A rumor is swirling that World Wrestling Entertainment star Randy Orton attempted suicide within the last year. Very well-placed wrestling sources tell me that the rumor is true. In the wake of the June murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and the scandal involving scads of WWE performers who ordered steroids and human growth hormone from the Internet gray-market dealer Signature Pharmacy, this is serious stuff.
It’s already clear that WWE’s response to the Signature revelations — generated by the district attorney in Albany, New York, and reported by Sports Illustrated and others — is a joke. Some vague number of the miscreant wrestlers, not named, were “suspended,” but the suspension appears to have consisted of simply being downgraded for a few weeks in TV storylines.
From the same evidence, Randy Orton was not touched at all. That is more than a little strange. Orton’s Signature Pharmacy order marked, at the very least, his second “strike” under WWE’s so-called wellness policy, which would have called for a 60-day (rather than a 30-day) suspension.
The suicide whispers mark the problem as more than a game of “gotcha” or even taste (Orton acquired the gimmick “Legend Killer” after WWE blithely turned Eddie Guerrero’s 2005 death into just another “angle”). It’s a matter of life and death. (Subsequent to the first publication of this item, readers have pointed out that the Orton actually began using the Legend Killer gimmick well before Eddie Guerrero died. It is both accurate and fair to note that the gimmick was applied with a special new level of tastelessness subsequent to Guerrero’s death.)
Orton, 27, is a third-generation wrestler. He is engaged to marry Samantha Speno, a part-time gymnastics teacher, this fall. Last year Randy and Samantha moved into a country-club estate in High Ridge, Missouri (suburban St. Louis), complete with a gym, a hot tub, and four decks.
Over to you, WWE.
Irv Muchnick sent along the following:
Brian Stull invited me onto his “Stranglehold” show Tuesday night on KFNS radio in St. Louis to discuss the blog report on Randy Orton’s rumored suicide attempt.
Off the air, Stull had spoken with Cowboy Bob Orton, Randy’s father. Bob Orton told Stull the report was false. Bob Orton also said he had spoken with his son, and Randy said he had no idea where this rumor started.
I have little doubt that the story is substantially true, though the time frame of my original blog item was mistaken. The Randy Orton incident, whatever it was, occurred in the spring of 2006, shortly after he was suspended by World Wrestling Entertainment for “unprofessional conduct,” and a few months before he was suspended a second time, in August of last year, for failing a drug test.
I compared notes on this with another journalist, who not only has unimpeachable credentials but also had looked into the same story last year on the basis of a tip from a completely different direction. Independently, we each had the name of the St. Louis area hospital where Orton was said to have been taken (and, no, it’s not some generic name like “St. Louis Hospital”).
Likeliest explanation: Randy was depressed and OD’d on something.
The Orton camp’s contention that there is neither smoke nor fire here is, sadly, not the case. Indeed, WWE’s vice president of talent relations (now senior vice president) John Laurinaitis was concerned enough about the rumor last year to investigate it himself. Laurinaitis talked to Randy and others, and concluded that there had not been a suicide attempt. I would say that such a finding is hardly dispositive, given the company’s nonexistent reservoir of credibility these days.
Like his many fans, I hope Randy Orton will be OK. If he is relying solely or largely on the WWE wellness policy to regulate his drug use and mental hygiene, however, I am not confident on that score.
Suicide attempt or not
- and I stand by the report that there was one in the spring of 2006 WWE needs to explain why Randy Orton was not suspended for 60 days upon exposure of his role in the recent Signature Pharmacy dragnet. The explanation that Orton’s August 2006 suspension already covered this wellness policy violation does not wash, since the evidence shows that he continued to receive Signature shipments as late as February 2007.
Are these questions impertinent three months after the Chris Benoit horror?
Or would a fair-minded observer agree that they are newly urgent?