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Dark Side of the Ring Season 2 Premiere Review: A Brilliant, Unflinching Look at Chris Benoit



Tragedy permeates the lore of both sports and entertainment.  Everyone remembers Babe Ruth’s called shot but no one will ever forget Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech. Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring series enters it’s second season of chronicling the sordid and macabre moments in professional wrestling with what was undeniably the most shocking, the most gut-wrenching, and, in some ways, one of the most influential incidents in wrestling history.

Before June of 2007, Chris Benoit was nothing less than a god to “the educated fan.”  His matches were technical perfection, attributed to his relentless work ethic by his peers and his visible intensity by fans.  He was a graduate of the Hart Family’s legendary “dungeon,” the pioneer winner of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s first ever Super J Cup, a veteran of the original ECW, the man who walked away from the WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt, “The Canadian Crippler,” “The Rabid Wolverine,” and the man who brought the entire pro wrestling industry to its knees with the most unspeakable of crimes.

As a wrestling nerd, I thought I knew just about everything about the murder-suicide that robbed Benoit’s wife, Nancy, and their seven-year-old son, Daniel, of their lives.  I watch clips of “shoot” interviews on Youtube if given more than six minutes to myself and have created list, charts, and timelines based on the data available. The folks at Dark Side of the Ring took me places I had never seen or even thought about.

Vice manages to get just about everyone you could hope to speak with for this episode, starting with Benoit’s oldest son, David.  Series narrator, Chris Jericho, does double duty as an interviewee, being one of the people who knew Benoit as well as few others left on earth.  Dean Malenko and his wife, Julie, recount the marital strife and in-ring storyline that led to Nancy leaving wrestler/promoter, Kevin Sullivan. Vicki Guerrero describes the devastating toll that the death of her husband, Eddie Guerrero, took on Benoit’s psyche.  Eddie’s nephew, Chavo, recounts the cryptic (and, in retrospect, chilling) phone conversation and text messages with Benoit that weekend. Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni, is a surprisingly objective source of information and insight.

Dark Side does a fine job of outlining the perfect storm that led to Benoit losing his grip and, some might argue, his humanity.  Grief, trauma, use of drugs and alcohol, the effects of steroids, and CTE are all explored. But they go one step further.

The family and friends devastated by the crime are brought together and, in some cases, for the first time since that day.  When David Benoit breaks down on camera, Chavo Guerrero is there to console him. Chris Jericho reunites Sandra and David after thirteen years of estrangement.

As it is a thorough investigation and an intimate portrait of the subject, it can be a hard watch.  I knew what I was in for and let my wife in on the details. Nonetheless, even with over thirty years in emergency services between us, it hit us.  Watching Chris and Nancy’s journey into prominence and their existence as loving parents makes it surreal to think of what it all lead to. Having had to respond to similar incidents over the years, the best advice I can give someone is “If you can’t understand it, take comfort in that.”

The Dark Side of the Ring Season 2 Premiere on Chris Benoit is streaming on the Viceland website.



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