This is undoubtedly a very emotional and difficult week for wrestling fans all over the globe. I would of course like to extend my condolences and prayers to the entire Benoit family, small consolation though they may be. I had prepared a column for this week and right before I uploaded it onto insidepulse.com I decided to check out the WWE homepage. There I discovered the news of the death of Chris Benoit and his family. I immediately scrapped this week’s column, as discussing pro wrestling seems beyond trivial at a time like this.
I am going to do something now that I will not do again. I have a very close friend who is a former employee of World Wrestling Entertainment and I swore when I started writing this column that I would not exploit my friendship with him to benefit this column. He, however, contacted me and asked me if I would publish something from him. I will not reveal his name, only that he at one point worked backstage for the WWE in a production capacity, and due to his continuing relationship with the company, cannot reveal his name.
Note: This e-mail was sent to me before the news came out about the possibility of this being a murder/suicide. I say possibility because there has not been anything 100% official and I am a firm believer in “innocent until proven guilty”. I was hesitant to publish this e-mail after the news broke, but I know that it was written from a good place and shows me the type of man that I truly hoped Chris Benoit was. Unfortunately, circumstances that occured yesterday might prove me wrong.
First, thank you for agreeing to put this up on your web site. As you can imagine, the news of Chris Benoit’s death was a shock to me and everyone else. I’m sure that RAW will have tons of video packages featuring WWE superstars talking about how great Chris Benoit is, but I wanted to share my unique perspective on the man.
I had only been working for the company for a few weeks when I had my first encounter with Chris Benoit. Being the new guy backstage at a WWE event is not an easy spot to be in because you need to maintain a delicate balance between being a fan and being a professional. Having grown up a wrestling fan, it was obviously a dream come true, but it also meant that I had a lot of preconceived notions about the wrestlers who were now-for a lack of a better term-co-workers.
Meeting these larger-then-life athletes is a truly incredible experience. One thing I was told before I went to my first event was that you have to shake everyone’s hand and be as courteous as possible. I made it a point to introduce myself to everyone that I came across, whether it was Ric Flair or a prop guy. Everyone was very polite and professional.
One of my duties at a particular Smackdown taping was to assist in the pre-taped segments for that week’s program. I can’t remember the promo specifically, but the segment was going to require Bob Holly. I remember running around the arena trying to locate Holly only to just miss him at several locations. With time running short, I finally found out that he was in one of the locker rooms on the other side of the building. I sprinted to the back room and knocked on the door. Orlando Jordan opened it and asked what I wanted. Short of breath, I mustered up enough energy to say, “We need Bob Holly for a promo.Ã¢â‚¬Â I stood and braced the door open while Orlando went to find Bob. Moments later out came Holly and I thought we were off. As I turned, all of a sudden I heard someone shout, “Hey kid!Ã¢â‚¬Â Not knowing what was going on, I turned around and was face to face with Chris Benoit. I had never met Chris Benoit before that moment. I was a huge Chris Benoit fan, and if you are at true wrestling fan you are too. Chris was one of the few people I truly wanted to meet. I had no problem shaking Vince McMahon’s hand or the Undertaker’s hand, but it was Chris Benoit-who I respected so much-that I was worried about meeting and unfortunately fate would not let us meet under positive circumstances.
“Who are you?Ã¢â‚¬Â he asked, not looking too pleased. I told him who I was and that I was the new guy and his expression never changed. He looked as intense and angry as he did on television and he was directing that all towards me. “When you walk into a locker room, you introduce yourself. You look a man in the eyes and you shake his hand.Ã¢â‚¬Â With that, he extended his hand and gave me one of the firmest handshakes I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. Now to be fair, I did not see Chris in the locker room, and I had already met both Orlando and Bob. I knew, however, that those excuses would not fly with Chris Benoit. As I walked away, the only thought that went through my mind was that I met one of my favorite wrestlers and he thinks that I’m an asshole.
The next week I was dreading seeing Chris Benoit backstage. I checked to make sure that he didn’t have any pre-tapes that night, hoping that I could hide from him at all costs. Again, fate was not on my side.
I was standing in a hallway waiting to go into a meeting when I realized that Chris Benoit was right next to me. It was just me and him. He gave me a nod which was more then I deserved after my perceived disrespect the week prior. Right or wrong on my part, in his mind I was the guy that didn’t have enough respect to introduce myself, but he still gave me a head nod. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the moment or maybe it was the six cups of coffee that I had consumed, but for some reason I decided to talk to him.
“Hey Chris, I just wanted to apologize for last week. I didn’t mean to disrespect you last week and I am truly sorry.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He looked at me, and in a moment that I will remember until I die, he said, “That wasn’t easy for you to say, and I respect you for it.Ã¢â‚¬Â That was who this man was. I am not a professional wrestler. I am not a corporate executive. I was just a guy working backstage.
I’m not going to pretend like Chris Benoit and I spent a lot of time together. Yes, I sat at tables with him during lunch and saw him every week, but we didn’t have much social interaction. All I know was that this was a man who commanded respect and gave it to everyone that he met. Chris Benoit was a consummate professional every time I needed to work with him. If there’s one thing that I want the fans to know about Chris Benoit, it’s that he was a man of integrity who was respectful to everyone from the chairman of the company to the lowest man on the production totem poll.
I’m sure this story will continue throughout the coming days and weeks here at Inside Pulse and around the wrestling community. To all the wrestling fans out there, I implore you to handle this story with the utmost amount of respect for the family who has suffered a tragic loss.
This has been for your consideration. Rest in peace, Chris, Nancy and Daniel.