Benoit points to bigger problem

By Zack Timmons

(U-WIRE) COLUMBUS, Ohio – One tragedy ends as another begins. That’s America I guess.

Just as the Jessie Davis case gained some element of closure, I turn on the television to see an old Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko match.

I watched wrestling for the better part of a decade. It became apparent one of those two was dead, the only question was which one.

As we all now know, it was Benoit, his wife Nancy and son Daniel.

My religious watching of wrestling ended five years ago. There’s only so long even I can suspend belief before it’s just too ridiculous. Even so, I watched all three hours of Monday’s tribute remembering the times I’d seen Benoit live in person and on television.

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I’d followed him from ECW to WCW and finally to WWE.

It was no secret that Benoit was one of the most respected wrestlers in and out of the ring.

For three hours I re-watched matches that used to be exciting to me. The whole time I sat thinking that some fourth party was responsible for these terrible acts. By the end of the show all signs pointed to Benoit being the culprit. The next day confirmed it.

It’s bizarre thinking that you once appreciated the in-ring work of someone that could kill his wife and child, as well as himself. There’s a sense of retroactive blame for even enjoying anything he had done.

Even though I’d quit watching years ago, I knew how popular Benoit was. This was the wrestling equivalent of an Albert Pujols or Peyton Manning meltdown.

Conventional wisdom says to sit here on my 600-word pedestal and completely blast Benoit for what he did and deservedly so, but what’s done is done. I could verbally pound him into the ground for the next week and it won’t change what happened.

The man deserves no sympathy, and I’m certainly not about to give him any, but there wasn’t a note left behind and there’s no way of really knowing what was going through Benoit’s head at the time.

There’s no known motive, only a unicorn, and thousands of people trying to chase it is not going to stop something like this from happening again.

Only a desire for an outside force to monitor these entertainers will.

Sure the WWE implemented a wellness program last year to help regulate substance abuse and monitor cardiovascular health, but it’s mostly self-regulated.

Outside sources administer the testing and release the results, but it isn’t hard for Vince McMahon and company to protect the top guys if necessary.

Most of the talent caught and subsequently fired were lower-level performers.

If the government can bring Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Sammy Sosa in for a hearing, why can’t it bring in Steve Austin, John Cena and Triple H?

Sadly, it looks like it took an incident like this for people to realize the problems that lie within pro wrestling’s infrastructure.

It’s a sport with no offseason, where athletes are on the road for 300 days a year. Fatigue and depression are as bad, if not worse than, the effects of performance-enhancing drugs.

Many are addicted to painkillers, more so than steroids.

The sport may not be real, but its effects certainly are.

Benoit was preceded in death by best friend and fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero was a former drug and alcohol abuser who had managed to turn his life around. He fell asleep four years ago sober and never woke up.

Guerrero was found by his nephew Chavo Guerrero, also a wrestler. The first person Chavo called was Benoit.

It’s a sad circle. One that’s been spinning in the wrestling world for too long. It’s just unfortunate that it took the loss of Benoit, his wife and his young son for most to realize it.

A career tarnished, a family lost, but hopefully, a lesson learned.