Ok, first on the agendaâ<80>¦
Yeah, not a happy way to start, but things tend to get stuck in your craw over the course of four years. The business has changed and a few wrestlers have met untimely demises. Tribute columns pop up online and in print. And the wrestling business goes through a periodical indictment.
Chris Benoit murdering his family and then offing himself shook this business a little over one year ago. While the events of that fateful June weekend were shocking, the reaction from the mainstream and wrestling media was all too typical. The wrestling business was under indictment again. That breakneck schedule of keeping wrestlers away from their families. Turning the other way when it came to drug use. And allowing chairs to connect with heads.
Benoitâ<80><99>s death was treated as a trend. Cause and effect. Those who would indict sports entertainment pointed to the excessive travel, preventable roid rage, and post-concussion syndrome. All of those may have very well contributed to Benoitâ<80><99>s actions. All of those are serious issues that have been and must continue to be addressed. However, letâ<80><99>s look at the numbers, shall we?
Let us suppose that there are 1,000 wrestlers who have traveled the world, been separated from nurturing relationships with their family, popped steroids and other pharmaceuticals like they were Pez, and felt the metal of a chair on their noggin. Not an unreasonable number considering the various heydays of the business since the 1950â<80><99>s.
Now, ask yourself, how many killed their family and themselves.
Stop counting now. The answer is one. That is anything but a trend.
Look, I wonâ<80><99>t claim that the wrestling business is squeaky clean. Pressure defines the business. Impossible travel itineraries, hints that one should be â<80><9c>bigger,â<80> and extreme matches are still part of the deal. But to say that the wrestling business as a whole should be held responsible in any way for the murderous actions of one man makes absolutely no sense.
After Benoitâ<80><99>s homicidal and suicidal actions, the typical cries were heard. Wrestling needs an off-season. Wrestling needs to clamp down on steroid use. Wrestling needs to stop using dangerous props in matches.
All of the above may be valid (except for the moronic off-season argument), but I dare say that those actions would not have prevented Benoit from murder. He was one of a pantheon of professional wrestlers who suffered the rigors of this business. He, like the other supposed 999, took drugs and put his body on the line night after night. But there was something in him. Something that told him it was all right to kill his family and then himself.
Call it a character flaw. Call it temporary insanity. Just donâ<80><99>t call it a trend.
What gets me is that every time a wrestler dies, journalists from various forms of media pile on the wrestling business as evil and insensitive. Lists exist of all the wrestlers who have prematurely died over the years. If you look at those lists closely, youâ<80><99>ll discover that many died of cancer, non-drug/alcohol-related car accidents, and other tragic occurrences that have nothing to do with the wrestling business.
The list of drug-related deaths is lengthy enough without the unnecessary padding.
WCW used to hype that they were the promotion â<80><9c>where the big boys play.â<80> These are big boysâ<80>¦and girls. They are adults. Adults who make choices. Individual choices. Yes, thereâ<80><99>s undue influence. Yes, they want to succeed in their dream job. Yes, they feel the heat from nefarious promoters. But they have a choice. And nothing ï¿½” and I mean nothing about Chris Benoitâ<80><99>s actions in June of 2007 is because of the wrestling business.
Heâ<80><99>s a murderer. He killed his family. He watched as his wife and son drew their last breath. Not the wrestling business. Frankly, to blame anyone else but the killer is an insult to the memories of Nancy and Daniel. As for the memory of Benoit? You can have it. I myself cannot watch a match again without thinking of what he did. Kind of like watching NFL archive footage of OJ Simpson.
And maybe, just maybe, the next time a wrestler dies before his or her time, we will not instinctively rip on the wrestling business for yet another death. We will identify specially what happened, instead of the all-too-common knee-jerk reactions. If it is an industry problem, we should pressure said industry to fix it.
But most importantly, we should pay tribute and mourn.