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CNN Larry King Live

Wrestler Kills Wife, Son & Himself

Aired July 09, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, what made pro wrestling champion Chris Benoit snap?
Why did this in the ring good guy kill his wife and their young son and then hang himself?

Chris Benoit's good friends and fellow wrestling celebrities tell us what they know about his life and what they think may have gone so tragically wrong.

Joining us, WWE superstar John Cena, talking exclusively with me; former pro wrestling champion, Bret "Hitman" Hart, who knew Chris Benoit for years; and Benoit's former pal, former WWE star Chris Jericho.

Plus, we'll get the latest from the attorneys for the doctor who federal authorities say prescribed Benoit a 10-month supply of steroids every three or four weeks for a year.

All that and much more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

The wrestling world and its fans still reeling from last month's suicide and double murder involving WWE champion and star Chris Benoit. His friends, colleagues and law enforcement are trying to figure out exactly what happened at his Georgia home the weekend of June 22nd.

Benoit apparently strangled his wife Nancy and suffocated their 7-year-old son Daniel and then hanged himself.

We begin with John Cena, the WWE champion and superstar. He knew Chris Benoit professionally.

Bret "Hitman" Hart is in Calgary, Canada. He is the former pro wrestling star, who knew Chris Benoit for several years. In fact, Chris started with Bret's father -- his wrestling company -- in Canada. And in 1999, you remember, Bret's brother Owen died tragically, falling to his death in Kansas City during a stunt for a Pay-Per-View wrestling event.

And here in Los Angeles, Chris Jericho, a very close friend of Chris Benoit, former WWE star. He held six different titles and he's author of "A Lion's Tale: Around the World In Spandex."

John, what did you make of this? How did you hear of it?


KING: Larry.

CENA: Larry, we were actually in Corpus Christi, Texas getting ready to do our regular Monday night "Raw" broadcast and it really just really caught everyone by surprise. We heard of it about two hours before we went on the air. And it was such sudden and disastrous news that the right thing to do was to cancel the show. And it really, really hit everybody like a ton of bricks.

KING: To your knowledge, was anything troubling him?

CENA: No, absolutely not. And I think, if you ask anybody who knew Chris -- I strictly knew him professionally. But the guy was iron clad. He was real quiet. He kept to himself. He had ultimate respect for his workplace. He was a model employee. I have no idea where any of this came from.

KING: And you're in a violent sport, but I understand he was not a violent person.

CENA: No. He was a great guy. He was a great guy to be around. And that's -- that's the, ultimately, the strangest thing about this whole thing. No one saw this coming.

KING: Chris, you were a friend as well as a colleague, right?


KING: What did you make of it?

How did you hear about it?

JERICHO: I got a call from somebody that was at the show that told me about it. And it -- it's still very hard to discern the differences between the two guys, the guy that did these horrible senseless, violent, brutal acts the last weekend of his life and the guy that I knew for 15 years who was a mentor, a big brother, a close friend, a confidant and a positive influence to me professionally and personally. And it's still, you know, two weeks later, it's still very hard to try and come to grips with any kind of semblance of sense or reason. And we'll probably never know and that makes it even worse.

KING: I spoke to his father and mother. I know they told that they spoke to me.

JERICHO: Yes, they did.

KING: And they can't conceive of it. It's -- they said they don't sleep because they -- they can't find A reason. JERICHO: And nobody can, because that's the thing, what John was just saying. Everybody who knows Chris or kind of knows him knows him as a very private, silent guy, but, also, as a very caring heart of gold type guy. A friend of mine once said he's a man's man. And he meant that he's -- what he said was what you got. And what you got was a real, like I said, just a caring, heart filled guy. So that's why it's such an opposite thing for him to do this.

If you -- if you lined up a thousand guys and said which guy would do this, he would be the last guy that I would guess.

KING: Whoa.

Bret in Calgary, Canada, you knew Chris Benoit for many years.

How did you hear about it?

BRET HART, FORMER PRO WRESTLING STAR, FRIEND OF CHRIS BENOIT: I heard about it from a friend of mine in the WWE, Carl Demarco, who is the president of the Canada operations of the company. He called to tell me. And I think it was just a shock. I couldn't believe it.

KING: Do you join --

HART: I don't think -- I don't know if we have -- what's that?

KING: Do you do you join with what Chris and John have said, that this is --

HART: Yes, totally. I saw it the same way. I -- every time I saw Chris he was -- I mean, I was around him a lot of times and he was always a cool guy. And he was calm and relaxed and he was easygoing. And like if you were at lineups, anybody in the room, he would be one of the last guys in the world you'd ever see something like this coming out of Chris Benoit.

KING: Do you --

HART: He was a great guy.

KING: Did you know about his relationship with his wife and son, Bret?

HART: No, you know, and he never ever brought up personal stuff about his family. I mean I always assumed everything was OK. I think because I didn't see Chris that much after I retired from wrestling, which was around 2000. So probably right around the time Daniel was born was when I sort of kind of lost touch with Chris a little bit, where I just talked to him here and there on the phone and saw him here and there -- usually, unfortunately, in kind of sad situations, either at funerals or even in the Hall of Fame, where he was, you know, a little uptight and emotional anyway, maybe as I was. And it was never a good place to meet.

