In defense of… Chris Benoit.
Chris Benoit was one of the best professional wrestlers of the past quarter century.
Chris Benoit also went insane and killed his wife, his son, and himself.
You see the difficulty. In fact, most of the wrestling community, fans (marks) and smart fans (smarks) have had trouble dealing with this for some time. On one hand, you have a multiple title winning, fundamentally sound, darn entertaining person. On the other hand, a murderer. Benoit was a darling of the smarks (smart marks, or those who are well aware of the business and have an appreciation for the artistry of it all, formerly yours truly) and was even loved by the “It’s still real to me dammit” marks who love whoever Vince McMahon tells them to. Well, Vince told them to love Chris, but not a lot, and apparently not enough.
You see, Chris Benoit had a horrible problem. He was SHORT. He even started his career at UNDER 225 pound. Holy Cabooses. Now, while a 5’11” man at 225 pounds seems normal, perhaps even a little bulky, such a thing does not fly in the realm of Vinnie Mac. This is the man who gave us such in-ring disasters as
6″5″, 275 lb Chris Masters, who was in the ring for no other reason than to be well-built
Batista, an 6’6″, 290 lb injury prone monster (I wonder why)
and the Great Khali, who is billed at 7’3″, 420 lbs, and is just as mobile as you’d think.
For reference, the little guy next to Khali is 5’10”.
Against the behemoths, what’s a guy like Benoit to do?
Work very, very hard.
I’m talking 300 days a year. Maybe more. I’m talking 300 days a year of getting smashed with chairs over your head, performing diving headbutts off the top rope, and basically pounding the crap out of your body and, more importantly, your brain. This is a business that suggests, and then demands, that you punish yourself. Add to that a bit of steroids (because you can’t make it in WWE without big, bulgy biceps!), painkiller addictions that would make Brett Favre seem normal, and a level of sleaze that Hollywood wishes it could write about, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster that yields three bodies, one tragedy, and one fan who’ll probably never go back to wrestling again.
During the autopsy, it was found that Benoit’s brain was nearly liquefied, and resembled that of an 85 year old man suffering from the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Benoit was 40. A twenty-two year career of being smashed in the head had reduced Benoit’s brain to the state where it appeared correct for him to murder. Particularly, his brain was functioning (and not a result of “roid rage”) when he placed bibles next to each body and sent cryptic text messages before hanging himself on a piece of exercise equipment. The man was not well, but over twenty years of getting bludgeoned in the head will do that to you.
Wrestling is not “fake.” People get hurt, people get sick, people die, and everyone just keeps on going. The unregulated, non-union wrestling world is as sick and corrupt as anything you’ll see, with promoters that seem out of a cheesy 80s flick. The performers, particularly career middle-of-the-card ones like Benoit, have to sacrifice everything to get noticed, while talentless musclebound hacks are given title runs within a year of debut. Wrestling has a problem. It needs to be fixed. When two of the most interesting, talented, and charismatic (both verbally and non-verbally) wrestlers die within years of each other, there is a problem. The current climate of the wrestling industry killed people like Chris Benoit. It has killed others. It will keep on killing and maiming these men for your entertainment, and without any awareness the sins will be completed again. Chris Benoit is not to blame, his brain was barely functional at the time of the murders. Blame instead a business that chews you up and spits you out like none other: professional wrestling. I was pleased to see Mickey Rourke’s “The Wrestler” do so well in theaters and critically, because the wrestling world really is that disgusting. I don’t watch anymore. I can’t. When your heroes get bludgeoned into a state of psychosis and near unimaginable disrepair, you just can’t justify it any more.