Dead wrestler's father blasts WWE

Michael Benoit, the father of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, speaks at a news conference in Hartford on Monday. Chris Benoit killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son in 2007, and his father is accusing former wrestling executive Linda McMahon of running for Senate in Connecticut to head off attempts to regulate the industry.
Michael Benoit, the father of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, speaks at a news conference in Hartford on Monday. Chris Benoit killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son in 2007, and his father is accusing former wrestling executive Linda McMahon of running for Senate in Connecticut to head off attempts to regulate the industry. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

In wrestling, it's called a "hotshot," a move designed to shock the audience, and it was attempted Monday by state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's campaign for the U.S. Senate against his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon.

Just over one week away from Election Day, the Democratic candidate flew the father of late wrestler Chris Benoit to Hartford to lay the blame for his son's violent death at the feet of the company that employed him, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the couple that ran it: Linda and Vince McMahon.

In a rambling, hour-long press conference, Mike Benoit said he believed that cumulative brain injuries his son suffered in the ring led him to kill his wife and son before hanging himself in 2007. He suggested that the McMahons have not taken the health and safety of their workers seriously, as the company and the candidate both claim.

"This is a caring CEO?" Benoit said. "This is what the state of Connecticut wants to send to Washington to look out for your interests?

"The only reason that woman wants to go to Washington is to protect the dollars that WWE makes" and to block any attempt to further regulate the working conditions and safety standards of her business, Benoit alleged.

After an appearance in Hartford Monday morning, before Benoit's press conference, McMahon told the Associated Press that she could understand Benoit's pain, but that he was "bitter."

"I can understand that his feelings are bitter, sad, wants to find an answer and would like to also find someone to blame," McMahon said. She then defended her company as treating wrestlers "incredibly well" through its drug-testing and wellness program.

Benoit, who lives in Canada, said the Blumenthal campaign had paid for his plane ticket and a hotel room in Hartford, but had not told him what to say.

The elder Benoit, who has become an outspoken critic of the WWE since his son's death, has campaigned for tougher regulation of the wrestling industry to prevent the brain damage from repeated concussions that he believes doomed his son.

If Chris Benoit had not suffered blows to the head in his wrestling career, his father said, "he would be alive today and I would not be in this room."

The McMahon campaign is a blessing in disguise, he said.

"I'm almost thankful this lady is running for the Senate," Benoit said. "Why? Because it has put her company right in the spotlight."

t.mann@theday.com

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