But he always seemed to have, you know, really be well composed and a guy that was in control and a guy that was, you know, maybe one of those kind of guys that everybody would lean on because he was -- he was a real leader to all the wrestlers and everyone -- I think this was a guy that everybody loved him. I mean everyone -- everyone that hears this story or knows this story feels so awful about it because this is a guy that was really loved by the industry. He was loved by the fans. Everyone would have reached out and helped this guy and maybe tried to change this from ever happening if there was any idea it was going to happen the way it did.

KING: John, did you know anything about his relationship with his wife and child?

CENA: Absolutely not. Like I said, I'm at a loss just because I knew him as a professional. And he was one of the most consummate professionals I've ever been around, like Chris --

KING: Did you wrestle against him?

CENA: Absolutely. It's like Chris said, he was a mentor. He was a big brother. He just -- he taught you very much about respecting the workplace.

KING: How good was he at his profession?

CENA: One of the best. You ask anybody, they'll tell you the same. He was one of the best.

JERICHO: Yes. He was almost like, say, the Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky of his profession. He was that good.

KING: He was?

Oh --

JERICHO: -- like influenced many, many wrestlers all around the world for 22 years and almost kind of changed the style of pro wrestling in this country, because he spent a lot of time in Japan and kind of ingratiated the Japanese style, the Mexican style and the hard-hitting Calgary style into the WWE and the WWC, the former company he worked for.

But let me just say this, Larry, I will tell you about the relationship he had with his wife and his son, is that Chris idolized his son, his -- both of his sons and his daughter and always talked --

KING: The others were from a previous marriage?

JERICHO: The others from a previous marriage that live in Canada. But Daniel, the son that he lived with in Atlanta, he just talked about him constantly and always asked me about my children. And I have three kids.

How are your kids doing?

We sent pictures of our kids to each other. You know, he looks so good. He's getting big. And boy, he's so, you know, I'm so excited. I took him out for Halloween, etc. And that's another thing, it's just -- it's just so hard -- like if I had to leave my kids with somebody, I would leave them with Chris Benoit if I was in a pinch and not have any -- any inkling of anything but that they would get the best possible care and attention. And that's another reason why it's just so completely -- it's so hard to deal with, Larry, because this guy loved his kids, L-O-V-E capital letters.

KING: Was there something wrong with the child? Was he slow or was there a --

JERICHO: Well, we had first heard originally that he had a condition called Fragile X when -- after -- right after the incident happened, the events happened. And when I heard the symptoms for this, it kind of really, it reminded me of Daniel. It said that Fragile X children, they have short attention spans. They don't speak a lot. They don't make eye contact, kind of like -- like bigger ears and a bigger head.

And when I heard that, I said that really fits Daniel to -- to a T. But then now we hear that that might be a big rumor and maybe he was just shy like his dad.

KING: He was tiny, too, wasn't he? Was he small?

JERICHO: Smaller, yes.

KING: We'll pick up in a minute.

Coming up, the touchy subject of steroid use in professional wrestling, including the comments of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.

Don't go away.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Before the 40- year-old pro wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his family and took his own life, he was at the top of a profession where stars seem to die young. A 2004 investigation by "USA Today" determined that professional wrestlers are 20 times more likely to die before age 45 than professional football players. Chris Benoit starred on a stage steeped in drama and violence. But what authorities found in his home proved to be more tragic and brutal than anything inside the ring.



KING: We're back with our outstanding guests.

There will be more coming.

Chris Jericho was saying during the break that wrestlers are really -- pro wrestlers -- terrific athletes, considering the schedule they do. And even though it may be a show of type, they still have to be in enormous shape, right?

JERICHO: Well, absolutely. And I think it's very easy for a lot of people that don't understand wrestling just to sweep it under the carpet and say oh, it's just fake wrestling. But they don't understand the physical and mental demands that it takes to perform at a top level. And not to mention the fact that there's only a handful of people on the entire planet that can do this job properly, yet millions of fans around the world who want to see it. I mean you could wrestle 365 days a year if they wanted to book that.

KING: But it is like a kind -- like, for example, you beat you, right?

CENA: Right.


KING: Like John beat Chris.


CENA: Yes.

KING: And in that fight retired you?

JERICHO: I got fired because of him.

CENA: Yes.


KING: But it was leading to that, right?

CENA: Of course.

It's --

KING: But you --

JERICHO: It's show business, Larry, absolutely. But it's show business with an athletic edge. And the thing that people -- that appeals so much, is it's got everything.

CENA: I think that is the greatest aspect of what we do. It's entertainment, but it's the most athletic form of entertainment you can see night in and night out, without re-runs. It's (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: Which leads to thoughts of, as in other sports, the use of steroids.

When Hulk Hogan was here a little while back, we talked about it.

Let's hear his comments and then we'll check in with Bret and John and Chris.


