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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The Benoit Murder/Suicide, One Year Later 
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 | 08:43 am [commentary, wrestling]
Steve
A year ago today, according to the Fayette County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Chris Benoit hanged himself with the rope of his weight machine. In the two preceding days he had murdered his wife Nancy and their young son Daniel. The crime shocked wrestling fans and non-fans with its suddenness and brutality, and dominated the news for much of the following week. World Wrestling Entertainment, Benoit’s employer, who had probably booked him to win the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at that Sunday’s Vengeance pay-per-view event, devoted that Monday’s edition of RAW to Benoit, airing tearful tributes from his fellow workers, and highlights of his best remembered matches. The next day, when Benoit was revealed to be a murderer, WWE owner Vince McMahon apologized for the tribute, and the company began removing every reference to Benoit from its website, its weekly television shows, and the programming on its WWE 24/7 cable channel.
 
I remember the speculation that flew back and forth in the days following the Benoit murder/suicide. Why did Chris Benoit do it? Were there warning signs that had been ignored? Was he disgruntled in his career — disappointed, maybe, that he, a former WrestleMania headliner and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, was about to be crowned the champion of WWE’s third-tier ECW brand? Was it frustration stemming from his son’s fragile X syndrome? Or was it a result of the steroids Benoit undoubtedly had taken throughout his wrestling career? Had Chris Benoit murdered his family and killed himself due to ‘roid rage?
 
That was the popular theory at the time, floated by wrestling fans and the media. The idea that steroids contributed to the tragedy was so prevalent that WWE felt compelled to issue a press release within a few days of the crime, claiming that the murders appeared to be premeditated, not the explosive acts of violence one would expect to ensue from ‘roid rage. Ever since the heyday of Hulk Hogan in the mid-‘80s, the WWF/WWE has been accused of enabling the drug use of its performers. The list of wrestlers who have died in the last ten years from overdoses or complications of drug abuse is depressingly long, and it was only a few years ago that the WWE instituted anything close to a drug program. Their highly touted wellness policy has resulted in suspensions of a few high profile workers, but is still criticized as being more about appearing to address the company’s drug problem than actually addressing it.
 
The WWE drug program is beside the point, as it turns out. Chris Benoit didn’t kill his wife, son and himself as a result of steroid abuse. Three months after his death, Benoit’s brain was examined on the suggestion of former WWE star Chris Nowinski. Nowinski retired from wrestling after he suffered a concussion during a match, and has spent the last several years investigating the effects of head injuries on wrestlers and other athletes. The examination of Benoit found he had suffered severe brain damage from his years of absorbing shots from steel chairs and being dropped on his head during his wrestling career. The injuries were so extreme that Julian Bailes, the West Virginia University neurosurgeon who conducted the examination, concluded Benoit had the equivalent of the brain of an 85 year-old Alzheimer’s patient, and probably suffered from dementia.
 
Here we are a year later, and there is still no mention of Chris Benoit on WWE television. In the wake of the crime, the decision to act as though Benoit never existed made a kind of sense, at least from a business perspective. That way, they could avoid the appearance of cashing in on a brutal and tragic murder/suicide. Now, I’m not so sure. Not only are we a year removed from the crime, we also have a great deal of evidence to suggest that Benoit may not have been fully cognizant of his actions. If he was suffering from dementia, if he was not in his right mind that weekend a year ago, can we continue to treat his legacy as that of a cold-blooded murderer?
 
WWE can and, it seems, will continue to. That also makes a kind of sense — it was during his seven years with WWE that Benoit attained his greatest fame, and suffered many of the injuries to his brain. Just as they were a year ago when they erased Benoit from history and issued a press release disputing ‘roid rage as a factor in the crime, WWE is covering its ass by continuing the Benoit blackout. It wasn’t steroids that drove Benoit to murder his wife and son; it was pro wrestling itself, a twisted industry that exploits the love its fans feel for its athletes, while caring itself for the athletes as little as possible. It’s better for the company’s bottom line, and the fans’ piece of mind, if we really do forget about Chris Benoit.
Comments 
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 | 02:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit were all just lousy statist mouthpieces anyway, so we're better off without them.
Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 | 02:27 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
That is a little harsh, don't you think?
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 | 06:02 pm (UTC)
Didn't he have more fame and success back in the WCW? I haven't been into wrestling all that much anymore, but I seem to remember him being a bigger deal over there.

