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Book Review: Ring Of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & The Fall of The Pro Wrestling Industry.






With all apologies to Scott's excellent book, "Dungeon of Death," that book focused less on Benoit and more on the pervasive culture of death prevalent over the last decade and a half in pro wrestling. Randazzo's book is focused on Benoit as the central character in professional wrestling's toxic cocktail of morbidity.


"Marvel at the ludicrous bargain even big name wrestlers accept with WWE: an independent contractor's job at a multibillion-dollar corporation in which global TV stars enjoy the benefits and job security of migrant laborers, pay their own travel and health expenses, rarely see their families, and are obliged to maintain a naturally impossible physique and perfect attendance record despite a demanding 150-plus-days-per-year travel schedule and an ever accumulating inventory of bodily wear and tear. Worst of all, they must voluntarily sustain irreparable injury to their brains and bodies in the process of making what is usually laughably bad TV."

With that assessment by author Matthew Randazzo V (really? V? Seems slightly pretentious to me), "Ring of Hell" makes the author's intentions crystal clear: he does not like or respect pro wrestling. Indeed, at times this book becomes his personal dumping ground, and even in some of the subtle wrestling appraisals he gives, one cannot miss the seething pure hatred the man has for the business of pro wrestling. It practically jumps off the page.

This is going to be a slight departure for me. I generally prefer to review a book and generally summarize the careers and happenings of the performer named on the cover. I like to mention their memories and observations while also trying to provide perspective. This book is different. I have found it to be the best book written on Benoit, but for obvious reasons, it does not include Benoit. Add to that that it is a total, sweeping indictment of the professional wrestling industry as a whole, along with the author's obvious disdain for the business we are all fans of, and it makes for a very difficult review. As well, I figure most, if not all, who frequent this site know the story of Benoit in its entirety, so I do not wish to insult your intelligence. I only hope I am up to the task.

For all I have said about the author, WrestleMania V, he obviously did his homework. Reading the bibliography alone makes that apparent. Add into the mix that he obviously understands the business and the terminology that abounds during this book proves that the man was pristine on his research. He picked the correct websites, the correct contacts, everything. To boot, he is obviously a gifted writer, as I found almost no egregious errors in the tome, either grammatically or analytically.

As well, the book gives a remarkably straight ahead account of the man before he became the monster. We all know Benoit was a hopeless mark of the Dynamite Kid. Dynamite might be one of the greatest in ring talents we as fans have ever seen. But it cannot be denied that he was, likewise, one of the most insufferable pricks outside the ring the industry has ever encountered. And the author, Clash V, does a remarkable job of pointing that fact out. Benoit could not have picked a worse role model. Dynamite was a phenomenal wrestler, no doubt, but it cannot be ignored that he was just an awful human being and, with his self destructive wrestling style, the LAST guy anyone should pattern their career after.

The book does an excellent job of chronicling Benoit's rise to the elite. Author In Your House V should be commended for that. What is particularly intriguing is not necessarily Benoit's wrestling indoctrination at Hart House in Calgary, but at the NJPW dojo. These are some of the more enlightening chapters, and it offers clues as to why Benoit became such a slave to the game of wrestling. Complete physical and psychological breakdown. Author SuperBrawl V discusses the ritualistic hazing in the dojo's as unique to sports. Obviously, the author has never played a game in his life. Sure, having NJPW "Young Boys" in training have to perform such demeaning acts as collectively jerking off into a jar, only for one young boy to have to imbibe it, is extreme. But hazing, or in this case, ribbing, is prevalent in all of sport, all over the world.  I will admit that the NJPW dojo took it to the extremities of human nature, but some of the rituals described in the book are no worse than anything this author expedience playing high school, legion, pony league, ANY sport at any young level. To try and condemn pro wrestling as unique in this action is purely laughable. Although, pro wrestling is probably the worst in acting upon that particular medium.

Benoit, obviously, went on to huge Japanese stardom and success, along with, as author Bound By Glory V says, his wrestling doppleganger: Jushin Liger. The items on Liger in this book are outstanding, in my opinion. The Liger/Benoit self flagellation society climaxed with the Super J Cup in 1994, and again in 1995. It proved junior heavyweights were draws, and Benoit and Liger were kings amongst them.

