Vice The Dark Side of Wrestling and the Chris Benoit Tragedy

Got through the second episode of the Chris Benoit tragedy and found the entire thing to be quite heavy and revealing too. There were some areas I either forgot (some situations where I did so on purpose) while others were new to me. Either way, I wanted to write this post to help me process the overall story and put my two cents on the events.

I’m not going to do a full review on each section like a play-by-play. Instead, I want to talk about the parts that really stood out. First, I want to say that the last time I heard anything new about this story was when Chris Jericho had Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni, on his podcast. I felt that podcast shed some new light onto the subject and possibly even helped act as the impetus leading to this as Sandra had some keen insight into the matter.

The other part of the equation that was introduced was hearing from David Benoit, Chris’ son from his previous marriage. Seeing David was looking almost at a mirror of his father as they appeared so alike. And it was good hearing from him because outside of Mike, Chris’ father, there really wasn’t much said from other parts of Chris’ family.

What was great was bringing together in general all of the closest people to the situation, including Dean Malenko, Vicky Guerrero, Chavo Jr, etc.  The only person missing in this mix was Kevin Sullivan, particularly on the subject of spousal abuse. Besides providing their insight into the situation, these people probably also wanted to use this opportunity to lift a huge weight off their chests about the situation since previously the WWE had done all to suppress anything related to Chris Benoit.

The first half of the story dealt with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, the growth of their friendship and eventually Eddie’s passing. They re-played the video of Chris Benoit crying on WWE RAW, which I personally have refused to watch ever again simply because it was difficult to see. The key point I think many people close to Chris Benoit made was that Eddie Guerrero’s passing affected Chris very deeply, possibly as the start down the dark path.

The second half of the story goes into the Chris Benoit portion of the tragedy with the murder-suicide. For this, they brought in the police and investigators to summarize some of the findings as well as the impressions from those close to him when they discovered what happened. There’s some interesting details here I did not pick up when I originally heard the story.

First, while I knew that Chris strangled Nancy, I never knew exactly the method for how he did it. The revelation for me was how Chris had restrained her with duct tape on her wrists and ankles then wrapped a cord around her neck with his knee planted into her back.  I did some additional searching and found that there was blood found under her face, which sounds as though she may have been clobbered before being strangled or restrained.

This makes the scene for mea lot more shocking and gruesome because it definitely was deliberate. My initial impressions when I heard this was that he simply strangled her. In my mind, I had always pictured the two of them getting into a drunk quarrel where he lost control. The fact that Chris used duct tape shows some level of a plot and not some spontaneous outburst on his behalf. In turn, as a viewer to all of this, I’m even more horrified on some level of what happened.

In some way, this ties to his searching on the internet prior to his own demise about how he was going to commit suicide. I don’t believe they mentioned when these searches occurred but it’s possible based on these details that he had been thinking about this prior to the actual act. I will discuss my own theory at the end of this but I want to keep going for a bit.

The immediate media response was roid rage, which is very interesting because of how Nancy seemed to want to get him away from the substance. But another factor that was taken into consideration was the concussions where they brought in Chris Nowinski, who had since gone on to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Many have pointed out that Chris Benoit’s brain had been damaged to the point being parallel to an “85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.”

After this, they posted the reactions and thoughts about the situation. His friends mostly were in shock and seem to have a hard time pulling together their friend and this monster murderer. The one person I feel who gives the real conclusion once again is Sandra.

Sandra’s take seemed to be the most realistic where she says the combined factors were the causes of his actions. And that makes the most sense since you cannot just pin the situation on any one of these factors. The media’s attempts to pinpoint just steroids early on, for instance, was akin to how all the religious nuts would blame heavy metal for the suicide of teens (e.g. the Judas Priest case in Reno Nevada). While steroids could contribute to the situation, it ultimately could not be the only factor, which is the important thing to consider.

The story concludes with David Benoit and Sandra reuniting and how Chris Jericho, etc. helped put into place this result. Apparently, certain unnamed people (probably Chris Benoit’s father since he wasn’t on the show) had separated these people for one reason or another. But one thing is for certain: both have suffered and still suffer from the fallout. Yet them reuniting is one of the good things to come out of this.

So there’s just a lot of information to process here in general on top of additional legwork I did after watching this. The first thing was the reported spousal abuse of Nancy from both Kevin Sullivan (who apparently refused to comment) and Chris Benoit. Also, they mentioned that Chris was Nancy’s third husband. Not to paint Nancy just as the bad person, but I’m wondering how much of Woman’s character was actually Nancy? They always say that in pro-wrestling you simply magnify the character inside of you.