KING: Drugs in the sport -- how much does that go on, Hulk?

HULK HOGAN: They're there. I mean it's just like in any other sport. I mean, the athletes take shortcuts. I mean, you know, we had the steroid hysteria during the '80s and '90s and the federal government passed laws which made them illegal. And a lot of the guys smartened up. And some of them didn't.

And as far as the pain pills and stuff like that, it's prevalent, because whenever there's an injury, there's a doctor that will prescribe a pain pill in a way to take the pain away. And in our sport there's a lot of pain and there's a lot of injuries. So the drugs are prevalent and they're there today.


KING: Bret, is it fair to speculate that that may have been the problem here with -- with Benoit?

HART: You know, I keep hearing all this stuff about steroids and, you know, I'm my position is more like I just want someone to really prove it and they can narrow it down to that. And if it's going to be -- if you're going to pin this on steroids, then -- then you've got to have some factual, you know, some real facts.

and I -- I don't personally believe that this tragedy was a result of steroids. But, I mean, if it is, I want someone to prove that to me and convince me of that, and then I'll understand it better.

But right now I think -- it seems to me that a lot of the wrestlers, that there's -- the WWE has got really strict drug testing and they're not -- they're both in that their steroid testing is legitimate. And if it proves in a few weeks from now, the toxicology report comes back, that Chris Benoit wasn't on steroids, I think that possibly someone should address the idea that maybe some of these wrestlers are not on steroids. They're maybe on growth hormone, which is probably worse, or may be worse and maybe misunderstood. And nobody really knows what the future is of that drug.

KING: But there's no knowledge, John, is there, of either growth hormone or steroids causing someone -- I'm maybe wrong here -- to be violent?

CENA: Absolutely not. There is no proven knowledge. And I think that's why Bret speaks so intelligently when he asks someone to prove it. I mean this -- this was a tragedy. This was an unexplainable tragedy that lasted for nearly two-and-a-half days. I don't -- I don't see an out of control rage being responsible for that. But then again, I don't think we'll ever find out what exactly caused this. I -- I really -- I take great offense to not only people of the media pointing to this as being a case of 'roid rage when there hasn't been any proof of that, but also pointing a finger at the WWE as a whole, saying that we're all just a bunch of steroid monsters. KING: If it was 'roid rage, why would there be a space of time between the death of the wife --

JERICHO: Well, that's --

KING: -- and the son and yourself?

JERICHO: I think that some of the -- there's a misconception that if you take a shot of steroids it's like it's PCP or angel dust -- you just go crazy and do this. That's not the case.

I spoke at length with a psychiatrist here in Los Angeles who specializes in murder/suicides. And she told me it's never one thing. It's always a combination of many things. And I think it's lazy reporting and lazy investigation that a lot of people are just tying this up in the nice steroid bow and putting it into the corner and moving along and just saying that's the case.

I did some research. If you are a massive caffeine user and abuser, it can lead to hallucinations, depression, anxiety, violent behavior and sometimes psychotic behavior. Now, if I came on here and said caffeine caused this, you would think I was a lunatic. If I take out caffeine and put in steroids with a exact same list of symptoms, you'd say bingo, that's it.

It's a combination. I mean this is not about steroids, the rest of this. This is about a man who had some severe mental, damaging, horrible issues in his head that he kept bottled up inside and it exploded into this horrible violent act. And I'm sure there's many factors for it.

KING: In our next segment, two more wrestling greats join our panel, one who is now an Evangelical minister, another who knew Chris Benoit for 20 years. Stick around.


CARLOS ASHENOFF, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Well, you're on the road the whole year so you're hurt, you're depressed. You need something to pick you up, something to bring you down, something to keep you strong. So it's a lot of recreational drugs, steroids and painkillers.

LEX LUGER, FOR MORE PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: I mean it's alarming, the number of wrestlers at a premature age that have died from drugs and alcohol and just all kind of crazy stuff.

BRUNO SAMMARTINO, FORMER PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: In my mind, there is no doubt that it's drugs, the drugs that are causing all these. And for god's sakes, why doesn't somebody do something about it?

What's wrong with the wrestling that it has all these deaths, all these deaths?



John Cena remains, the WWE champion and superstar.

Bret "Hitman" Hart -- he's in Calgary, Canada -- former pro- wrestling star.

Chris Jericho, the former friend of Chris Benoit, a very big star himself. He's on -- I mean are you fired forever or are you coming back?

JERICHO: I'm working right now to file the proper papers to try and see if I can come back.

CENA: Let's hope so.

KING: I've got a feeling they'll let you come back and you'll come back against him and it'll -- never mind. I've got a -- I just have that feeling.


KING: We're now joined by Ted "Million Dollar" DiBiase, the former WWE star. His stepfather was "Iron Man" DiBiase. He knew Chris professionally. He's the founder of The Heart of David Ministries.

And Steve Blackman, the former pro wrestler known as "The Lethal Weapon" -- six time hard core champion, knew Chris for 20 years.

Ted, what do you make of this?

