Friday, January 9, 2009

No Holds Barred

I feel it's worth noting that our last post, made by Mr. Max Nova, was post number 100 on this young and rapidly growing blog. Congrats, all. Many more.

I wanted to talk a bit about something that came into my mind after recently seeing Mickey Rourke's new film, "The Wrestler." If you haven't seen it yet, I can highly recommend it, Rourke is fantastic and it's about as good a screenplay as you'll come across ( know, the "H" word).

Anyway, the movie got me thinking about pro wrestling, specifically Chris Benoit. You see, I used to be something of a wrestling fan. Well, that might be something of an understatement. For most of my high school life, I spent my Monday and Thursday nights glued to the TV watching Raw and Smackdown!, respectively, and when there wasn't wrestling on television, I was surfing the web reading the wrestlepages trying to figure out who was going to get the next big push or who was poised to make a heel turn.

People who don't watch wrestling often have trouble understanding the appeal. Isn't it fake? If you know what's going to happen, why is it exciting? People, it's really pretty simple. Wrestling is a soap opera for men. Did I know Triple H was gonna win the title? Sure. Could I see Chris Jericho's heel turn coming a mile away? Of course. Do I acknowledge there's no way "The People's Elbow" would ever actually hurt anyone? I don't think the move even makes contact. Not the point. I watched because I loved the story lines, I loved watching the whole building become electrified as soon as the crowd heard The Rock's voice or the sound of glass shattering, I watched because I was a fan of the athletes and what they could do.

Chris Benoit was my favorite wrestler though, and it wasn't really all that close. There were a few reasons I liked him-but mostly, it was because he was nothing short of a master of technical wrestling. The guy pulled off textbook move after textbook move, his suplexes were masterful, his diving headbutt was a thing of beauty, hell, I once saw the guy do 10 German Suplexes in a row and come back for more. He was so intense in that ring, so fierce, and so solidly good at everything he did (even his promos were good), that he was hard not to admire.

So he was my favorite. When I got to college though, I stopped watching. For a few reasons. First off, the show really started to go south when WWF bought WCW. The attempt to water down the actual wrestling while adding more sex pretty much nauseated me, and, more than anything, I was finding myself with much less free time for that kind of stuff.

The summer I graduated college, Benoit died. I remember where I was when I heard it-the staff lounge at my summer camp. The tv was on in the background, and I remember they were supposed to do a fake memorial to Vince McMahon, who had died on the show. But instead, a picture of Benoit with his dates of birth and death appeared on the screen. McMahon then addressed an empty stadium, while crying, and left a beer in the ring for Chris. I was so heartbroken. Benoit was my hero. Even though I didn't watch the show anymore, I still had a special place in my heart for him. And to think-he was killed in his home? By who? And with his wife and child as well? Who would do that? How terrible! I was upset the rest of the night. It just wasn't right.

It wasn't until the next morning that the horrific details starting pouring in. Benoit, under some kind of 'roid rage (though the actual logic behind his actions has never really been explained), over the course of the weekend, murdered both his son and wife, and then proceeded to hang himself. WWE pulled all his info from their website, all the memorial images they had put up, any record of his existence. And just like that, Benoit was a killer. Probably the worst kind. And this time, my heart really broke.

Wrestling, pro wrestling, that is, as a business, is as corrupt as it gets. McMahon wants you to think these guys have all given up steroids, that his business is clean as a whistle. It's not. Drugs are still a part of wrestling culture, be they steroids or pain pills, and people are dying and dying young because of it. Not only that, but there's only so many shots to the head with a chair you can take before you're done. Look at Stone Cold Steve Austin, who turned into a wife beating, real life drunk on suicide watch. Yokozuna? Dead. Big Boss Man? Dead. Junkyard Dog? Dead. Road Dogg? Druggie. The list goes on, and eventually, it ends at Benoit.

