The past week or so has seen a resurgence in mentions of the name Chris Benoit, obviously set off by the first two episodes of the Dark Side of the Ring series on Vice TV. And with it the weird discussion about how he should be handled by us and the WWE given how he ended his life and that of his wife Nancy and son Daniel. I say weird because there are a group of near apologists who continue to say that he should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and that WWE should lift it’s ban on talking about him and anything he did. Now I wasn’t going to chime in on this because I considered it pretty open and shut that the answers to those questions were no. But this is part of a bigger conversation of how we view celebrities, particularly those who perform for us in some kind of fashion.
Sticking to Chris Benoit, though….no. No he shouldn’t be in anyone’s Hall of Fame and no there is no place to canonize him through Network specials or anything else. If they want to put his name in the captions for each match on the old pay per views he’s in that’s fine, it’s not like they mute the commentators who say his name on the broadcasts. But that’s it. He doesn’t need to be celebrated or recognized any other way.
Let’s map this out a bit. He gets put in the Hall of Fame. Who inducts him? What do they say about him, a man who was abusive, killed his family, and whose ring work was chock full of the kinds of bumps that they have done all they can to keep out of matches since he killed himself and his family? Do you really want to see someone who was close to him struggle through some awkward ass tribute, and then another one through an acceptance speech?
I know Chris wasn’t just a great wrestler he was one of the original paragons of workrate in early days of the IWC, and one of the first wrestlers to have a vocal section of fans on the internet proclaiming that they were being misused and/or buried when he was still in WCW then when he was in WWE. And him winning the World Title in the main event of WrestleMania XX was like total victory for the workrate above all crowd. But you know what? You got another one of those ten years later at WrestleMania 30 with someone who from all accounts is a much better person in Daniel Bryan.
And understand this – Benoit killing his family and then himself almost ended the business as a whole. You may not remember or maybe you weren’t watching then, but that’s a real thing. You may be still be mad about the PG era and banning certain moves but that was a direct result of what he did. The state that his brain and heart were in from a cocktail of steroids, painkillers, and 20 years of headshots and headfirst bumps on every company he worked for were bringing a level of scrutiny to WWE and the entire business that it likely wouldn’t have survived without major changes.
So no this is not the time to compartmentalize things. He didn’t say something offensive that got recorded on the internet somewhere, he didn’t get an assault charge, or get accused of something heinous that was never proven. He killed his family. Let that sink in, HE KILLED HIS FAMILY. If you want to watch his matches, go ahead. You want to talk about how great a wrestler he was there are forums where you can do that without downplaying that he killed his family. Are those things really that important to you? If so, go do them but don’t try to justify it by publicly trying to rehab his image. If he’s that important to you then you shouldn’t need our validation to keep supporting him.
You know what, I don’t care if you want to keep watching his matches. Go ahead and do it!! But be willing to accept the side eyes that come from people if and when you want to celebrate him publicly. And don’t expect any kind of recognition from anyone who stands to look bad from acknowledging what he did in the ring. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it, too. And I don’t care how many of his contemporaries try to salvage his legacy and blame the murders he committed on the condition his brain was in, he’s still a piece of garbage that murdered his family. Period, end of story.