I've been reading your work for more than 15 years – frightening. I wanted to ask you something that might be a little touchy feely for your tastes, but I'm hoping you'll give it a thought. Though I'm a fan of your work and I wouldn't ask you to change your style for anything, I can say that you will hide behind your intellect and sarcasm when a question has the chance to hit a nerve. I'm asking you to just be honest.
One of the reasons I gravitated toward your work back in the late 90s was your admiration for my favorite wrestler, Chris Benoit. There were a lot of guys on the internet who championed his ringwork, but you were a better writer, and a lot of the times your rants would seem to crystalize bits of thoughts from my head into something coherent in print about Benoit. You saw him for what he was in his strengths and weaknesses – a guy who, in my opinion, is the greatest ring worker to wrestle in North America (Shawn is an amazing entertainer, but you believed Benoit was kicking the crap out of people and getting the crap kicked out of him) but also rather out of his element in the modern era of angles, mic work, and being an accessible personality to put on t-shirts and the like. No, I'm not a delusional fan ala "Stan" of Eminem's song, but as he went along his career, I oddly felt like I'd experience his journey along with you, from all of the brilliance amidst the shit in WCW through surreal highs (the IC title win at Wrestlemania 2000, for example) through unbelievable matches (Rumble 2003 vs Angle) through periods where he was just kind of there (most of 2003 after the Rumble) through the pinnacle at WM 20 (which I consider a perfect match, even from an objective standpoint) and the reasonable success he had from 2005 on.
So now we're six years removed from the tragedy, and I'll still watch Benoit matches, enjoying them more than most any other match I'll watch and wondering the whole time if I was always watching a monster in plain sight. Whatever the horrible chain of events that led to Benoit becoming a man who murdered his family, I'm still left just haunted by the thing. It goes beyond the "rational" stance that you shouldn't have heroes because they can only let you down. Fuck heroes, I just want to be able to look at a guy whose work I like and know he isn't the devil incarnate. I think about how when I'm hanging out with my 10 year old nephew and we watch some wrestling on YouTube, the one wrestler I'd want to show him to show him how awesome wrestling can be is Benoit – and yet I haven't, for several reasons. I don't need you to solve my dilemma over it, because I am (basically) an adult and can deal. But I want to know, aside from humor skirting bad taste (not a judgment, I'd think you'd agree), you deal with that – the guy you admired as a worker coming to an end like that. How DID you feel when you heard the news? I'd be grateful to hear your take.
I don't particularly seek out Benoit matches anymore, but I'm fine watching them now. I think there's a disconnect where I don't really associate the person who did the horrible things with the person in the ring, mostly because everything suggests that he really did become a different person in those last days. That being said, I don't really enjoy watching his matches anymore either, and I couldn't recommend using him as an example of in-ring greatness at this point. Frankly I don't know if anyone ever came to terms 100% with what he did, because it was just so hugely monstrous.