TED DIBIASE, FORMER WWE WRESTLER, WORKED WITH CHRIS BENOIT: You know, I've been listening, Larry and I'm in total agreement with my friends here. It's -- it's the most baffling thing that I've ever seen because nothing about Chris Benoit's character says he was capable of doing this. I mean, he was a man's man. He was a stand up guy. He was a guy that all of the other wrestlers looked up to and admired. He went way out of his way to help the young talent coming in and everybody respected him in every sense of the word.

And, again, I didn't know him personally that well. On a professional level, I worked with him when I went back to work for the WWE for about a year-and-a-half, a year or so ago. And he was always professional. And my understanding, you know, in the last two weeks in talking to some of my friends is that Chris was even a guy who -- and you could probably verify this -- given the opportunity, when it would have been easier for him to stay over in a town to make the next town, he would go home just to spend seven or eight hours with his family.

JERICHO: That's true, yes. He was in Jacksonville and instead of just driving three hours to Orlando, just recently, he flew back to Atlanta just for six or seven hours then he flew back to Orlando.

KING: Steve, what's your read?

You knew him well. STEVE BLACKMAN, FORMER PRO WRESTLER, KNEW CHRIS BENOIT FOR 20 YEARS: Yes, I've known him for 20 years. I don't mean to sound repetitive, like these guys have all been saying positive things about him. But like for the people at home -- and I'm sure there are some people sitting at home going all the -- all people on this panel keep saying all these positive things about the guy that committed this horrible act. But they have to understand, for all the years that we all knew him, there was nothing there to indicate that he was ever going to do anything like this.

KING: In other words, you can't --

BLACKMAN: And he was a great guy, as far as we all knew.

KING: You can't give me a negative?

BLACKMAN: No, that's right. That's the point I was making. None of us have a negative about him, so.

JERICHO: The only negative is that he was maybe quiet --

KING: Quiet?

JERICHO: Like just sometimes like being his friend, if he didn't want to talk, that was just the end of conversation. But if he wanted to open the door, he would talk to you three or four hours. Maybe it was that quietness and that privateness that caused all this to bottle up inside of him.

KING: You're in the religious field now, Ted.

Might it have been someone -- we hear sometimes they go religious overboard and die and they take family with them?

DIBIASE: Well, you know, in trying to make some sense of it, if -- if, for whatever reason, that he and Nancy got into a fight and, you know, in a moment of rage, perhaps, he killed his wife --

KING: Right.

DIBIASE: -- and then it's like oh, my gosh, you know, what's going to happen now?

I'm -- my life is ruined. I'm going to go to prison. And it doesn't justify it, but it could be in that state of mind he might have thought that taking the life of his son was more of a mercy killing, and that we'll all be together. I know that they said that they -- they found bibles that he had placed by both Nancy and his son and to me that's -- that's a --

KING: It's significant.

DIBIASE: -- significant and like an act of contrition.

KING: He had a great relationship with his son, though, didn't he, Steve? BLACKMAN: Yes.

KING: He took his son to a lot of matches?

BLACKMAN: Yes. I mean, his whole family. He had a great relationship with everyone. And it's funny, for all of -- those of us that knew him, you know, we all wish there was a definitive explanation on how and why he did this, because it's hard for all of us to grasp. You know what I mean, we all have a morbid sense of curiosity to know, you know, exactly how and why. And there's just no answers.

KING: You think about what the scene must have been like.


KING: Put yourself -- anyway, we have an e-mail from Suzy in Ajax, Ontario: "Does the WWE provide counseling services for wrestlers if they have problems and need someone to talk to?"

Do they, Bret?

HART: You know, I don't know. I believe, actually, they do maybe now. They didn't when I was there. But you'd probably have to ask John Cena. He'd give you a better answer.

KING: John?

CENA: Yes, they do. Through the whole Benoit tragedy, even to this day, they still have a grief counselor coming to all our events, as well as television broadcasts.

KING: But hours after his wife and he and son were dead, they were planning a telecast and then they canceled the telecast --

CENA: They completely cancelled the telecast for feelings of all the talent involved. They figured that that was the right thing to. They didn't push forward and just have the show for the sake of having the show, which I think it was a great call by the World Wrestling Entertainment.

And they let -- they let everyone grieve in their -- in their respective ways. And then every single show from then on out there's been a grievance counselor there where you could see.

KING: Chris, I understand that there's a funeral for Nancy and the young boy on Saturday?

JERICHO: Yes. Saturday, the 14th of July, yes, in Daytona Beach.

KING: Nothing planned yet on -- well, has the body been released.

Does anyone know?

JERICHO: I don't know. I just know that -- that Chris's father is keeping the funeral very private. And I don't know if it's even been had or not yet. I'm not sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's out at Edmonton?

JERICHO: Yes, in Edmonton. Yes. (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Did Chris ever talk about a problem with Daniel?

Did he ever say anything to you about a problem in his marriage?

