Category Archives: commentary

Chris Benoit Thoughts, Part 2

As promised, I’m continuing my thoughts here…

I’ve watched my share of “talking head” shows over the past week.  It’s apparent that a lot of people are talking – but very few are listening.

After each new note is posted regarding the investigation, media-types seem to fall over themselves to proclaim THAT as the primary cause.

For instance, the first guess was steroids.  It HAD to be “roid rage!”  A professional wrestler committed a heinous act, so it could NOT have been anything else besides steroids.  Well, nothing about this tragedy implies rage and Benoit passed a recent WWE-sponsored drug test (which may or may not be as legit as you’d want it to be).

Next, it was the fact that Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome that sent Benoit over the edge.  Well, new evidence shows that he DID NOT suffer from that.

This was followed by the evil doctor.  We’re still not sure what went on there.

The thing is, I’m guessing there was not just one thing here to cause this tragedy.  There were probably numerous things going in Benoit’s head, perhaps different substances coursing (or not) through his body.

It’s sad to hear about all the troubles that Benoit had…how erratic his life had become, and apparently, had been for quite some time.  But since he presented himself to his fans and coworkers in a stoic, put-together way, he was not given the help he desperately needed.

If some good can come of this, I hope that it alters the sports entertainment landscape to protect the physical and mental well-being of it’s performers.

Perhaps WWE scales back from 4-5 live events a week to 2-3.  Perhaps they can offer health insurance to their wrestlers.  Perhaps they can have guidance counselors available.

I’ve studied the history of the genre a little bit.  The vast majority of superstars used to travel constantly, but within a smaller region.  Today’s Superstars roam the globe with no break, expected to perform in front of tens of thousands in the arena, in addition to millions on television.  The pressures and rigors — and the stakes — have never been higher.

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Chris Benoit Thoughts, Part 1

If you are reading this, then you know the basics of the story.

Longtime readers of this blog definitely know the appreciation I have from professional wrestling, dating back to my days as a “Little Stinger” following WCW in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The events of the past several days jolted the wrestling world, as fans search for answers and observers look to point fingers.

I’ve got a lot on my mind, as it relates to this tragedy, and I’m sure I’ll let them unfold over several entries over the next period of time.

Professional wrestling is different from other forms of entertainment.  It asks you to shed your disbelief in a way that an action movie never really could.  It demands you to invest yourself in the characters in a way that a soap opera really can’t do. 

For me, enjoying the show is not about believing the grapplers are “really” fighting.  We all know they aren’t.  When you listen to music, you know it has been edited, tweaked, synced, and altered.  But you appreciate it just the same.   The entire presentation is given with a wink of a knowing eye anda  sly grin. 

No, my enjoyment in wrestling comes from two major areas:

1) Enjoying the performance art.  Go see West Side Story at your local high school.  Then see the original movie.  Much different, right?

2) Connection with the performers and characters.  Some readers may know what my profession is.  I don’t want to get into that, but it has afforded me the opportunity to meet many WWE superstars.  These men and women develop their personas and characters over time and the best ones allow you to grow with them.  I met Chris Benoit about 10 years ago in Baltimore.  Since then, his character has undergone no major changes.  Silent, technical professional.  He sucked me in – I was able to connect with his character.

Unlike other TV programs, wrestling TV, because of it’s naturally episodic nature, HAS to be original and (preferably) live.  On Monday night, WWE was scheduled to run a 3-hour extended show pushing their #1 storyline at the time, “Who Killed Mr. McMahon?”  Just hours before that show was to air, word broke that Chris, his wife and son were all found dead.

WWE immediately cancelled the TV taping, sending performers and fans home.  Instead, they used that 3-hour block to 1) have Vince McMahon introduce the show at the top of each hour, explaining that the storyline was a story and that this was real and 2) run matches and clips from the long-ago produced Chris Benoit DVD.

Seriously, could they have done anything else?

Last night, I was watching MSNBC, FOX News, and other outlets as they questioned WWE for paying tribute to a murderer.  However, that fact hadn’t come out yet and they had a 3-hour major cable channel window to fill. 

One of their major stars was found dead, no details were available, so they did the only thing they really could do: pay tribute to his career.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s ECW on Sci-Fi broadcast, Vince McMahon again addressed the viewers, this time to recognize that more facts had come out since Monday evening and that his company was starting to heal tonight by entertaining the fans.  John Cena, their top star, led off the show with a terrific match against the new ECW champion Johnny Nitro.  Many people speculate that on Sunday night’s Pay Per View show, Benoit would have won that ECW title.

Right now, the hot topic of discussion is the role steroids may have played in the incident.  I won’t even touch that until the reports come back, but it is definitely worth discussing in the proper forums.

So what are we left with?

The Benoit immediate family is gone.  The extended family left with broken hearts and countless questions.  They must be questioning themselves, as well.  What didn’t they see?  What couldn’t they have known?  I can’t even begin to imagine their pain right now.

The WWE lost one of their top stars, a technical marvel that brought a sense of tradition, respect, and athletic validation to their product.  Their locker room is left without a quiet leader, who by all accounts led by example and actions, which spoke so, so loud.

