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I figured once I saw that I only had TWO games tonight instead of three, tonight was going to be easy. And indeed, it was; I did two blowouts, left, came home.

Then I was fed a shock. Shocking even for me, who has been following a certain "sport" for years.

I learned that Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy (Woman from WCW) and their 7 year old son were dead. For those that don't know who Chris Benoit is, he's a professional wrestler, and my favourite wrestler of the modern era. Not QUITE as much for me as, say, Scott Keith, but he's up there.

My mother stayed up to talk to me about it. That says something. See, I've been following wrestling for years upon years, since I was little. I was into the dirt sheets, and knew most of what was really happening behind the scenes from the mid-90s on, which blew up once the internet came to prominence. All in that time, I've had three favourite wrestlers, and they could be divided up into eras. The early era - effectively before Hulk Hogan went to WCW - was dominated, in my eyes, by Randy Savage. The middle era - from Hogan going to WCW until Montreal, '97 - was Bret Hart's. I fell out of wrestling for awhile after that, but got back into it out of convenience while in the Navy; that was Benoit's era. I have always had an affinity for sound technical wrestlers; Benoit and Hart being Canadian certainly helped things, especially during the Team Canada vs. Steve Austin feud in the WWF.

Now, in the time that I've been an adult, any and all pleasant memories from my time as a kid, when wrestling was "special" and even "real" have been effectively replaced by the very harsh realities of a business where constant beatings, constant travel and even steroids are a common part of the game. I rarely blink when most celebrities die, and even when I do, it's for a passing moment, until I realize that people die all over the world, every day, for whatever reason. I barely blinked when Corey Liddle died, except to note that a plane crashed into a building in NYC again. Rod Beck? I mentioned it to Ed, and that's it. But really, the only thing that separates these people from the other millions that die every day is their stake in MY personal memories.

But in Wrestling, the only feeling I get when someone dies is disgust, in a "Who's next" or "Jesus, how much worse can it get" fashion. I have a firm grasp on the English language, and I don't even have a word that can properly describe all of the wrestlers and their causes of death just in this decade. The names are a who's who of 80s superstars that I idolized, and even other wrestlers that are simply too fucking young to die. Michael "Mike Awesome" Alfonso? Suicide - Hanging. Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow? Drug overdose. "Miss" Elizabeth Huelette? Accidental overdose + vodka. Curt Hennig? A combination of steroids and cocaine. Eddie Guerrero? Acute heart failure as a result of past excesses. "Sensational" Sherri Martel? She just died last week, they don't know WHAT did her in yet! And let's not forget those like Jake Roberts who, by all accounts and measures, should be dead. Professional Wrestling is a business where only the best make it, and only the best among those can keep their wits and their sanity, and stay clean; in a business where anabolic steroids are a necessity and freely available - remember, Vince McMahon was dead to rights on charges of distribution of steroids - it's only natural to build a reliance on anything that can help you keep an edge in a business where all of your success depends on a fickle wrestling base (that has likely made up it's mind on you the moment you were signed to wrestle in OVW, which is the WWF's minor leagues), and more or less, the opinions of four or five people, all within the same family.

And it's on that backdrop that I wonder just what the fuck happened in that house in Fayetteville. When my mother told me about it, she said it sounded like it was something akin to a halon or gas leak; something that would, if undetected, take out an entire family. Then I started reading "investigated like a murder/homicide", until on wwe.com, in big block letters, "DOUBLE MURDER-SUICIDE". It makes the mind reel, and makes the whole situation that much more surreal. Benoit wasn't known as a piece of shit, someone like Larry "Lex Luger" Pfohl or Jake Roberts or Scott Hall or Randy Orton. He was known as a model citizen in the entire wrestling world, the hardest worker, most studious, and a great family man to boot. Really, the only thing that would make less sense in a lot of peoples' minds is if this was Mark Calaway doing this. In my mind, I'm playing back a part of his DVD where he explains that his children - two with a previous wife and one with Nancy - were all too young to understand the dynamics of his relationship with Nancy, and to explain it on a DVD would be unfair to them; he didn't talk about it on his DVD because he didn't want them finding out third-hand. That was noticed by me because I felt his sincerity. (Backstory, for those that don't know and care: Benoit and Nancy were put into a storyline in 1995 that had them together. This ended up budding into a real-life romance. One problem: Nancy was married to WCW booker Kevin Sullivan. This actually hurt Benoit's career for awhile, but the simple fact is that he effectively stole away Kevin Sullivan's wife). If what is being reported by some news sources is true - I'm not believing anything until autopsy reports come out, as well as OFFICIAL reports based on those - then he essentially went batshit nuts, and his "personal reasons" for staying behind with his wife and son - during a pay-per-view, something you just don't miss in the wrestling business - were really to murder his wife and son.

