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In this edition of the Bottom Line, we discuss on the impact the Benoit double murders and suicide had on the wrestling business.

There are people saying that this ghastly incident had impacted the WWE financially; how I am not aware of. From what I remember, Benoit and his family's death was announced, and WWE put up a tribute show exploiting his death (kinda like RAW is OWEN and the one with Eddie Guerrero). Then 24 hours later, they completely distanced themselves from Benoit (the implication here is that WWE is involved or played a role in this incident, what that is I do not know). Once they distanced themselves, it was business as per f***in usual.

How did all this impact the WWE?
 

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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.
 

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Chris Benoit was responsible for his own actions. I don't blame anyone or anything else. Fuck Chris Benoit.

It changed the business forever. Led to proper concussion protocol & CTE awareness. At least some good came out of this cunts actions.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's highly debatable
This.

They had a red, gassed and hyper ventilated Undertaker wrestle Wrestlemania 31, they had CM Punk who was severely injured and couldn't clear a concussion test wrestle a green Ryback, they had Goldberg with an injured shoulder wrestle Lesnar at WM, they have Orton use a move that practically kills his already hypermobile and arthritic shoulders, and we are supposed to believe that WWE takes care of their talent?

Back to the topic at hand, I honestly don't believe this "having a brain of an 85 year old" horse sh**. Dude was performing at a high level in the ring (much faster and better than people half his age), was going through airport security like crazy every night, was planning to open a wrestling school; you honestly think an 85 year old with a supposed diminished capacity would be able to do all this?

At first, I didn't believe that Benoit was capable of committing this ghastly crime, but that interview with Sandra Toffoloni changed everything. She described in great detail what happened during the crime; he brutalized her. According to her, you can see the rage on Nancy's corpse. Nancy and Benoit got into an argument, she was probably going to divorce him, and he couldn't handle it as he was already paying exorbitant sums of money to his first ex-wife, and he killed her.

WWE was clearly involved as they knew of Benoit's increasing depression and did nothing, they also knew that he was abusing steroids and drugs as he failed all the tests and yet they didn't suspend him or give him counseling, they were also aware of his domestic abuse issues and did nothing, when that whole Wiki article getting leaked before the law enforcement even released the details of their death occurred, the IP address of the user that made the post tracked to Stamford, CT (WWE's headquarters), this can't be a coincidence.

I honestly don't think WWE or the wrestling business was impacted at all by Benoit's death as Benoit as great of a wrestler he was, wasn't exactly a draw or someone WWE was dependent upon to take the company to the future. It was just bad publicity which WWE routinely goes through and once the heat died down, it was business as usual.
 

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Not to mention Benoit was massively unhappy in WWE by 2007 as they had gone back on their word, he was promised to be the main guy and also wanted a lighter schedule. Angle and Christian were trying to get him to go to TNA, but he couldn't get out of his contract. He openly spoke about being big fans of Somoa Joe and AJ Styles and wanted to wrestle them.
 

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It obviously had a massive impact on the business. The dark side of wrestling was out in full force and it could not be masked over anymore. WWE created the wellness policy but it was a joke because they didn't really enforce it. As one post mentions, Benoit tested positive for a banned substance and didn't get any punishment for it. But after that happened, everything flipped upside down and they had to at least pretend more closely that they care about the wrestler's well-being. And to their credit, they have been a lot more careful when it comes to concussions and potential brain injuries. Other things like removing chair shots to the head come to mind. I do think the effects of it on the business is exaggerated, though. The media eventually moved on and the business had to pick its self up and the scraps to recover from such a massive blow.
 

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I really don't understand how banning head shots with weapons or banning certain moves is WWE's answer to helping wrestlers though.

Most chair shots to the head were protected anyway. All the weapons have been fixed to soften blows and wrestlers who are trained properly know how to take moves like piledrivers and ddts.

Most concussions are caused by accidents or moves gone wrong, more than anything else.

The Benoit incident caused them to start a wellness programme, yet they celebrate Mick Foley with a tooth hanging out his nose, broken bones and concussions, with permanent hip and leg problems, which they won't pay for despite them occurring in the hell in a Cell.
 

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It made WWE amp up their Wellness policy and (though not immediately) made them ban moves that could cause brain trauma. Benoit is pointed to as an example when WWE is in legal trouble regarding concussions. Proof is a guy like Daniel Bryan would not have been forced to retire for 3 years if Benoit's situation did not occur.

While us older heads may miss chair shots to the head or piledrivers, it is understandable as it protects the performers and helps with preventing EXTREME situations like Benoit.
 

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For me it drove me away for at least a year. WWE wasn’t great then anyway and Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers so it was a guy shot.. Even now I cannot watch any of his matches.
 

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well most have pretty much forgotten about it now, best to not dwell on it I guess

everyone who isn't a wrestling enthusiast either doesn't know or doesn't talk about it, perhaps they don't expect any better from a profession that's universally lampooned

I guess the lesson is; don't work for The McMahons and don't take blows to the head
 
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