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Ring of Hell

Greetings Scott,

        I recently read a report that Liam Neeson shot down a rumor he was to play a role in the upcoming film "Crossface" which is a bio-pic of Chris Benoit.  It is a film based on the book Ring of Hell, which is absolutely the most damning book on pro wrestling ever written.  While a biography of Benoit, it explores every facet of pro wrestling from the basics of how matches are put together, to the culture of ribbing, to the history of every promotion Benoit worked for, complete with mini-bios of key figures, like Stu and Dynamite.  The author, Matthew Randazzo V, does not hide his contempt for wrestling, referring to it a a "slapstick farce" and "usually laughingly bad tv."  It also contains enough hilarious/disturbing gossip to fit right in with the infamous "Sleazy Wrestling Rumors" thread on deathvalleydriver, even confirming a few of them.  My favorite new one claims that during a match (no date, place or show is given) between Taz and Kevin Sullivan, a routine suplex from the Taskmaster gave Taz an "earthshattering" orgasm.

The book also portrays several prominent figures in wrestling history in a negative light, from Vince (portrayed as a 'roided up, megalomaniacal, out of touch old man who asked Carlito to "spic it up" when he spoke in character) to Antonio Inoki.  Even those who get compliments aren't safe.  While praising Bret Hart for becoming a star in the size prejudiced American market with a safe but exciting style that didn't force him to swell up on steroids and frequently quoting his book for insight into the business, he is also portrayed as delusional.  Randazzo claims Stu's strict adherence to Kayfabe warped Bret's sense of reality and fiction and mocks him for the Dino Bravo match where he shattered his sternum and could hardly breathe, yet refused to be pinned because the story called for him to win and is firmly with Vince regarding Montreal.

The book can only be bought cheap but used at Amazon (I'm guessing a new edition is coming as the movie starts to shoot) and I am unaware if it is an e-book.  I would recommend it to you and your readers, for a dark look at the industry.

My point is, I would like your opinion on the books thesis.  Randazzo claims that even if the post-mortem diagnosis of Benoit was true and he could not be held responsible for the murders, Benoit is still culpable.  It was Chris Benoit and Chris Benoit alone, who chose to wrestle the self destructive Dynamite Kid style his entire career.  It was Benoit who took repeated blows to the head match after match, no matter how many concussions he received and no matter how pulverized his spine became.  Instead of adapting Bret's safer technical style that didn't call for huge amounts of steroids to execute, he continued to cripple himself despite seeing what that style did to Dynamite and what copious amounts of painkillers, alcohol and steroids did to Dynamite, Pillman and Eddy. Instead of retiring to an agent or trainers job in 2001 after his neck surgery, he continued to wrestle despite financial security and a hall of fame legacy, and continued to cause the damage that killed his family.  An uncomfortable, yet compelling argument.  As someone with insider knowledge and sources, who has been following wrestling for his fourth decade, what do you think of this? I know you aren't a Benoit apologist, but this theory is the most damning of all I heard about why Benoit committed the killings. I'm not trying to get a rise out of you, I want your opinion as a wrestling historian and published author on this very case.

Thanks for your time.

I know this is probably going to come as a surprise, but yes, I agree with that general sentiment.  For years leading up to his death I said over and over in my rants that Benoit needed to stop doing the diving headbutt and crazy neck bumps in general, and really he has no claim to ignorance given how well he knew Dynamite Kid and emulated him in every other way.  Yeah, the physical damage might not have made him LEGALLY responsible if it went to a full trial, but the drugs and years of physical damage were absolutely his fault.  No one forced him to use the steroids or wrestle a high-impact style even after neck surgery and even after safer career options were available to him.  Hell, he could have retired in 2005 and probably ran the training program in FCW for the rest of his life if he had wanted to. 

So yeah, although I can’t speak to the other aspects of the book because I haven’t read it, the circumstances behind Benoit’s downfall were almost entirely on himself.