Time is a funny thing. It changes perspectives, for better or worse, over certain things that have happened in the past.
Recently the documentary Leaving Neverland set forth some incredibly serious allegations against Michael Jackson, so bad that some radio stations have stopped playing Jackson’s music, and this despite Thriller being the best-selling studio album (not live or greatest hits album) of all time. Time has passed since his death and now many people are re-evaluating him in light of these new allegations, or the re-hashes of old allegations. Me? I’m not making judgement. It doesn’t look good, but I do not know. These are allegations; nothing has been proved. The documentary was a hard watch, but I still watched it in a train-wreck sort of a way. But the cancellation of Jackson (and R.Kelly, for that matter) has begun in earnest.
So… wrestling. This got me thinking about wrestling.
12 years ago, Chris Benoit killed his wife and son before committing suicide. It was not just tragic, but horrific and shocking and words are probably inadequate to describe just what it was. Yes, there are theories out there that Benoit did not do it, but the evidence does most definitely seem to point in that direction. The reasons seem to be related to concussions and the fact his brain was a mushed up soup of neurons after years of punishing his body with that flying headbutt which actually hit, as well as all the head shots he took. He was very probably not in his right mind at all, and if it leads to better understanding of long-term brain injury in all sports and facets of human endeavour, then let’s hope some good can come of it. Not an excuse, by the way – I’m just saying. I don’t blame steroids, his career trajectory or his emotional turmoil. His brain was not working and he did something so heinous it is almost indescribable.
Benoit was cancelled, retconned out of existence. For example, Chris Jericho in his book Undisputed mentions that his classic matches with Benoit now apparently no longer happened.
Is it okay yet to watch and enjoy Benoit matches? My favourite Rumble is 2004 when Benoit won. My favourite Money In The Bank match is the first one, involving Benoit, from Wrestlemania 21. One of my favourite Wrestlemania matches is the main event of Wrestlemania XX. I liked a lot of his WCW stuff. The Smackdown Six days were awesome. But I haven’t watched a Benoit match for many, many years. Is it okay to watch and enjoy them with the passage of time?
Okay, let’s look at it this way.
Is it okay to listen to and enjoy Michael Jackson songs? Is it okay to enjoy Gary Glitter songs? Is it all right that some sports teams still use ‘Rock And Roll Part 2’ by Glitter? Don King once stomped an employee to death (and was convicted of it); are we allowed to watch the boxers and matches he promotes? Are we allowed to enjoy the Naked Gun movies with OJ Simpson? Are we allowed to listen to songs produced by Phil Spector?
Wrestling. Are we allowed to enjoy the wrestling matches of Mike Awesome, Kerry Von Erich, Andrew “Test” Martin or Chris Kanyon after they killed themselves? Great Khali killed some-one in the ring when he was learning to wrestle; afterwards he went on to become a WWE champion; are we allowed to acknowledge that? Scott Hall admitted to killing a man with a gun; is that okay?
Now, I’m not saying what they did was as bad as what Benoit did, but where do we draw the line?
Am I allowed to like the matches but dislike the man Benoit became?
Am I allowed to watch the old matches yet?
Yes, I want to watch them again. I’m not sure how I’ll react, how the passage of time will affect what I see after so many years, and especially 12 years after the tragedy, but is it okay? In a recent JZ Says, he looked back at Wrestlemania X-Seven and reviewed the Benoit-Angle match quite dispassionately (and did it well, it must be said; his columns are pretty damn good) and no-one batted an eyelid. Is Benoit’s stuff now acceptable viewing so much so that people just go, “Meh”?
So many questions… are there any answers?
Tags: allegation, Chris Benoit, death, Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, suicide, time, tragedy, Wreslemania, wrestling