Chris Benoit and Owen Hart, 2 Canadian wrestlers, 2 good friends that trained and traveled together and sadly 2 men that also met tragic demises while working for WWE. One man (Owen) was killed in an unfortunate accident in front of a worldwide audience and the other seemingly went insane on a murderous rampage that involved him taking 2 other innocent lives in addition to his own. It has been 11 years since Owen passed away and nearly 3 years since the Benoit tragedy but here we are still talking about them today. Why? Because it would seem that with Linda McMahon venturing into politics the families of both have decided to take aim at WWE and in some degree to the wrestling business in general…you’re reading “Outside Interference.”
I’ve said it before in print and in audio that Owen Hart was the very first wrestling I ever had the privilege of meeting in person. It’s been 16 years since that meeting and after being involved with wrestling media for 5 years and meeting and conversing with numerous personalities it is still one of my most treasured experiences. We have heard many of Owen’s colleagues and even his own brother Bret comment in recent years that wrestlers with Owen’s kindness were few and far between and I can further attest to that. Owen Harts passing was an accident, a freak occurrence. The day that Owen fell I feel many of us who were fans of his sort of fell with him. You see its one thing to hear about wrestlers who pass away due to drug use or natural causes but it is a whole other monster entirely when a wrestler dies in front of you. The innocence of this business was lost and it made fans question if we ask too much from our heroes. At the same time it made Martha Hart question how her life would have been if her husband hadn’t been involved in the wrestling business.
If you’re reading this site you are probably well aware that Martha Hart is currently suing WWE for using footage of Owen Hart on DVD’s and for referencing him in other publications. I don’t think there is a single person out there who is not sorry for Martha and her children’s loss of Owen but Martha while he may have not known every fans name we lost someone too. I have heard wrestlers reference in past interviews how sometimes friends can become family and family can become friends and while I don’t want to downplay Owen’s relationship with his family the wrestling fans who followed him became his other family. Sure like real families you have periods of discontent with each other and those who weren’t “smart” to the business I am sure did also as he experienced plenty of “Shadow” “Nugget” and other chants throughout his career but even those who were upset with him in a storyline fashion still loved and respected him. What you Martha fail to realize is that while you have grieved for 11 years we have grieved with you and well you have continued to deny us our chance to properly remember Owen or to even say goodbye to the man.
It was reported by me late last year how Bret Hart really wanted to come back and induct his brother Owen Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame when he made his comeback this year and the reason that was unable to transpire was because of the settlement that came about when Martha sued WWE for Owen’s death in a wrongful death lawsuit that was eventually settled for 18 million dollars. Why Martha Why? Your husband grew up in this business and literally gave his life for it. If you don’t want to see an Owen Hart figure, DVD or T Shirt I can understand that but you should have given us the chance to honor, remember him and say goodbye to him. Now you want us to erase him from our memories as you are suing WWE to get him removed from all video releases. You would like what he is best known for to be forgotten and for what? An accident that everyone to this day wishes never occurred. Suing WWE again will not bring Owen back, having the matches that he worked so hard in be sealed away so that future generations can see and appreciate his contributions won’t bring him back either. I can understand wanting to properly be compensated for his likeness and I believe that WWE would do that and if they don’t then by all means go and sue the pants off of Vince McMahon and everyone else affiliated with that company but don’t take away our memories, don’t erase him from our history, our hearts. You can try as you might to try and say different but Owen was a wrestler, his family wrestlers and the life you and your children enjoyed with him alive and since his passing couldn’t have been achieved if he was a fireman or anything else. The wrestling business has been good to you; you have had 11 years to be angry. Let Owen rest in peace and let us honor and love him and watch his matches and remember him for the great performer and gentleman that he was in and out of the ring.
Speaking of great performers and gentlemen that brings me to Chris Benoit. It is a shame that the last day of a man’s life ultimately will be what defines it. I find it hard to take anyone seriously who brushes off that last day with “Yeah but he was a great worker”. Whether it was because of drugs, concussions, personal choice or any combination of the 3 nothing can change what transpired those 3 days in late June 2007. It should be remembered as a tragedy not because the wrestling business lost what may have been arguably it’s greatest in ring performer but because 2 people were murdered and 1 man tapped out to life. I have no qualms admitting to you that I was a big Chris Benoit fan and while I disagree with him being erased from history I myself have not watched a single match of his since that fateful weekend. Not because I am angry about it or anything but just because I find it difficult to watch a match of his and not remember what happened that weekend and it doesn’t make me feel good which is what I used to feel when I watched a Chris Benoit match. It quite honestly makes me sick to my stomach to think that someone who so many people admired could do something so cowardly and it rattles my brain trying to figure out why what happened had to happen.
I don’t have children as I haven’t yet been blessed to experience god’s gift to us, so as a result I don’t know what it is like to raise, love and ultimately lose a child like Michael Benoit did. I’m sure it’s one of the worst things you can ever experience in life and while no one is sure why it occurred I don’t think it is fair to blame the wrestling business, Vince McMahon , Linda McMahon or the WWE for any of it. Life is all about personal choice and it is evident that Chris Benoit obviously made some poor ones in his life. From his choice of wrestling style, to his chronic drug use to that fateful weekend in June 2007. He could have chosen different, he didn’t. No one is to blame for that decision other than himself. You can say what you want about Chris now but one thing I think many of us will agree on is before that weekend he lived his life like a man which meant he knew a man was accountable for himself. You are 100% right in that WWE could have banned chair shots a whole lot sooner but that’s like saying the NHL should have had helmets a long time ago or the NFL should have added padding from the beginning. We live and we learn and when something which has been in effect since the very beginning is challenged it takes more than a little piece of evidence to change it, after all wrestling has been around for over a 100 years and nothing was ever made to worry about chair shots. It should be said that while you bash WWE your son started wrestling years before WWE and was doing crazy things before WWE ever came calling. How come you don’t go out of your way to take knocks on the Hart Family, Paul Heyman, and Eric Bischoff or for that matter even Ted Turner? Chris Benoit was in WWE for 6 and a half years and one of those years he was on the injured reserve list with a broken neck his total career though spanned over 20 years.
The acts he committed he did so on WWE’s watch and sure WWE could have and should have done more but it can be argued that the damage was already done. I have a question for you Michael, if WWE would have fired Chris for his drug problems and no other company picked him up and left him broke and penniless would you still have this animosity for WWE? Something tells me that you would, I can get that you are angry and looking for a reason that your son committed the acts he did that doesn’t involve him being a monster but to blame it on other people is to do exactly what your son probably wouldn’t agree with. Are the McMahons great people? Probably not, I really don’t think they claim to be but let’s not blame them for one man’s poor decision making.
Remember people life is about choices and no one can force anyone to do anything they really don’t want to do. While incentives can be offered it is of no fault to anyone if someone has poor will power or strength of character. I also want to state again that accidents happen in all endeavors of life and while there should be some level of culpability for such tragic errors people shouldn’t be forced to pay penance for it for the rest of their existence. Everyone needs to eventually move on as cold as that sounds for me to say it is the truth. Nothing can ever bring those back that we have lost and while we can learn from things let us not take away from the fact that those that we lost were fated to go, if it was not this it would have been something else. While the wrestling business can be a dirty business it is also filled with a great deal of wonderful people and wonderful fans. Let us all learn and move on and be better for it.
On that note I am going to take this one home. Of course anyone who wants to offer feedback, ideas, etc. can do so at email@example.com. I should be back later this week with one to two more columns and well that’s it. Until next time, I will try to do better and until then, I am out.