To those who knew who he was, the death of Chris Benoit is old news, and to those who didn’t probably don’t care. It was just a sad little story of another dead wrestler until the gristly details of how he murdered his wife and children before taking his life (all without the use of a gun). Details are still forthcoming, but there is no way I can piece all that together without it being awfully an harrowing tale.

Benoit was on the periphery of things back when I was following the WWF/WWE, but he was a sight to see in the ring. Political blogger Marc Armbister calls him “one of the reasons why professional wrestling, despite its ridiculous pretenses and bewilderingly predictable storylines, remains popular, profitable and culturally relevant.”

The WWE apparently pre-empted their usual show to do a Benoit special, bringing WWE president Vince McMahon back from the dead (his character was in a limo that blew up not long ago) to give a eulogy. Some people are wondering why they were doing that, but I figured that they must not have known the grisly details surrounding the death. Never mind the tastelessness of it, it exemplifies every negative stereotype about wrestling except the fakery. McMahon may be a bastard, but he’s not stupid.

Unfortunately, Benoit (and his wife, who was involved in wrestling) joins a long list of wrestlers that died before their time. What’s particularly remarkable about that list is that there are a lot of very familiar names on that list, so it’s not populated with amateurs or the product of their being more wrestlers out there than we knew. Presumably Benoit won’t be mourned as the rest. The question is whether or not this will get the authorities to take a closer look at what’s going on the wide world of wrestling. It won’t be a pretty sight.

Category: Theater

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8 Responses to The Monster

  1. Peter says:

    That limo-explosion stunt actually could have violated federal securities laws. WWE is a publicly traded corporation and Vince McMahon is its chairman. Federal law makes it a crime for a corporation or its executives to engage in certain intentionally deceptive activities. These activities also can result in civil liability to investors who lost money as a result. It could be argued that faking the death of a publicly traded corporation’s chairman is just this sort of misleading activity.

    As things actually happened, WWE stock was basically unaffected, so no one complained.

  2. Webmaster says:

    As far as the WWE’s monday night show, I believe they didn’t have the details – all they knew was that a death announcement had been made.

    My roommate and I had a brief discussion; his guess that was the death was due to Benoit’s old spinal injury, mine was that it was a heart issue (more common in steroid-using wrestlers). He responded that he thought that Benoit wasn’t one to use steroids.

    Part of the problems of pro wrestling are systemic – but for most major sports it’s the same way. The competition is fierce enough that those who aren’t on steroids can’t compete with those who are (exceptions like Mick Foley are, well, exceptions). The end result? It’d take years to fix the problem, and I don’t believe it ever would go away short of a “test positive and you never work for us again” policy.

  3. trumwill says:

    That limo-explosion stunt actually could have violated federal securities laws. WWE is a publicly traded corporation and Vince McMahon is its chairman.

    At this point I think the WWF/WWE is accepted as entertainment. Back when they wanted to be vague about it they could get in trouble for stunts like that. In fact, they did which is why they came clean with what most people knew anyway. It turned out to be one of the best things to happen to pro wrestling because it unshackled them from the expectation of believability and let them go creatively wild.

    The only vulnerability that I see is that their website is “in-story”, but if you go to their corporate website it mentions nothing of it. Some people may not know to do the latter.

  4. trumwill says:


    If I hadn’t heard that he was “murdered” I would have assumed that it was steroid-related.

    It may take something like “test positive and you will never work with us again” to nip it in the bud. Unlike with athletes, they aren’t going to be considered cheaters since they’re entertainers and not competitors.

  5. Webmaster says:


    the larger problem comes that even with a new “test positive and you never work for us again” policy, the previous workers (from before the policy) will have to be grandfathered in, forcing the newer guys to try to beat the system to compete with them for at least a decade.

    And then you have to prove that the old guys are “not currently” on steroids, which is trouble enough given that the junk is throughout their systems now.

  6. trumwill says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t honestly know enough about chemistry to know how long prolonged drug use would show up positive on a drug test. Might be something interesting to read up on.

    I’m not sure why there would have to be a grandfather clause, at least as it pertains to illegal drugs. At the very least, I find it difficult to believe wrestlers employed in employment-at-will states wouldn’t have any recourse. Though the wrestlers live all around the country, the two major wrestling organizations that I’m aware of are out of Connecticut and Tennessee, which are both EAW.

    That would remove a lot of people that the younger wrestlers would have to compete with.

    I’m not saying that I’m necessarily on board with the idea, but I’m not yet convinced that it can’t be done.

  7. Webmaster says:

    It might remove a lot of people that the younger wrestlers would have to compete with, but it’d also remove a lot of people that currently are part of the draw for current fans. That’s why I said they’d have to be grandfathered in; if you did a mass firing on that level, the fans would probably wander away.

    And yes, I’m aware that the WWE’s done a couple mass firings in recent years, but those were mostly low-draw talent and not the big names. Plus, if you look at what happened, there’s been a few promotions on relative rises recently (TNA as an example), based mostly on the acquisition of the midcard talent that the WWE fired in the first place.

  8. trumwill says:

    I’m thinking of things that the WWE could be pressured into doing, not what they’d do on their own volition. The current model works for them quite nicely and they have no reason to change it barring outside pressure. The question, to me, is whether or not they could do it (not really whether they’d want to) if the screws were tightened by advertisers, regulators, and/or the courts (or fear of the courts).

    I believe that wrestling can survive without many of the big names. It would take an initial hit, but wrestling strives on the fresh. Looking at the current list of titleholders, only three of the ten ring any bells from when I was watching five or so years ago and I couldn’t place them in a line-up (I assume that Chavos Guerrero is one of the Guerrero brothers, and Edge I do remember). I do remember two of the four “Wrestler Accomplishments”, though. Looking at the WWE website, I recognize maybe ten of the RAW (40 people) and maybe twelve or so from the Smackdown stable (of 39). That’s including listed announcers and assuming that the two Guerreros listed are siblings of Eddie. There are probably a handful that are in different personas than before (like Bradshaw becoming JBL) and of course a week ago there was Benoit, but you get the idea.

    A lot of the really bigger names from just five or six years ago are gone, gone, gone (well, no longer listed on the rosters anyhow). For various reasons turnaround is quite fast and at worst they’ve been able to make lemon-aid out of lemons and at most they’re driving it all themselves to keep their product fresh.

    Over lunch I did as much looking into steroid retention rates as the filter at work will allow. The highest length I’ve heard so far is 18 months. If that’s the case I could see an arrangement where offenders can step forward and go into rehab and get a pass for that time period.

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