The name Chris Benoit has been synonymous with negativity for over a decade, and some say rightfully so.
For a superstar that had achieved so much and did so much for the business, it seems almost unfathomable that he would ever be in this conversation. Reflecting upon his career, the star once known as the Rabid Wolverine arguably carved out a Hall of Fame-worthy career, achieving accolades that some could only wish for, especially for a man of his size who probably shouldn’t have ever ‘made it’ to the pinnacle of WWE.
His wrestling skills, which put his name in the mix as possibly the greatest wrestler of all time, is why WWE fans become nostalgic. Whether it’s heading to YouTube to merely listen to his theme music, or trying to find footage of his emphatic Royal Rumble win in 2004 and the subsequent World Heavyweight Championship victory at WrestleMania XX - it’s an opportunity to reminisce about some of his most memorable moments.
However, all of his incredible achievements were largely discarded after the weekend of June 24, 2007, as all mention of him in WWE ceased to exist. Whether you’re a wrestling fan or not, mainstream media ensured the world knew who Benoit was, the company he competed in and what his heinous actions involved during the double-murder suicide involving his wife, Nancy, his son, Daniel, followed by Benoit taking his own life.
The fact is, fans are going to have contrasting opinions on WWE’s decision to ignore Benoit and, possibly, never induct him into the Hall of Fame. Benoit who, at the time of this writing, would have turned 51-years-old did things what men of his size weren’t expected to do. He was one of the elite stars that proved that the smaller men can achieve great success and his technical ability has him up there as one of greatest pure wrestlers the business has ever seen.
This is what seems to frustrate a large section of wrestling fans; the fact that WWE is refusing to separate the character from the human, as well as focusing on the final days of his life - and not the 20-year career the man gave to the business. Benoit is not the only controversial star that had enjoyed a career in WWE. Hulk Hogan might still return despite the racist remarks he made, the Ultimate Warrior had been immortalised in the Hall of Fame despite stories of his past still hovering around on the internet while the WWE just didn’t think when announcing the Fabulous Moolah battle royal - which was later changed.
Of course, two wrongs don’t make a right, and those situations simply cannot compare to what Benoit did to his wife, his child and then himself. It’s unforgivable, and it’s why legends like Jim Ross, Stone Cold Steve Austin and even a close friend in Chris Jericho refuse to accept the notion that Benoit should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
After claiming Benoit was a nice human being, Austin claimed on his podcast: “One night, Chris ended up killing his wife and his kid. That is an act so terrible and horrible I can’t even comprehend or guess as to what happened in that house.
“That will always overshadow any accomplishment Chris had in the ring. He’ll never be in the Hall of Fame, it will just never happen. His career will speak for itself, but his record as a human being, his first and foremost, and those actions will never be forgotten.
“That’s my feelings on that, we don’t even need to talk about the Hall of Fame. Speaking for myself, Chris Benoit as the person I knew, loved him. Chris Benoit as a wrestler, loved him. Chris Benoit as the person who did what he did, unforgivable. Bottom line.”
Jericho - who didn’t even want Benoit’s matches appearing on his DVD added: "He could never go into the Hall of Fame. There's no way.
“How could you go up there and do a speech for him and a video package and ignore all that had happened?"
JR put it perfectly - just imagine if both Benoit and somebody as huge as The Rock were - hypothetically - being inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year.
Of course, the media wouldn’t be focusing on The Great One with WWE finally inducting him, they’d be focusing on WWE’s decision to induct ‘the murderer guy.’
Why would WWE ever want to associate themselves with such negativity that suggests they’re celebrating the career of Benoit, especially after what he did? They distanced themselves from Hogan, they distanced themselves from Chyna - why do fans ever believe the WWE’s mind will ever change on Benoit?
Whether it’s small or large, everything the WWE does gets mainstream attention. Things that probably won’t even matter to wrestling fans, like John Cena’s break-up with Nikki Bella; that’s hitting the headlines, and the WWE is in the middle of it all which is getting them plenty of media focus. They love it.
The Rock and Batista starring in Hollywood blockbusters always has mentions of their WWE roots too, and they like that attention also that they helped launch the careers of stars they made. The amount of negative press WWE would get for even showing Benoit’s matches or mentioning his name on television - let alone induct him into the Hall of Fame - can be disastrous in a variety of ways. That’s the type of media WWE hopes never hangs above them like a dark cloud.
He committed a horrendous crime, something so dark that many will say that Benoit is not worthy of admiration of any sort. Of course, we can sit here and debate all day about the depression factor, the concussions, the state of his brain and how it all could have been a contributing factor in what he did, but you can’t dispute the ownership of his deplorable act.
Benoit, the wrestler, would undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Benoit the person - he doesn’t deserve attention of any sort. Sadly, you’re unable to separate the two, which is why WWE has every right to continue ignoring him.
As John Cena himself said about WWE ignoring Benoit: “Very difficult question, and I’ll answer it like this. Often times, we get caught up in a person’s ability and their performance, and this transcends WWE, this is a problem in sport. It is also a problem in entertainment. People will do bad things. But if they are good at what they do, sometimes those things are overlooked.
“I don’t in believe that. I believe you should take ownership for your actions. All of them. Not just ones that are performed in front of an audience. I think our company’s stance on the entire situation set a precedent for athletics, and a precedent for entertaining of taking ownership for your actions.”
When you consider that WWE has taken precautions by showing advisory notices before any Benoit footage on the WWE Network and distancing themselves away from the personal lives of those involved, the reality is, the company is never going to embrace or mention Benoit.
What are your thoughts on WWE ignoring Chris Benoit? Have YOUR say in the comments section below.