The investigations of pro wrestlingâ€™s death culture can expect to take an intriguing new turn this week with new revelations by Michael Benoit, the father of wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife, their son, and himself over a weekend in late June.
Michael Benoit is scheduled to appear Thursday, September 6, on ABCâ€™s â€œGood Morning, Americaâ€ and â€œNightline.â€
In recent days the focus has been on upcoming Congressional investigations and on the suspension by World Wrestling Entertainment of wrestlers found by the Albany, New York, district attorneyâ€™s office to have placed Internet orders for steroids, human growth hormone, and ancillary drugs from Signature Pharmacy of Jupiter, Florida.
At the same time, however, the Benoit family and that of Chris Benoitâ€™s murdered wife, the former Nancy Toffolino, have begun legal skirmishes over the disposition of the wrestlerâ€™s multimillion-dollar Georgia home and other estate assets. (Benoit also left behind two children from his first marriage.) A potential dispute has arisen over the order of wife Nancy and son Danielâ€™s deaths, as this could impact the application of a Georgia â€œslayerâ€ statute that prohibits murderers and their heirs from benefiting from such crimes.
It was in that context that Michael Benoit last week raised before the court the issue of Chris Benoitâ€™s â€œdiminished capacity,â€ and this no doubt will be at least part of what he intends to reveal in his upcoming ABC interviews. â€œDiminished capacityâ€ could refer to the effects that steroids and other drugs played in Chris Benoitâ€™s mental state. But our sources suggest that there may be an additional element: chronic brain injury from the traumas of this wrestlerâ€™s especially reckless performance style, which included diving head butts from the top rope.
Chris Nowinski, a former wrestler who has devoted himself to research and education in this area, was quoted in early media reports as believing that a form of post-concussion syndrome may be part of the explanation for Benoitâ€™s murderous rampage. Nowinski asked the authorities in Georgia to examine Benoitâ€™s brain tissue. Nowinski at first was rebuffed; later a brain examination became part of the postmortem studies, but it wasnâ€™t clear whether it would reveal much because of the advanced state of decomposition. (In addition to the lapse before the discovery of the familyâ€™s bodies, it was a very hot weekend in Fayette County, around 93 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air conditioning in the house had been turned off.)
Of course, if there is indeed evidence of a brain-injury syndrome among wrestlers, and of specific indications with this particular wrestler that were ignored, they will lengthen the list of metaphorical headaches for World Wrestling Entertainment.