Did he ever --

JERICHO: The same way that --

KING: -- anything to give you an inkling --

JERICHO: The same way that if you and I went out for a beer you'd say oh, my wife, sometimes she drives me crazy, you know, the typical stuff that you talk about when you're married. But never anything over the line that I experienced where you would ever think that something like this could happen. And especially with his son. But he was -- he loved his wife. I mean they -- they had been through a lot together and they had been together for, jeez, almost 10 years.

KING: She was a wrestler?

JERICHO: She was a wrestler. Yes. Absolutely, she was. She was a great -- you know, that's another thing, too. I feel bad because she's been kind of pushed aside. But she was a great girl, too. And she was a friend of my wife and myself and a lot of people in the business, as well. And that's -- once again, it's not only just Chris, but Nancy and Daniel. And the whole -- the whole thing of all three of them is what makes it even -- we keep saying same thing over and over again, right?

KING: John said if you would have seen this story printed and didn't print the name of the person, the last person you would have thought of would have been Chris.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely, absolutely.

BLACKMAN: The most passionate man for the business around, too.

JERICHO: But also for kids, too. Like we -- you know, Make A Wish Foundation, Chris was always there or go and not just say hi and sign an autograph, like talk to this child for 20 minutes, 30 minutes. And not just one time, like constantly. If I ever had to Make A Wish, I would always know I could go ask Chris and bring like a little group.

And I know you do a lot of Make A Wish stuff --


JERICHO: And, you know, Chris was always doing that with kids --



JERICHO: -- you know, disabled kids, normal kids. He loved children and that's, you know --

DIBIASE: Yes. In the last year-and-a-half that I had gone back to the company, I had seen him do things like that, like stay in with his gear and the belt and everything, you know, and go out of his way, like, I'll keep the stuff on because you're going to bring -- bring a youngster in here to meet me and take pictures and everything.


BLACKMAN: He went out of his way.

BLACKMAN: He would talk about the rest of his family in Edmonton, as well.

JERICHO: Yes. His other two kids and --

KING: Yes.

We'll be back with more.

We'll also include a phone call or two, if you'd like to participate on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


CM PUNK, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Chris Benoit was my hero and I was privileged enough to be able to work with him and to know him as a person and to call him my friend.

STEVE AUSTIN, FORMER PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Any time Chris Benoit went into the ring, he gave it 120 percent -- every single night of the week.

CENA: He truly lived for the business. He just -- he did -- he did everything for it.

STEPHANIE MCMAHON: He was passionate from -- but I -- what I also knew about Chris was how passionate he was about family.



LARRY KING, HOST: Our panel remains with us. We're going to spend a couple of minutes at the CNN Center in Atlanta with Manny Aurora, the attorney for Dr. Phil Astin. He is -- Dr. Astin is Chris Benoit's friend and personal physician. A federal grand jury has indicted Dr. Astin on several counts of over prescribing painkillers and other drugs.

I understand, Manny, that the painkillers and over prescriptions on the indictment do not involve Benoit, is that correct?

MANNY ARORA, ATTORNEY FOR DR. PHIL ASTIN: That's correct. They involve two patients, one that was seen five times between 2004 and 2005, and one patient that was seen twice in 2005. That's the entire indictment.

KING: So why was the story then connecting Astin and Benoit since the indictment doesn't connect it?

ARORA: Well, it's based on all the press releases the government has done. The first thing I need your viewers to understand is when they did the initial search of his house back on the 27th of June, they actually called the press in advance of the 5:00 news. So you could see the battery ram breaking the poor down and about 10 minutes later you see Dr. Astin coming into the office.

There was no need for that. This has been way over publicized. The only link and explanation to say what happened to Mr. Benoit is that the doctor must have prescribed him some medication. There has been no proof of that and the indictment shows that there's no link at this point.

KING: They were friends.

ARORA: Yes, they've been doctor-patient and friends for over six years.

KING: And how has your client pled?

ARORA: He's pled not guilty to those counts. And, you know, we're going to fight this all the way.

KING: Would you say -- have you spoken to your client as to about whether he ever prescribed anything for Benoit?

ARORA: Right. I've talked to my client at length about all these issues. And we don't want to get into any of the facts or discussions we have. I want to stick to the indictment and the press releases the government seems to keep making over and over again, and emphasize there's no link between Chris Benoit's death and Dr. Astin.

KING: And you say that definitively?

ARORA: I say it definitively. If they have something, just like one of your other guests said, then tell them to bring the proof and we'll fight it and we'll see what happens.

KING: Thank you, Manny.

Manny Arora, the attorney for Dr. Phil Astin. Do you think this is going to go anywhere, this steroid thing?

STEVE BLACKMAN, FORMER PRO WRESTLER: Well, I think everyone is tapping the steroid issue just a little too much. This guy is starting a mystique to what should keep sticking on that issue. I've seen many guys take astronomical amounts of those things, not in the WWE. I witnessed that when I was in the smaller, independent leagues, working my way up. And I never saw anyone act like this or even, you know, 'roid rage whatsoever. I'm sure these guys have witnessed, you know, the same thing.

