Being both an Albertan and a pro wrestling fan has been especially trying since June 25th 2007, and the tragedy that occurred that day. Like many Canadians I have a deep love for our wrestlers, but Benoit was one that I could best describe as a hero for me in those days.
Still now it is very hard for myself and fellow wrestling enthusiasts to admit they liked Benoit, or that he was a talented individual without also saying "despite what happened."
As a wrestling fan I felt like I personally had some connection to what went wrong with Benoit, especially as I was one of his biggest fans. How could I have supported someone who had done such heinous act? It made me feel dirty for liking him, yet disbelieved that someone I held in such high regard could betray me like that.
Really I should not take blame for this, it's not even fair for me to say that I had anything to do with what occurred. As a mere fan who had never even met Benoit how could I? Yet the burden remained.
The weeks following it only got worse, the media brought forth more information on Benoit. Past abuse reports, drug scandals, problems dealing with his disabled son—all of this continued to make the man I once admired a monster.
There was little comfort to be found during those days for me, the RAW tribute to Benoit in the days immediately following was a brief solace, only to be wiped clean once evidence of the murder suicide was confirmed. Since then the WWE has tried it's best to clear Benoit of it's system and never make mention of him or the tragic events that unfolded.
I may not have been the only Benoit fan to feel this way, many Benoit fans loved him as much as I, possibly even more, and maybe they even had intimate encounters with the performer as well. But those of us who knew him as our hometown hero live with the stigma of his name.
Prior to the tragedy that occurred that day, I had purchased tickets for the upcoming RAW show in Edmonton scheduled in June. This was a big thing for me, it was the first thing I purchased with my first credit card, and was the main reason I got it in the first place. I was ecstatic, as I always am when WWE finally makes it roll through Alberta on it's Canadian tour. Memories of the last show, Backlash 2004, roared back and I was filled with anticipation.
However we all know that tragedy would strike prior to that date, and if the loss of my hometown hero was not enough I was to later learn that WWE would not be making any stops in Alberta on it's tour and my money was to be refunded.
I felt like I was sucker punched in the stomach. I felt like a close friend of mine had died, yet I was not allowed to pay my respects because he committed a crime and as his friend I was to be shunned for once supporting him.
To this day I still feel like I haven't been able to pay my respects to Benoit.
I do not intend to tell you all that I am the worst hit by this unfortunate event, or even that we Albertans are the worse ones affected. In truth Nancy and Daniel were the victims, as were their families for losing them in such a sad way.
I also feel that Benoit's family is a victim of these circumstances. For any parent who loved their son to be shocked by what had occurred and have someone so close to them be called a murderer is something I do not wish upon anyone. To make matters worse the media seems to want to continue to make Benoit a monster. I think anyone can see how much Mr. and Mrs. Benoit loved their son based on how much they defended him and continue to defend him to this day.
Is it not fair that they too should find peace with their son's death, despite how it may have come about? I think if anyone else was in their shoes they would want the same.
I have not been in their shoes, yet I too loved Benoit. It may not have been a love as strong as they shared for him, but I did care about him. He gave so much to me, to all of us in his career, how could I not feel something for his passing?
I do not expect everyone to be able to forgive Benoit for what he did, but I do think that those of us who did care for him can at least thank him and remember him.
Thank him for giving us memories of how one man can overcome the odds, no matter how long it takes. Remember how he showed us that a grown man can cry with emotion. Love him for letting us know him.
For me this isn't just about bringing back a show to Alberta, this is about saying farewell and giving back to Benoit what he deserved, and what his family deserves. His name should not be a mere whisper amongst fans. His ability should be remembered as a part of wrestling history. And his passion should live on in the hearts of all fans.
Wrestling fans can move past this, we can accept Benoit for the man he was and not the mistakes he made. I have come to terms with this, why can't the WWE?
To this day I am a Chris Benoit fan, and DAMN PROUD OF IT!