I don't know what to believe. But let's assume it's true, for a moment, that he did kill his wife of 11 years, his seven year old son, and himself. What caused this? Marital strife? Too much time on the road? Fear about a life after wrestling that was rapidly approaching (he's had neck fusion surgery; basically, fuse together two vertebrae, and there you go. Now, do that, and continue to do German Suplexes, diving headbutts and other similarly stressful moves)? Steroid rage? Who the fuck knows? The possibilities are endless, and will be endlessly be debated by all of his hardcore fans (he's HUGE in what is called the Internet Writing Community, which is basically a bunch of geeks and nerds that do nothing but write about male soap operas. I don't have much respect for most of the IWC, though I'm interested to read Eric S's take on this). Taking my own memories of Chris Benoit - of his time as Pegasus Kid, his time in WCW, the rest of his time in Japan, the Outsiders, his time with Jericho, and a resultantly awesome match against Steve Austin and HHH on RAW - out of the picture, the fact is that if he did this, what he was to his peers for 40 years prior to this weekend is moot; he killed a woman and a small child, and for that, he should burn in hell. If that's indeed what happened, then he's the worst kind of coward.

Adding in my own memories and opinions, it's basically the last knife to my memories of wrestling as anything mythical or worthy of celebration. It was already hard to look at the 80s and 90s without going through a roster and going "dead... dead... hey, not dead, but fucked up... dead... doing a reality show on VH1...", and this basically was the final stake. How can I, a reasonable man, possibly look at the wrestling business with many positive opinions if something like this truly happened, with us tossing this one on the pile with every other wrestler death since the start of the Steroid Era? Even the ones that survive are usually broken heaps of men, alcoholics, drug addicts, the most fucked up people known to man. Not many people can excel in other facets of life while still being successful wrestlers. Steve Borden is able to keep the word of God and run a church (I think) while wrestling in TNA. Calaway (The Undertaker) is a real estate investor. Hulk Hogan is basically his own brand to himself; give him credit, he's a good businessman. John "Bradshaw" Layfield is a successful financial analyst that has been repeatedly profiled on MSNBC. Mick Foley has basically become a house dad. But these are seemingly the exceptions; the rest of them are broken or dead. As a matter of fact, this means that all three of my favourite wrestlers have been tainted in some way. Randy Savage is a nutjob that actually wrote a legitimate rap song dissing Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan; I use the real name there because he really, REALLY hates him, for real). Bret Hart is a selfish, self-absorbed fool who's all but crippled and can't stop talking about the fucking Montreal Incident from '97 long enough to mention his dead brother half the time (Owen Hart died while falling 60+ feet to the ring in a failed stunt). And now, Chris (if this is indeed true). I haven't been viewing Wrestling through rose-coloured glasses for years, but for the past few years, it's essentially blind-sided my psyche with a blackjack in a fluorescent room. This didn't affect me in a minor way like the passing of two pitchers that barely crossed my radar, or even someone I marginally cared for as a kid like Sherri Martel or Bam Bam Bigelow. This was CHRIS BENOIT.

And it - and other shit you see in the news nowadays - makes me think. These are all people that had their shit together for the longest time, longer than I've been alive. Everything you could want in life, and then POOF! It's gone, or they're gone, or something catastrophic happens to alter multiple lives forever. What then? What the fuck do you do? What if someone you know is one of those people that has it all going for them for every moment of their life, more or less, until that one magic moment when they lose it completely? What if I'M that person!? I've never really been scared of the consequences of my actions in the past because I essentially live for myself and my ideals. That's really no longer the case; I live for myself as well as Aileen, as the prospectus of a serious, life-long relationship, at this point, has to be seriously considered. The thought of hurting her in any way makes me want to puke, but I look at shit like this, and I wonder... what if that were to be me? What if that was the remote chance? I realize this is paranoid rambling, and stuff that Aileen's mother is famous for, but... hm. Maybe that's what love really is: paranoia of not living up to your mate's expectations. It's a scary thought, when you apply extreme cases like this; it's hard to keep the perspective that this is the minority.

All I do know is that we've had too many wrestlers lose it for whatever the reason over the years; the percentages are too high. And although Vince does whatever he can nowadays to take care of his people, the fact of the matter is that the rates are still too high, and that's a cultural thing more than it is an issue of negligence.

I do also know one other thing: Kurt Angle should be paying ESPECIALLY close attention to this. We've had him pegged as the potential for the worst case scenario since he left the WWE banged up, with a nearly broken neck, on more drugs and painkillers than Keith Richards in his heyday, and pushing himself to death's door. Kurt, Chris Benoit - a model citizen - lost it (update: it seems that WWE.com has confirmed that police have named this a double murder-suicide). This - or a similarly horrific storyline - could be you...

