It happened three years ago today, though none of us learned until at least 24 hours after the fact. I'm certain all of us remember where we were when it happened, as it was easily one of the greatest tragedies of the modern wrestling era. I am speaking, of course, of the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide.
A tragedy that many of us were at first reluctant to believe, some even going as far as to refer to it as one of the simple storylines that all pro wrestling fans love. It was thought that Benoit would show up at the next PPV without a scratch on him with his family sitting in the front row, alive and well. (Primarily those who love to mock the wrestling world; these people disgust me, as I'm sure they disgust you.)
But reality soon set in on all of us as the media coverage of the event rapidly increased. I still remember all the speculation as to what had happened. Some, myself included, even believed that the event was a triple murder. Some robbers, or maybe even a jealous friend, had broken into the Benoit home and brutally killed him and his family.
The story perhaps began when Benoit did not show up to the night of champions PPV for a match that was supposed to be contested against CM Punk for the vacant ECW championship. I was personally looking forward to the match as both Benoit and Punk were two personal favorites at the time. Then Benoit no showed and Johnny Nitro was put in Benoit’s place. Many of us bounced online wondering greatly where Chris was; and it was at this time some of us heard of the fateful text messages.
Johnny Nitro defeated Punk and won the ECW championship and the rest of the night continued. The next day was when everything started to pick up. At precisely 9 p.m, for that is when almost every WWE fan discovered that Benoit was dead. What was supposed to be a three hour tribute to Vince McMahon who was, in storyline, supposed to be dead, however it instead opened with Vince McMahon himself announcing that Benoit and his family were dead, and the police were investigating.
The show continued with a three hour broadcast in tribute to Benoit which had some of Benoit’s best matches. For many of us, it would be the last time we would see these matches, and for some of us, perhaps that was for the best. As the next day, it was leaked what had really happened at the Benoit household that fateful night.
The media picked it up faster than ever before on the "disgusting," "vile," and "terrible" world that is pro wrestling. This sad event had successfully destroyed pro wrestling in the eyes of many fans. Many tuned out, never to tune back in. This media fever would go on for longer than six months with more and more facts coming present with the "excuse" finally "accepted" by the media as being Roid Rage. Sadly, this was lodged into the minds of many average pro wrestling fans and non-watchers even after the media stopped discussing it.
However, those fans that truly cared about the business, and maybe even Benoit himself, continued to pay attention; eating up new facts as they became available until we finally had our answer. It was not the one many of us had hoped for. The final conclusion was that a combination of Roid rage, damage to his brain as a result of all his swan dive head butts over the years, and depression at the predicament his family was in at the time contributed to Benoit's actions.
WWE began to slowly wipe Benoit from existence. His merchandise was pulled from WWEshop.com, his DVD released prior to his death was pulled from store shelves, and his name was wiped from match cards including from the Wrestlemania 20 DVD which included his most triumphant moment of winning the World title, in a Triple threat match against Triple H and Shawn Michaels no less. It left a bitter taste in many a fans mouths as WWE seemed to be denying he had ever existed, let alone work for them.
However they're plan seemed to work as many people began to forget and slowly fans began to return.
As many wrestlers had died the year prior, and that year as a result of steroid abuse and various other conditions. It was indeed a somber time as many wrestling fans began to see the one thing they had wanted in the wrestling world for a good deal of time: Change.
The federal Government began to investigate the WWE and the WWE complied by introducing a far stricter "wellness policy." Blood was slowly omitted. WWE began to take greater care of their superstars. The rise of John Morrison began, and has continued throughout the years.
But some of us are still left with the same bitter questions:
What was the gain of all of this?
Was the trade-off for true change in the wrestling world really worth it?
Is this tragic event the reason why there is currently a “pg era”?
What was the purpose of Benoit's text messages?
Did he want to be found or... stopped?
No one as of yet can give an answer to these questions that can satisfy everyone, and they will likely continue to haunt the few of us that still wonder for years to come. Many probably don't think about it anymore and maybe that is best, but truth and answers come to those who seek them, and maybe one day our questions will be answered.
But until then, I don't think everyone should forget the terrible day when the often great stage that is Professional Wrestling became all too real.