It's been four months since I've posted something new on Leonardite.com, so I put aside my rough draft columns about abortion and the Israeli occupation and decided to write about something controversial. Nobody in the wrestling media, whether sponsored or independent, wants to touch the name "Chris Benoit" anymore. It's hard to argue with that logic, although the sports media in the country still writes about Ray Lewis and the political media still talks about Ted Kennedy, so in that context it looks like an overly cautious step.
A few times on this website I've attempted to write comedy pieces, and of course failed miserably. In light of that and other circumstances, it probably wouldn't be the best idea to do so again here. Sure, I could, but this is still a homepage and not a GWAR show so I'm going to keep the morbidity levels (and bodily fluids on the audience) to a minimum.
Chris Benoit's career synopsis can be boiled down in the following fashion: The formative (some might say, underutilized) WCW days and his superstardom days with World Wrestling Entertainment. I know that everyone who sees "WWE" and "Superstar" in the same sentence automatically ignores it, because the adjective has been used to describe such dubious honorees as Chuck Palumbo and Gilberg, but in Benoit's case it was the truth. From what I saw of wrestling in the past five years, which admittedly isn't much, Benoit had climbed the ladder to the top.
For Benoit, (pronounced Ben-OY-t, obviously) his WCW days were a mundane run of awesome matches, punctuated every now and again by some sort of personal achievement. Every WWE-produced program about the WCW days always features a parade of weepy grapplers who complain that the company never put them over and Chris Benoit was one of these skilled lachrymologists. But while a lot of the whining is a little misplaced when it comes from mid-carders at best like Chavo Guerrero or Perry Saturn, Benoit did have a legitimate gripe. Benoit did have his successes in WCW, such as his epic seven match series with Booker T, his inclusion in the Four Horsemen, and his "Oh shit, take this thing so you don't quit" World Title reign shortly before he jumped ship to New York. But it wasn't until Benoit fled to the WWF that he truly became a star in wrestling.
Once he reached Vince McMahon's possession, his wrestling talent was widely known and people were ready for him to be a star. He eventually won the World Title at Wrestlemania XX, where it all supposedly "began again." (What began again? Every single storyline revolving around the one-saggy-nippled company president? Well fuck...)
Fast forward to a house full of dead people, a tribute show slowly sliding into mega-awkwardness as the details of that house became known, and a nation ready to learn the incorrect pronunciation of one of the better wrestlers in the last twenty years (remember, it's Ben-OY-t.) I remember getting the call that Chris Benoit had died. If you know anything about wrestling deaths, you would automatically have deduced like I did that
A) He died of a drug overdose
B) They found him in a hotel in Minneapolis
While "B" surprisingly turned out to be untrue, I was more surprised when I heard that his family was dead too. At this point, my gut tied a better knot than a webelos scout. All I could hope for was Phil Hartman part two.
Now either I'm a hopeless wrestling mark, which I would dismiss as false except for the fact that I draw the Ultimate Warrior building sandcastles on my underwear, or there was something to be said for the character that we all thought Chris Benoit had. Think about it: There was a house full of dead people, one of which was an occupant who was a clear steroid abuser by profession alone and who would smile fondly if you called him the "Canadian Crippler" to his face. With all of this too obvious to even need elaboration, my stone sober thoughts were instantly, "Gee, I wonder if his wife is the one that flipped out and killed the family."
I wasn't alone. That might be a hint towards more Jim Hellwig beach artistry in the world, but more likely it's probably because Chris Benoit had the whole fan base hoodwinked. When someone goes off and does something socially irresponsible, you can usually find at least one boob to defend him as "one of the good guys." (See: Sharpton, Al) But in this case, it was across the board: Never in a million years did I or anyone else think that Chris Benoit would do anything even close to this. I can rattle off a disgusting list of wrestlers where I would've shrugged and gone "Yeah, should've seen that coming" (See: Pump, Big Poppa) but never would I have put Benoit on that list.
So where does Chris Benoit fit after this? As I hinted to before, it looks like his name is just going to completely disappear. When the respected wrestling media (whoa, oxymoron alert) stares blankly at the mention of this foreign name, it's hard to imagine Benoit's name being relevant ten years from now. That's a shame on two levels. The first and far less important reason was that he contributed something to the profession. His matches were usually the best on every show and he carried two companies to positions better than before he arrived.
But the far more important reason is that he also contributed something more sinister to the profession. Because now when you start to think about him putting the crossface on Triple H, you would be chastised for not letting your mind wander to him killing his son in the same fashion. Short of Bret Hart wearing a bomb to Burger King or Hulk Hogan feeding his kids grenades, nothing could possibly soil wrestling's name more than this has.
Wrestling is a hard place to find good guys. Vince McMahon has a famous speech talking about how his company reflects society where there are no "good guys and no bad guys." I disagree. Society does have good guys and I'm still of the opinion that a few of them sneak into the wrestling business now and again. But the truth remains a man that would have been so tagged was found in a house of corpses hanging from his Bowflex. Forgive my growing skepticism about the whole affair.
Vince McMahon may no longer have good guys or bad guys in his promotion. He now no longer has Chris Benoit either. It is with the utmost regret, that I say he should only be proud of the last item in that list.