Professional wrestling has often been likened to a soap opera. A violent one perhaps, but a soap opera nonetheless. Characters, story lines, good guys, bad guys – the roller coaster ride that we take when we tune in to a WWE or TNA show is a thrilling and exciting one. We cheer or boo, getting engrossed in those characters and story lines that are fed to us. But what do we know about these people as individuals? Not the ones they portray, but the actual person? Or do we even care? It is so easy to see the character they play (particularly since many of them are pretty convincing) and forget the athlete behind that facade.
Apparently, we are not the only ones who are fooled at times. Almost without exception, all of those who have come forward and voiced their view of Chris Benoit have said they never saw it coming. Are they protecting the wrestling community, or was Benoit so good at hiding his turmoil that those closest to him were shocked? Perhaps naively, I believe the latter.
Chris Jericho was on the Nancy Grace show Thursday night, talking about Benoit. Before I go on about what he had to say, I must mention that he was a wonderful ambassador for professional wrestling. He handled himself with great poise, and was the perfect example to show that the preconceived notion of a lack of intelligence in the wrestling world is not always the case. Articulate and to the point, Jericho answered all questions honestly, while neither climbing on a soapbox in defense of his previous occupation, nor pointing fingers.
He mentioned that Chris was a very private person. He would be right there to avail his expertise to those who might want his knowledge, but apparently things stayed on that level. Jericho knew Benoit quite well, yet was never privy to the fact that the boy Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is different, and the mere fact that it seems no one knew of Daniel’s issues is in itself not that big a deal. But Jericho emphasized, as have so many others, that Benoit loved his son. He suggested that, probably for a number of reasons and for quite some time, Benoit might have kept the chaos locked in his mind and to himself, only to be able to handle it no longer.
I could not write this column without including Vince McMahon in here. On Raw last week they had a three-hour tribute to Chris Benoit, opened by McMahon standing in the center of the ring surrounded by an empty arena. Powerful stuff. I’m sure that, considering there were only a few short hours to get things together, everyone within the company busted their asses to put together a show. I don’t know about any of you, but I think they did a great job.
Tuesday, ECW, and once again McMahon opens the show. But the tone was quite different this time – this was a completely different Vince from the previous night. Now some details had come out, and while there has been so much more information that we are now privy to than last week, the first thought of a triple murder had turned into a murder/suicide. Gone was the McMahon who was singing Benoit’s praises. In fact he told us that Chris’s name would not be mentioned again. The hurt of losing one of his wrestlers accidentally, as it were, was replaced by anger, bitterness, and yes, a sense of betrayal.
Let me say that I think that Vince McMahon has done the right thing all the way here. I surprise myself by saying that, since I feel that he has made so many really stupid decisions, and I hate the way that he showcases himself to the detriment of those who are his bread and butter. But his tribute show was from the heart, the right thing to do upon receipt of the horrible news.
His complete change of attitude the next night I also understand. Was he only trying to distance himself from the heinous act to protect his business? Let’s be honest here, of course he was! But look at the other questions. “How could he do this? How could he kill his wife and child? I am completely repulsed!” So am I, and I didn’t know the guy! But I go from anger to sorrow, to disbelief, to revulsion, and back to anger. The cycle continues.
I will say that ECW and SmackDown! were great shows. Not only were the athletes pumped up after all the emotions they had to deal with, but there was nothing but pure wrestling. Wow, what a difference! No microphone rants that take up the first 12 minutes of the program. Forgotten for the moment were crazy story lines that we had to discuss over and over. Just men doing their thing in their chosen profession, and doing a damn good job!
The only thing that I DO wish McMahon would do is to put Benoit’s merchandise back on sale. You know people would buy the stuff, and then you give ALL of the proceeds to his two other children, who must live with this memory for the rest of their lives. It wouldn’t take that away, but it might make their lives a little easier.
I have heard it said that “Opinions are like elbows – everybody’s got a couple.” In this case forget the couple. It is more like feet on a centipede. I have my views, as I’m sure does everyone else. And I’m also certain that they differ greatly. But there is one thing most would be in agreement with – that what happened over those horrible few days cannot be explained away by one simple answer. Each day new information come to light. Sometimes it is informative, other times just more repugnant.
Steroids and other drugs, stress within the family unit, a child possibly ill, mental instability, alcohol, concussion syndrome, the list goes on and on when one is looking for reasons to explain this away. And the truth is, probably most of the things that come to mind could all easily play a part in this American tragedy. It is a complicated issue that only one person might completely explain, and that one person is dead.
Be safe and God Bless,
Viva La Raza,