I think part of the problem is that most wrestlers are at least somewhat crazy. Otherwise they wouldn't be wrestling for a living.
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 | 06:18 pm (UTC)
He was a WCW mainstay, and that was where he really earned a reputation as being one of the best in the world, but he never had a main event run until coming over to the WWF in early 2000. WCW booked him to win the U.S. Title a few times, and he was a member of the last incarnation of the Four Horsemen with Ric Flair, but within a few months of his WWF debut, he was wrestling The Rock and Triple H for the WWF Title, and in 2004 he won the WWE World Heavyweight Title in the main event of WrestleMania, which is just about as big as a pro wrestler can make it.

I agree with you about wrestlers having to be a little crazy. Or, if not crazy, masochistic. It's such a sick business, and I can't think of a single wrestling company with a sterling reputation for how well it treats its employees. There's no union, there's no guaranteed health benefits, and the main advantage the current WWE drug program has over the previous policy is that it's something rather than nothing. Why any sane person who cares about their physical and mental well-being would want to work in pro wrestling for a living is beyond me.
Thursday, June 26th, 2008 | 09:04 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Even if he wasn't in his right mind I would still find it hard to watch any of his matches. You might be able to laugh at the Naked Gun movies since OJ was playing a character. In the ring Benoit was a no frills, intense guy who would choke you out. I can't imagine ever seeing him lock another wrestler in to his crossface and not think he would later go on to choke a small child. I haven't watched wrestling in years but when I did it was for escapist entertainment and references to a murderer would likely have taken me out of that.
Thursday, June 26th, 2008 | 09:15 pm (UTC)
True. I wouldn't say I'd be incapable of watching one of his matches now, but it would definitely be weird. I almost popped in my copy of Hard Knocks and Cheap Pops a few weeks ago, but decided against it. Watched some old Ric Flair matches instead.
Thursday, June 26th, 2008 | 11:38 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I assume you mean "Benoit: Hard Knocks" (or whatever the name was) and not the similarly titled Foley DVD from a few years earlier.

You're right, I probably should say I'm incapable of watching his matches, but I'd probably be incapable of enjoying it. The one time I did see him in the past year was when watching the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD (I'm done with current wrestling but I could watch old ECW forever) and he was in there for 3 minutes at the most. It was awkward but it's not like I went leaping for the remote.
Friday, June 27th, 2008 | 03:57 am (UTC)
You're right, sorry. Hard Knocks, not the Foley video.

You know, I was never a huge fan of ECW back in its heyday, but seeing what the WWE product is like now, especially their pitiful attempt to revive ECW under their umbrella, makes old school ECW look like bloody fucking Shakespeare in retrospect.
Friday, June 27th, 2008 | 08:32 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
ECW didn't really make in roads in to Canada until the writing was on the wall so I didn't really get in to it until well after the company closed.

ECW reminds me of a very entertaining b-movie. Like if wresting at its best was Goodfellas, ECW would be Evil Dead 2. I find that you'll be watching a match and I'll think "This may be a 6/10 but it's the most entertaining damn 6/10 I've ever seen." And at the very least it felt authentic. Test and Balls Mahoney might be equally mediocre wrestlers but Balls came off like a mean drunk at the end of the bar and Test seems like a male model.

Of course, this is way off topic for your blog. I'll let people get back to politics, arguments about home schooling and accusing everyone of being a voice for the state.
Friday, June 27th, 2008 | 09:09 pm (UTC)
Hey, we can talk pro wrestling as much as you want. There really is no off-topic here, it's anything I find interesting for whatever reason. I only write so little about wrestling because I watch so little of it these days. I try to catch TNA Impact every week, and I watch A.M. Raw on weekends if I'm up that late, but other than that I haven't kept up with it regularly for a few years. Haven't ordered a pay-per-view since Wrestlemania XX.

I love your Evil Dead 2 comparison.

And yeah, what is it with certain commenters here accusing everyone from Tim Russert to George Carlin to my cat of being statist mouthpieces? I think the tinfoil might be wrapped a little tight . . .

Anyway. Thanks for the wrestling talk. Feel free to jump in any time.
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