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Ring of Hell    by Matthew Randazzo IV order for
Ring of Hell
by Matthew Randazzo IV
Order:  USA  Can
Phoenix Publishing, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Leslie McKee

For someone viewed as a kind, family man who saw professional wrestling as sacred and beautiful, the murder/suicide of Chris Benoit and his family shocked the wrestling community.

Benoit's obsession with professional wrestling began at age 11, when he was viewed as the ultimate mark (wrestling slang for fan). His idol was The Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington), known for his malicious, violent behavior toward other wrestlers, as well as his own family. As Benoit was always on the small side, he began steroids at age 15, unknowingly stunting his growth. His wrestling dreams began to take shape when he was accepted into training at The Dungeon, run by the legendary Stu Hart. Stu, himself, had a sadistic personality and dysfunctional family. Stu's philosophy was, if you could handle his Dungeon, you could handle any opponent in the ring. To further his credibility, Benoit not only graduated from The Dungeon, but also the New Japan Dojo - two of the toughest schools in the world. Self-sacrifice is seen as admirable in wrestling and Benoit proudly exemplified this. He made his debut on American television on 6-16-92 at the Wow's Clash of Champions and soon became known as The Crippler.

He met his second wife, Nancy, as part of his character's storyline. She had been married to another wrestler. They soon married and had a son, Daniel, on 2-25-00. Questionable circumstances surround the marriage and whether or not there was abuse. Nancy had filed for separation, but apparently withdrew the claim for Daniel's sake.

While many view professional wrestling as fake, it definitely takes a physical toll on the individual. In fact, the physical abuse and associated steroid use, seems to be encouraged. 'Vince (McMahon) hasn't killed people, but tempts them to pursue their own destruction and death for his financial profit.' By age 40, Benoit was coping with intense pain and brain damage so extensive that his mind was 'no longer able to cope with normal life's events and stressors' (as per his neurologist). During the past few years, Benoit lost many colleagues and friends as a result of steroid-related deaths. During his final days, Benoit himself took steroids, as well as many legally prescribed medications.

On 6-22-07, Benoit apparently bound Nancy with duct tape, pinned her to the floor and strangled her. The next day, Daniel was drugged and killed by one of Benoit's signature moves, the Crippler Crossface. Benoit remained in the house for over 12 hours before hanging himself on his weight machine. The deaths were discovered after he failed to report to two shows. The exact role that Benoit's steroid abuse and brain injury played in the deaths may never be known, but it appears that Chris and his family died as a result of Chris fulfilling a childhood dream.

Like the business, the language in the book is often crude. The author sheds light on behind-the-scenes details to which few fans have access. The author, however, does not appear to be a fan of the wrestling industry. A large portion of the book relates to topics other than Benoit and the deaths (ex: other wrestlers, history of wrestling, and Japanese wrestling). The author chose not to include information on Benoit's first marriage and children. Therefore, the reader is left to wonder if he was abusive to them, or it his behavior was related to the increase in his injuries and steroid use. Perhaps Benoit summed it up best: 'The world (of wrestling) doesn't push you to the depths of darkness. You do.'

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