David Benoit – WWE’s Tough Decision
After the tragedy I spoke to Chris’s father a few times and he encouraged me to call Chris’s other son, David. I’d known David since he was four years old and always got a kick out of how much he loved wrestling. Chris and I enjoyed watching him get completely immersed in a match, dutifully cheering the good guys and booing the bad guys. I felt that I owed him a call, and after a few days I finally got up the nerve to phone him. Before he answered, I thought, “What do you say to a fourteen-year-old kid whose father had just murdered his half brother and stepmother and then killed himself?”
When David picked up the phone, it was obvious he was still in shock. He didn’t have much to say and I did the majority of the talking. I asked him how and what he was doing, but his answers were one-word and stoic. I eventually broached the subject of his father, telling him, “I just wanted you to know that no matter what happened at the end of his life, for the majority of it your dad was a good man. Please don’t let this horrible tragedy dictate the rest of your life. You could let this take you down a very dark path. You have to rise above it.”
I was trying my hardest to be comforting, but my words felt hollow. I sounded just like the cop who talked me out of killing Danny after my mom’s accident seventeen years earlier, and I wonder if that guy felt as much of an asshole as I did right then. When I was finished David responded with one question.
“Can I still go to the wrestling matches?”
It completely broke my heart to think that David’s whole life was his father and wrestling and in one night he lost them both. Quite honestly, that’s the reason that I’ll never be able to forgive Chris for what he did. As horrible as it was that he killed Daniel, it’s even worse that he forced David and his daughter, Megan, to deal with his unexplained crimes for the rest of their lives.
– Chris Jericho: Undisputed
At sometime in the future WWE may find themselves with a tough decision to make. Do we allow David Benoit to become a WWE Superstar?
The Crippler’s surviving son will be unfamiliar to most wrestling fans. The TV cameras have caught him a few times when he sat ringside as a kid, and he also joined his younger brother Daniel and step mom Nancy during Chris’ famous Wrestlemania 20 victory celebration, but until recently he lived outside the spotlight of his father and the crimes he committed.
However through social media it’s become apparent that David is at least considering becoming a professional wrestler, and that brings up all sorts of questions.
Here he is after working out with Harry Smith. If anyone can understand what it’s like to lose a father to pro wrestling, it’s the son of the British Bulldog, who died of a heart attack brought on by steroids and abuse of other drugs. Not that Bulldog murdered anybody, nor that wrestling is the blame for his death or the Benoit tragedy, but it was certainly one of the leading influences on the poor decisions both Bulldog and Chris made.
David also likely shares the same kind of desire as Harry Smith, to follow in his father’s footsteps – something that to an outsider would seem irrational. In Smith’s case why would you want to follow in your father’s footsteps, when his profession strained his relationship with your mother, caused him to rarely be at home to see you, and ultimately contributed to his death?
When Harry failed the WWE Wellness policy in 2007, the first question you had to ask was: hasn’t this guy learned anything from his father’s demise?
Of course wrestling sons aren’t the first people to become their fathers. It’s an aspect of the human condition that we deal with every day.
In David’s case the news that he might want to wrestle is even more tragic for obvious reasons.
Why? Is it to make his father proud? Is it because wrestling was the common bond between them?
Though we have no way of knowing the kind of feedback he’s getting from those in the business – when he’s buddying up to Harry Smith, and Chris Masters who self admittedly went down the road of addiction and steroid abuse – we have to wonder if these are wise friends to make? Are they just apologists for a human circus?
On the other hand they may be exactly what he needs. Veterans who have learned from their mistakes and can be open and honest about a tough business and all its potential pitfalls.
Can WWE Handle Another Benoit?
If there is a future on the horizon where David Benoit is a trained and competent wrestler with a hope of becoming an international Superstar, WWE have a very difficult decision to make.
How can they handle audiences chanting Benoit again? And the media covering the story and questioning their motives? Is it right to inevitably make a profit based around the intrigue of a murderer’s son? Are the corporate investors going to want to be associated with that?
That being said nobody deserves to be punished the way David has by the actions of his father. To further punish him by taking away his dream because of those very actions, is unfair on so many levels. It is up to him whether he becomes a wrestler or not, he is not his father and is not responsible for anything his father did.
In fact WWE has to bare some of the responsibility for the Benoit tragedy itself. It was their rings Chris was suffering repeated concussions in, it was their gruelling schedule that added strain to his relationship with Nancy, it was their penchant for rewarding wrestlers who drove their muscles and bodies to an inhuman limit, with World titles and pushes.
They have gone a long way to fixing this with a Wellness Policy and regular health check-ups for the wrestlers, but denying David a chance to do things the right way, in this new and safer environment, is not only unfair but cowardly. You can’t accept the past mistakes of untreated concussions by implementing ImPACT Testing and deny those mistakes at the same time, by burying the victims of them. WWE owes David Benoit, to some degree.
Preventing David from having a WWE career would be terribly short-sighted. If the story ends with Chris Benoit’s crimes, it will always be a black mark against the company. If it ends with a healthy and happy David Benoit becoming a huge success, there is at least the illusion of a happy ending. That would be a thousand times better for public image than sweeping it all under the carpet.
Ultimately nobody has the right to deny David a wrestling career. Those in the business just need to be smart about how they handle the situation if it ends up becoming a reality.