Friday, June 24, 2011

A Dubious Anniversary

One of the real victims from that fateful weekend
Photo Credit: Slam Wrestling
Today marks one of the most dubious and shameful dates in pro wrestling history as four years ago, Chris Benoit, once hailed as one of the greatest technicians of all time, threw away his legacy and traded it in for one of a psychopathic murderer as he completed his cowardly actions by hanging himself on his Bowflex. In the days prior, he had murdered in cold blood (although most likely not of sound mind) his wife, Nancy (known as Woman in her performing days) and his seven-year-old son Daniel.

There are some among us wrestling fans who refuse to believe Benoit murdered anyone and instead want to paint him as a murder victim. They're on par with 9/11 Truthers in terms of lunacy in my opinion. There are others who show an astonishing level of cognitive dissonance towards the events and choose to honor Benoit with the other fallen stars of pro wrestling, as if he deserves a place in the pantheon with Eddie Guerrero, John "Earthquake" Tenta, Randy Savage, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude and the countless others who died before their time. I honestly question their myopia at the very least.

That always brings us to the question that gets asked and asked again ad nauseam - is it okay to like Chris Benoit's work in the ring? Can you hate the man for what he did and still enjoy the art he produced? This might be a bad comparison since he was never convicted of anything, but that's like asking yourself if you can still laugh at the Nordberg character in the Naked Gun movies knowing that OJ Simpson most likely killed his ex-wife and another innocent man. You can come up with all the reasoning in the world for either side, but at the end of the day, it's a moral debate that has no real answer. To that end, I feel like Benoit's history in wrestling is there, and will always be there. I guess I'm fine with enjoying his work in the ring, but I draw the line at any real tributes of him as a man, if that makes sense.

If there's one really good thing that came out of all of this, it was the increased focus on head trauma and concussions that came out of it. When they did an autopsy on Benoit, they had found that his brain was practically melted, due to concussions suffered in the ring. Whether it was repeated attempts at doing a flying headbutt from the top, taking unprotected chairshots to the head, taking a million and a half German suplexes a match or anything else he purveyed in his high-impact style of wrestling, Benoit was the antithesis of a safe worker. Thanks to his example of what not to do, WWE has started to clean up their in ring product. It took Impact a while before they got the picture, but they've thankfully gotten the picture. Even the indies are starting to slow down a little bit, although they're still bad when it comes to working a style that prevents concussions and head trauma. Don't get me wrong; I would much rather have Nancy and Daniel Benoit alive right now and the WWE getting the same message, but sadly, this was an impossibly hard lesson to have to learn. It really sucks.

And it also doesn't excuse what Benoit did at all. Yeah, he wasn't of sound mind, but it was all his fault. Notice that several other guys who had similar issues to what he had didn't snap and kill their families. A man needs to be responsible for his own actions, or else why believe in free will? Why have laws? Why have a court system? Still, the spotlight shed on concussions and even drug use was an important one to shine in the wake of the nasty shit he did.

So, in closing, I'm going to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Nancy "Woman" Benoit and Daniel Benoit, the two real victims of that heinous weekend four years ago. Those are the people we need to remember with fondness today as we mark this dubious anniversary. As for Chris? Well, my mother always told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, not to say it at all.

Let's leave it at that.

Remember you can contact TH and ask him questions about wrestling, life or anything else. Please refer to this post for contact information. He always takes questions!

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