on how to formulate a layman's version of the central message of their statement in response to McNaught. My version went essentially like this: The company enforces its testing, offers help to those who need it, but ultimate responsibility falls on individuals not to violate the rules and to take care of themselves.

And so Zimmerman and WWE point to this quote from a previous interview with Lance McNaught/Cade, after he was released from his first contract for an apparent drug violation, and before he eventually earned his way back into the company's good graces and was rehired.

"Well, as far as the release goes, I’m going to flat out admit there's no one else to blame for what happened but Lance Cade," he said, back in 2008. "And there’s only one person who has to deal with that right now and that's Lance Cade. ... (W)hat happened was my mistake."

So, does that put the lie to what he said later, after his second stint with the company? Does it undermine his description of the wrestling world as one in which it is essentially impossible not to rely on chemicals -- painkillers or steroids -- to get ahead? You be the judge.

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