Watching Chris Benoit

This is an article I had floating in the back of my head for months at this point, but I’ve only seriously considered writing this for maybe an hour before doing it. I’m not even sure if I’ll publish it, but obviously if your reading it, I decided too. Today I had a day off from life. I gave myself the chance for the first time in months to do literally nothing productive and only do what I wanted. That consisted mostly of laying on my couch and watching YouTube videos. However, in between the shitposts and memes I found myself drawn to one topic for no real reason. For some reason, I kept searching one name: Chris Benoit.

Admittedly, that is partially due to the recent Talk is Jericho podcast where Chris Jericho and Dave Meltzer discussed his career ten years after the tragedy. After listening to that, I remembered some podcasts I listened to on the matter and proceeded to search some videos discussing the tragedy. Now, I am by no means an expert on the events that day, so I will refrain from too much comment on the events themselves. However, I think I have an interesting perspective on watching Chris Benoit as a wrestler post tragedy. Many people say they struggle watching his work due to the events over ten years ago, with Meltzer admitting that he’s only seen one match of his in the past ten years. I don’t really struggle with that though. I know that I should considering that he murdered his family, but there’s this weird disconnect in my brain between the wrestler I watch and the murderer I research. That’s frightened me for a while now, because I had no reason for such a disconnect happening, but I think I know why.

Principally, my age plays a huge factor in why I am not as affected by the tragedy as others are. I never lived through Benoit’s career. By the time I started watching wrestling (2009), he’d been dead 2 years. Besides that, in 2007 I would’ve had no idea that such a tragedy occurred, considering I was relatively young (young enough to be isolated from news about murders, that’s for sure!). When I learned who Chris Benoit was, it was in about 2010 when I bought the video game Wrestlemania X8 for my Gamecube, where he was an unlockable character. I had to put in research, after months of owning the game mind you, to even know what happened on the weekend of June 22, 2007. So, I never knew Benoit as a wrestler before the tragedy, only learned of him via a video game, and even when I found out I was still too young to fully grasp the situation. Most of the people who talk about Benoit are either a.) not wrestling fans or b.) emotionally connected to Benoit in a way I never was before the tragedy. Due to this, I for some reason watch Benoit matches with the ability to disconnect the murder and the wrestling.

However, beyond this, I think that people near my age have an interesting relationship with tragedy that, for me, impacts this phenomena very directly. For my entire life, I’ve been surrounded my media, information, and news, to the point where this glut of information is numbing. In accordance with that, the way news reports on tragedy post Columbine and post 9/11 means that, in the news cycle, I have heard about incredible tragedies for my entire life ever since I was old enough to comprehend them. Now, I’m not sure if my experience is special or if people older that I felt the same way or consumed media similarly. However, after stories like the Haitian Earthquake, Sandy Hook, the Boston Bombing, the Pulse shooting, the Paris terrorist attacks, and more, I have become totally numb to tragedy. When I hear a story like this, I never know how to react, because while many have a visceral, extreme reaction, I have been numbed by overexposure. I always get emotional to an extent when the humanity of the tragedy is shown, as that’s how these affect me, but with the arms reach new reporting and the cycle that frames every tragedy as a two-week mourn-a-thon until our next story, I struggle to find the humanity. Also, I’ve become very good at detaching from tragedy. With news stories every week of the innocent dying and people living normal lives who had those lives snuffed out, disconnection is really the only way I can live. If I mourned every tragedy and looked for the humanity in every tragedy, not only would that consume my life due to the sheer number of horrific events I hear about, but it would also destroy me.

So, with all of that, I think I’ve been trained to see this as another tragedy distant from myself. I’ve learned to cope with tragedies much more immediate and recent, so I guess this older tragedy won’t sit with me. I can get a pit in my stomach thinking about the facts, but then watch a match without any real issue. Now that I’ve delved in deeper and analyzed the tragedy, maybe that will change, but I don’t know.

-Terrance Smith


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