On June 24, 2007, before committing suicide, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son. No matter how many times I write that sentence, the last five words give me pause. After watching the Dark Side of the Ring documentary, I gained clarity but zero reasoning. To their credit, the producers did nothing to sway your opinion. In fact, all they did is lay out the facts and give the viewer a quick look into the life of Chris Benoit.
With intellectual and content honesty, the producers gave a no-frills look into the life of the most despised man in the history of professional wrestling. No one should ever forgive Benoit for what he did. Yet, seeing the unspooling of his mental state should’ve sounded the alarm as to what could occur. Back then, concussion testing in pro wrestling felt like a new frontier. the documentary painted the picture of the classic underachiever but never made Benoit the hero. Scratch that, to his son, David who saw a different version, Chris Benoit remained his idol. there is no way for me to unpack all of that over there. So, we will keep this moving.
I knew Benoit trained in the Hart Dungeon and New Japan. These two places break regular wrestlers and spotlight those bound for eventual stardom. Neither turned out hundreds of legends. Benoit learned the business the hard way. He did not profile as a main event guy. He stood roughly 5’9, weighed about 210 pounds and did not possess the over-the-top mic skills to grasp attention. Yet, he worked at his craft. Believe it or not, Paul Heyman and ECW set Benoit into motion as a main-eventer. What do you do with a wrestler with subpar mic skills? Give him a silent assassin gimmick. Basically, make him a heel that could work and hurt people. What Heyman did, WCW, and eventually the WWE improved on.
The Ugly Truth
None of what happened to Nancy Benoit and her son is their fault. Their murders were not an act of passion or an act of self-defense. Kevin Sullivan played no role in his ex-wife’s demise. Chris Benoit bears the complete blame and scorn for the hell that he put his family through. People will often bring up the Hall of Fame. No. Chris Benoit is where he needs to be: erased. I don’t care what career you enjoyed, the titles won or accolades earned, snuffing out two innocent lives eradicates every positive act or noteworthy endeavor throughout the course of his entire life. Chris Benoit is a murderer, plain and simple. I don’t care about his declining brain or cognitive function. If you snatch the life from a child and an innocent woman, you get no credit, for anything.
During the WWE tribute, as Chris Jericho alluded to, William Regal’s response was rather measured. Accurately, Jericho pointed out, that Regal and Benoit both lived in Fayetteville, Georgia. As a result, Regal heard about the numerous fights and arguments the Benoits engaged in. In hindsight, Regal may have tipped his hands, as to whom he felt was responsible for Nancy and Daniel’s murders.
WWE Reaching Out
Despite Benoit serving as a face of their company by holding one of the top titles, no one reached out after the murders. From David Benoit to Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni, the WWE never reached out. In fact, only Chavo Guerrero and Chris Jericho extended the courtesy. So, that stern rebuke the night after the initial RAW tribute by Vince McMahon was performative. The company sent Jim Ross and an envoy to the funeral.
Sandra and the family voiced their displeasure. What irritated me was the fact, Dean Malenko, allegedly a friend of the family didn’t reach out. More importantly, Jim Ross centering himself in that moment, turned my stomach. For a billion-dollar company to turn their collective backs on the living members of the family felt cold and a business decision went sideways. Nancy Benoit enjoyed a career in the sport before she ever met Chris. Additionally, David Benoit, Chris’ son was an adolescent. Maybe check on him, see how he’s doing.
Besides Nancy and her son, Daniel, the person I feel pain for is David. People want to yell at Daniel, who still holds reverence for his father. Now, it will never be my place to tell that man anything. His relationship with his father was far different than any of ours. You can look at the abject sorrow in his eyes and tell, life does not treat him kindly. Reports surfaced that David wanted to try his hand at wrestling. How? He is tied to that surname for the entirety of his life.
Throughout this episode, I marveled at the honesty, candor, and approach of the current AEW standout. Jericho catches hell for his dad-bod physique, reliance on old gimmicks, but he stood tall here. Without a doubt, he laid the story out plain and conveyed the truth. He needs all the adulation for speaking truth during a brutal episode.
Jericho’s final gift to this episode was the reunion of David Benoit and his aunt, Sandra Toffoloni. To see these two people, enjoying a wrestling event, side by side brought tears to my eyes. They are two people that know this case, the persons involved, better than most. Granted, that won’t bring Nancy and Daniel back, but it connects a part of that extended, now close family.
When asked if she could forgive Chris Benoit for murdering her sister and nephew, Nancy said that one day she could. In all honesty, that could never be me, at all. Ever. I do not hold that grace within. However, the world can be a wonderful place, knowing that Sandra Toffoloni does. On June 24, 2007, before committing suicide, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son. No matter how many times I write that sentence, the last five words give me pause. Yet, for Sandra, David, Jericho, et al, it’s not the end of their story. They endured hell and started to rebuild broken lives. Chris Benoit doesn’t deserve a ten-bell salute, rather the one-finger one. On the other hand, Nancy and Daniel deserve the most respectful moment of silence.