Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Crippler

I was first introduced to professional wrestling in 1977 by a fellow summer camper named Danny Klein. He showed me glossy mags featuring The Iron Shiek, Bob Backlund, "The Claw" Baron von Richter, and a bunch of other silly looking guys throwing each other around the ring. I got hooked. But during the subsequent 30 years, I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with "sports entertainment". I was bored to tears during the "rock 'n' wrestling" era. I was spellbound by the advent of the NWO and the temporary genius and then demise of Eric Bishoff's WCW. I then followed the WWF with a fair degree of devotion until in morphed into the WWE.

Now I don't pay all that much attention.

I still receive a daily newsletter that kind of keeps me up to date with what is going on, but I can't remember the last time I actually sat down and watched an episode of RAW. I do have to say, however, that 30 years of even mild interest introduces you to a lot of different wrestlers. I've had a lot of faves and for different reasons.

One of my all-time favorites, however, was Chris Benoit. From his all-business attitude in the ring to the best snap-suplexes in the business, the "Canadian Crippler" always kept me watching. Combining strength, speed, and great agility, he was simply exciting to watch.

Then, last weekend, he apparently killed his wife and 7 year old son and then hung himself.

What can one say about this?

Part of me is angry about his selfishness. Part of me feels infinitely sorry for him because he was in a place where he felt he had to do this. Was it drugs? "Roid rage"? Maybe. Maybe not. He was still a man I respected. Anyone who makes it as far as he did in that industry is a dedicated individual. It's an incredibly tough business to be in. Performers are on the road almost constantly. They perform injured. There is no "off season". It doesn't even pay that well unless you make it near the top. In the meantime, the mainstream media often laughs when wrestlers are spoken of as "athletes", when in fact these performers are often more talented than many mainstream athletes.

I imagine Chris locked up in that house with the bodies of his family (it was apparently quite some time after he killed his wife and son that he took his own life). Was he insane? Scared? Miserable either way, I would suspect. Stories of him texting people at the WWE with his address and instructions around how to get into the house make me deeply sad; calls for help that were made too late.

He even laid a bible on the bodies of his wife and son. Chilling.

I suspect that history will now revile Benoit as a cowardly multiple murderer, but I hope at least some will try and see both sides of the story. I suspect that beneath this evil act there lay a vast sadness and confusion. It's just too bad nobody helped him when he needed it most.


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