I've had a lot of emotions this week about the Benoit family tragedy. I've wanted to write about it all week in my blog, so as to let some of it out. However, all my different thoughts are jumbled up in emotional streams of conciousness. I've decide to just let it rip and see what comes from it. This post may not flow very well but feel free to read my thoughts. ...
Last monday I was at my brother in laws house. Like me, he doesn't have cable so we couldn't watch wrestling. He had a girlfriend over who is a big wrestling fan and a fan of Chris Benoit. As my wife was flipping through the small selection of available channels hoping he somehow recieved USA so that we could start to see the Vince McMahon death storyline play out, I noticed my brother in laws friend was on the phone talking to somebody and very upset. From the parts I overheard it was wrestling related and she was trying to confirm if it was just another storyline or the truth. At some point she plops her laptop down in front of me with the article about the death of Chris Benoit and his family. I was shocked! Another one!? An active wrestler!? A top card!? I had just gotten an Eddie Guerrero shirt for fathers' day. I was wishing I could watch RAW to honor a wrestler I truly respected.
On Tuesday, we made the long drive home and picked up D'Artagnan from his grandpa's house. It was a whirlwind of a day, and very long so I didn't look into the case any further. I wanted to know what happened, was it foul play? Was it a carbon monoxide leak? However, when the end of the day came I could barely keep my eyes open and wasn't ready to deal with any of that information emotionally.
Wednesday morning I woke up early and thought, they probably have some information out by now I'll go check. As I started to read, I didn't want to believe a word of it. It couldn't be. I didn't know Benoit but... it was too much to bare. All at once I wanted to talk it through with everybody and never speak of it again. On the way to work my wife made it clear that I needed to talk to Stro. Stro knew both Chris and Nancy from WCW. I needed to talk to him, he would be hit harder than anyone else I knew. However, that was going to have to wait for me to get to a point where I could be there for him. I wasn't ready for that yet. As I walked into the gym that morning, Brenda and Andy made a comment about how McMahon's storyline got ruined by the Benoit tragedy. I talked with them a bit. It helped to talk with others but I needed to know more.
Work didn't go well on Wednesday. I was fairly productive, but I remember a 2 hour period where I just couldn't focus on work enough to distract myself. It was during this time that I called Stro. Devestated is probably the best description of how he sounded on the phone. He didn't believe Benoit did it. He believed that someone murdered all of them and set it up to discredit Benoit. I let Stro know that he could call me anytime, if he needed to talk about it. I haven't talked to him since. During this 2 hour period I also read as many articles as I could find. I watched the McMahon announcement at wwe.com that originally aired before ECW. It was all coming together but I still wasn't going to believe Chris did it.
Thursday came and the articles I started to read focused on Steroids. This angered me. Not all of them really. Steroids and body dysmorphia are terrible parts of the sports and entertainment industries. Just the ones that were using this to ride their high horse about steroids, or about how evil the WWE, wrestling and/or Vince McMahon are. Those articles were obviously biased and contained a lot of false, misleading and/or completely bullshit pieces of information. Other articles were much better and I was coming to the realization that Chris most likely did perpetrate these heinous acts. However, I didn't go the route of cutting the legacy he worked so hard at out of my mind. He was a great wrestler, and I will always respect his in ring abilities. However the end of his life really went down, while unbelievable ( no matter the truth ) it was a tragic end to an amazing career.
I'm going to quit giving a timeline now. I'm having a bunch of my thoughts I need to make sure I get down. First and foremost it pisses me off how people passed judgement so quick on Benoit. People went from either admiring and respecting him to hating him and speaking about him as a monster. It's not like we just found out he was a serial killer for the past 25 years. In fact all the evidence about the past 25 years says he wasn't; except for a period in 2003 when there was the possibility of divorce with his wife but that their was only 1 restraining order and they obviously worked it out. From my limited knowledge of batterers there are usually more signs than that. In hindsight anyway. Let's turn this around for a second. If someone is a serial killer for 25 years but then in their last acts on this earth they suddenly spend their life saving another, do we then hold parades in their honor, and create statues, buildings and holidays in their name? The tragic end, is a tragic end. He was not a monster. He was a human being who reached a point where his reality altered beyond anything I can imagine. My wife's first thought when she found out it looked like he murdered his family was he must have suffered from depression so bad it got out of hand. That is the only thing that makes sense to me. It doesn't make the acts any less terrible but it does start to make more sense.
