From The Ashes By Paul Ashe – Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit is a subject I have considered writing about for a long long time. I haven’t done, for no other reason than I thought it just didn’t warrant any more talk or opinions, thoughts or views, but the above video, linked on Facebook by my Mentor Justin Richards convinced me to share my thoughts.
I met Chris in 2004. At the Blue Bloods Wrestling Academy in Atlanta, GA. Along with Dave Taylor and William Regal we had been training at the facility for almost a week under the tutelege of two of the greatest UK wrestlers of all time. Dave had mentioned he was trying to get Chris to come visit, as he lived only a mile or so away. We hoped he may, but pinned no dreams on it just in case until one of the days during our training, a large Humvee pulled up outside and WWE Superstar Chris Benoit entered the facility.
Chris was on the smackdown brand at the time, and had just finished his usual 4 days working stretch. Dave had explained that with the travelling and gruelling schedule the WWE wrestlers performed each week, Chris would try his best to visit but his personal time was always limited so it was no guarantee he could even fit us in. Chris however, did just that. A day after arriving home, he made the effort to come and visit 6 small time English wrestling trainees and help us with our training. A huge man, not in height, but in both physical appearance and presence, Chris exuded an aura of sheer super-human quality to us. We all welcomed him and he was a true gentleman of a man. He had brought his son Daniel, then 4 years old, along with him to the school. Daniel was a wonderful boy, quiet and shy, but you could see a personality already developing in the young man who clearly absolutely idolized his superstar father.
Chris, as stated before, had just finished a hard 4 day stint on the road, including TV. He not only came down to see us, but he came prepared to wrestle with us and proceeded on to wrestle alongside William Regal against myself, Martin Stone, Terry Frazier and Leroy Kincaide for 65 minutes straight. Chris just worked with us, taught us, helped us learn, made us all grow as wrestlers with absolutely no liberties taken and no bullying but safe educational teaching and he was happy to do it. Chris asked for no payment from us or from Dave, and had nothing to gain from his time with us other than to help. After he finished, drenched in sweat, Chris shook all our hands, thanked us for the day and gave us all advice and told us to keep at it, and left the facility, Daniel in tow.
That day we met an amazing man. A loving, devoted father, a great athlete and performer, and a true standup Gentle-man. I still hold the photos from that day dear as cherished memories in my wrestling career.
On June 25, 2007 when I was on holiday in spain at my brother’s apartment, I logged onto the internet and started seeing the news of the Benoit family tragedy. Initially it was a lot of speculation, “murder”, “slaughtered” were all thrown around, but the facts were there; Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy, and Daniel had all been killed. As the days progressed and the story came to light of what had happened, I just sat stunned. There was no end to the reports I read, stories, postings, all trying to find one that said the rest were wrong. But that one never came because it was now very clear that Chris Benoit, the man I had met those 3 years prior, had killed himself and his family.
I was never personally a huge “fan” per se of Chris the wrestler. I didn’t dislike him or his work at all, I really admired it and had no aversion to watching him, I just was never overly interested in watching his work. The fact that a star whom I watched each week had died and the fact that he was one of my brothers in the wrestling business was upsetting and sad, but I had felt this so many times before through the deaths of Owen Hart, Brian Pillman, Eddy Guerrero and so many more. This one however, was so much more powerful because it was a man I had met and respected as a person outside of wrestling for what he had given to me and the others that day in Georgia. A man I had met and thought so highly of as a celebrity taking time out of his life, as a doting father and as a truly good man. This one felt so much more personal.
It will be 4 years this June since the Benoit incident and I still stand by the same stance I did 4 years ago. I don’t judge Chris for what he did. Yes, it was a heinous act. Yes it was a terrible, awful act he committed and by no means do I play it down with these words, but I still stand by the fact, that whatever happened that weekend in the walls of the Benoit home, whatever Chris did, he did as not of his mind. The Chris I met was in no way the man who could or would have committed those acts. There has been much speculation of brain damage, post concussion trauma, degenerative brain disease, maybe some or even all are guilty and to this day still, something just “isn’t right” to it all for me but we will never know. None of us.
I met Chris Benoit in 2004 and he was a good man. I will remember him, not as the Rabid Wolverine or The Crippler, not as the WWE Champion, not as the man forever known for his crimes upon death, but for being Chris Benoit, the great man I met that day.
Originally written March 4 2011