Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
If only it were just a storyline...
It is not a stretch to suggest there are millions of people around the world in a state of shock right now over the tragic news that Canadian professional wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy and their 7-year-old son Daniel were found dead in their suburban Atlanta home Monday afternoon.I candidly admit to being one of them and was in a state of disbelief as I penned a story on the tragedy Monday evening. (Read the latest HERE
)As a performer with the wildly popular World Wrestling Entertainment, Benoit has played to global audiences most athletes and entertainers can only dream of.I've personally seen him perform several times and even got the chance to meet him a few years ago in Saskatchewan while doing a feature story on pro wrestling for the Free Press.Benoit was the consumate pro, a total class act who had no problem answering my questions about the rigours of life on the road, the importance of his family and the responsibilities that come with being a role model to so many.
When the serious chatter was done, Benoit even took up Free Press photographer Wayne Glowacki's suggestion that he put me in a headlock.Now we were talking Benoit's language. Because although he was never the greatest talker on the microphone, Benoit loved the physical action and was certainly regarded as one of the best pure athletes and technicians the storied history of pro wrestling has ever seen.And, as a proud Canadian, Benoit won the hearts of many fans - young and old - for his desire and determination in the ring.It's safe to say the majority of mourners will be more shocked by how Benoit and his family died - not the fact that yet another pro wrestler is gone.Sadly, wrestling has a terrible recent history of stars fading out fast. And wrestling fans have almost come to expect another sad ending right around the corner. Much of the deaths have been the result of health ailments suffered by years of drug, alcohol and/or steroid abuse.
If the reports coming out of Atlanta are true, Benoit killed his wife and son in the past few days - then finally took his own life Monday morning.There is no question Chris Benoit was a larger-than-life superhero to many.And I'm sure many people were hoping news of this tragedy was just another tacky WWE storyline taking shape.After all, this is the same company that recently staged the explosive "death" of owner Vince McMahon on live television in a ratings stunt complete with a fictional investigator searching for his supposed killer.This plot was slated to heat up this week on the company's flagship show, Monday Night Raw, and was to include an elaborate funeral/memorial service for McMahon.
So no doubt many viewers were stunned Monday night to flick on The Score in Canada and USA Network down south to see a very much alive McMahon standing in an empty ring, fighting emotion, announcing the deaths of Benoit and his family.A genuine, three-hour memorial show followed. And real tears - not the ones cooked up for a television audience - began to flow.There will be many more tears in the days to come, along with so many questions about how this could have happened.Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts below.