I can't even watch wrestling anymore. It sickens me to think I ever supported a business that makes its money driving people to the brink of insanity. Maybe it's time for congress to do something. I don't know. But I do know that whenever I bust out my old wrestling video games, all the wrestlers I've created of myself have Benoit's diving headbutt move as a finisher. And, to be honest, I don't know just how to feel about that anymore.


Jason Heat said...

- Steroids are definitely a MAJOR issue in wrestling, and certainly no help to mental stabilility, but from everything I've read no 'roid rage would lead the these kind of pre-meditated and very ceremonial and ritualised killings. From what I've read, when they did the scans of Benoit's brain his brain resembled that of an 85 year old man due to concussion damage. That, on top of previously unknown mental issues, were more likely the cause of the murder - he had a previous charge of spousal abuse that no one really knew about, which just goes to show how little we know so many of our public 'heroes.'

- I remember where I was finding out he was dead too - in my ex's room after a pretty big fight and making up, then logging online and being hit by a ton of bricks. At first I thought it was a Phil Hartman-esque situation, and the week that followed was an unmitigated circus of tragedy that has in many ways killed my enjoyment of wrestling as well, even if I still read the websites.

- That match, Austin vs. Beniot on SmackDown was one of my absolute favorites - I brought it in to school and made my acting cass watch it to prove that a good wrestling match, without the shit and shananigans that embarass us so much, will force anyone to make an emotional investment no matter how unwilling the audience might be due to it's clear cut storyline and morality play.

But I don't enjoy any of his matches anymore.
The question of separating the performer from the work and whether that can ever really be done, and whether it should is a question that maybe deserves it's own post.

Daniel said...

That's amazing-85 year old man. It seems as though everything that makes this business what it is is exactly why this business should cease to exist.

And that's so true about separating the performer from their work-I have so many people whose work I admire, but who I can't stand (or even worse, that I know can't stand me due to religion, race, etc). Where do you draw the line?

AZWiner said...

Are you saying the government should shut down pro-wrestling unless they show evidence they have removed all drug usage?

Daniel said...

You know what, maybe they should. Shit man, people are running themselves into the ground. It just seems wrong.

On the other hand, of course, I'm not some kind of fascist. I respect the fact that I don't want my government telling me how to run my life, so it's not my place to tell them to run theirs. But hell, man. A little "business regulation" wouldn't hurt.

Jason Heat said...

I don't know. It's a deep question. I can't enjoy The Naked Gun movies because of how much I hate OJ Simpson, and I really don't know how to process my emotions when it comes to Beniot's Wrestlemania title win over HHH and HBK. At the time, he and Eddie celebrating in the ring with their joint belts was one of my last few moments of pure joy as a wrestling fan. It was a very pleasant memory that is now... murky. I remember being happy at the time but now I'm not sure what I am or what's more important - they way I felt then or the way I feel now.

That perception of memory has really been running through my head a lot lately about a lot of things - like memories with my ex that were once incredibly happy and are now painful. Are they still happy memories? Or good times had with people you can't stand now, but enjoyed then. Does your current status invalidate the positive nature of the rememberance?

I'm at a total loss.

And back to the artist/art, that perception works a lot of other ways as well. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is a brilliant piece of acting no matter what, but how much more poignant is it because of the context surrounding it? It's really impossible to separate, for me at least.

Mistress Didi* said...

I came across this blog by accident and just want to say what a beautifully-written, heartfelt, and informative work you have given. Thanx.

I feel that it is a shame that people are so quick to throw away all of a person's achievements when something ugly happens. There are many reasons people "go off" - mental illness, various developmental stages of disease, allergic reactions to medications and foods, even! Where is the non-judgmental practice that these same people are forcing down everyone's throats with their religions? Where is the forgiveness for "tresspasses"?

Bad things can happen to good people. That doesn't mean that the good they have done in their lives should be invalidated.

Again, a great blog.

B.Graham said...

Given that wrestling franchises are extremely corrupt and do not take care of their wrestlers, there is undeniably something about performing that attracts unstable personalities, sometimes in the extreme. Maybe that's another post a-brewin.