Fans are left confused.  I have never heard or read of any fans saying, “Yeesh, that Chris Benoit puts on AWFUL matches!  I hope I never see him again!”  Like many fans, I proudly owned countless Benoit matches, including the 1996 Great American Bash classic Falls Count Anywhere match between Benoit and Kevin Sullivan which exploded all over the Baltimore Arena.  Ironically, it was during that time that Benoit began his relationship with Nancy, who was married to Kevin Sullivan at the time.  For a decade, that has stood as one of my favorite 20 minutes of entertainment, one that I joyfully popped into the DVD player several times a year. 

When an entertainer goes bad, can you every truly enjoy their body of work again?  And is it OK to feel guilty for ever enjoying it in the first place?  These are the questions fans are asking themselves right now.

In the wrestling world, fans excuse a lot.  Drugs, booze, domestic abuse, marital infidelity…it’s hard to name a top wrestling star who hasn’t at least climbed towards that Mount Rushmore of issues.

For me, it’s all too new…too fresh. 

There are certain events that define the world.  JFK’s assassination.  Dropping the Atomic Bomb.  9/11.  These are events which forever alter the world.  There is no going back.

In no way am I comparing the Benoit case to those three globally horrific moments in time.

However, in the wrestling world, this is the biggest story ever.

One of the greatest wrestlers of all time murdered his wife and son then took his own life. 

The world of professional wrestling will never be the same again.

No, Carmen. Thank YOU!

This may go down as one of the greatest commercials of all time!

– Fat, middle-aged CEO hires a washed-up model (didn’t Dennis Rodman, her husband at the time, call her a “sperm receptacle?  Ouch.) to go ga-ga over him.

– She talks about “fast enlargements” with a straight face.

– Wait…Carmen Electra, Photographer??

– I KNOW Carmen has at least 50 or 60 options for “big, big enlargements.”  Ritz MUST be good, then!

Enjoy!

Responsibility.

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past week.  Besides fighting the plague (or whatever is going around), there really hasn’t been much to joke or laugh about recently.

I haven’t addressed any of these situations (Imus/Rutgers/Sharpton, Duke Lacrosse Case, Virginia Tech) until now because I wanted to gain some more perspective as the flames of immediacy cooled.

I will never claim to be 100% up-to-date on current events.  I read the newspaper, watch the news, click on cnn.com, but I’m not a “news-junkie.”  What follows is my personal opinion.

These three sad instances have one common thread, as I see it: responsibility or the lack thereof.

– Imus vs. Rutgers (f/Sharpton) – Imus and his producers made stupid, irresponsible remarks.  However, their show exists to shock people and create controversy.  When you play with fire regularly, there’s a chance you’re going to get burned.  That, however, does not excuse the tasteless comments.

What I found most offensive (as a white male), was not the quasi-racist or sexist view of the comment.  Rather, it was the total lack of who these players were.  Terrible.

On the flip side, I feel that the team has the responsibility to take the comments in stride.

A low-rated, aging radio personality said something anachronistic and stupid.  Express your disappointment and move on.

One player said something along the lines of being scarred forever by this.  I agree whole-heartedly with Jason Whitlock, a fairly-controversial African-American sports columnist, who basically said the Imus is irrelevant.  None of the players had ever heard of Imus before!

I’m not saying let it slide.  But put everything into perspective.  Imus doesn’t matter.  A shock jock was shocking.  Obviously, though, he crossed the line.

– Duke Lacrosse Team – Man, if there ever is a bigger case of botched responsibility, I’d never want to see it.

Apparently, the team had several run-ins with campus rule enforcement and was a hair away from “double-secret probation.”  So what did they do?  Hire a stripper for their big party!   Idiots.

The stripper falsely accused them of crimes she either 1) knew they didn’t commit or 2) was so under the influence to as not know.  Again, botched responsibility to the truth in conversations with police.

The coach was fired before the case was resolved.  Huge mistake.  Unless, there were conversations about team behavior beforehand.  I don’t know.  I can’t say.

The season was suspended.  Again, I don’t know enough about their prior run-ins against the rules.  This may have been perfectly acceptable.  Or another snap-decision in a series of them.

However, the biggest bastardization of responsibility came from the district attorney, Mike Nifong.  He recklessly pursued charges against the players without a shred of evidence against them.

In all, the players showed a lack of responsibility by hiring the stripper.
But everyone around them dropped the ball even worse.

Ever wonder what Imus would have to say about the stripper?

– Virginia Tech – Cold-blooded.  Horrendous.  Chilling.  This event will probably shatter the bubble of protection on college campuses around the nation.

I was a sophomore in college during 9/11.  Nothing felt the same after that.  It was a real-world slap in the face that left an enduring scar.

This massacre will probably have a similar effect on th e current generation of college students.  And my heart goes out to them.

The big discussion over the past several days has been what motivated the murderer?  What forms of media influenced him?

OK.  This is where I go off.

No amount of video games, movies, DVDs, CDs, books, TV shows or magazines will convince a well-adjusted person to commit heinous crimes against fellow human beings.

The responsibility for this lies squarely on the shoulders of his family, who either ignored major warning signs or failed to provide the right environment for their son.

I am personally sick and tired of hearing video games and movies used to justify or explain violent crimes.  Violent crimes happened well before any mass media was around.  The problem is that nobody put everything into perspective for this poor soul who felt his only method of self-expression was to go on a genocidal, suicidal rampage.

All three of these cases, tied together by failed responsibility, present a sad state of affairs in our country right now.  People opening fire, with words and semi-automatics.  People lying, to themselves and to the public.   People abusing their situation, be it a public forum or a public office.

What can we do to stop it?