Dark Side of the Ring “Benoit”
Creator: Evan Husney, Jason Eisener
Narrator: Chris Jericho
Finding truth at the intersection of fantasy and reality in the veiled world of professional wrestling.
In 2007, wrestling superstar Chris Benoit murdered his wife Nancy and 7-year-old son Daniel, then ended his own life. Those closest to the tragedy have never spoken openly, until now.
The season 2 premiere of Dark Side of the Ring tackled one of the most tragic and complicated events in professional wrestling history. In 2007, the world woke up to the news that the once-beloved wrestler Chris Benoit had murdered his wife, Nancy, son, Daniel, and taken his own life. Since then, all memory of Benoit and his professional accomplishments have been wiped away from WWE’s archive. As Chris Jericho, a friend and colleague of Benoit states, his actions almost destroyed the very business he loved. This two-part documentary dives into the consequences of his actions as family, friends, and colleagues come together and provide a personal insight into the man they knew him to be and the lingering effect his actions have had on the family he left behind.
Part 1 documents the budding relationship between Chris and Nancy and while we see that their marriage was on the verge of collapse in the lead up to this tragedy, the show also spotlights Nancy’s own legacy in her role as a creative manager. Nancy’s name is synonymous with Benoit’s actions, but the tribute to the influence she had on the creative world of professional wrestling was one of the documentary’s more heartening moments.
The documentary also placed a heavy emphasis on the friendship between Benoit and the late Eddie Guerrero, who passed in 2005. The depth in the bond between these two individuals makes you feel like Guerrero was almost an extension of Benoit himself. In a heartbreaking account, Chavo Gerrero looks back on the day he discovered his uncle’s body, detailing Chris’s reaction to his death. It’s emotional to watch, but that account presented itself as a potential trigger for what followed as Benoit never recovered from the loss of his best friend, becoming more reserved and isolated from his friends, colleagues, and family.
In all the press coverage that followed this tragedy, there was one person who had been forgotten by the world. Someone, whose own life is defined by the consequences of this act, David Benoit. The son from Chris’ previous marriage and the innocent victim left to reconcile his father’s final action with the memory of the loving father he knew him to be. Haunted by his father’s actions, David also lost the family he had left as his relationship with his auntie, Sandra, Nancy’s sister, vanished following these events. The last five minutes of this documentary was incredibly moving as we see how in creating this documentary, David and Sandra, have the chance to rebuild their relationship and find solace as a family. Credit must be given to Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero who continued to support David when the rest of the world turned their back on them and helped unite a family torn apart by the actions of someone they loved.
This two-part documentary was tough to watch. They didn’t sugarcoat anything about this murder-suicide, and the sheriff’s account of his findings on that fateful day was uncomfortable and harrowing to watch. The truth is, there will never be a concrete explanation for his actions, and while the show looks at the steroid abuse and the alcoholism, one positive in all this is how it emphasises the impact this tragedy had on the discussion on CTE, a neurodegenerative disease that opened the sporting industry to a wider conversation about the long-term effects of CTE.
This is not a documentary that glorifies the actions of a murderer. Instead, its an intimate account of the lives touched by this horrible event. As dark as the documentary it, it does not vilify professional wrestling but reminds us of how this form of sports entertainment can be used as a way of uniting people that have been torn apart by a heinous act.