I realize that many people are just going through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. My first reaction was denial as I'm sure many people's was. Both to the death and then to the murder-suicide claim. My friend Stro was, and may still be. Like I said, he actually knew both Chris and Nancy and none of it makes sense to him. The anger was clear. Many people were angry at the WWE for honoring Chris Benoit on Monday. Of course the WWE had no knowledge of the details surrounding the case at that point. Obviously much of the anger was pointed towards Benoit and monstrifying him. Others, like me, went the way of getting angry at people who discredit his whole career for one terrible act, especially since we still don't have all the details yet. More people got angry at the WWE for their role in this.
The WWE has it tough. Professional wrestling, though very popular, is still a subculture that is looked down upon by many people. Many people outside of the business, especially non fans of present day, have a very false and unflattering view of the WWE. Vince McMahon has it worse. Being the Chairman of the WWE, he is it's figurehead. However, as Mr. McMahon ( not Vince, there is a difference ) he plays a heel - bad guy for all the wrestling ignorant - and so he doesn't have a very good image on purpose. People tend to think he is as evil as he plays on TV. I'm not saying he is a saint but from everything I've heard he seems like one of the better hugely successful business people to work for. Very rarely, in the Western world at least, do you find a businessman whose handshake is as good as his signature on a contract. Of course, given the number of wrestlers who have died recently the WWE needs to look at its own business. And it does! However, given the number of celebrity's who have issues how many of us look in the mirror and ask - how am I responsible for what happened? If you read that and think you aren't in any way responsible think again. We crave celebrity and we have very demanding standards. Our celebrities need to look a certain way. All the "way too thin" celebrities we hear about are the equivalent of the steroid abusing athletes. It's all body dysmorphia. One group just says I'm too big, the other says I'm too small. Why do they say that? Why do they think that? Is it because Vince McMahon thinks that bigger wrestlers get more butts in the seats and thus keep his business and dream alive? Whose butt is in those seats? Who is watching that actresses movie? Who is watching and reading every little piece of gossip about how anorexic, bulemic, drug addicted someone is? It is you. It is your friends. What about the need to stay in the limelight. Entertainment is a rough business. If people aren't seeing you, they forget you. So you need to stay in front of them. In wrestling that means you need to be on the road 300+ days a year. Does it really? Why do the wrestler's think that. Is it because the fans demand it. Is it because wrestling gets so little respect that very few wrestlers can branch out into other forms of entertainment and be thought of with respect in that genre? Think again about your own responsibility in situation like this before you start to pass the blame on to others. It's a tough pill to swallow, especially after an event like this, but you may transform your life out of what you find behind that inquiry.
I'm going to miss Chris Benoit in the ring. I will never know everything that happened but the tragic end will never diminish his career in my eyes. I wish everlasting peace to the Chris, Nancy and Daniel Benoit. I realize that no matter what the situation truly is, 3 people we're killed that day. I am deeply, deeply saddened. More so than I logically think I should be. It hits me as a father, a husband, a wrestler, a wrestling fan and a friend of someone who knew the family. Now that I have written this much, I do feel better but the saddness is still there.
I hate that shit. It does terrible stuff to the body. In fact, I'm not clear that we still know every way that it affects the body. Of course, I have a hard time taking medicine to clear up a stuffy nose. I'm pretty amazed with the human body and I always give it a chance to handle things itself. I don't like the side effects. I still take medicine and go to the doctor when the side effects are better than the body doing its thing but I often wait longer then most people I know.
Given the pieces of the case I have read about I'm clear that steroids were most likely a factor. They may have led to 'roid rage if Chris was back on them. Or, by being off them, he could have had very intense depression. I heard that Superstar Billy Graham said that he thought they were only a piece of the puzzle and most likely other drugs were also involved. I'm sure they were. How they were, however, is way up in the air. Drugs, prescribed and otherwise, effect the body in ways we only partially comprehend. Every body is different too. Every drug combination is different. How they interact is only known to a certain degree.
My only hope is that this will make people rethink some of the stuff they are doing to their bodies. I hope that coaches rethink recommending kids take this crap. Not only that, but they need to start nipping it in the bud and kicking those kids off the team. But it comes back to how we are responsible. Those coaches usually get paid better when they win, no matter how they win. The butts in the seats, paying for tickets and buying the overpriced items at the concession stand see to that. I realize each individual is responsible for their own actions and can make these decisions for themselves. We live in a skewed culture. We hate knowing about steroid use, but we like to see big strong men do amazing things after they take them. As long as we don't know about it, we are good. Heck, even when we do know about it sometimes 'winning' is more important. Perhaps we need to rethink winning. Is our team really winning if the are risking their lives to get bigger, stronger and faster. Is our team really winning if our kids, who look up to the athletes, think the only way to make it to the top is destroy themselves. Making it to the top is now more important than staying healthy, than staying alive. We need to look in the mirror and see how we are responsible for these aspects of our culture and take steps to make a difference in the lives of people we touch.
Thank you for reading my rant. I love you all.