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By Stevie J. of www.angrymarks.com

If you’ve seen any of the news coverage since the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide (and it’s been pretty damn hard to avoid even if you try) you have no doubt heard over and over again about “the list.” Despite the fact this information is widely available from sources like About.com and Online World of Wrestling among others, many people have been taking credit for authoring or creating the list. Marc Mero has been the most prominent of those to take credit for this list, and was even acknowledged by multiple people as the creator during tonight’s Nancy Grace show on CNN. As much as I’d like to speak cynically about Mero trying to extend his 15 minutes (or is that 15 seconds) of fame in the squared circle in the wake of this tragedy, it would take the focus away from the grievous abuse and misuse of this list in and of itself.

Let’s at least start with a version of the list that’s largely accurate. Of the many versions that exist online the only one I’m willing to put a stamp of approval on right now exists at The Sun Online, the web presence of the popular UK tabloid. This list was compiled by wrestling historian John Lister and is arguably the one so many other experts have been cribbing from. Quite simply, the list contains the names of over 100 wrestlers who have died under the age of 50 in the last 10 years. At one point during Nancy Grace tonight the version of this list attributed to Mero was shown scrolling rapidly down the screen, too fast for anyone to analyze or scrutinize the factual accuracy.

The Sun’s list excels in accuracy by listing real names and ages for almost all performers as opposed to the kayfabed names pro wrestlers used in the ring. Furthermore this list distinguishes itself by listing THE CAUSES OF DEATH for these wrestlers, and this is where I really have a problem with the irresponsible form of news journalism practiced by Nancy Grace and others. Every time the “drugs, steroids, tragedy, horror” angle gets hammered home one more time on the news, we’re told about “the list” as evidence that the wrestling business and perhaps even WWE itself are complicit in so many people dying so young. The problem is that their very use of this list ends up being a smear on the names and careers of many people who died tragically WITHOUT drugs or steroids being involved. John ‘Earthquake’ Tenta passed away after a long battle with cancer. Owen Hart fell from a great height due to a poorly designed stunt entrance into a wrestling ringpost. Sylvester Ritter, b/k/a Junkyard Dog to his legions of fans, died as the result of a car accident. ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams was murdered, as was Frank ‘Bruiser Brody‘ Goodish. I could go on and on about how many of these names are not linked to drugs or steroids, let alone the WWE, but you can read the list for youself and see the facts.

That’s the problem with Nancy Grace, Geraldo Rivera, Bill O’Reilly and so many other people who purport to want “the truth” and yet are outright lying to the public at large. It’s grossly irresponsible to show this list on TV over and over again every time the subject of wrestling and drug abuse is debated. No one in the business or covering the business is denying that abuse of drugs, alcohol, prescription painkillers and illegal steroids is rampant and widespread. It does no service to their credibility to use the list to make the point when many of the men who tragically passed away before the age of 50 have nothing to do with Chris Benoit, let alone drug abuse. It’s shameful to smear their names in this way, it’s irresponsible to use their names to make a point they have nothing to do with, and it artificially inflates the death toll roll media pundits are trying to pin on sports entertainment. The next time some talking head like Nancy Grace or self-appointed watchdog like Marc Mero trots out “the list” take the time to make a phone call, send a fax or write an e-mail to the show you’re watching. Remind them that John Tenta and Owen Hart did not die of a drug overdose or steroid abuse. Someone needs to speak up for these men – they’re not around to do it themselves.