Once upon a time, Chris Benoit could have been seen as an inspirational figure for the young fans of professional wrestling. The little corner of the showbiz world he made his profession was dominated by giants and flashy figures when he first broke in, leading to him being continually told that he was too small and lacked the personality necessary to make it big in the carnival sideshow turned stadium-packing phenomenon that is pro wrestling. With an unmatched work ethic and a never say die determination, he eventually proved all his naysayers wrong and reached the top of his industry by becoming the world champion of Vince McMahon Jr.’s premier wrestling promotion, World Wrestling Entertainment, however.
But what came next was horrific, and it robbed Benoit’s story of any of the inspiration or good memories it may have once generated for wrestling fans. At the height of his career, Benoit and his family were found dead in their home, the victims of an apparent murder/suicide that the man himself perpetrated. It’s a terrible, tragic story—one that involves the current hotbed of controversy surrounding concussions in professional sports—so it was probably only a matter of time before someone tried to tell it in the form of a movie. Well, according to a report from Deadline, that time is now.
The film is going to be directed by Austrian filmmaker Vicente Amorim, it’s going to be called Crossface (after Benoit’s signature wrestling maneuver), and it’s going to be an adaptation of author Matthew Randazzo’s Benoit biopic, “Ring Of Hell: The Story Of Chris Benoit And The Fall Of The Pro Wrestling Industry.” Amazon’s description of Randazzo’s book introduces the Benoit murders to those unfamiliar by saying,
“In the notoriously crooked and exploitative world of professional wrestling, WWE legend Chris Benoit was supposed to be the exception. Chris was universally recognized as the best pro wrestling had to offer: a decent, humble, and devoted family man loved and admired by all who knew him. Nobody could have predicted the horrific events of June 22-24, 2007 when Chris strangled his wife and seven-year old son before committing suicide. ‘Ring of Hell’ is the true story of Benoit’s journey through the destructive, dysfunctional, and bizarre pro wrestling industry and the catastrophic physical and mental breakdown that led to his grisly end.”
Given all that hyperbole about what a good guy Benoit was, what could have driven him to murdering his wife and child, and then himself? Post-humous investigation theorizes that he was suffering from some sort of dementia, likely stemming from severe brain damage that was caused by a mixture of the constant concussions that come from getting wacked in the head with a steel chair and constantly taking pile drivers with the possible additional negative mental effects of taking steroids and HGH like they’re going out of style.
Given all of the current debate, as well as all of the controversy, surrounding the issue of concussions in professional sports, this one should be a good chance for the filmmakers to make a case as to why professional athletics, as well as any form of entertainment that involves continued physical contact, need to be monitored more diligently. Or, at least, it should be a good chance for them to stir the pot and sell a movie that’s got a car crash factor that’s bound to draw eyeballs.
For his part, Amorim explained his involvement in this upcoming project by saying, “Wrestling is showbiz taken to the extreme and Crossface is Limelight on steroids. Chris Benoit’s story is the perfect vehicle for a fiercely honest film that is as much about him and the world of wrestling as it is about America and show business. I am very happy to be on board to help tell this story.” So there you go, “fiercely honest.” Looks like there’s a good chance this won’t just be a trashy movie that exploits a couple of tragic deaths for entertainment purposes. Hopefully.