Wrestling with Tragedy

Trying to learn from a pro wrestler’s apparent murder-suicide.

I got home yesterday evening and saw that Mike, Crunchable’s editor guy, had tried to call me earlier in the day. Somehow, I knew it was about Chris Benoit.

I never thought that it would be so hard to talk about professional wrestling. I’ve been a wrestling fan since childhood, and I spent three years writing for a now-defunct wrestling Web site that combined news and satire. This is the first time it’s really come up, but I suppose I’m Crunchable’s resident authority on pro wrestling.

But I certainly can’t tell you what Chris Benoit was thinking and feeling when he took the lives of his wife, his son, and ultimately himself. Here’s what I do know.

For 22 years, Chris Benoit performed flying headbutts off of the top rope with no way to reasonably protect himself.

For 22 years, Chris Benoit absorbed blows from a steel folding chair directly to the back of his head. He would have considered anything else to be a shortcut.

For 22 years, Chris Benoit traveled from one show to the next, all around the world. He did this to earn a living, and he did it because he loved it. He was hooked. Time to rest and heal his mind and body, time to tend to his family, was compromised.

Everyone wants an easy answer, an open-and-shut case, a writ-large headline, a 10-second sound bite. “Roid rage,” the talking heads proclaim from on high. Something has to take the blame.

Few things in life are so black and white. I just hope someone is paying attention to the shades of gray, for the sake of the next Chris Benoit.

Article © 2007 by Kevin Brotzman