The Moss Covered, Three Handled Family Gredunza


Benoit’s Media

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Hi, welcome to the Moss covered, three handled family gredunza. For those who don’t read my column, the name is from Dr Seuss’s the Grinch who Stole Christmas, and was part of a list done by Chris Jericho back in WCW in 1998. The reason I named the column that was because I wanted to connect pro wrestling with pop culture and real life and find out just how much wrestling is integrated with real life. Sometimes this is amusing. Like we saw this year with Donald Trump and Vince McMahon, which for all intensive purposes was a positive thing for WWE’s public image. But sometimes it’s not so fun, like when Chris Benoit did what he did, and everyone finds out about it, and just about everyone has something to say. And I’m probably not the only one on the internet as a writer who has probably read more articles in the last two weeks than probably all year. And I’ve been going to all sorts of wrestling and non-wrestling sites reading articles about Benoit. Some of it is looking for answers, because, if you read my column last week, I certainly don’t have any. Part of it is purging. The more I see about this, the less it hurts. And if we’ve learned anything about American catastrophes, it’s proof positive that overexposure can null the pain a little. This benoit thing hurt, and it hurt a lot of people. It’s hurt some people to the point of hiding, lashing out, or, I don’t want to say jeopardizing their character, but definitively sacrificing a little integrity.

Probably the main culprits of this would probably be the major news anchors. For once, we can include Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and others in the IWC. If you see their videos from the last week on youtube, you’ll see that they’re mostly taking this opportunity to attack pro wrestling, which is very much the opposite of the penned, mostly anonymous writers of the online community, who are very much trying to defend it. And it’s usually this way when there’s a catastrophe. It’s usually us, and I’m very humbly including myself, that defend wrestling. It’s usually their job to attack us, and we’ve faced this dichotomy for the last 30 years.

It’s weird, because they’re mostly talking about steroids. And it confuses me, because I’m seeing a guy like the warrior, someone who wrestled on a completely different pane of existence than Benoit, talking about roid rage. I thought we were done all that, that it was a thing of the past, something controlled. I’m both surprised and not at all, really. I mean, take one look at Benoit and you know he’s probably got the most cut physique for his size, so it’s not surprising that he’s on steroids, but that shouldn’t be the point. Even if it was steroids and roid rage, he, and I can’t believe I’m going to agree with warrior on this one, but that’s an excuse, and there’s no excuse for this. There’s no easy answer, and to blame steroids is to cut it short.

But that’s what they’re doing. They’re taking the easy answer and that’s characteristic of the mainstream press. And it shouldn’t surprise us that Ann Coulter is attacking Bret Hart for taking steroids and trying to turn this into a villainizing case where she’s the righteous and we’re demonized for enjoying sick steroid abusers. But there’s one thing that connects the mainstream people and the internet community. Absolutely none of us know why this happened. For the mainstream press, the easy answer is to go into attack mode. For us, it’s to defend pro wrestling, and to defend it with an iron grip, and to hide in the crevices of where wrestling is safest. What I find interesting is that nobody is taking a stance that, while benoit did was awful, it doesn’t affect wrestling. What Benoit did was unforgivable, but they still love wrestling. And you should see that opinion and it should be there. But I’ve gone to dozens of wrestling sites now, sites I haven’t seen since the boom period seven years ago that I thought had been shut down. And I went there looking for different opinions besides “wrestling is great.”

One of the opinions I saw from several writers was “lets separate Benoit the wrestler with Benoit the murderer. Let’s take his wrestling career safe, put it in a time capsule because it’s too good to let go. Because we need to protect pro wrestling. If the fanatics, myself included, don’t defend the major critics and the people who will and are using this as a way to injure pro wrestling, who will?

I don’t understand why anyone would hate wrestling. I get how people look down on it or ignore it, but I don’t get the hate. Because, while terrible things happen from time to time, it brings unquestionable amounts of happiness to people around the world. But to think that this unity we have that “wrestling is great” and needs to be protected will not help this. I think it’ll actually hurt it. Because it’ll become a stereotype. “Oh, the nerds are defending it no matter what. They’re putting up videos of how great Benoit was, because they need to defend him as a wrestler. Because no matter what happens to wrestling, they need to defend it.”

And while I’m one of those people who will defend wrestling, but I’m surprised that this isn’t turning people away. At least in some respect, you would think it would make people say “No more. I can’t take this anymore. I can’t separate what happened with what’s on tv, so I have to walk away.” And maybe there are. Maybe the ratings will go down permanently. I don’t know. But I know all the people who are sticking around, at least the writers, who will probably be here forever, are defending wrestling with an iron fist, and hiding in the safest of places.

One of those places is Ring of Honor. I’ve seen lots of articles about ROH, almost wholly prefaced by “I’m going to talk about something that’s great about wrestling. WWE is a corporate profit scheme that kills wrestlers, but ROH is a good company who does good things. And there’s nothing in the mainstream media about ROH, so I’m going to talk about them for a while.” And that’s fine, but eventually we have to realize that ROH is wrestling just like TNA, WWE, WCW all of them are pro wrestling. The package might be different, but when you break it down, wrestling is a physical sport that demands sacrifice amongst its performers. To go to a place like ROH for subject material because you’re afraid of the hard stuff is evasive and possibly cowardly. To move from one promotion to another doesn’t actually change the argument.

