Chris Benoit - From a True Fan's Perspective
I sit here wondering if I should even write about wrestling anymore.
Yesterday, not knowing what happened to Benoit, I wrote a scathing piece attacking fans for pissing and moaning about the Vince McMahon death angle. To me, it is just a television show and wrestling is not real, so why do we hold it to such high standards, but then while on the bus, a friend of mine called me and told me the news.
Initially, I was pissed, because I thought maybe the WWE had gone too far. Would there be an entire murder story with wrestlers getting hit each week before the true killer was found? This just sounded so ridiculous to me. It couldn't be real, but then again, when someone told me Owen Hart died in the ring, I laughed, believing it was some sort of angle done by the WWE until I got home and watched the PPV replay and was shocked and saddened because Owen Hart was one of my favorite wrestlers.
Chris Benoit would be another favorite of mine. I couldn't believe he was dead and hearing the details of why he was not at the PPV, I just couldn't understand how he was heading home for an emergency only to wind up dead. But when I got home, there it was, all over the news, Chris Benoit was gone and I was so sad, because I knew it was murder-suicide. An email I sent my friend at 7 had those exact words, because how does a whole family die like that. But I held out hope. Not Benoit...he was awesome...he was my favorite...he was the last reason since Eddie Guerrero that I believed in wrestling anymore.
Benoit was a guy who looked legit tough and you could see him beating the Big Show or HHH or Scott Steiner, because he was just that damn good. When I was younger, I got hooked on PWI and Wrestler and Inside Wrestling, because they told me stories about other wrestling companies and all I read about was Chris Benoit in Stampede and Pegasus Kid in Japan. When I heard he got a tryout in the WWE, wrestling Hercules and managed by either Ted Dibiase or Bobby Heenan (I forget), I was excited. When that didn't work out and I saw him in WCW, teaming with Bobby Eaton and attacking Erik Watts only to have Arn Anderson make the save, I never thought it would be a precursor to one of the greatest Four Horsemen stables of all time.
I never saw him in ECW, but I saw tapes and wow...and then in WCW, you couldn't help but root for the guy. His feuds with Dean Malenko and Booker T were amazing, but his war with the Raven's Flock truly made me a fan. His team with Malenko against Saturn and Raven on Monday Nitro was amazing and his match with Bret Hart was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Not only did it rejuvenate Hart's career, but it put Benoit into the main event, losing in the WCW World title tournament before he would eventually win the belt from Sid Vicious in an awesome match. And then he went to the WWE and I cannot remember one match that I disliked of his. Even his early matches with John Cena were great. His team with Jericho and his feud with Steve Austin demonstrated how one day Benoit could be champ and that day came in historic fashion. Who would have ever thought that the embrace between he and Eddie Guerrero would represent two horrible tragedies.
But the real tragedy lies in what happened this past weekend. We went from a guy who I enjoyed playing as in a New Japan Wrestling game on my PSone to a guy I am trying so hard not to loathe right now.
So many things have gone into my head. Sherri Martel died unexpectedly and there are those who suspect foul play. Biff Wellington, a friend of Benoit's was found dead...strange concoctions go on in my head involving infidelity and murder involving everyone. Then there is a belief no one seemed to touch upon that Benoit went home because his wife snapped and maybe she killed the child and in a fit of rage, Benoit snapped at the loss of his son. One would be able to forgive a man for snapping if his son was killed. And it's almost sick to wish for something like that just so the man you respected can remain respected. I mean Woman was the first pinup of mine. I had tons of pictures of her...her connection to Ric Flair...what is he thinking right now? So sad. Poor Chavo Guerrero. Poor Bret Hart. How can this happen? How do you go on from here?
Let's pretend for a second that Benoit is a good guy in this somehow. It's hard, but let's just do that for a second. His death just made wrestling so hard to watch. I mean, there is not a day that goes by when I don't think to myself, this product would be so much better if Eddie Guerrero was still around. Now Benoit is gone. Real Wrestling went with it. Kurt Angle is a shell of his former self. Samoa Joe is eventually going to succumb to too many injuries because of his weight and the demands of his matches. The WWE relies on big men these days. There is no place for a Shelton Benjamin, Albright, or Dinsmore. Benoit was the last of a dying breed. Wrestlers who did all the talking in the ring and now that he is gone, the joy of wrestling is also dead...at least for me.
I grew up on Benoit. I grew up on Hawk...he got me watching wrestling in the first place. I grew up on Owen...taping his matches as the Blue Blazer for a wrestling magazine I would publish for my family and friends. I grew up on Rick Rude in World Class. I grew up on Kerry Von Erich and World Class. Chris Adams was a favorite of mine. Davey Boy Smith was becoming a favorite during the whole Austin era. I announced Candido matches for USA Pro. Curt Henning - wow, I watched him team with Scott Hall against Pretty Boy Doug Somers and Playboy Buddy Rose. Flyin Brian was just as much a part of my early years when I read Stampede news. Eddie. Benoit. Nancy. Elizabeth. Sherri. Wow. Elizabeth and Sherri and Nancy...think about that. Elizabeth feuded with Sherri and Elizabeth and Nancy were a team...shown during the Benoit honors. Who is next? Dustin? His problems scare me. Jake the Snake? How is he still even alive?
Something needs to be done. Less shows to produce less stress. A larger focus on smaller wrestlers to discourage steroid abuse. Stricter drug enforcement with contracts having clauses that allow the WWE to terminate at any time the abuse gets too great. A counselor on staff. More accountability. Something has to be done, because as a wrestling fan and as a wrestling columnist, I don't know how much more I can take. My heroes keep dying.
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