First up, if you don't really have a desire to read all of the lengthy posts I've done regarding Benoit (I know I wouldn't) and want to know which one is really the best/most important I'd direct you to watch the Jericho videos in this post and read "Benoit Part 2: The Media's Coverage and Some Context."
Now, onto the topic. If you want to see a possible train wreck tonight, watch Hannity and Colmes on Fox News at 9:00 eastern, they’re having the Ultimate Warrior on. Let’s just say that Warrior is, um, a pretty direct individual with interesting ways of stating opinions. For example, his opinion on gay people; “queering doesn’t make the world work.” Though he can be a smart guy at times, so it should be interesting.
Now, onto the almost funny way the media has sounded on this story. Beyond the media’s attempts to dumb down this tragity into just a roid rage it’s also clear that prime time cable news shows don’t really do any research on their stories at all. This isn’t a surprise of course, the format is largely to get two people with divergent opinions and let them scream at each other, whether or not either of the opinions is valid. So, it’s to be expected that there would be mistakes when covering wrestling, but some of the mistakes have been so stupid that they’d be hilarious if the story weren’t about a double murder. I’m not asking they be wrestling experts, just that some semblance of decent research be done. Here are a few examples;
They’ve not asked anyone to let them know the right terminology for stuff: On MSNBC Dan Abrams repeatedly mentioned that “Chris Benoit met his wife during a pro wrestling stunt.” Sure, wrestlers might on occasion do things that look like stunts, but I don’t think Chris and Nancy met while he was jumping off the top of a cage (and besides, that would have been refered to as a spot, not a stunt). The met when a storyline involved them getting together romantically, similar to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie getting together during the filming of a movie. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever hear somebody ask either of them if they met “while doing one of those make believe story things you guys do” or during a “movie stunt.”
Wrestling is always stupid and fake, until they need it not to be: On Fox news, while apparently trying to build a case for Benoit clearly being a monster for the last 20 years or so one reporter (I think Geraldo, so that pretty much explains it) mentioned that they called him “the Crippler” because he broke another guy’s neck in the ring by dropping him. That’s all (mostly) true, but what’s inaccurate is that it was mentioned as though it were done intentionally. Maybe it’s just me, but I think if you’re a person who wants to break a guys neck because you’re crazy there are more direct ways of going about it than throwing him up in the air and hoping he lands wrong. The humor in this to me is how often the “wrestling is fake” manta is trotted out in the mainstream press. It’s true, wrestling is scripted and they aren’t trying to hurt each other, until now apparently, so I guess Geraldo thinks that the guys really are trying to kill each other.
Finally, a mistake on Nancy Grace shows what is probably the clearest lack of research. One night she asked a guest if Benoit’s demotion from the elite Four Horsemen to Raw could have caused depression. It’s not wrong if you don’t follow wrestling to think that question makes sense, unless you’re hosting a national news program, in which case it just makes it clear you’re idea of research for your main story was to have an intern look at Benoit’s Wikipedia entry for a minute and a half and scribble down some notes. Even worse, she asked a similar question again the next night about whether Benoit's move to ECW was a demotion (Below are videos of Chris Jericho on her show where this all gets cleared up for her). If you’re still wondering what was so incorrect about that question here’s the shortest explanation I can give:
4 Horsemen = a group of four guys Benoit was a part of 8 years ago in a now defunct wrestling organization.
Raw = One of three separate brands on which wrestlers wrestle for WWE. Benoit had just been moved from Smackdown to ECW, to become the ECW champion on the show he missed on Sunday.
So, asking if he was demoted from the Four Horsemen to Raw is like asking if a football player is being demoted by being moved from the defensive line of the Miami Hurricanes to the Houston Texans (and then getting the team wrong on top of that).
What’s scary to me isn’t that reporters aren’t wrestling experts, it’s that they probably do just as little research when reporting on stories about politics, war, and other important major stories. Even worse, professional wrestling is way simpler than the other types of stories these networks cover on a daily basis.
Finally, here’s the video of Chris Jericho’s (One of the best wrestlers ever, friend of Benoit’s, and now semi-retired at a young age) appearance on Nancy Grace last night. He’s been the best and most articulate wrestler guest I’ve seen on these shows.
Chris Jericho Part 1
Chris Jericho Part 2
There, near the end of part 2 I think Nancy Grace sums up a lot of the media's problem here. She says she wants an answer like "it was steroids" so that she can feel more comfortable with what happened. She may want that to be a simple, comforting answer, even I may, it would be nice if we could just say that was it. Sadly though we can't and I think Jericho makes that point rather well.