Updated at 7:57 a.m., June 27, 2007.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon issued a statement Tuesday regarding pro wrestler Chris Benoit. Authorities believe the wrestler killed his wife and 7-year-old son and then himself over the weekend.
Mr. McMahon addressed viewer complaints about the franchise’s three-hour USA Network tribute to Mr. Benoit and called for “the first step of the healing process.”
A WWE spokesman said Mr. McMahon also would read the statement for fans on Sci Fi Channel’s Extreme Championship Wrestling later Tuesday evening.
"Last night on 'Monday Night Raw,' the WWE presented a special tribute show, recognizing the career of Chris Benoit” in the wake of his death, Mr. McMahon said in his statement. “However, now some 26 hours later, the facts of this horrific tragedy are now apparent. Therefore, other than my comments, there will be no mention of Mr. Benoit tonight. On the contrary, tonight's show will be dedicated to everyone who has been affected by this terrible incident This evening marks the first step of the healing process. Tonight, the WWE performers will do what they do better than anyone else in the world--entertain you."
The WWE canceled its regularly scheduled "Monday Night RAW" event on USA Network Monday and aired a tribute to Mr. Benoit in its place. The WWE and USA Network received criticisms of the special, which was produced after Mr. Benoit, his wife and their son were found dead in their Georgia home Monday afternoon.
Authorities said Tuesday that Mr. Benoit strangled his wife and suffocated his son, then took his own life. But WWE representatives maintained they were unaware of the circumstances of Mr. Benoit's death when the tribute was assembled.
The WWE plans to resume its regular wrestling telecasts, which air on USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and the CW.
Earlier, the WWE issued a statement protesting media speculation that Mr. Benoit may have acted out of "roid rage." Prescription anabolic steroids were found in the wrestler's home. The statement noted the drugs were legal and that toxicology tests have not been completed.
"WWE strongly suggests that it is entirely wrong for speculators to suggest that steroids had anything to do with these senseless acts, especially when the authorities plainly stated there is no evidence that Benoit had steroids in his body, pending the toxicological reports, and that they had no evidence at this time as to the motive for these acts," read the statement.