|Meeting Chris Benoit in 2007|
Where to start, where to start... This is a slippery slope in the wrestling world. Guys in the prime of their life and dropping dead. Is it the industry's fault? Where does personal responsibility fit into it? Should the government take more control? So many questions, so many opinions.
If you're reading this there's a 99% chance you're a wrestling fan already. So there's no need to go through the rundown of men and women who have died prematurely. Some were accidents. Some were overdoses. Some were heart conditions that may or may not be related to the use of prescription drugs and steroids.
Right now, I'm going to focus on Chris Benoit and the tragic end to his life and the lives of his wife and young son. As you can see from the photo above, I met Benoit back in 2007. This was less than four months before he took his life and Nancy and Daniel's.
Of course, when you're meeting a wrestling you're there because it's someone you like. Why else would we wait in line for hours on a freezing February afternoon? Anyway, Chris was running late that day due to a flight delay, but he still made it to the autograph signing. He was polite and shook hands, signed books, and posed for pictures with all the fans who attended. This probably made him late for the house show that night too. But like I said, he was very kind and spoke a few words to me as I got his signature and posed for the picture.
I know there are a lot of stories about Chris being a monster at home and abusive. Maybe he was. I want to believe it's not though. Maybe that's my own ignorance of wanting to protect someone I looked up to. I consider his death a tragedy, same goes for Nancy and Daniel. It's so very sad.
But here's the question. Is wrestling to blame? Chris' father, Michael Benoit, believes it is. He's been very vocal in the years after his son's death, but got even louder about it earlier this week in Connecticut, the state where former WWE CEO Linda McMahon is running for senate. Was the attack politically motivated? Perhaps, but like I mentioned before, Mr. Benoit has been speaking out against the WWE since the events of June 2007, so I don't know that this is a publicity stunt.
It's believed that brain damage may be to blame for Chris' actions. After years of chair shots to the head and other concussions, Chris' brain was damaged. This isn't to say that everyone who suffers from hits to the head will murder their family, but I think it could be a factor. Chris was also said to be suffering from depression over the loss of his friend Eddie Guerrero, another tragedy in and of itself. That likely played a role in what happened that day too.
In the years since "the incident" the WWE has made changes. This of course is a good thing. Chair shots to the head of have been banned. Wrestlers are tested more often for drugs. And all performers, past and present are offered free rehab to help kick their addictions. While the government may not be breathing down the WWE's neck 24/7, I do believe they are making great strides to prevent future tragedies.
Not every wrestling death can be or should be blamed on the industry. I will admit there is probably some sort of liability involved. For example, did he or she feel like they had to use steroids to look the part and keep their job? Even if they felt that way, unless they were forced to do the illegal drug, isn't it their personal responsibility.
I hope this all makes sense. I kinda feel like I'm going back and forth even as I write this. Bottom line, the industry was filled with lots of wrongdoing in the past, but I do believe that the WWE has also taken a stand in fixing the problem.