Benoit, still a huge star, a demigod, in Japan, wanted to test his wares in the United States. To that end, he started with WCW in 1993, under a booker he liked, Bill Watts. Watts was seen by the rest of the WCW roster at the time as passe and too old school, too disciplinarian. Well, after Stu Hart and NJPW's dojo, Benoit was refreshed. Unfortunately, Watts was let go. It is during this section of the book with WCW's early ineptitude that we get some great one liners. My favorite? Dusty Rhodes was inexplicably named head booker after a disastrous late 80's run that led to Jim Crockett Promotions being bought out by Turner. Upon being reinstated as booker in 1991, his line to Turner Executives and wrestlers alike? "Hi, I am 'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes, and I the rake and you the leaves."

What is, and was, even worse, was Hulk Hogan descending upon the promotion in 1994. While I have said the author is far from unbiased towards the wonderful world of pro wrestling. But author Big Daddy V seems to hold a special place in his contemptuous heart for Hulk Hogan, who he deems "Hiroshima" Hogan. To quote Scott Keith, I love shoot comments that aren't supposed to be shoot comments. That might be the greatest nickname I have ever heard for Hogan during his WCW run. Author Clash of the Champions V just derides Hogan's self destructive policies from 1994-1995, and it is refreshing to see, as many who viewed the product at that point, those of us who watched WCW as an ALTERNATIVE to the glitz, glamor, and pure sap of WWF, were troubled by the arrival of the very symbol of Vince glitz. I won't lie, I was a Hogan mark up until then, even through his ridiculous title win at WrestleMania IX. Once he descended upon WCW? Wow. The level of discourse switched.WCW became Hogan's plaything, and I do not think anyone can deny that. To further advance the level of ridiculousness, Kevin Sullivan was a main booker, and ended up becoming the bane of Benoit's existence.

I will assume that the intelligent people reading this site realize the damage the Sullivan feud did to Benoit. Benoit was supposed to dupe the marks and the locker room into thinking he was actually schtuping  Sullivan's sex symbol wife. Benoit was married with kids, and a total introvert. All Benoit cared about was his next match. Sullivan was eventually told, midway through his feud with Benoit, that it was unbecoming for a booker to still be wrestling actively. Sullivan, a shitty wrestler (one of the few times I agree with the author's sentiments) was told once the feud was over, so was his in ring career. Sullivan did the oh so sensible thing: He dragged the feud out for almost two years. Initially, it was supposed to be Brian Pillman and Sullivan.

Pillman was a Stampede graduate and great friend of Benoit who was almost as talented in ring, but light years ahead of not just Benoit, but ANYONE on the stick. Pillman was also known as a drug addicted sexual deviant who sired child after child with varying women of varying provenance. Pillman went absolutely fucking crazy in 1996, with a purpose: he wanted to be able to support his expanding family. So he devised a plan to turn pro wrestling on its ear: The Loose Cannon. Trust me folks, this was brilliant shit from a man who was VERY smart to the business. Pillman, a jobber at least and a Horseman at best for WCW, did not want to be pigeonholed. He wanted to be transcendent, as his old partner Steve Austin was becoming.  So he perfected the "Loose Cannon" character and was signed to giant, first time, WWF guaranteed bucks.

What is important to Benoit was that Pillman died in the early morning hours leading up to the "Badd Blood" PPV in October ot 1997. It was the first of may deaths of friends Benoit would experience. Pillman, the man so strong that he could fuck a chick hanging upside down in gravity boots, a man alleged to have such sexual repartee that people accused him of having his sex life appropriated to Penthouse Forums, was the first of many experiences in death for the alleged "Best in the World."

Benoit obviously departed from WCW once his interminable nemesis, and the man directly responsible for hooking up with Nancy Toffolini, was restored to WCW booker. It has been WELL documented what went on with the WCW title switch at WCW Souled Out 2000. Benoit, along with Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn jumped to WWF, luckily able to invoke a clause that Mike Graham invoked. In past years I would have mentioned it, but Mike died this past year, so it would be without taste to mention it here.

Benoit went on to a solid career in WWF/E. (From here on out it is WWE for my own sanity). He wrestled in main event PPV matches against Rock, Angle, Undertaker, and the whole lot. Unfortunately he fucked up his back and neck in a cage match against Angle, and was sidelined for almost a year.

