It’s one of the most tragic stories in professional wrestling history. In fact it’s one of the most tragic stories in all history. The story of Chris Beniot.
He was an extremely talented wrestler who despite being of small stature and battle depression and addiction rose to the very top of his industry. The pinnacle of his career being at a show I was lucky enough to attend, Wrestlemania 20, where he won the world title. His great friend Eddie Guerrero, who had shared many of the ups and downs of his career, held the WWE championship at the time and the show ended with the two of them embracing in the ring with their titles under a shower of confetti.
Within a couple of years, both men were dead, victims of their own excesses. Both under tragic circumstances. Eddie, despite having being clean for a long time, lost his life because his heart gave out due to historic drug use. Just when he was booked for another title run.
Chris Beniot’s story had an even more tragic end, he killed his wife, his youngest son, and them himself over the course of 3 days. We will never know what actually happened in that house, over those 3 days, but what is clear is that Chris Beniot lost his mind.
The postmortem showed a brain that was so mangled from concussive injuries that it resembled the brain of an 85 year old suffering from Altzheimer’s Disease. He was 40.
Clearly the amount of concussive injuries had an impact on his mental health and he had more than most due in part to.his move set and in part to his willingness to take chair shots to the head. His storied history with steriods and alcohol abuse will also have had an affect on his mental state. These will have exasperated the insecurities and hang ups that he always harboured, common ones and specific ones he reportedly held about his size and what that meant for his place in an industry dominated by giants.
The final shot to his fragile state was losing Eddie. Kurt Angle, a long time friend, says that Chris was never the same after that. His diary mentions premonitions of his death, and I’ve heard surviving friends and family members say that this was a recurring theme, a paranoia he harboured.
The 18 months that passed between Eddie dying and the Benoit tragedy must have been hell. Chris’s mental state deteriorated and he never sought help, and no one noticed. Many people said in hindsight that he became a different person after Eddie, but no one did anything.
This may be the 21st century, but society has not found its way to a very enlightened place on mental health. It’s still something that is shied away from and not spoken of. Especially when it’s men. Especially when it’s men in a macho industry like professional wrestling.
I’m a big rugby league fan, and rugby league suffers similarly with mental health but recently those involved in the sport have been driving change. Trying to create a culture when it is talked about. I feel that this is a great thing, and I feel that society as a whole needs to follow this lead.
I read an article this morning about HHH and his closest friends in wrestling. One of those listed was Benoit and the article said “Triple H needs to move on and forget about whatever friendship may have existed.” This sums up what is wrong with society.
When the events of that weekend were revealed, Benoit was removed from WWE history. He is listed when necessary and only when necessary, in title reigns etc. On the WWE network every Wrestlemania has the main event listed in its description bar 1. The aforementioned Wrestlemania 20, where Benoit finally achieved his dream and won the title. Instead the description reads “Triple H defends the world championship in a triple threat match”. WWE is a massive, massive company and they could have used the opportunity to spotlight these issues and address the taboo that exists around these issues. Instead they erased him.
I don’t blame them, they probably feared a backlash. They probably worried they may appear to be defending a murderer.
Today is world suicide prevention day, which is part of world suicide prevention month, and this coincides with the news that a biopic about Benoit is on its way. Maybe now is the time to acknowledge Benoit, and look at the causes of this tragedy, to try and stop it from happening ever again.