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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chris Benoit: Murderer, Coward

Like most of you (yes you, admit it!), I’ve watched wrestling on television over the years, but less so over the past six or so years – maybe it’s that the storylines dished out by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) are not as entertaining as they used to be, or the characters are no where near as funny or compelling as they were in the 80s and 90s. I guess to this point, today’s wrestling show is more cartoonish, and less athleticism then it was years ago.

I distinctly remember cheering for a World Championship Wrestling (WCW) star named Chris Benoit. Benoit was framed as a hard-nosed, serious wrestler with a bit of a Napoleon complex – as Benoit - although 5’10 inches, appeared small against the backdrop the of WCW regulars. I enjoyed watching Benoit for his in-ring technique and for the fact that in the land of wrestling, he brought 100% every time, and played out his role as both hero and heel to the best of his ability. Moreover, he was simply “credible”.

And having been duped by wrestling angles for years (I guess), when I heard the news on Monday, about the murder/suicide, I simply chalked it up to another “work” or “angle” as they call it in their business. It was almost ironic that a week ago, my mother mentioned something to me about Vince McMahon (President of WWE) dying in a limousine explosion. She seemed to think it was serious, and at first I was intrigued. But then she went on to say that wrestlers were being interviewed, some upset and some attacking him – gave it all away as a hoax. So, I dismissed it as simply an attempt to raise ratings, and laughed it off – after all – the “car bombing” was allegedly all on tape with “federal authorities” interviewing wrestlers for information between matches during the show’s taping.

But alas, with stories all over the news, I realized that this awful tale was true. Chris Benoit is dead. And what’s even more shocking is that after allegedly binding his wife, Nancy, he suffocated her, and then murdered their seven year old son, Daniel. He placed Holy Bibles next to each victim. And according to police reports Benoit moved to the basement, and with a piece of equipment from his weight room, took his own life by hanging himself.

When the early story came out on Monday, the WWE was unaware of the murder/suicide aspect, and they cancelled the regular live card in Texas, and put on a three-hour tribute to Chris Benoit in its place. Internet sites have reported that after learning of the circumstances, the WWE apologized for glorifying and eulogizing Benoit in the way it did. I think this was more a timing issue because Monday Night Raw, the WWE’s show, goes on the air on Monday evenings and the initial news came out late Sunday, early Monday. Vince McMahon aim was to give something to the fans and help console their sadness – nothing more or less should be said of McMahon the WWE Corporation in this regard.

While I was driving home yesterday, I was listening to the commentary on 103.7 FM WEEI Radio and the personalities were discussing the situation, and talked at length with callers about the steroid controversy. Many of you have read my take on Barry Bonds and steroids on this blog. Although the Bonds situation deals with dishonesty, baseball, homerun records and such, there is also the connection that some are drawing between his angry demeanor and alleged physical mistreatment of persons with that of Benoit’s criminal behavior. Fans and news outlets alike are linking all of this to ‘roid rage short for steroid rage. We don’t have all of the facts on this, but if it could ever be proven to be true, it would add another element to the use of steroid use by athletes and could have state and federal implications for their overall use.

While authorities struggle with the “why” and the “how”, we are left with feelings of anger and sadness. The sadness is most for a seven year old boy, Daniel, who will never grow up to do all of the things that children are meant to do. The idea that he was only seven and murdered by his father is a terrifying and horrific thought. And we also grief for his wife, Nancy, who’s life was also taken abruptly at the hands of Benoit’s chokehold.

And lastly, we look at Chris Benoit. Whether it was mental state, rage, steroids, jealousy, or a thousand different excuses – we can feel nothing but anger and distain for him. And we have to accept that he is not a victim in any of this, but rather a perpetrator of a terrible double murder. And in the end, unable to face the authorities, or look in the mirror – in a cowardly fashion – took his life.

Years of wrestling entertainment and stardom has gone out the window. Will anyone care? I know I don’t. The only Chris Benoit that we will remember is the coward who in cold blood - killed his family - the man who murdered his seven year old son, and wife.

We can only pray that Benoit is left to answer to a higher authority for his crimes.

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