I mean for the most part they paint Nancy as an innocent victim in this, but it is mentioned that Nancy and Chris had argued on numerous occasions prior to the murder-suicide. Also, by her own admittance, Sandra mentioned that Nancy was a very headstrong type of person. However, in pro-wrestling the men are all alphas and both Kevin Sullivan and Chris were definitely on that end of the spectrum. So it looks as though that combo would end up becoming a poor mix.

Another thing in doing some research on my own was finding that Chris Benoit had been not just taking steroids but was addicted to them. Apparently, Nancy tried to hide or get them away from him as his paranoia after Eddie’s death was, from the looks of it, getting out of control. Now, she seemed to have made the connection to steroids rather than the concussions to his paranoia, which is sad because probably Chris just needed a professional doctor and a psychologist to help him in the first place.

The article also mentioned that it was hinted that Nancy talked about divorcing Chris. My guess is that this was the last straw for Chris Benoit in terms of the complete mental breakdown. And this is where I want to put some real speculation on the person Chris Benoit that would take the idea of a divorce to a murder-suicide situation.

First, I honestly believe Chris Benoit was not a smart person. Not an academically intelligent person nor just a person with common sense. He was your alpha type. For another analogy, he would be similar to a Ned Stark from Game of Thrones with his own code and ethics. An example of that was pointed out when Chris Benoit messed up a move and Chris Jericho, I believe, witnessed Benoit punishing himself by doing 500 squats. Jericho knew it wasn’t necessary but whatever code that Benoit lived by, it was something unchangeable.

Add to the fact that his brain was slowly becoming liquid jello, and you can see that he couldn’t process reality very well. But I think he could not process simple ideas like just getting help after Eddie Guerrero’s death. I think that’s the first thing that either the WWE, Nancy, his friends, etc. should have forced upon him. Having a professional analyze him, talking over with him about his problems, etc. is effectively what Eddie Guerrero’s function partly was to Chris.

Now, the divorce thing is probably akin to Chris like when he discovered that Eddie Guerrero had passed away. From a simple point of view, Chris Benoit could not imagine having a life without Nancy Benoit and his son Daniel. That’s why the Bibles were placed around them because it effectively meant that he wanted to see them in the next life (despite his own stance on religion).

But here’s the semiotic component that’s missing from the existing analysis that I have yet to see. In my view, Chris Benoit had objectified Eddie Guerrero, Nancy and his son. What I mean by that is that Chris saw them as pure objects that existed within a limited scope of his universe; he was very attached to them in his own manner.

And I’ve seen other cases where people do this. A good example is this one video from YouTube on the relationships between RealDolls and men. One person they interviewed admitted how easily attached he could get to certain things, especially something like a doll. And speaking from personal experience, I am the same way with my Giraffe and stuffed animals.

With the revelation of what happened to Chris’ mind from the autopsy as well as how people discussed Chris’ increased paranoia, it’s somewhat easy to see the connection of where this objectification of Nancy and his son with the notion of divorce would ultimately lead to a drastic action. I mean, it’s tough to say if, for instance, Chris had delusions of Nancy running away with another man. I mean it already happened three other times, so why wouldn’t Chris be yet another victim on this list?

And again with paranoia perhaps Chris feared the outcome of a divorce. Alimony, losing a son he truly loved, losing a sense of stability in the world, losing all that he worked for. He already lost a lot with Eddie Guerrero. And there were other people he had lost from pro-wrestling. So rather than try to find other ways to cope, he refused to give up anything and decided to just end it. Now, this part sounds just selfish but it’s understandable if you assume that this person for the most part was your alpha male, incapable of processing things with all the damage he had done to his brain and not knowing anything else besides pro-wrestling.

The thing that I was a little shocked about was how distant he became even to people he seemed to be close with like Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko. It feels that Eddie Guerrero had a very special function in Chris Benoit’s life that most people probably would never understand. My guess is that Eddie Guerrero was analogous to a father at a church where Chris could confess his sins (i.e. personal issues) and find solace or a solution where he would not trust anyone else.

And the reason why I find this shocking is that most “normal” people would probably have found someone else. Like if he didn’t want to turn to his wife, why not his other close friends? And again the only thing I can think of was how he objectified Eddie as having that defined segment in Chris’ life that was unmovable like other things.

The other thing is that I feel that this still only shows only part of the story. I feel there’s a lot more details that haven’t been uncovered (just because of the nature of the situation) or that the people involved might possibly know but are unwilling to speak of it. I feel there’s still a lot of pain and while this show helps alleviate some of it, there will be that pain for years if not forever to some degree. But at least for now, given the sensitive nature of the subject, I think the show has managed to put enough out there to allow the rest of us to form our own conclusions given what was allowed to air.



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