I've kept quiet about pro wrestling for awhile. It's been tough because I'm a big fan. I can name the winner of past Royal Rumbles and Wrestlemanias like I can with Super Bowl winners. I don't, however, view it as a sport, so I haven't mentioned anything on here. I love it, but wrestling is as much of a sport as Cirque de Soleil is. But I felt I had to comment on the Chris Benoit story.
For those who don't know what happened, former champion Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child over the last weekend and then hung himself using a cable weight machine. He tied up his wife and strangled her, then a day or so later, smothered his child, and hung himself on Monday.
So many people are following this unraveling mystery, many of those people who claim they hate professional wrestling or think it's childish. The truth is, this is a real life story that could have come out of an episode of RAW. In fact, before Benoit's death, they were playing out a storyline where Vince McMahon was supposedly killed in an exploding limo. Then they set up a fake FBI investigation to find out who did it. It was definitely a tacky storyline, and a storyline they dropped after the death of Benoit. But despite the horrendous details surrounding the incident, the Benoit drama is even more intriguing than Vince's fake death. And people are eating it up.
ESPN.com never covers WWE news, even deaths. When wrestler Eddie Guerrero died a little over a year ago, it was barely a blip on anyone's radar. It was a death that was easily explained. He died of complications caused from past steroid and drug use use. However, it's five days later and Benoit's death is still making headlines. Hell, Fox News has had multiple programs dedicated to exploring the mystery -- but are you really surprised about that? Slowly, more and more details are released at almost a storyline pace you'd find in the movies.
At first, wrestling fans just saw that Chris Benoit did not show up for his title match at Sunday's PPV because of "personal reasons." Monday afternoon, news came out that he and his family were found dead. After WWE's tribute to Benoit, it was revealed that it was a murder suicide. Then slowly, day by day, new details came out -- his disturbing text messages early Sunday morning, the details of each death, the fact that each death occurred on a different day. It's intriguing enough to attract even non-wrestling fans, who had never heard of Chris Benoit until Monday. And there are so many questions still unanswered. Did Benoit snap because of effects of steriods? Was it the fact that his son suffered from genetic order Fragile X? Why did he send the odd text messages to his friends?
I've read a few reader comments on ESPN.com's stories on Benoit and some people are insulting those who watch WWE in their comments. But at the same time, they are eating up this story with a spoon. They don't realize they are so enamored with the same kind of sensationalist story that the WWE specializes in.
My final point on all of this is concerning WWE's tribute show they aired Monday night. I believe that they weren't completely aware of the details of the deaths when it aired. It is standard form to run a tribute show when a current superstar dies, so as soon as the news that he and his family were dead, they started working on the show. The news of the double-murder/suicide didn't come out until after the show, and I have a feeling that the WWE didn't find out until at least the middle of their tribute. It would have been poor form to cut the tribute during the middle, even though Benoit turned out to be a psycho. The following night, on another one of their programs, McMahon announced that the name Chris Benoit wouldn't be mentioned at all during the show. McMahon knows how the public will react to what he does. Most of the time, he would prefer to anger them. However, this is one of the times he doesn't want come out looking bad.
The "McMahon is Dead" storyline wasn't doing what they wanted. It didn't draw any interest outside of WWE fans, and it frustrated those fans, who knew he was alive, no matter how they tried to play it. The Benoit story did everything. People are talking about the WWE again. Even though they're under fire now for it's steroid testing since roid rage is a possible motive, and even though an innocent child is now dead, which is always upsetting, Vince lives by the "there's no such thing as bad publicity" philosophy. In his eyes, publicity is publicity. Even though he'll play it off that he just wants to move on, I'm sure inside, he's happy that he's talked about again. As for those watching this all unfold, they've been drawn into a WWE drama, though they may not know it. They're anxiously following something that could be a WWE story. And Vince McMahon is loving every minute of it.