Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Mercy Side: Crossface

On Saturday, it was revealed on many wrestling websites that a film was to be made about the disastrous events that happened in the Benoit household between Friday 22nd and Monday 25th June 2007, and the life and career of the murderer, Chris Benoit. Benoit was an absolutely fine wrestler, one of the best, and his actions between these two dates were out of character yet brutal and some could argue, evil. Very little before or since the murder and suicide story has evoke such strong and diverse reactions.

Before I divulge in the idea of a film about Chris Benoit, let me tell you of the two sides to the man who was almost set in stone in terms of being one of wrestling’s modern legends, before the horrible incident occurred. On one side of the coin, you had Chris Benoit, forty years old, a technical genius in the ring and well respected by both rookies and his peers for his aggression and passion for the business. He worked his way up the highly political wrestling ladder from his days on the indie scene, to Japan, to ECW, WCW and eventually, WWE. He always had one of, if not the best match on every card everywhere he went and was well liked by many wrestlers backstage. A lot of people not only respected him, but he was a friendly man, helped out a lot of people in their careers while developing his own the hard way. He also had a great level of dignity; when WCW’s roster was getting thin because of the decrease in ratings and talent leaving the company, he was given the WCW heavyweight title, but after demanding change, left the company and vacated the title due to a lack of faith in him and the wrestlers that were still being held back due to politics. This shows his courage and passion for the business as a wrestling company rather than as a business for profit and greed. He left for the WWF, and despite injuries and a slow build up, he eventually won the gold at Wrestlemania XX and celebrated with long term friend Eddie Guerrero, who also retained his world title at the same event. It was one of the most emotional and real scenes ever displayed in a wrestling ring, a place where characters and acts are central and personal lives are hidden.
Due to the nature and subject of this article, this is the only picture I'm adding. It's a picture I personally want to remember, IF I have to think of Benoit.
And a personal life indeed was hidden. No one saw what Chris Benoit was to do coming. His work colleagues, friends, family, fans, and more importantly, his wife and son didn’t know what was coming. No one foresaw him as a person who could bound his wife, press a knee into her back and pull a chord around her neck and strangle her, as speculated. No one expected him to sedate his son and to suffocate him, as speculated. And then to kill himself by hanging himself with a chord attached to a weight machine. Who knows what went on in that house before Chris did these unforgivable things? Did he have issues with his wife? His kid? Was he just insane? It was certainly planned.

The most common and logical reason that is hypothesized is that brain damage and repeated trauma to Benoit’s head were major factors in this incident. It was discovered that Chris had damage to all four lobes of his brain. It is almost inevitable that so much strain to the brain gave him loads of concussions, and too many concussions can affect people’s behaviour. Because of Benoit’s actions the WWE have never mentioned his name on television again, and they have removed him from nearly all the archive footage in their history. Only his name, and his name only, is mentioned in the history books when he won titles. No descriptions on how he won, the feuds that lead to the wins are stated. Just his name. Also the WWE have made their product much safer, they have stopped chair shots directly to the head and removed the gore element of their matches. If blood is shed in matches now, it’s certainly not fake blood or cuttings, and the match is often paused so the officials can deal with the injury. Most importantly, the WWE have tried their best to make sure things like this never happen again by including a Wellness Policy that tries to eliminate illegal drug use, including steroids and abuse to prescriptions. The WWE Wellness Policy actually started with the death of Eddie Guerrero, two years prior, but activity was definitely revved up after the double murder and suicide of Chris Benoit. The WWE have acted very professionally in this situation, after all, they have to defend their company but they also needed to take certain measures so that these situations would hopefully never happen again.

It’s a horrible and scratchy subject to bring up, the wrestler once known as Chris Benoit. Why? Because one of two memories always crops up, for nearly everyone. The majority of people I’d say think of the horrible and disgusting ending to three people’s lives when they think of Chris Benoit. But there is a minority that like to celebrate the wrestler that was Chris Benoit, and try not to think about him as an evil man who committed unforgivable actions. I’m probably in the latter. Now, before you jump on me and tell me I’m terrible for having that view, as I’m sure there are many people who just can’t fathom to understand how that can be a possibility. But I don’t like to see the negative side of people if I can help it. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t jump away from the subject, if people ask me for my thoughts on what Benoit did, I’m one of the first to say it’s disgusting, sick, inexcusable and reprehensible. But I like to think about his work in the ring before those actions. The reason is simply because I don’t want to think about those things, I mean who does? So that’s the reason. But I try not to think about Benoit at all, because of it beign such a sketchy subject.

The same by the way applies to other talented men who did committed malevolence, like Gary Glitter. I see them in the same boat. I grew up listening to Gary Glitter as a kid and loved his music. By the time I was entering my teens news was rife about his disgusting and filthy actions towards children. Those actions are equally as indefensible. But if a Glitter song comes on, I try my best to enjoy it, as it was good music from the seventies. So, that’s my attitude towards these things, and if you don’t’ agree with it I can completely respect that, just try to understand my logic is all I ask.