Because, well, a guy like Benoit would have been a respected character in ROH and TNA, and everyone there would have been honoured to wrestle him. One thing you can’t put away is the respect that just about every pro wrestler had for Benoit. His influence is undeniable. You can’t put that away. You can’t put it in the past. You can’t say that wrestling is Benoit-less now. Kurt Angle is still doing the triple german suplexes. Young wrestlers are still going to steal his strong, silent wrestling character, a gimmick made possible by Benoit. You can’t strike that influence, and you can’t go back and erase him because he’s too integrated.

I don’t want to appear cold or soulless about this, but this is a hard subject. I’m not at all equipped to handle something like this. I have to say, it gives me a little comfort to know that nobody is capable of handling this, who’s capable of saying “this is how wrestling will be from now on.” Any catastrophe should at least have predictions on how this will affect what we write about. I remember Jon Stewart talking about 9/11 and his ideas of it. And he was hearing people saying that “everything will be looked at differently, but a little less joyous. We’ll live our lives, but it’ll lack soul.” But that receded, and went away, and I’m sure that everything will be fine soon enough in the wrestling community.

And while we probably won’t forget about this, largely because it’s pretty hard to erase a guy like Benoit because he did too much and has done everything and been everywhere, and main-evented everywhere and been in everyone’s best match list. It will probably go back to a state of normalcy, and people will continue to buy merchandise and cheer and boo and all that, but we should take away that wrestling, at least for now, should no longer be perceived as great, as something awesome or awe inspiring. We shouldn’t perceive wrestling like that anymore.

You go to youtube and look for wrestling and most of the comments is, “this is awesome. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. TNA rulzzzz.” We really shouldn’t perceive wrestling as this anymore. Even if you include this, wrestling is interesting as all hell. It is rough and hard, and a very very complex thing. And it’s got dozens of tangible and intangible reasont hat people love it and need to see it, and there are hundreds of ways to study and talk about it and enjoy it. But simply stating “this is awesome,” that should be stricken. Because it isn’t anymore.

It’s something grand, sure, but it isn’t awesome. Because that gives an image that everything about it is great in some way, without apology, and it no longer is. I don’t think anyone is going to get in a lot of trouble for this. It was a closed case. The drug policy won’t get much tighter (if it’s tight to begin with) and not much will actually happen because it was a murder suicide. And it should, to a great extent. But like I said last week, it would be nice if some things did change. Because, if it does, if things do change, someday can be great and “awesome” again. But you can’t go to a wrestling match, and watch someone take a death-defying risky stunt and chant “this is awesome” without thinking of Benoit, because he did all those moves and did a lot of them before anyone else did, and paved the way for the current smaller main event guys who are getting those kind of chants now.

It’s a lot more complicated than “awesome,” and I think it’s unfair and gives a lot of ammunition to wrestling haters to say, “this is awesome.” Because it shows that we abdicate it, that we say that this Benoit thing is just something that happens and we have no lessons to learn from it. And if that’s the case, well, I don’t see what’s awesome about complete and utter denial. I can’t think that in some way, those high-risk moves Benoit did didn’t push him to steroids just a little bit, that all that fame and fortune and character didn’t affect him in a negative way. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe it has nothing to do with it at all.

I really can’t look at a guy like AJ Styles take a fall off the penalty box onto the announce table and think “what’s going to happen to him in twenty years? What’s going to happen to the x division guys? What’s going to happen to Samoa Joe when he goes to WWE and they tell him to improve his look? What about Dean Malenko, who is maybe coming back?” I’m not really worried about guys like John Cena, Jeff Jarrett, HHH, and Edge. I know those guys have to work just as hard, but I don’t worry about the chosen guys. Benoit was never a chosen guy, and I worry most about the guys who really have to work to get their spot. I’m not saying that the big guys don’t put in just as much effort, but they seem to last longer, don’t they? Watching the Warrior interview, well, he took more steroids than anybody. He’s still around. He looks healthy. He’s batshit crazy, but he looks healthy. And he was one of the chosen guys, maybe taken care of a little better. But I worry about the guys who really have to bust their ass to make a name for themselves. Because if you ask those guys to name their top 5 wrestlers, one of them is Benoit.

And he’s pretty high up on our top 100 list of all time list that we’re doing now that I’m really excited about. We haven’t written one for Benoit yet. I don’t know what they’re going to say, or who’s going to say it.

Anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed the podcast. It’s about a half hour. It was my first attempt to say what I wanted instead of writing it. In summation, I’m glad people are defending wrestling, and also that people are attacking it. These things need to happen. Sometimes we deserve a good shit kicking, and it deserves it from a lot of people, and that we as writers should beat it up a lot more than we do. In the end, we’re going to do what’s best for us as fans, of course, whatever that is.

K Sawyer Paul is the author of This is Sports Entertainment: The Secret Diary of Vince McMahon, co-editor of Fair to Flair, and curator at Aggressive Art.