Here is where the book gets touchy. A pure mat animal like Benoit was obviously going to doubt himself during this period. Add in the ungodly amount of steroids he was taking, and depression was a given. Randazzo V does a tremendous job of piecing together the manic-depressiveness Benoit must have been enduring. Benoit triumphed at WrestleMania XX with his best friend Eddy Guerrero in tow, but Benoit was already experiencing the effects of PTSD and tremendous brain damage.

When Eddy died, November 12, 2005, Benoit's delicate psyche fractured. I do not think any wrestling fan can doubt that. By the time of the events of June 24, 2007 came about, Benoit was a fraction of a man. His brain was fucked. His marriage was fucked. The man was FUCKED. Listen, Chris Benoit was my absolute, #1, favorite wrestler of all time. Yet, when the news came on June 25, 2007, that he, his son, and his wife, were dead, I knew immediately. Benoit did it. That is not to say that realization was not a pure kick to the johnson. It was awful. Benoit is portrayed in this book as both the best of men and the scourge of society. Randazzo is an excellent writer, and, while he excoriates Benoit's profession, he absolutely sings the praises of the man himself. I have mocked Randazzo V throughout this review, but the fact of the matter is, as much as the author hates wrestling, he has crafted a remarkably even handed account. That is the sign of a great writer,

In short, Randazzo V, for all the grief I have given him, is a great writer. He did his homework, tempered his beliefs, and has written probably the best of the quick, exploitative books authored on the monster Benoit. For that, my hat is off to him.

And Scott Keith, as good as your book was, this is better. I will now jump off the Sears Tower headlong onto a thumbtack for my transgression...



Comments

  1. Great review and the book seems super interesting. Wondering why you'd take exception to the way the author described the pro wrestling industry given its completely true.

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  2. Lance Storm has a rather...different view on the book.

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  3. HowmuchdoesthisguyweighMarch 28, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    I laughed at " Big Daddy V"

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  4. I've read the book many times And it is a great story. Unfortunately the author uses too many second hand sources and the legitimate sources he does credit are assistant creative team writers or wannabes backstage. Paul heyman even gives a "no comment" type of response. I also didnt like the over abundance of "future addict" chris benoit type descriptions. You dont need to paint that picturr when facts speak for themselves. anyway...great review and a pretty good book.

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  5. Lance is a bit biased sometimes. I lost all respect for him after jbl bitched him out for warned newcomers about his bullying ways

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  6. I used no sources but the ones provided by this book.

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  7. I cannot disagree. You are correct. I am an old school, jaded fan, that is why.

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  8. You did a great review above. I was only commenting on Mathew big daddy V and his lack of sources. Keep up your nice reviews :).

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  9. This is what I came in here to mention. This is from his review/commentary on the book.

    "Before I get into specifics let me offer
    this quick over view. Ring of Hell is the Jerry Springer Show of
    wrestling books. In my opinion it is a complete waste of paper and a
    HUGE load of crap. Matthew Randazzo the 5th (MR5) is in my opinion a
    pathetic researcher, a terrible writer, and in several instances,
    throughout his book, guilty of the same things he condemns the wrestling
    business for. What I find even more disappointing than the $18 I
    wasted on this book is that there is in fact a darker side to the
    wrestling business that can and should be improved upon, but instead of
    writing a serious expose of the businesses legitimate shortcomings, MR5
    seems to sell out and write a sensationalized load of crap in hopes of
    shock valuing his way into a writing career.

    I am not saying that there is no truth in this book. There is in fact a
    fair bit of truth in it, but it is presented very unprofessionally, and
    in conjunction with a lot of exaggerated, overly sensationalized, and
    in some cases outright fabricated stories. Had MR5 put in the due
    diligence to ferret out the real truth and presented it in a
    professional manner, this could have been a very good book. As it stands
    it is about as factually based and professional presented as many Jerry
    Springer episodes."

    Source:

    http://www.stormwrestling.com/063008.html

    He says a lot more about it but this is some of the nicer stuff.

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  10. I happened to really like the book ( as a book, not for what happens obviously) but I am still trying to figure out what exact suplex Tazz took to make him orgasm.

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  11. Wasn't this going to be the basis of some movie about Benoit? I'm pretty certain I read something like that on here.


