Re: The Bottom Line - What kind of impact did the Benoit double murders and homicide have on the wrestling business?
Enormous Benoit fan here.
I know what the dude did and you can never truly justify any of it. You could toss around the idea that WWE did have a lot to do with not just the death of Benoit, but the subsequent deaths of his youngest son and wife, but that could have happened to anybody. Wrestling was about blading and taking unprotected chair shots to the head, and it was about putting your life in harm's way for the benefit of the fans.
There's a very telling book by sports journalists Heath McCoy, Greg Oliver, Steven Johnson and Irvin Muchnick called Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport, and the journalists actually document the times they spoke with Benoit after the passing of his best friends in and out of the business. Eddie's death and Bossman's death sent him into a downward spiral of depression.
He kept a personal diary in 2005 that he wrote in about his feelings, typically writing to Eddie, and that he couldn't keep watching his friends die, and that he developed paranoia, thinking his family were in danger so he would always take different routes from home and to the gym and back. He stopped sitting down for 10-15 minutes in restaurants with fans after he'd finished his meal with his family, and above all else, the toxicology and MRI's had shown conclusive evidence that Benoit suffered with extreme brain damage after years of cranial trauma. Christopher Nowinski (might remember him as the cocky Harvard graduate who got a stint in 02-03) of the Sports Legacy Insitute was given permission by Benoit's dad to further research the extent of the damage to Benoit's brain.
It's quite a vague response and the pictures tell more of a story, but the results were that Benoit, a 40 year old healthy male, had the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer's patient. I'm not defending the fact that he will forever be remembered as a cold-blooded killer, but I personally choose to remember him as the wrestler I grew up admiring and had always enjoyed. I'm always aware of what happened when his name is spoken or even written, and I'm just a fan. Imagine his colleagues in wrestling.
People who would have known the family he killed, people who had to come to terms with the fact that somebody they'd called their friend or brother had become this deranged, silently suffering, paranoid murderer who had left a dirty mark on the face of pro wrestling. Go back and watch the TV interviews Vince had to do on his own as the head honcho, and look how pale he is. He is genuinely sickened by what's happened. Lo and behold, almost a year later to the exact date, WWE is now family friendly and rated PG.
Any and all talent who even have so much as a headache are now told to take time off, get healthy, get sorted, and come back. Some, like Bryan at the time, Paige, Edge, Christian etc. had to retire because of the way WWE started operating after the Benoit nightmare.
To close, again, I'm a huge fan of Benoit. I know people will shake their head and never be able to understand that, but I choose to remember him as the first wrestler I ever watched and the one I grew up watching the most, rather than the depressed, anxious, struggling man who I believe loved his family and wanted to protect them. He couldn't suffer anymore, so he took the lives of his family, and as a religious man through the verses Eddie used to quote to him, decided that they would all make a sacrifice(?) of sorts and be together in the afterlife. The thing is, the only thing to call that is pathetic, evil, a murderer etc. and that's 100% right.
I think you have to weigh-up the fact that, now in 2019, it's still incredibly hard for people to come out and admit that they're depressed or anxious or having suicidal thoughts. The stigma around mental health is probably the biggest stigma surrounding any illness. In 2005, for WWE specifically, you were still having bra and panties, lingerie pillow fights, people having real shit dropped on their heads, Vince forcing his employees to kiss his backside etc.. I can't imagine where anybody, not just Benoit, would find that perfect time to say "Hey Vince (or whomever) look.. I need time off, I'm burned out and Eddie's death has destroyed me." in an environment as cirque-de-soleil as what WWE was then.
The Benoit shit changed wrestling for good and I would say for the better. Talent are looked after better, the company themselves take no chances when it comes to anything head and neck related and will instantly write a talent off TV and even give them the platform to speak to the fans to be honest. Bryan, Paige and Edge all had that opportunity. Bálor when he fucked his arm. Seth when he fucked his knee. You name it. The company is a lot more cautious.
If it feels like there's a strange structure to this post or it's jumping from the past to present and in-between so often, it's purely because the topic itself, even 12 years later, is still very shocking, haunting etc. Especially as an actual fan of Benoit the wrestler. I can't even lie, I cried buckets when I found out Benoit had passed, and when it came out that it was a double-murder suicide, I threw up. Worst thing was that I was on vacation in Turkey at the time and just popped into the Internet Café to check WWE's site.
You want to try telling a Turkish DJ who sub-contracts for the hotel and just wants to sell you a fake PS2 that you're crying because your favourite fake fighter died but it turns out he actually murdered his family and then himself. I ended up with that PS2.