My top ten favorite wrestlers/tag teams of the last forever...
10... The British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith
9... Jake "The Snake" Roberts
7... Chris Benoit
6... "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
5... John Cena
4... Degeneration X (Triple H & Shawn Michaels)
3... Rowdy Roddy Piper
1... Bret "The Hitman" Hart
I've been a wrestling fan for twenty three years, back when Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan was in their heyday, back when Hulk Hogan's "Rock & Wrestling" was on Saturday morning cartoons lineup.
I watched all through the years, back when USA featured WWF's Primetime Wrestling, hosted
by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, not with live shows but with taped matches around the country. Then I watched the rise of the NWA, as it turned into the WCW on the back of Sting and Ric Flair's Four Horseman, and all through the 90s, I bore witness to the WWF vs WCW Monday Night War...
WWF lost the lawsuit to the World Wildlife Foundation for the WWF acronym, then changed its name to the WWE, and all the while, I enjoyed this silly man-opera, scripted, as they officially declared their "sport" as "sports entertainment".
And usually, I get to watch WWE Raw on Monday nights, featuring my current favorites John Cena and Randy Orton and Triple H and Shawn Michaels and, until this weekend, Chris Benoit (ben-WAH).
In the history of wrestling, there is an alarming number of former stars that aren't here anymore... this list is disturbing because I recognize alot of these names (and didn't know some were dead)... but none is more disturbing than Chris Benoit.
Came home from work last night around 930, turned on the last half of Raw, expecting to see more of the current goofy storyline featuring "the death" of Chairman Vince McMahon, only to see footage from the Wrestlemania XX match with HHH, Shawn Michaels and Benoit. I watch a little while longer, confused, as I check my email and the news online... then I see something about Chris Benoit's death.
During Raw, weekly announcers Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler appear, in an empty arena, both somber, both speaking softly, with Lawler actually looking like he's going to cry. And then they drop the bombshell... Benoit, his wife Nancy and his 7 year old son Daniel were dead.
To the 'net I go, finding out that Benoit had not shown up to this past weekend's big event, WWE Vengeance, due to "personal reasons". Early Monday, the Benoit family was found dead their Atlanta home. And on my way home today, I heard what I pretty already knew... Benoit killed his family, then himself.
The details are simply... well, not "simply", there is no "simply" here... he strangled his wife on Friday night, smothered his son on Saturday, laying a Bible by both bodies, and then sometime early Sunday, he hung himself using pulley cables from his free weight machines. Authorities found steroid medication at the home.
First of all... Benoit? WTF? If I were a cursing man, I'd spell that out, but for now, WTF? I checked the WWE website today for any more updates, and all the video montages, all the wrestler voices and comments and affections, all gone. The WWE store took all Benoit merch out, and they even took his name off the WrestleMania XX dvd, even though he was one of the headliners.
Even if it was a Roid Rage event, I can't imagine someone taking enough juice to take out his wife and kids... in one moment of rage, maybe, but over three days? It could have been steroid rage, or it could have been another issue, or a combo of both. His wife was bound and gagged, an act of deliberation. Truth is, I don't know, and it sucks. This guy was a magnificent wrestler, he was a technical wrestler to a tee, and was a great athlete, even at 40.
This is a huge, huge, huge blow to the WWE. For someone who only knows the name "Chris Benoit" from the news stories you've heard today, understand that Benoit was one of the top five to ten wrestlers in the WWE's entire company. With the departure of such celebrities of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the repeated injuries of Triple HHH and Shawn Michaels (who comprise one of the most popular teams in history, Degeneration X), the WWE was looking to leaders and veterans like Benoit to continue to train new talent and up and coming personalities.
Not to mention the perception of wrestling that you have. Trust me, long gone are the days that only two-teeth, wife beater wearing, beer guzzling rednecks named Clint and Brooks were fans... those guys still exist, but wrestling is BIG. I mean, really BIG. But now, the popular opinion that everyone in wrestling is a steroid monster will only be fueled by this, the latest death of dozens that is, at least indirectly, linked to the juice.
Eddie Guerrero's death in November 2005 was a big blow to the WWE. Eddie was much beloved by fans and by the league, and he was the poster child for where you can go when you give up the drug lifestyle. Clean for years, he died of heart failure, a heart weakened by his former years of steroid and drug usage.
Chris Benoit is a murderer, a disturbed man troubled by something we'll never fully know. And the WWE has to do what it can to distance itself from a guy they were set to push hard.
Benoit was rolling in dough. It wasn't as if he was a washed out has-been, hitting the bottle and needles, he was set for a huge push in part of the WWE (a push is when the writers--yes, the writers--set up a certain wrestler or personality for main events, success and feature him prominently in shows, "pushing" him to the forefront of the league). For whatever reason, Benoit decided that wasn't enough. And it was over, not just for him, but for his wife and son. No respect for you now, Benoit, none.
I guess when wrestlers are at the end of their rope, they do one of three things--they end it all, they find God, or they continue their fame somehow. My top ten above?
Some just keep being famous...
Bret Hart is a freakin' icon on par with Hulk Hogan
Triple HHH is recovering from a knee injury
Some found God...
Sting, who balked at a WWE contract when the WCW folded, despite being one of the most popular wrestlers in history, because the then-trashines of the league offended his faith
Ted DiBiase, who put me in the Million Dollar Hold once. It rocked.
Shawn Michaels, who is still famous, has a great autobiography out, charting his rise to fame and faith.
Lex Lugar, who was messed up like you wouldn't believe, even possibly being implicated in the death of Miss Elizabeth
And some ended it all... like Davey Boy Smith (painkillers and steroids), "Mr Perfect" Curt Hennig (cocaine and steroids), "Ravishing" Rick Rude (GHB and steroids), and now, Chris Benoit.
The difference is, when Smith, Rude and Hennig had enough, they were the only bodies at the scene.