6.26.2007

The news of the death of pro wrestler Chris Benoit and his family has hit me really hard.

Okay, quit judging me. I know I'm from the south, but I'm not a huge wrestling fan.

Seriously, I'm not. I promise.

I definitely used to be when I was a kid, though. I had subscriptions to WWF magazine, Pro Wrestling monthly AND Wrestler. Favorite all-time wrestler: a three-way toss-up between Brutus Beefcake, Jessie Ventura and the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. The first because he was nuts, the second because he didn't give a shit about anyone or anything, and the third because of the Million Dollar Rap.

In 1998, I spent roughly 2 hours a night playing WCW vs NWO with my soon-to-be brother-in-law Jon and my best friend Mike. We'd get baseball bats and chairs from the crowd and beat the holy shit out of Macho Man Randy Savage. You'd think that'd get old... Get a chair, beat on Macho Man... Get a bat, beat on Macho Man...

Nope. Never got old.

These days, I tune in, oh, about once a month or so - whenever my strange-relation nephews (My father's daughter-from-previous-marriage's kids' kids... See? Easier just to call them nephews) are visiting and want to watch some huge muscled-out freak throw another huge muscled-out freak around a bit.

They really like Triple H, John Cena, and of course, Benoit. Personally, I find the world of wrestling today boring as shit, so I had no real affection for him as a wrestler.

But I did respect him as a man... Based on what little I knew of him.

He was a regular customer at the bike shop I did a lot of design work for, Bicycles Unlimited in Peachtree City. Through the past four or so years, I've seen him about 12 times. Every time he came into the shop, he was accompanied by his family. They seemed so happy...

The thing that struck me about Chris Benoit was that he was caring, attentive and most of all, patient - not just with his family, but with everyone in the store, all the time. He signed every autograph, answered every question, posed for every picture... Meanwhile, his kid Daniel would go try on helmets and elbow pads and point out which bikes he liked.

That's what has hit me so hard - the way Benoit seemed to be with his wife and his kid. I wasn't close to them, I didn't know them much at all. But it's the little things that stick with you, and someone in Benoit's position could easily have been a dick. He's stronger than most people, he's famous, he's rich... And he was just the nicest guy you could ever run into.

I mean, it's terrible to hear about, you know? Pro wrestler snaps, kills family - gruesome and terrible news, to be sure. But I've MET that family. I helped Daniel pick out a bike helmet while Nick the bike tech was in the back room getting Benoit's custom-made bike. I've talked to Benoit about the difference in height between my bike and his, and why I chose mine. I explained why the internet was such difficult territory for cycling shops, but that we could find ways to get the shop known. He asked questions. I explained them. I even suggested a brand of wireless router to him once, because I was "that internet guy at the bike shop" to him.

The guy shook my hand. He stood there and let me tell him that my nephews were huge fans of his. He smiled, he signed an autograph for each of them even though I told him no thanks, that I didn't want to interrupt his day with his family. He insisted anyway and did something that made Chamberlin's and Dakota's day.



He strangled his wife and smothered his kid. Then he hung himself in his weight room.

I just...



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