It's been over seven years since Chris Benoit nearly brought down not just WWE, but the entire business of professional wrestling when he committed a double-murder, killing his wife and son, then eventually killing himself. Since the Benoit family tragedy, WWE has stayed true to its word of never mentioning the name Chris Benoit ever again.
It seems that over the last couple of years hardcore wrestling fans have been calling for Benoit to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and have praised his long, illustrious career in the ring. While Benoit did have one of the best runs in the history of professional wrestling, and his in-ring work is second to none, it's clear that Benoit does not belong in the WWE Hall of Fame because of the way his life ended.
But what really gets to me is WWE's half-in and half-out point of view when not mentioning Chris Benoit. One example of that is this past year's Royal Rumble where one of the big storylines was CM Punk entering number one. Before the event, WWE play-by-play announcer Michael Cole gave the stat that only two men have ever won the Royal Rumble when entering number one, then said that Shawn Michaels did it in 1995, and then paused for a few seconds before calling the action in the ring.
For those of you that don't know, the other man to win the Royal Rumble when entering number one is Chris Benoit. He did it in 2004.
If WWE is dead-set on not mentioning Benoit then nobody in the company should bring up a stat that includes Benoit, like that particular Rumble stat, give the number that includes Benoit, and then refuse to name him. My reason? Ever since Benoit's death, his name has been displayed on the WWE website when looking through title history and match results. So if WWE mentions that only two men have won the Royal Rumble when entering number one and they give just one name, fans who don't already know who the other guy is will look on the WWE website and find out that it was Chris Benoit.
In Michael Cole's Rumble winner mention, he almost teased that he was going to mention Benoit by being silent after his mention of Michaels. In all fairness to WWE, this could have been improved by Cole, and in the moment he realized who the other man was, he may have bailed. But that's unlikely.
Another reason that WWE should at least acknowledge Benoit's existence is the fact that fans can watch any Chris Benoit match they want to on the WWE Network. Personally, I've watched more Benoit matches on the WWE Network than anything else, but that's just because I loved his in-ring style.
Moreover, not mentioning Benoit gives WWE nearly the same issue that they have with CM Punk which is fans chanting his name when there's a lull in the show.
We've seen that since CM Punk left, when there's a WWE superstar who mentions Punk in a promo, the crowd shuts up about him. But because WWE isn't acknowledging Punk most of the time, fans feel like they're getting away with something by chanting his name. Same thing with Benoit.
If showing Chris Benoit matches on the WWE Network doesn't have a negative effect on the business, then neither will mentioning his name when it's appropriate.
Mentioning Benoit would make everything that WWE produces post the Benoit murder/suicide not look so awkward. Things like when "The Radicalz" debuted in WWE [Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Chris Benoit] and instead of showing the four of them, the post-edit camera shot is zoomed in extra close on Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn, making it look bad and awkward.
WWE not wanting to show Benoit footage takes away from Randy Orton's very first title win, when he became the youngest world heavyweight champion in WWE history by defeating Benoit at SummerSlam in 2004.
Me saying that WWE should acknowledge Benoit doesn't mean that I think they should have a Hall of Fame induction and ceremony for him. That would make WWE look awful if they attempted to have a feel-good moment for a murderer. Also, who would even agree to induct Benoit? Probably no one.
All I'm saying is that WWE should mention and show Chris Benoit when it's appropriate. Like mentioning him when they're talking about wrestlers who have won the Royal Rumble when entering number one, when talking about the history of WrestleMania and its main-events, and when showing Randy Orton's first title win.
But if WWE really wants to wipe Benoit from their history then they can't go halfway with it. They have to remove all of his matches from the WWE Network, remove his name from their website and change the number of people who have won the Royal Rumble when entering number one from two to just one, and only mention Shawn Michaels' name.
So the message here to WWE is either do it or don't do it. You can't go halfway with it.
[Image via whatculture.com]