Unforgiven But Never Forgotten: The Legacy of Chris Benoit

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Unforgiven But Never Forgotten: The Legacy of Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit is a name you won't hear on WWE programming, the former Pegasus Kid having been erased from Wrestling history. Now, almost three years on from his suicide, is it time to, if not forgive, at least not forget the former World Champion?

Chris Benoit. Two words which provoke a confusing mix of emotions in any wrestling fan. They evoke a hardworking decent man, an intense, tenacious wrestler and a pathetic and despicable final act.

These three sides are impossible to take apart and look at individually yet too contradictory to fit together. Thinking about Chris Benoit hurts the head as well as the heart.

If the Rabid Wolverine had passed away quietly in his sleep on June 21, 2007 he would now be a recognised and honoured legend.

A veteran of over 20 years, Benoit wrestled successfully and memorably in Mexico, Japan, Canada and the US, competing in some of the most standout matches of his era.

Arguably the most emotional finale of any Wrestlemania was Benoit's title win in 2004 where, accompanied in the ring by Eddie Guerrero, Benoit became utterly overcome with emotion, clutching the belt in tears after an epic victory over Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

Sadly for everyone, Chris Benoit woke up on June 22.

The inside of Benoit's mind on that last weekend is impossible to contemplate, his final actions even harder still.

When he ended the lives of his wife and child, Chris Benoit tore a massive void in both his and his wife's families' lives forever. At the same time he tore a void, tiny and insignificant in comparison, in the lives of wrestling fans.

How are we supposed to feel when the words "Chris Benoit" come to mind?

It's hard to think of Benoit as a hero anymore. The word might be ill-fitting for any professional wrestler but it is how WWE likes to brand its superstars, and Chris Benoit simply doesn't fit.

It's also hard to think of Benoit as a murderer. This article, written by a fan, has avoided the word until now. The fact is Benoit was and is both.

It isn't possible to ignore what Benoit did to his family, but might it be possible to remember while acknowledging all the work and dedication that went before?

Benoit may never be hailed as a Hall of Famer, but might his existence one day be acknowledged by the business to which he devoted so much?

In one way, perhaps it has. Benoit was nothing if not committed. He gave everything the fans demanded, never shirking a move, a bump or a chair shot to the head.

The senior neurosurgeon who conducted tests stated that Benoit's brain was "so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer's patient."

This month, WWE banned the use of chair shots to the head, a small price for fans to pay to the memory of Chris Benoit.

In the end, Benoit gave up his sanity, his legacy, his family and his life for the entertainment and approval of the crowd. Too foolish and too naive to be heroic but surely still worth remembering.

     The Poll which accompanies this article is deliberately obtuse but seems to encapsulate the dilemma. Comments are, as always, very welcome.

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