Anyway, back to the subject, a film is apparently going to be made about Chris Benoit, and most particularly, the acts he caused. Why? Well the film is to be made by SRG films, and the chief there had this to say:

“Chris Benoit has become a poster child for everything that’s wrong with professional wrestling and Sarah [Coulter]’s terrific script captures his struggles and the many factors that led to the deaths of three people.”

“People immediately point to steroids, never thinking about the brain trauma these wrestlers can, and do, incur in their profession, nor do they consider the rigorous schedule that keeps them working even when they shouldn’t be. The Benoit story is one that needs to be brought into the light.”

So in an nutshell, the idea is that this film is going to raise awareness of brain trauma and the hectic schedule that wrestlers have to deal with (which can be around 300 nights a year of wrestling) and its effect on them. Essentially, this film will focus on the negatives of wrestling and the toll it has on a human being. I’d say you’d expect to see lots of headshots and headbutts and a lack of focus on the wrestling side of things. It'll be more about Benoit's life than his career. It's going to be unsettling to watch and is being made to emphasise how dangerous the game is. So if you’re expecting a film paying homage to wrestling, or even more stupidly, to Benoit, then you’re wrong. This film is here to shed a dark light on wrestling. And not even in a way similar to The Wrestler.

Comparing this film to The Wrestler, the good thing that The Wrestler does is celebrate wrestling. Yes it deals with the hard and grubby situations that wrestlers have to deal with. It deals with a lot of negative aspects of wrestling, but it does it in a tasteful way, a realistic way and it does it educationally. The Wrestler got nearly everything inch perfect about how wrestling life is like. And the best thing is, it IS homage, as it shed great light on the spectacle, on the show, on the sportsmanship and the good and great. It had a balanced story of positive and negative.

This film won’t do that. There will probably be very little actual wrestling in the film. I’d expect most of this film to be out of the ring, and full of speculation on what happened backstage, in the Benoit household and the potential motives the man had. It’s going to be very dark and extremely unsettling.

Am I for or against this film? It’s hard to say, it’s not as black and white an answer of yes or no. I'm 'for' the idea of bringing focus on the dangers of brain trauma and the psychological strain these guys go through. I’m for the educational purpose of this film. But I'm against the idea of these people trying to take a negative spin on all the great things about wrestling, and the WWE in general, The Wrestler did this but also celebrated wrestling. Let's be honest, these people want wrestling to be banned or at least strong lines to be drawn on what can and cannot happen in a wrestling ring, which in a certain way you can admire them for their concern, but I think the WWE have things under control more now than they ever had. To expect miracles in four years is stupid.

The main problem with this film is simply that it’s a film in the first place. They describe the film as a “biological thriller”. Really? If it was a biological film it will deal with the life of Chris Benoit. It’s not about Benoit as a person; it’s about Benoit as a murderer. I very much doubt there will be no stories on Benoit as a child, or as Benoit as a teenager. There may be some parts of the film that deal with Benoit’s early career, but only as a referencing point of how early he was causing damage to himself. So that’s not a biography really is it? Of course, in the end I’m speculating what the film will be about and do I know really? No I don’t, but I think it’s obvious how this film will be made if you put the thought into it.

The worse part of the whole film will be the actual scenes of murder. Once again, reports are strong about what happened and the methods used, but in the end, no one knows what happened the night before the murder. Did Nancy provoke Chris? How much thought did Chris Benoit put into killing his family? The motives were there but did he plan it the day before, the morning of, or longer than that? No one knows this. And to further this being the worst part, watching a grown man sedate a young boy and then suffocate him is going to be absolutely distressing to watch. Benoit didn’t strangle his son; he suffocated him, probably with a pillow or a plastic bag or something. In the end, this is a film; you’re supposed to enjoy films. Even thrillers and horror films are to be enjoyed. How can you enjoy this? Yes it’s described as a “biological thriller”, and it is certainly ‘thrilling’, but for the wrong reasons. It’s unsettling, it’s upsetting and it’s uncomfortable to think about. Also, how does the film end? In the end of a film you should have some form of satisfaction. It doesn’t always have to be a happy ending, but how can you end a film like this? Where does it end? If it ends at the point where Chris commits suicide, that’s a hideous ending. It if ends with the police finding the bodies, it’s equally as horrible. How else can it end? It’s just not a story that has an ending where you can feel fulfilled and all you have at the end of watching such a film is discomfort and distress.

So on the whole, I'm against this film happening. There are pros, but the cons dramatically outweigh them. Yes this is a subject that has relevance and importance, but the WWE have already taken good steps to make sure these horrible stories don't happen again, with the ban of headshots, the turn into a PG product and the banning of fake blood and the graphic side to wrestling on the verge of obscurity. But the idea of making this scene into a film is also baffling due to it actually having to be a film anyway, and there’s no satisfaction to watching the events unfold, even for educational purposes. But if they are to make this film, I'm definitely interested to see to and I will watch it, with clenched fists and seething teeth. Thanks for reading.

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