    Did anyone else read "Chris and Nancy" by Irv Muchnick? I thought it is a good read and has some very unsettling details about Benoit and the murders, as well as photos inside the house. In particular: Muchnick says Benoit essentially broke the boy's neck when killing him, according to the terminology used in the autopsy reports.

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  12. What were the differences between that book and this one? I passed it up due to my dislike for Mushnick

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  13. As in he...ignored it? Cause that seems to be the prudent thing to do.

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  14. Not surprisingly, Mushnick devotes a lot of ink to WWE's shady handling of the situation as well as the whole Wikipedia user controversy.


    To his credit he pretty much pins them for knowing full well that Benoit killed Nancy and his son while producing the tribute show.

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  15. I find that hard to believe.

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  16. According to the book, WWE had Dave Taylor go over to the neighbor's house with a meat platter (!) as some sort of gift and encourage her not to speak to any of the media.

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  17. It's crazy that I could see this being true.

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  18. I dunno about that. I mean, it's possible that someone bigger than you can catch you by surprise and drive your head into the floor from a front face-lock position. It's not like it's a Davey Boy Smith vertical suplex.



    Or maybe Ohtani's student was ordered to take the move as part of his training.

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  19. Hehe. Chris Coochie-coochie-coo.

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  20. Or maybe it's bullshit.


    I mean, obviously if you're way bigger and stronger you can do anything, or maybe if they're doing a double-leg you could hook them in a front facelock.


    But I'm pretty sure most japanese wrestling students are taught judo, and learning how to sprawl is one of the first things you learn.

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  21. Perhaps it's disrespectful to your teacher if you struggle/fight back.


    Stop trying to ruin this story for me!!!

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  22. Yeah, well a DDT onto a wooden floor is hardly the craziest bump I've seen a japanese wrestler take.


    Misawa Tiger Suplexed Kobashi from the apron to the fucking floor...


    I'm not condoning the Hiroshima nuking in any way...but goddamn do I understand why the USA was leery of an invasion.

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  23. Of course, after writing about the importance of proof-reading, I have 'booked' rather than 'books' in the top-line.


    And my closer has 'point' rather than 'put'. FWIW, I did re-read it before publishing.


    Sighs.

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  24. Don't criticize yourself. Shit happens. As it does throughout my reviews apparently. I am merely a high school graduate with little college experience (one year) writing these things... and that college year was 1998. Its been a while. I am not as polished as I once was, and plan on taking some college courses this coming summer. But, please, and I mean this, by all means, let me know of any grammar problems. It can only help improve and streamline my writings and eliminate inefficiencies.

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  25. An astute comment from an astute, articulate reader. I have never, and I mean NEVER heard that nickname before in all of my 33 years of living on this earth. To be serious for a moment, I do not mind that nickname. Anyone who wants to call me "Cucch" or "Cooch: or "Coochie-Coohie" or "Coochie Coochie, lend me your comb" I have no issue with it. Been called it all my life. Better than being called Ball gagger or the such.

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  26. Unfortunately, that "writer who wishes to remain anonymous" stuff is a staple of all journalism. I agree that it seems like a crutch at times, but, much like Vince's credo "The Show Must Go On" in wrestling, anonymous sources will always remain in writing. And I thought Randazzo did a remarkable job of uncovering a good many of his sources in this book, for what it is worth. If this is the real Maffew of Botchamania fame, btw, keep up the excellent work. Your site is a daily viewing experience for me personally.

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  27. Tazzgasm caused by a Yam Bag Taz Plex.

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  28. Yeah, I was agreeing with you. Did that come across the other way?

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  29. HAHAH it's funny because Justin Credible SUCKS!

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  30. Regal knew Benoit like Jericho did, and Jericho said he immediately guessed what had happened.

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  31. I got that, I was just adding to it.


    There's more than professional reasons to not want to get into a twitter war.

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  32. Dedicated UnderachieverMarch 30, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    "They were from an affluent family whose roots were not based in reality"



    That's what I would generously call being elitist and generalising anyone that has had a family name handed down to them.

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  33. I agree. No one gave Villano V and VI grief for it!

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  34. Thanks for the compliments sir. I sadly am 'the' Maffew.

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  35. Yeah, agreed. The Big Daddy V line was maybe good, the rest was forced and felt almost like DDP promoing

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