Do you celebrate the man for what he did inside the ring? Or do you condemn him for the murders he committed? That is the question many fans even today are gripped with concerning the double murder-suicide of Chris Benoit.
To me, Chris Benoit was a hero, at least in the ring. He was one of the main reasons I watched wrestling every Monday and Friday night. Benoit’s matches would leave fans in every arena stunned and in awe at his high flying head butt and his technical ability in the ring. You can probably guess how excited I was when he won the 2004 Royal Rumble, eliminating The Big Show to earn at chance at the World Title at WrestleMania 20.
Excitement built up dramatically throughout the months of January and February as, WrestleMania inched closer. After 18 years of giving his heart and soul to wrestling, and pouring his heart and soul out to fans all over the world in the squared circle, Benoit would finally get the push he deserved and achieve his dream of standing at the top of the WWE as World Heavyweight Champion.
At WrestleMania 20 the wrestling community witnessed history as Chris Benoit made the World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H, tap out in the closing minutes of the Triple Threat Match between himself, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels. Fans chanted rapidly for the newly crowned World Heavyweight champion as he and best friend, Eddie Guerrero, shared a moment together in the ring to celebrate both winning championship gold.
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I can’t tell you how happy I was after hearing that he won the title at WrestleMania. My friend and I would literally watch wrestling on the phone together so we could both scream like little girls when The Rabid Wolverine made his entrance holding his newly won title. My friend and I would talk about Benoit for the rest of the show, even after his match and sometimes even hours after Raw or Smackdown went off the air for the evening.
Even after Benoit lost the World Heavyweight title at SummerSlam to Evolution’s, Randy Orton, WWE fans everywhere still chanted the Rabid Wolverine’s name. When you go to a show and see Benoit wrestle, it’s almost like you know you’re going to see something you’re not going to see in any other match. You’re going to see a man that will put on the most heart stopping and hardest fought match of that evening. Benoit would do that night after night for house shows, world tours, TV tapings and even dark matches. It was obvious that Benoit didn’t care about himself or his body, but for the WWE fans he entertained.
Seeing a man follow his twenty year long dream on live television week after week was an inspiration for life. Here was a man that was told he was too small to be a main event wrestler or even a World Heavyweight Champion in the WWE. That he just didn’t have what it takes to make it to the top of the industry. All those who told him he couldn’t only inspired him more to put on the show he did in the ring, and that to me is one of life’s most important sayings, let the negativity of others drive you to success.
With that being said, the wrestling community was rocked off its hinges as fans soon learned their coveted hero was found dead inside his own home. As more details came out the coveted hero the fans once loved and held in the highest regards, soon became a monstrous murderous villain as it was revealed that he had killed his wife, Nancy, and his seven your old son, Daniel, before hanging himself with a weight machine.
Before the details of the murder were learned and released by media outlets, the WWE cancelled their scheduled three hour Raw, and filled the time slot with Benoit’s past matches, interviews from fellow WWE superstars, and video segments from his DVD Hard Knocks the Chris Benoit story. The next day as ECW came on the air Vince McMahon delivered a message to the audience saying, there would be no more mention of Benoit this evening after this short message and that the evenings program would be dedicated to those affected by the tragedy.
Many different factors were blamed in the murder suicide of Benoit and his family. Some said he went on a steroid induced rampage and that was caused him to murder his family before killing himself. Others point to a failed marriage between him and Nancy, saying that failed marriage is what caused him to derail and kill his family, as it was later shown that Nancy had tried to file for divorce before, but later dropped the suit and a restraining order on Benoit. In the divorce papers were statements by Nancy saying he would break and throw furniture around.
After the murders, former wrestler, Christopher Nowinski talked to Benoit’s father about the possibility of brain trauma being a factor in Benoit murderous rampage. His father later agreed to turn Benoit’s brain over to a neurosurgeon at West Virginia University named Julian Bailes, who conducted tests on the brain. The tests done on his brain concluded that at the time of his death, He had the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer’s patient and may have suffered from an advanced form of dementia.
What is significant about the findings of Chris’s brain is that it is reported that his dementia was similar to four retired NFL players that fell into depression and carried out violent actions against themselves and others around them. Other studies conducted show that multiple concussions could cause the dementia that Chris Benoit had.
With all that being said, now comes the hardest part of all this. Do you condemn him for what he did to his family even if he wasn’t competent? Or do we celebrate his achievements throughout the life of his career? What if he was competent and knew exactly what he was doing? Could we ever celebrate him as a hero again?
Fans in the WWE Universe have been divided on this subject for years. Some fans see Benoit’s actions on that day overshadowing his accolades in the ring, while other fans say you simply cannot deny how much he entertained the audience and how many things he accomplished during his time in the industry.
For me, I focus on what he did in the ring. I know in my heart what he did to his family was unforgivable, but I also know this man lived two lives. One as the family man and one as the in ring animal that I cheered for every weekend.
Although I grieve for the Benoit family, I also find myself remembering what Benoit did in the ring. I still look up his matches on YouTube whenever I get the chance. I also still watch his World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20 and even get chills all over my body when I see him make Triple H tap out for the title.
As I have said, I know it is impossible to forget the horrific things he did to his family and to himself in the final moments of his, but I plead with everyone in The WWE Universe to separate his career from his personal life. To celebrate what memories this man created for so many in the WWE and remember Chris Benoit for what he was, a true underdog champion that inspired us all.