Former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski says Randy Orton advocates taking time off from the WWE schedule, recalls Chris Benoit questioning him about concussion issues
Busted Open Interview: Chris Nowinski
Hosts: Doug Mortman and Dave LaGreca
Busted Open can be heard Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2-4 ET on Sirius 94 XM 208
Chris Nowinski talked about if he ever lied about his concussions to the WWE: "The idea that I was going to sit out for a headache while we got guys out there with broken bones, guys out there with fused necks, guys out with much more pain than I am, looking at me and going “ok we have to adjust the card tonight, because you have a headache?” That was the conversations that were had. So no I was not going to put myself in that position. It’s funny, just to fast forward a guy like Randy Orton just didn’t buy into it, and I ran into him in March, and he started talking about his concussion experiences and he was like ‘Gosh I didn’t know it was that bad.' He is an advocate for himself now to take time off and so it’s interesting to see this turn. We all thought guys with concussions were soft back then, I did too."
Chris Nowinski on Chris Benoit: "We incorporated Sports Legacies ten days before the Benoit tragedy. A year prior to that I sat down with Benoit when I was still working for the company for the Smackdown Your Vote in the locker room in Manchester, New Hampshire and he just started asking me questions about the book. 'So what are you finding that is happening long term?' Things like that. He was more interested than any other wrestler which helps me realize that he actually knew there was something wrong with him. He asked me about how many concussions I had and I asked him and he said 'Well I had more concussions than I can count.' If you knew Chris, you knew he wouldn’t take a day off for anything. So because he told me that and then he told me to give him a call.
"I remember months later, I was intimidated by him because he was champion and I was young and then I called him and he acted like he didn’t know why I was calling after he gave me his number. So I thought maybe there was a memory thing or maybe a mood thing going on. So when it happened , I was sure that is why it happened. Knowing how other guys died from this disease had similar falls from grace and knowing what a great guy he was when he was in his prime or when I met him at 35. So I knew I had to contact Michael Benoit, his father. So I tracked down Michael Benoit and I said, 'Llisten I’m not telling you an answer, but this may have played a role and we need to find out what the answer is.' Mike, thank God, agreed and helped put this whole thing in perspective."
Chris Nowinski on Chris Benoit’s last year of his life: "Chris was a different guy emotionally. You talked to the guys who were on the road with him over the last year and he would break down crying for no reason, paranoia about someone kidnapping his son so he moved homes, different routes to the airports just in case someone was following him. He was really losing it because his brain had this pattern of cell death that left a lot of cognition, but destroyed emotions and impulse control."
Chris Nowinski on finding answers about Benoit: "We are trying to understand why it happened so it could be prevented in the future. People can see the warning signs in these people and there are plenty of warning signs. We can change what we do so the disease doesn’t form in the first place. We can raise awareness so we can develop a treatment for it. People have to be accountable for their actions. But the other side is when people get a brain disease, they are not accountable. Verne Gagne killed a man in an Alzheimer’s home. He is not being prosecuted for murder cause he didn’t know what happened. CTE is different because it’s a slow progressing disease and in your forties no one is going to say “did he know what he was doing?. Was he in control?” It’s much much more difficult but certainly Verne is not considered a murderer for that. It’s a tough situation, I rather work on prevention."
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