06.25.2007 (Monday), 10:31 PM

Rabid Wolverine

...Chris Benoit, R.I.P.

I met Chris Benoit just once. He was always a guy who I enjoyed watching and so it was a pretty big thrill to meet him in person.

It was at the World Wrestling Peace Festival in Los Angeles many years ago. Famous Japanese wrestler (and politician) Antonio Inoki had a hand in this particular event and it brought together several of the world's wrestling organizations into one multi-hour show...a fan's (especially a Japanese wrestling fan's) dream come true.

My friend Les and I managed to get backstage through a friend and we were in awe. As we were walking around, Chris came up to us and introduced himself. HE came up and introduced himself.

We spent the next 20 minutes jabbering about wrestling, his matches and the insane things we had seen him do in the ring. He was the most gracious, nicest, genuine guy you could possibly imagine - not a solitary conceited, arrogant or haughty bone in his body.

Toward the end our conversation, he paused and looked over at the monitors showing the matches in the ring, pulled us over and said, "Man, that's Tatsumi Fujinami! He's one of my favorite guys to wrestle...when I was in Japan he was the best guy in the ring. I learned so much from him...". He then proceeded to describe Fujinami's moves with the precision of a true fanatic but all in glowing, respectful, and reverential terms. Then he turned and thanked us for coming to the show and said that he had to get ready for his match.

Les and I walked away from that meeting with a whole new respect for a guy that we enjoyed in the ring. In fact, the phrase "Hey, you know that Chris Benoit? He's a really nice guy!" was a staple whenever we got together.

I learned this afternoon that Chris (and his wife Nancy and son Daniel) were found dead in their Fayetteville, GA home earlier today. I could not believe it when I heard it but a bit of web searching brought the truth right home.

Say what you want about wrestling, it is sheer spectacle, on either side of the curtain. But to have the fortune of meeting such a nice guy in an industry that doesn't often play nice, and to share 20 minutes with him, just three fans glowing in the light of the spectacle, was something that I have never forgotten. And right now, I just wish I could live that moment all over again but know that I never be able to.

Posted by wjc | TrackBack