JOHN CENA, WWE CHAMPION & SUPERSTAR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of over publicized hype because this is one of those things that is just unfathomable, unsolvable. And they need to point the blame on something. And it's like Chris said, it's the easy fix.

CHRIS JERICHO, FORMER WWE STAR: It's lazy because it's a hot button topic. Steroids is the...

KING: That's like calling the media to be at the house before they arrive.

JERICHO: Of course, right. And we're learning a lot about the media since this has happened.

TED DIBIASE, FORMER WWE WRESTLER: And the other thing, when you start talking about the number of wrestlers that have died under the age of 45 over a period of years, and when you try to link that to steroids, you know, most of those guys died of drug and alcohol- related issues. It had nothing to do with steroids.

KING: Another e-mail from Anish in Mississauga, Ontario. The question: "Is the WWE biased towards bigger, more muscular wrestlers? Are wrestlers under pressure to bulk up and show more definition like action figures" -- John?

CENA: That's a great question. That's one on everybody's mind. The WWE is biased to entertainers. What we do is entertain.

KING: You could be a little guy?

CENA: As long as you have the ability to put people in the seats and make them enjoy the event. That is what we do, and that is what we do best.

Hulk Hogan said it best, "Athletes take shortcuts." That is not WWE-specific. That is along the whole broad of anything that has to do with athletic performance. It is an athlete's choice.

KING: Because you're not big.

JERICHO: No. I came to terms very early in my career that I was a small man in a big man's business. So how could I buck the system and get around that? I just used my brains and personality and charisma. It's not a perquisite to take steroids or pain pills or any of these things that a lot of the guys are saying. KING: Did you sour on the profession, Bret, when your brother died?

BRET HART, FORMER PRO WRESTLING STAR: In some ways, yes, maybe. I don't think it was ever the same for me after that. I don't think it was ever the same for my family. But I still feel a connection to it and I still care about the people that are in it. And Chris was somebody that was one of my favorites, like if he was on I watched him, both Chris and Chris Benoit. And there's certain guys that I really admired.

I think wrestling to me is more, if I could describe it; it's a little more like figure skating than it is like anything else. I mean, it really takes two wrestlers to make each other and tell a great story. And the whole beauty of great wrestlers is they never hurt each other, not physically, not really seriously. I mean you always feel like a football player feels it after a football game. But, I mean we feel it but nobody is knocking any teeth out or breaking any ribs. This is a professional code that goes along with being a great wrestler.

KING: Steve, does the crowd know it?

BLACKMAN: Yes, they understand it.

KING: Do they know it's a show?

BLACKMAN: They know it's a show. They know it's an extremely rough form of entertainment.

CENA: That's what makes it beautiful. We let the crowd in. We allow the crowd to sit down and be entertained while we perform.

KING: Tongue in cheek a little.

JERICHO: It's just like going to the movies, Larry. We all know that, you know, "Diehard" isn't real but when you go and watch it. It's well done. It's produced good. You get lost and the characters are great. And when it's done, you go, man, that was awesome.

But midway through, if, you know, Bruce Willis does something, yes. It's the same thing for wrestling.

And what Bret meant by the figure skating analogy is that you're having two athletes putting on a show just lying figure skating. That's kind of what he meant by that analogy, at least I think.

BLACKMAN: It's just like an actor. If you're really good at what you do, then you want to make that experience for the fans as real as you possibly can so even though they know going in that this isn't real you make, it as real for them as you can, just like...

KING: You were known as the lethal weapon.


KING: A killer.

BLACKMAN: That was my gimmick, yes.

KING: More from our panel and your calls when we come back. Plus, we'll hear from the district attorney investigating the Chris Benoit murder-suicide case. That's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several hours after federal agents from the DEA busted open the doors of Dr. Phil Astin's office, they ended up with a truckload of boxes and file cabinets filled with evidence. The raid is part of an earlier search warrant executed by the local sheriff's office into whether Dr. Astin gave out medicines to pro wrestler Chris Benoit or any other patients without writing a prescription.



KING: Get in a quick call from Clearwater, Florida. Hello.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have three children who are huge fans of the WWE. I would like to ask your guests as role models what can they say to our children right now.

KING: Chris?

JERICHO: Watch John Cena. Well, I think you have to maybe tell them this is like just a horrendous, horrendous, exception to the rule of the fact that pro wrestling entertains millions of fans, puts smiles on the faces of kids all over the world on a weekly basis.

CENA: I couldn't agree with you more. This is just really an unexplainable tragedy.

KING: A tragic exception.

CENA: It really is.

JERICHO: It would be like if you were a football fan when the O.J. thing went down. What do you tell your kids?


HART: I think it would be wrong to judge the whole industry based on this horrible tragedy.

CENA: That's really where...

KING: Yes, well said. Let's check in with -- also at the CNN Center in Atlanta with Scott Ballard, the Fayette County district attorney.

What's the latest on the investigation, Scott?

