Since as far back as I can remember, I loved wrestling. I would to get up on Saturday mornings and after enjoying the morning cartoon lineup, some sort of wrestling program would come on and that would just make the weekends even better. In the 20 years or so since then, I have followed professional wrestling either by engulfing myself fully into the matches and storylines in an almost soap opera fashion. I could go months without watching a Pay Per View or even a regular show and still know what is happening. It has always been one of the few things that truly made me happy.
That was until yesterday when I read about WWE wrestler Chris Benoit being found dead along with his wife and son in his suburban Atlanta, Georgia home. He was one of my favorite wrestlers of the last 15 years. A native of Canada, he wasn’t the greatest interview on a microphone but was such a skilled technician in the ring that it didn’t matter. His 22-year career is an outstanding achievement in its own right.
It’s unfortunate that all of that is lost now. Reports are coming in left and right from news sources saying that he killed his wife and son before taking his own life. While you can go to CNN or whatever news site you want and read all the horrific details, the point in writing this article is to vent my frustrations as a true wrestling fan. You can try to compare this to finding out about any well-known pro football or basketball player who despite their accomplishments on the field or court, will always be remembered for whatever tragedy of which they were a part (O.J. Simpson, I’m talking to you).
Benoit’s legacy is now forever tainted and will never be looked at the same. While I have come to the understanding that while wrestling is known as “sports entertainment”, these are still people who are, very human and go through hardships just like the rest of us. Benoit was no exception. Whether it is something in his family or something that was due to rampant steroid use, he went through something internal and instead of seeking help; he chose the path of no return. I am sincerely sad but also mad at the same time.
The question now is whom should I be mad at. Should it be the WWE and Vince McMahon for not intervening sooner? Or should it be with his friends and co-workers who didn’t see the signs and could have helped? Or perhaps maybe it is at Benoit himself?
At this point, I say Benoit himself. He single-handedly brought the demise of his wife and son but also the demise of the WWE and in turn, leaving professional wrestling with a bleeding wound. I feel almost a bit betrayed in hindsight. I mean, I got emotional when they showed Benoit’s matches and pictures from childhood and really couldn’t fathom that an athlete like him could do something like this.
Again, the reality of all this sets in. Am I going a bit overboard in my thinking? I don’t think I am. To paraphrase a school poster I recall, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If he chose to die, then so be it but why his wife and innocent child? The betrayal of trust to his son, the faith he placed in his dad lost, how can you end your child’s life? I’m not a parent yet but I cannot begin to imagine how you could do that.
Either way, the damage is done and the WWE is going to face an enormous amount of scrutiny and criticism. Don’t be surprised if even the government comes into the picture regarding the WWE’s drug testing policies and has to put a decision into action. What remains to be seen how fans worldwide will react to this. If it’s anything like the few message boards I have visited, the demise of professional wrestling is drawing near.
And for me, a true wrestling fan, that is going to be a hard pill to swallow.