Before we go any further, I’ll tip my cap to Casey Willett for calling this story last week. He was absolutely right ….. this was one of the most shocking and sad events that took place in 2007.
Anytime a significant news event involves the death of a child or other innocent parties, it’s going to solicit widespread coverage. And, this incident was no exception. The suicide/murders of the Benoit family was covered on every major sports and news outlet.
In the weeks following the incident, our suspicions would be confirmed ….. Chris Benoit was an avid steroid user. Autopsy results indicated Benoit had more than ten times the natural amount of Testosterone in his body, when he murdered his wife and son. He ultimately hanged himself, as well.
In addition to steroids, Benoit’s body also yielded amounts of Xanax and Hydrocodone. This reference is important, because these three substances ….. Anabolic Steroids, Xanax and Hydrocodone are confirmed “cocktails” of abuse in professional wrestling.
Before we go any further, I realize there will be some contention regarding this story and it’s prominence, or lack thereof, in a sports blog. Pro Wrestling is “sports entertainment” and not authentic in it’s integrity. But, everyone KNOWS this. Thus, it’s not a debatable issue. Besides, every network sports distributor has made it a story.
Did this event and the ultimate deaths of the Benoit family provide any productive cause? I think so. It gave a clearer view of the “seedy side” of wrestling. We were availed statistics and personal accounts of former wrestlers that died from connections to drug use, and specifically, Anabolic Steroids, Xanax and painkillers.
Just name ‘em ….. Eddie Guerrero, Brian Pillman, Davey Boy Smith, Rick Rude, Big Bossman, Bryan Adams, Curt Hennig, Bam Bam Bigelo and MANY MORE. These are just some of the more prominent names. In truth, more than 100 pro wrestlers have died before their 65th birthday, since 1985.
Beyond all the drug use, is there a common denominator? For most famous wrestlers there is indeed another shared factor, and it’s VINCE McMAHON. For decades and decades, Vince McMahon has been exploiting and using countless young men for his selfish agenda. His empire, World Wrestling Entertainment, has flourished ….. but, it’s left a distinguishable trail of dead bodies in its wake.
I realize you could argue McMahon had nothing to do with anyone’s self-induced drug use. Fair enough. However, he owns and has profited from a culture that openly uses these drugs to simply exist. Look at the wrestlers of yesteryear ….. Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Ivan Putski, BoBo Brazil, Waldo Von Erich, Ivan Kohloff and countless others.
Were yesterday’s performers comparable to the physical specimens of today? Did they perform and travel as ridiculously often as today’s competitors? Not hardly. But, things have really changed and pro wrestling has taken on a more grueling and time-demanding commitment. The sacrifice ….. is primarily saddled by the wrestlers, themselves.
The complexion of wrestling really went through a transformation, as Vince McMahon began leaving his personal trademark in the late 70’s. Gone were the entertaining physical performances and “regular” looking guys. McMahon ushered in “sex and substance” ….. and the substance happens to be performance-enhancing drugs, coupled with chemicals that avail a “numbness” to the real world.
Vince McMahon has made hundreds of millions of dollars. Has he shared these profits with the “pioneers” that brought him to the pinnacle of the industry? Are there any pension plans ….. health coverages …..or profit sharing programs? If so, we haven’t heard of any. Pro wrestlers must perform or they won’t get paid ….. period.
Does professional wrestling have “disabled” or “physically unable to perform” lists? And, if a wrestler gets hurt, does he get paid while rehabilitating? Are these guys so consumed into a world of drug usage, that they become different beings?
How else do we explain so many deaths? How do we explain a situation like that of Chris Benoit? Candidly, after consuming the news of the day on June 26th, I resolved that this shouldn’t be very shocking. There are probably numerous souls wandering around pro wrestling ….. with the same psychological and chemically-dependent baggage that doomed Benoit and others.
For me, the Benoit tragedy is the “5th Biggest Sports Story of 2007.” However, if I were solely considering sinister and sordid stories of heartache and true loss, this incident would unequivocally top the list.