SCOTT BALLARD, FAYETTE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, the investigators continue to study all the leads. Everything that we look at still we come back with the same conclusion, that this was a murder-suicide. We're waiting on the toxicology results to come back. And only then will we know what was in these bodies and be able to make any judgments about any impact of steroids or any other substances on the act.

KING: Do you expect, Scott, we will ever have full closure of this?

BALLARD: I doubt it. I mean how do you ever explain how anybody can kill a 7-year-old boy in his own bed?

KING: Did you go to the scene?


KING: What was that like for you?

BALLARD: Well, when I got there the bodies had already been moved. I only saw pictures of the bodies. But it was moving especially being in that little boy's room because you could see posters of his father on the wall. You could see an action figure of a wrestler. You could see toy championship wrestling belts on a chair over beside the bed where the boy was killed. And all indications were that there this little boy idolized his dad.

KING: Does your investigation lead you to talk to psychiatrists?

BALLARD: I don't know whether the sheriff's office has talked with psychiatrists or not.

KING: I mean, as a district attorney, would you?

BALLARD: Well, if we had somebody we had to try then perhaps we'd need some expert testimony. I doubt we'll talk to a psychiatrist without a defendant in the case.

KING: So even the toxicology report is not going to give us a final conclusion?

BALLARD: It's not.

KING: Probably.

BALLARD: And let's not forget, no matter what substance was in a person's body, it's inexcusable to do this to your wife and to your child.

KING: I know that suicide is a crime, but it's a non-punishable crime, right?

BALLARD: Right. But the murder of the child and the son, of course, the child and the wife inexplicable, but you can't say even if somebody is on steroids that that's justifiable.

KING: When will the toxicology report come out?

BALLARD: I'm not sure. It could be a couple more weeks or longer.

KING: Therefore, are you still holding the body?

BALLARD: I'm not sure if the body is still being held or not.

KING: Thank you, Scott.

Scott Ballard, the Fayette County district attorney.

It is true, is it not, John, we may never, never find out?

CENA: Talk to the D.A. and he says I don't know if they're going to see a psychiatrist, I don't know if they're still holding the body. And on top of that first and foremost, he'll never know exactly what caused this.

JERICHO: You know it's the same thing with Andrea Yates when she killed her five kids. She wasn't a wrestler. She wasn't on steroids. She had serious mental issues.

And I think that's going to be quite a huge thing with Chris' case as well, I mean, whether it was steroids or wrestling or whatever. I think he had serious mental problems that led him to do this and we'll never know. That's the thing.

DIBIASE: He would have to because the Chris Benoit that we all knew and we all loved, you know, in his right mind couldn't have possibly done this. So there has to be -- there's obviously something that we don't know. And you might have touched on it earlier, because Chris was so quiet. Sometimes you don't know when a person is quiet like that. They might be holding in a lot of things that none of us know about.

KING: We'll be back with more. Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the big bad break for Benoit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, finally! Chris Benoit has become the heavyweight champion of this world!


KING: We're back.

Don't forget you can download our podcast any time online. Past podcasts have included interviews with Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton. And we've just uploaded a new one. It's our interview with former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr along with the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. To download it go to or to

We're now joined by Jerry McDevitt. He's the attorney for the WWE.

You've been listening to the program. Anything you want to respond to, anything the organization should or hasn't done?

JERRY MCDEVITT, WWE ATTORNEY: Well, I think, Larry, if you listen to these gentlemen take, they can tell you what Chris Benoit was like better than I. I did not know the man. And I think they indicate what the organization was really and truly about. The quality of these men is self-evident.

KING: And you have no doubt that the WWE is doing all it can do?

MCDEVITT: I think, Larry, what the WWE is doing is remarkable on the front of we started this drug testing program in February of 2006. And anybody that has ever dealt with drug testing programs realizes there are complexes to them. You constantly update them. You constantly learn as you battle these performance enhancing drugs. And I think they're doing their point.

KING: An e-mail question from Michael in Evansville, Indiana: "At what point are pro wrestlers say enough is enough, band together for a union that would protect their contracts and get proper benefits" -- John?

CENA: I believe that professional wrestlers, WWE specific and across, they all know what they're getting into. Nobody is forcing them to get into the ring. It's a job that they all want to do. Hopefully, the job that all love to do. I certainly do. I enjoy what I do for work. I love what I do for work.

And that's just a question that won't ever be answered because I don't think it'll ever be asked.

KING: Is the pay good, Steve?

BLACKMAN: Yes, the pay is what you make of it. I mean if you're working down at the bottom, it pays decent. If you're working at the top, the pay is phenomenal. But you have to bust your butt to get to the top.

KING: What could Chris have made? I mean what could Benoit have made? JERICHO: On a yearly basis, I'd say probably anywhere from half a million to million dollars depending. He was the WWE champion for a long time. So he was probably in the seven figures at that point. That's my guess.

KING: So that would be in the top rung?

JERICHO: Yes. When you're the champion, that's the top of the ladder.

KING: Even though it's scripted?

JERICHO: Yes, it's scripted, of course. But still if you're the champion, you're a champion for reason. It's because people are going to pay money to see you on pay-per-view, live, and at the arenas. So that's going to translate into more money.