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
recession
Jun. 26th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)
Quoted from the thread on FARK.com (I wouldn't suggest reading it unless you want to read a large flamewar, but there are a few gems..)

This is extremely sad.

I met Chris Benoit multiple times during my on again/off again wrestling viewing stints. He was easily the most likeable guy, especially away from the camera. We met him in a restaurant one time--for some reason he was eating by himself, maybe all of the other guys had left--and we went over and told him politely that we appreciated his hard work, asked for an autograph, etc. So what did he do? He bought all of our dinners (Myself, G/F, 3 Friends) and asked us to pull up some chairs to "talk." That was extremely out of character for any wrestler, but he didn't care. We talked for about 3 hours in there; we felt bad because we all ordered multiple drinks, and he ordered just one. We tried to foot the bill, but he refused, and made us promise that next time he was in Portland that we would meet him at the same spot.

When they came again (a few months ago), we showed up and waited for him after the show...and waited...and waited...until finally he showed up around 11:00, and apologized profusedly to us for not making it there sooner. He then treated us to another wonderful night of dinner and drinks, of which we refused to let him pay--but the waitress there knew him and Chris gave her his credit card and told her to not take ours. (Who would ever think you could fight over the bill with Benoit?)

From the way he was talking to us, I don't see this being a murder/suicide, but who knows? He seemed to love life, but drugs can really screw you up. I sincerely hope it was something else, because he was truly one of the nicest people I have ever met.



I can remember being in Junior High and getting introduced to Wrestling by a friend. I never cared much for WCW at the time, as I was first introduced to WWF (and I felt that WWF had better wrestlers/matches/plots). Actually, I think I got into wrestling when Shawn Michaels returned as commissioner? Sometime in there. (I remember Triple H slamming the car door on Ken Shamrock(?)'s broken leg at some point).

Anyhow, I slowly got into WCW after watching a few PPVs at a friend's house. I liked Benoit a lot more than Malenko, but at the time he was shadowed (in my eyes) by Sting, Bret Hart and most likely Scott Hall (though I only remember him and his drunk act when he came out at one of the Halloween events. I think he was in a match with Sting?)

Then WCW went down the tubes and WWF was slowly getting wrestlers. I clearly remember Owen Hart's death and how it shattered my 8th grade dreams. Funny thing? I hated Owen's character. Seriously, I was one of those "Nugget!" chanters when I was a kid (well, I was a DX fan..) but when he died, I remember my dad telling me how it was fake, wrestling was fake, people don't get hurt, this guy didn't die, etc. I can clearly remember RAW the next night, and how I watched it in my room and sobbed all night long.

I haven't really thought much of Wrestling since I stopped watching it in High School. I've caught a match here or there flipping channels, which is when I asked Alex about how the hell Shawn Michaels could wrestle again, but for the most part I mind my own business (seeing last time I saw WWF... or eh, WWE, they were doing another recycled Undertaker storyline that looked vaguely familiar from when I was 14). I came home tonight to the local news talking about how a wrestler had died, and I just stopped in my tracks. "Who?" They showed a picture. "No fucking way Benoit died." Then my mom told me his whole family too. I was just in shock, because I figured if another wrestler was to pass, it would be someone older, you know? Benoit just seemed really young to me, and I couldn't really wrap my mind around it. It kinda took me back to Owen's death.
recession
Jun. 26th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
[ Holy shit my post was long - here's the other half ]

I'm not going to take anything as hard evidence until I see better coverage. The police Lieutenant they've been getting reports from has a terrible reputation in his area (one of the local Farkers said before he got the Lieutenant position, he ignored a kid who went to the police saying he was being bullied a lot and couldn't handle it and needed help, then was so shocked when the kid showed up with a gun at school. Eesh.) In the end, even if they say Benoit did do it, I think the unanswered question is what happened to trigger him into such an act?

Maybe that's what love really is: paranoia of not living up to your mate's expectations.

That's part of it, my friend. It's that little voice that eats into the back of your brain telling you that you might fail this and screw that up, because you want everything to be perfect. I think the day that little voice stops talking is honestly the day either A.) Everything is absolutely perfect (and please tell me how you managed that if it happens!) or B) There's a huge problem in the relationship. From just what I can read here, though, I wouldn't put too much thought into anything negative. You're down to earth and keep yourself out of the things that could get you in major trouble, so it'll be okay. :')
samuraiter
Jun. 26th, 2007 12:34 pm (UTC)
I only follow wrestling loosely through one of my coworkers (Urok the Coworker), but I know enough about Chris Benoit to be completely flabbergasted by this incident. Murder-suicide? If that is, in fact, the case, I hope the police get to the bottom of it and figure out what went wrong. People just don't flip on a dime; there has to be something behind it that's been there for a while. This whole thing stinks, but I'll be following it.
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