Dealing with 'The Chris Benoit' Issue as a Pro Wrestling Writer

‘The Chris Benoit’ issue is something that’s been weighing heavy on my mind for sometime, especially as I began getting closer and closer to reviewing his World Heavyweight Championship win at Wrestlemania.

Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 20

Now that I’ve finally written that review (and will be publishing it immediately after this), I figured now was perhaps the best possible time to discuss how I deal with Benoit as someone who chronicles and shares his views on the history of pro wrestling.

The truth is, this is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I’ve been writing Retro Pro Wrestling (which is 10 whole years, by the way!). Every time I had to review a Chris Benoit match, angle, or promo, I felt deeply uncomfortable, just as I feel deeply sad whenever the beautiful Nancy “Woman” Sullivan appears in the ECW and early WCW reviews that I do.

It’s a discomfort that comes from internal conflict:

How do I review this thing honestly and give props to Benoit’s opponents where they’re due without sounding like I’m celebrating a mustering f**khead.

Trust me, I don’t believe that Chris Benoit should be celebrated.

I don’t believe that what Chris Benoit did to his family should be overlooked when it comes to things like WWE Hall of Fame inductions.

I absolutely believe that had he not committed that horrible atrocity, he would absolutely be a first-ballot hall of famer, but the fact is that he did do those things, and that takes precedence over everything.

I could probably have saved myself the trouble of writing all that simply by sharing this elegant response about Benoit by Paul Heyman and wrapping it up with a “what he said.”

Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child in real life. He does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, no matter how talented he was or what he accomplished within the fictional and scripted universe of pro wrestling.

And yet the fact is that Benoit was talented, and that meant that when he worked with another talented wrestler, the outcome was usually a very good match.

What’s more, many of those good matches were played out on a major stage and some (like the ‘Mania title win) play an important role in telling the complex story of the history of pro wrestling.

So what do I do?

Just never mention anything Benoit was included in and pretend like he never existed?

No. Not even WWE does that. You can still watch his stuff on Peacock. It would be glaringly obvious and, let’s face it, a little weird if I did that.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to chronicle as complete a history of modern wrestling as I could, so as much as it would stop me from getting a knot in my stomach every time the opening guitar of that Our Lady Peace song hit, leaving all of Benoit’s matches out doesn’t seem like an option.

Besides, if I did that, how would I get to talk about important moments in the careers of guys like Sabu, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle and how good they were in their own right when up against The Rabid Wolverine.

Another alternative would simply be to sh*t all over everything he was involved in.

“This match sucked ass because Chris Benoit was a murdering f**khead who can go f**k himself in hell.”

Yeah, no.

Let’s be honest:

Everybody would see right through that, and it would be an outright lie.

Wrestling may be highly subjective (I certainly like a lot of stuff that so-called “smart fans” seem to hate), but it’s undeniably true that by every possible factor that you could possibly judge a pro wrestling match, the majority Chris Benoit’s matches were good.

So there’s only one thing for it:

I have to detach.

If I’m really going to write complete reviews of every major pro wrestling show and give props to the guys who do deserve them, I simply have to emotionally detach from my thoughts about Benoit and watch the match objectively.

So, if I review a Chris Benoit match and tell you it was incredible, that does not mean that I think Chris Benoit was incredible or that I don’t care about what he did.

It just means objectively, knowing what I know and believe about wrestling as someone who has been watching it for 30 years and writing about it for 10, I think I would consider it to be a good match by my standards and the standards of most fans who see it.

So there you go. 

Me saying something positive about something Chris Benoit is involved in or documenting his career does not mean that I condone a murderer or believe that his crimes should be ignored when talking about his legacy in pro wrestling.

Sure, some might present a thinly veiled argument that there’s “Chris Benoit the Murderer” and “Chris Benoit the fictional pro wrestling character” and that the two should be judged on their own merit (or lack thereof), but to that argument, I present my own very elegant counter-argument, which is this:

F**k that.

When you murder your wife and child, you forfeit the right to be celebrated for anything you’ve accomplished.

I’ll continue to write positive things about his matches as an emotionally detached, objective fan who understands that they were good performances in terms of pro wrestling standards, but as a husband and step-father, I simply can’t stomach the man.

I hope that makes sense.

I hope it doesn’t paint me as a hypocrite (though perhaps I am).

Anyway, enjoy the Wrestlemania 20 review

Post a Comment