KING: Another call.

Paducah, Kentucky, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Larry.

Gentlemen, good evening. I'm just like the rest of the fans and many of those who have worked with Chris Benoit in the past still can't over that he would even do something like this to his wife and son. But I think Chris and Ted hit the nail on the head. Nobody really knew the real Chris Benoit. That being said, in addition to drug testing, should the WWE also consider psychiatric evaluations of its wrestlers?

KING: Ted?

DIBIASE: Again, you know, Larry, when you get into wrestling, it's almost like you're in the Army. You know what you're getting into. You sign on. And I grew up in this industry. My father was a wrestler as well. And I knew the hardships. I knew I was going to be doing long miles and a lot of time away from home. And so you know going in when you sign up this is the way it's going to be. And you have to deal with it.

Should they give those evaluations? If a certain situation presents itself I'd say yes.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Shaan in Atlanta, Georgia: "Curious, would any of you with children encourage them to get involved in pro wrestling?" Chris?

JERICHO: It depends. If it was my son's dream, I would allow him to follow the same way that my dad did for me when I was 16 and told him I wanted to be a wrestler. He thought I was a little crazy at first but he supported me. And as a result, I was able to live my dream, which is a rare thing. So knowing the pitfalls, the same way that Ted's dad allowed him to go into it.

DIBIASE: Larry, I have a son that's in the industry right now. And again, my father didn't necessarily want me to go into wrestling because of the hardships and everything. But the amazing thing about the industry today and with my own son who has a college degree now, but that was his dream, to follow in my footsteps, the industry has changed so much. When I went back after being absent for many years, for about a year and a half, the changes I saw were dramatic in terms of the whole scene. You know, back 20 years ago, the environment was kind of like rock 'n' roll. You know you did the next town and the next party and you know it's a good time. It's much more corporate and...

KING: Jerry, how is Vince McMahaon dealing with all of this?

MCDEVITT: I think it's very hard on him and everybody at the WWE.

KING: Was he close with Chris?

MCDEVITT: I think he's close with all the talent. I mean they're family. They travel together every week. They know each other. This has stunned everybody in the organization as you've seen here tonight.

KING: We'll be back with more moments on this tragedy that as the district attorney said may never have a resolution. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the top to the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those men are in the top turnbuckle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's up. He's down! He's on target but he's hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Benoit. But in the end, the Rabid Wolverine was too much for the up-and-coming Elijah Burke.



KING: Jerry McDevitt is the attorney for the WWE. Can you confirm that Chris Benoit took a drug test in April?

MCDEVITT: Yes, sir, he did, and he was clean on all drugs.

KING: Clean on all drugs in April. How frequently are WWE wrestlers tested?

MCDEVITT: The testing is all random. It's designed so that everybody...

KING: You don't know when you're going to be tested.


CENA: Larry, since February 2006, I've been tested six times.

KING: Six times?

MCDEVITT: Everybody talent will be tested at least four times a year under the program.

KING: What about a union, Bret Hart? Should they have one?

HART: I think definitely wrestlers need a union. I think that the -- probably the janitor sweeping up the WWE has benefits -- more benefits than any wrestler. And unfortunately, too many wrestlers are ending their lives because they're at a point in their life where they used to be stars, and they used to be famous, and they used to be important and they have nothing left, and they are broke, and they're depressed about who they are.

And there's far too many wrestlers that are killing themselves left and right. And I definitely think that the same problem is going to keep occurring and occurring and occurring. And I don't know why the wrestlers don't have a union. There's no protection. There's no benefits for them.

KING: Well said.

HART: They really are circus animals.

KING: Jerry, is Vince McMahon -- he would be angry at that statement, would he not?

MCDEVITT: I can't speak for Vince. I don't think unions have solved the problem with performance enhancing drugs in baseball or football or anywhere.

KING: No, but the baseball players do do a lot better. There's no better union in America.


JERICHO: I think as a result of this, the WWE is going to do whatever it takes so that something like this is never happens again.


JERICHO: Reviews or evaluations or unions or whatever because this is a serious -- it's going to have to be a serious issue.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Brian in Buffalo. "As a wrestler, Chris Benoit was one of the best. Do you think he'll ever go into the WWE Hall of Fame or will his final hours overshadow his great career?"

DIBIASE: I think it'll overshadow his career, unfortunately. And as far as wrestling, I think that no one surpasses him in that aspect. And it's kind of unfortunate.

JERICHO: I also think too that we've been talking so positively, but we can also never forget or forgive these horrible acts that he did. And that overshadows everything else in his life. But you can't tell the story of pro wrestling without talking about Chris Benoit.

KING: Quick call, 30 seconds.

Colorado Springs, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Larry. I was just wondering how the panel felt about the WWE pretty much acting as Chris Benoit never existed.

KING: I'm sorry; we're running up on time. I apologize.

Thank you all very much for coming.

Let's hope we do get some definitive answer to this incredible puzzlement. Thank you all for joining us.