I rarely check out wrestling websites anymore, but tonight, as I was about to leave the office around 8pm, I popped onto Tha O Show to see what was up. The headline read “NO!!!”, and it said Chris Benoit had died. I was surprised, but not as much as I should have been. So many wrestlers have died in the last five years that I was kind of numb to it.
WWE canceled their live RAW show, and instead aired a special tribute show to the life of Chris Benoit. The show was what was needed. It was a mix of clips of Benoit in some great matches, and words from the stars of the WWE remembering their friend.
I met Chris Benoit on at least 3 occasions that I can remember. He was a great guy in all three instances, and was generous with his time, as well as just a good guy.
The first time I met him was at Mosquito Moe’s in Toronto where I met Chris, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Perry Saturn. Benoit, Malenko and Saturn were looking for websites, and I had just teamed up with the LAW to build websites for wrestlers. I ended up building a site for Saturn and doing some stuff with Malenko, while Benoit worked with ThinData.
Chris was quiet that night, but he told a couple of good stories, and seemed to be having a great time catching up with his buddy Jericho who had just recently moved to WWE. Jericho related a story that it was Benoit who had threatened to pummel him if he re-signed with WCW, the company that they had all been involved in, and which had continually kept all four of them down. Jericho moved to WWE and had an incredible run there. About a year later Benoit, Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Saturn all jumped ship as well. In WWE Benoit and Guerrero had great runs as main event level competitors all leading up to WrestleMania XX where both Benoit and Guerrero won their matches, defying the expectations of most critics who said that the “vanilla midgets” would never draw a dime.
I’ve “marked out” pretty few times in my life. The night I had dinner with the boys I was pretty cool, I thought they were all great, and I was a huge Benoit mark, but I didn’t want to come off as a fanboy.
The next time I met Benoit though, I was scheduled to do an interview with him at TSN. Before we started I told him that he was a TSN.ca match of the year candidate for a cage match he had on RAW with Kurt Angle earlier in the year. He seemed pretty happy with that and was ridiculously humble about it. I got a little markish about how amazing it was, and he seemed embarrassed by my praise of him. When I met Kurt Angle a year or so after and told him the same story, he told me “That’s Chris for you”.
I would wager that in the coming weeks we’ll find out that Chris Benoit was deeply depressed, and had been so since his best friend Eddie Guerrerro died two years ago. There might have been some trouble at home, he and his wife may have had some problems, and something happened on Saturday. The early reports were that he kept putting his flight off, calling WWE offices several times Saturday and delaying his flight until it was no longer possible to make Sunday night’s PPV show, and he may have been involved in a murder-suicide.
I hope that WWE will make sure that guys like Edge get some therapy, as they are going to need to talk out what’s happened. These guys have been so touched by tragedy this last few years, that they may need professional help to work through their emotions.