Tuesday morning there I was, sitting at the Rec. Hall at Camp Kodiak, when my friend Jeff gets a text message. He checks it out, says "Holy shit" and reads it out to me.
I felt like I was going to throw up. This was the first time that I heard about the Chris Benoit story.
I thought about what to put here. Do I decry a man I once adored? Do I try and defend a brutal murderer? Do I reflect on my own personal Benoit memories? Do I say nothing, since this story has already gotten enough attention?
Still as I sit here and type, I don't know is going to come out.
When people ask me why I'm a wrestling fan, I usually tell them about March 2004, a large group of my friends and I gathered at Kory's brother's place to watch Wrestlemania XX. Triple H, the wrestler I hated the most at the time was stepping into the ring with his long-time rival, Shawn Michaels and our working class Canadian hero, Chris Benoit. I was convinced that Shawn Michaels had no right to be in the match and he was going to steal the win and the title from Benoit, something which the Canadian deserved. At the close of the match, Benoit had Triple H in his signature move, the Crippler Crossface. I stood up with some of my closest friends, and cheered. I yelled "Tap, you son of a bitch!", expressing the feelings of not only everyone in the room, but many at Madison Square Garden and around the world at that exact moment. Finally, after intense drama, it happened.
I remember watching Joe Carter hit "The Home Run". I remember watching Jarome Iginla add that assurance goal in the third period against the Americans. But this topped it. This was the one moment where I felt like a true fan. I had my shared expression, I had my triumph, I got to see the good guy win, and damnit, I couldn't have been happier.
After the match was over, Benoit's long-time friend Eddie Guerrero (who had successfully defended his Title earlier in the night) came down to the ring to give Chris a hug. The two embraced as streamers flew from the ceiling. As the broadcast went off the air, Benoit was joined in the ring by his wife and son.
After Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away from heart failure in 2005 that moment seemed surreal. Now it seems disturbing.
I am really torn about how I feel now when I think about that moment. We all have a tendency to revise our memory to fit with our current schema. Right now I am horrified by the actions of Chris Benoit, but a little over 48 hours ago, I considered him to be a hero of mine, someone I genuinely looked up to and respected.
We all have such a strange relationship with our media stars. We are usually able to forgive people if they are still able to entertain us. Don't believe me? Well how many football fans cheered for Ray Lewis after he was charged with murder? How many of you out there still dance to "Ignition" or "Billy Jean" after their respective artists sexual endeavors? Maybe why this is so incredibly hard. There is no way for Benoit to redeem himself now, he is gone forever. Or maybe it's just that murder is so incredibly reprehensible that it can't be redeemed. But shouldn't we say the same about pissing on an 11 year old?
I guess I have some deep thinking to do for the next little while. In the mean time though I will not throw away my Chris Benoit DVD, which I was so excited to receive as a gift one Christmas. But I'm not making any special plans to watch it.
Should any of you be interested in following this story, be sure to check out one of my most favourite sites on the internet, 411mania for all of the info, including this excellent retrospective on Chris Benoit's wrestling career.
Until next time,