Earlier this month, Punisher: War Zone director Lexi Alexander was tapped to helm the Chris Benoit biopic Crossface. Based on the biography Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit and the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry by Matthew Randazzo V and named after Chris Benoit's signature submission move, Crossface is expected to dramatize the life of the infamous professional wrestler.
For some, a Chris Benoit biopic may seem like any other Oscar season film centered on a well-known and notorious personality's life. But for those who grew up watching World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) during the 2000's, Crossface won't just be a movie about a familiar name but a means of resolution as well.
The Year Wrestling Died
Before the days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), people had the WWE. Like today's big screen superheroes, the colorful characters from WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown! were the ones whose backstories kids memorized and tried to imitate when playing. The WWE pay-per-view events like WWE Survivor Series and WWE Wrestlemania were the superhero cross-over movies of the day. Seeing (Chain Gang era) John Cena and The Big Show duke it out elicited the same reaction kids today got when they saw Iron Man fight Captain America in Captain America: Civil War.
But in 2007, the WWE changed forever.
In June of that year, Chris Benoit made headlines, but not for a win in the ring. He killed his own wife and son before committing suicide. For reasons that may never be known, Benoit murdered his family in a fit of psychotic rage reportedly brought about by the dementia and multiple head injuries he sustained over the course of his 22 year career.
At the time of Benoit's murder-suicide, WWE fans were still reeling from the death of crowd-favorite Eddie Guerrero in 2005. For some, the events of 2007 were the last straw. Contrary to popular belief, the brand's shift to a PG-13 tone did not kill my generation's interest in wrestling - for most, it was the deaths of two of the biggest names at the time.
The Broken Pedestal
2007 was also the year that some fans finally saw the darker side of the WWE as a business.
Prior to the aforementioned events of June 2007, accusations of doping and wrestlers getting caught for criminal activity such as sexual harassment, possession of illegal drugs and acts of violence eroded the WWE's already shaky reputation. When confronted with charges such as these, the WWE would either deny the allegations or distance itself from the issue, burying it as deep as possible in the hopes that the public would just forget about it in time for the next pay-per-view event. To make matters worse, the WWE is still dealing with similar controversies, with accusations of favoritism and poor medical benefits coming out of the woodwork with each new retiring wrestler.
When Chris Benoit died, fans who were expecting another heartfelt tribute like the one Eddie Guerrero received were shocked when the WWE's CEO Vince McMahon announced that the brand would cut all ties with Chris Benoit. Later, the WWE acted like he never existed at all.
At first, younger fans didn't understand the WWE's cold shoulder treatment and thought the brand was being unfair. This galvanized some people's pet theory that the WWE was just an emotionless company that wanted audiences' money and didn't care about the fighters in its rosters. But when the brutal details surrounding Benoit's final acts began to surface, people saw where the WWE was coming from and were shaken.
Never in their wildest dreams did fans see a wrestler going as far as murdering someone, let alone their own family. This combined with the countless controversies that the WWE finds itself facing even until today convinced a good number of people that the WWE would never be the same again. For me, it was time to move on.
'Crossface' And The Benoit Name
Chris Benoit was at the height of his career when he died. Thanks to him, the many wrestlers who gave it their all and countless other strokes of luck, the WWE enjoyed a spike in popularity during the early 2000's. The charisma and passion of the WWE's roster attracted viewers of all ages, but the deaths of two of the biggest names and the circumstances behind them brought about the disillusionment among fans.
Even in a time where my interest and passion for the world of wrestling and its hilariously overblown dramatic plot lines have faded long ago, the demand for answers remains. The combined deaths of Chris Benoit and his friend Eddie Guerrero signaled a phase's end in my life, but an explanation to the jarring events that transpired in a form of entertainment I once enjoyed has yet to be provided. The nagging demand for these answers may be resolved through the upcoming Crossface.
Well-made biopics have a good reputation for shining a sympathetic yet critical light on controversial figures. Examples include The Wolf of Wall Street, which dramatized the life of convicted corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort, and the chronicle of war-time dictator Adolf Hitler's final days in Downfall. These movies never shied away from the deranged and questionable acts or beliefs their central characters held during their lifetimes, but the biopics also never went out of their way to demonize them. Their actions speak for themselves.
Chris Benoit's murder-suicide will forever be a black mark on the WWE and a dark memory for fans. Through Crossface, a sense of closure could be achieved not by trying to explain what Benoit did but by showing how things went down. If done well, Crossface could give insight into Benoit's life better than any headline or news documentary could. A biopic can never justify inhuman acts such as genocide or murder, nor should it even attempt to do so. The most biopics can do is provide a new perspective and share previously unknown facts, and this is the most we can expect from Crossface.