Analysis: What should WWE do about Chris Benoit, Owen Hart content on WWE Network?
WWE has some heat over what it plans to do regarding footage of Chris Benoit and Owen Hart on its soon-to-debut WWE Network.
In the end, WWE has decided to air completed content – i.e. old Monday Night Raws and pay-per-views – featuring Benoit, who killed his wife and son in a gruesome murder-suicide in 2007, and to air an edited version of the Over the Edge pay-per-view during which Hart fell to his death preparing to rappel from the rafters.
The decision in the Benoit case is a sound one. The move to air Over the Edge isn’t.
First, to Benoit. “The Crippler” was a key player in storylines in WWE and WCW that will be featured heavily on the archives section of the WWE Network when it debuts later this month. It’s hard to imagine just editing him out of shows without those shows making no sense at all to the fans who would want to watch them.
How Benoit’s life ended is a tragedy that we’re still only beginning to understand. We didn’t know in 2007 about the long-term impact of concussions on athletes to the level that we know now. And now we know that Benoit suffered multiple concussions in his years in pro wrestling, and that at this death at age 37 he had the brain activity of an 80-year-old with Parkinson’s.
This isn’t to excuse what happened at the end of his life, but rather to acknowledge what the likely contributing factors were.
The Over the Edge issue is a different one entirely. That WWE even went on with that show when Hart fell to the ring and died live in front of the world that night is still a controversy. It’s hard to imagine that there is a clamor out in the wrestling community to be able to see the watered-down product that followed that tragedy.
There’s no joy in reliving perhaps the worst night in pro wrestling’s checkered history. We can at least derive some joy out of reliving some of Chris Benoit’s best matches before his own tragic end.
– Column by Chris Graham