Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Benoit Tragedy--When Words Can't Do Justice

I haven't been struggling trying to figure out what I was going to say on my blog about the Chris Benoit situation because I don't have much to say. The information provided hasn't answered the question of why, and beyond that, what else is there to talk about? Yes, it's horrific, yes, it's another black eye for pro wrestling, and yes, it's a damn shame that a wife and innocent child were victims. From what I've read on the internet all week, any other commentary outside of that has been speculative, inflammatory, inaccurate, and probably should never have been said.

The Chris Benoit situation, for those who may not know, is this: From what I've read, to the best of my knowledge, 17-year veteran pro wrestler Chris Benoit did not make it to a wrestling pay-per-view show last Sunday night due to what WWE was claiming was a "family emergency," then Benoit, his wife (a former wrestling valet who divorced her wrestler husband while he was feuding with Benoit and went on to marry Benoit) and their son were found dead in their suburban Atlanta home. WWE aired a three-hour retrospective about Benoit Monday night; the next day details were released by the Atlanta police that indicated Benoit for reasons nobody knows strangled his wife with a cord, choked out his son, and then hung himself in his weight room. No suicide notes or any other indicators why Chris did this were left behind, just a Bible next to his wife and one left next to his son. WWE has taken on flak since then for airing a glowing tribute Monday to a guy who killed his family. I can't even comment on that because there's no way I can tell who knew what about Benoit's death when, and even if WWE and its Chairman Vince McMahon knew, it would be hard for me to come down on them for acknowledging one of its greatest in-ring performers because, again, no one knows for sure why he did this, and I can't decide if ignoring him and never mentioning his name on a wrestling broadcast again would be the right thing to do. Maybe, maybe not.

What I do want to talk about is the talking heads that have yapped about this thing all week. McMahon is still running scared from the feds taking him to trial for steroid possession and distribution in the 1990s (he beat the rap), so his main talking point on shows has been that Benoit was just a "monster" and that steroids and roid rage couldn't have had anything to do with this because the WWE has a wellness policy and Benoit passed his most recent test. Yeah, I'm sure the WWE steroid test is really difficult to beat. The fact is, McMahon has absolutely no idea if this was a roid rage incident and he was just trying to clear his name and the WWE before the info about roids being found in Benoit's home came out. I find that disgusting. Instead of saying that we have to wait for the whole truth to be uncovered, McMahon is busy covering his ass. The general commentary hasn't been much more intelligible. Some people are informed, but a lot, like the Fox News jokers, aren't, and almost everything they say comes out sounding like they still think pro wrestling is in its own bubble insulated from the outside world and that's why this horrific scene could occur, never mind that there's no evidence this has anything to do with wrestling. In fact, that was one of my first thoughts when I heard the news--how hard will the mainstream work to make a homicide-suicide by a pro wrestler look like it's wrestling's fault? They already hate wrestling, looking down on it as if only low-class individuals watch it, ignoring the high ratings every single week which indicate it's a widely popular program in any and all demographics. I was afraid they would try to paint this as something only a wrestler or a maniac could do, and that's been the case in some instances.

Or maybe I'm just hoping some excuse can come out to explain the unexplainable. Maybe I'm such a big Benoit fan that I can't believe he could do this without some sort of outside force causing him to snap and not realize what he was doing. I don't own a lot of wrestling DVDs because most of them out there are WWE products and I really hate putting money in the pockets of that pud McMahon. But the first one I ever bought a couple of years ago was "Hard Knocks," the Chris Benoit life story. He was that great to me. Every match he wrestled was hard-fought, stiff, and looked like it hurt him and the man he was working with. He put his body through hell every time out, and watching him talk about his career, you could tell it was what he loved to do and what he thought he was put here to do. The reason that resonated with me was because it reminded me of sports stars and the intensity and hard work they put themselves through to be at their peak physical best, and I respected the hell out of that. And so did the fans. Whether he was playing a good guy or a bad guy, Benoit had a section of every arena standing and applauding every time he hit the ring because they appreciated the fact that someone was going to get their ass kicked tonight. Believe it or not, there's not a great deal of wrestlers who inspire that feeling when they walk to the ring because so many of them are so light-hitting because they're afraid of hurting themselves or their opponents. Benoit wasn't concerned with that. He was concerned with having a match that looked and felt real, and it didn't go unnoticed by those of us who want to see guys display top-notch physical talent.

With that, here's one more theory of what could have made Chris do this other than just an animalistic drive to destroy himself, his family, and his legacy in one weekend. Like every other wrestler who wanted to put on a hardcore, realistic match every time out, Benoit over the years took many shots to and drops on his head. Since WWE--or, in fairness, any other wrestling federation--is loathe to give guys breaks or thorough physical exams, there's no telling how many concussions Benoit may have suffered over the years. He may never have reported any of them, either, since he wanted to be a tough guy and didn't want to be seen as weak for asking to be taken off a show due to headaches. Well, there was an ex-NFL player named Andre Waters who a few months ago killed himself due to feeling helpless from the neurological damage suffered from his numerous concussions. He was 43, but his brain had aged as if it was 73 from all the damage. The work to discover telltale signs of this damage to his brain was put in motion in part from the efforts of Chris Nowinski, a Harvard graduate and a man not yet 30 years old who was a WWE Superstar for a couple of years before quitting due to concussions. He is now pushing for former NFL players to get their heads examined, so to speak, so that they can see if they have issues with their brains and get treatment before it's too late. Nowinski wants to have the brain of Chris Benoit on his table to examine if there are the same symptoms of damage that were there in Andre Waters' brain, the same symptoms that led Waters to commit suicide. Last I read, Nowinski had thus far been rebuffed in his efforts to acquire Benoit's noodle. But if he gets that brain and finds that same kind of damage, at least there may be a small sense of closure and an answer to the question of why. And maybe McMahon will quit running around the country calling Benoit a monster, and maybe some sort of institutionalized health care will be instated by the WWE before McMahon can create more monsters.


GrizzBabe said...

Well done!

If I were the family, I would turn over Benoit's brain to Nowinski because I would want as many answers as possible.

Dre said...

This explains the reason getting Benoit's brain is a problem. From "There are...lots of good stories at There is one (on) researchers seeking permission to look at Benoit's brain to see if years of head trauma may have played a part in the story, similar to what they discovered with former NFL players Andre Waters and Justin Strzelcyzk. However, Benoit's brain may have been too damaged due to the time it took for police to discover his body and him being dead more than a day in 93-degree heat caused the brain to be virtually liquefied. Researchers are hoping it wasn't damaged enough to where they can obtain enough tissue to determine whether there were repeated concussions." I'm going to be sick.

GrizzBabe said...

I just heard on the radio that Benoit's doctor was arrested on a 7-count indictment. One of the things he is accused of is prescribing Benoit a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids every 3 weeks. But McMahon is so certain that there were no steroids involved.