The Princess Rant on Dark Side of the Ring (Season 2, Episode 1)

The first episode of the second season is a two-hour one on the Benoit murders.

The episode opens with Chris’ son, David, talking about his father and said that he looked up to the Dynamite Kid and that’s what got him into wrestling and that’s who he wanted to be.

EXTRA NOTE: For the BoD member that asked about my Wrestlemania refunds. Our tickets to Hall of Fame and Friday Night Smackdown were comped so no lost there. TakeOver and Wrestlemania tickets were bought through Ticketmaster and we got the email about a refund a while back, it’s a 30-day refund time from time of cancelation. So our money should be returned pretty shortly.

Jim Ross, Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko all jump in and talk about Benoit’s prowess as a wrestler. We see a lot of highlights from Stampede and later from New Japan. Jericho talked about how intense Benoit was and that wrestling was his only job. Malenko calls him the ultimate performer. Jericho tells a story of Benoit being upset about missing a spot and punishing himself by doing hack squats in the dressing room after the match for his mistake.

Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Vickie Guerrero are introduced as they get into the Benoit-Eddie Guerrero relationship. Jericho talks about how nice and kind Eddie was to the boys. The Guerrero-Benoit matches were intense and Eddie used to complain about Benoit to Vickie, but eventually they became the best of friends.

Sandra Toffoloni is introduced, she is Nancy Benoit’s sister. She is wearing earrings her sister gave her for this documentary. Nancy got introduced to wrestling by her first husband and eventually met Kevin Sullivan. They hit it off as ring performers and out of the ring. Her first ring name, Fallen Angel, came from a Uriah Heap poem. Malenko puts her over as a performer. Toffoloni tells stories of people walking up to Nancy at random places and praying for her because her gimmick was that of being part of a cult. Kevin and Nancy were in love.

We fast forward to WCW in the mid-90s. Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko are there. Sullivan is holding the book I believe and Nancy has been there for a minute, first going to WCW in 1989 and back in 1995 after a break to ECW in between. She had a gimmick change to Woman, a sultry valet that her sister said was more of her true personality. Malenko said that Sullivan really liked Benoit and liked working with him. Nancy became part of the storyline as they were breaking some kayfabe, acknowledging the Sullivans’ marriage and using her as their reason for fighting. Toffoloni repeats the old joke of Sullivan booking his own divorce, but she says that wasn’t his intention.

Sullivan was a victim of his own style, however. He liked to book things true to form. If Nancy and Benoit are having an “affair” they were traveling together and making appearances together as to make the public think that the storyline was real. Of course when you put two fairly attractive people together for a sustained period of time, the likelihood of a connection is high. So now we’ve really got personal issues intertwined with a storyline.

Anyway, the Sullivans had some marital issues and Nancy went to Malenko’s wife, Julie, with a black eye that she said Sullivan gave her (he’s publicly denied this from day one by the way). Vickie said that when Nancy was having issues with Kevin, she went to Chris. Malenko said Chris was also having marital issues so the two naturally gravitated toward each other.

During their match at Bash at the Beach, Toffoloni says Chris and Kevin started hitting each other with potatoes and Chris broke his eardrum with a punch. Toffoloni ays the fight continued backstage but we don’t get any more clarification. Was this a typical issue of two guys being pissed because the punches weren’t worked or were they arguing about Nancy or were the non-worked punches because of Nancy? Who knows really. Anyhoo. Toffoloni is back there and Nancy tells her to go with Chris and not Kevin so she did. Nancy told Toffoloni that Kevin injured her and she was leaving him. Toffoloni said she instantly trusted Chris because her took care of her sister.

We fast forward a bit. Chris is ready to take the next step to WWE and Nancy is out of the business wanting to focus on her third marriage and having a family. They have a son, Daniel. We see clips of the happy family. David Benoit said Nancy treated him like her own son. It was good times. Vickie shows pictures of the Benoit wedding. Lots of clips of Daniel and David together and they were typical boys, typical big brother/little brother.

Benoit, Malenko and Guerrero (and Perry Saturn…although he isn’t mentioned) joined the WWE. Jericho said they were finally allowed to shine. Jericho puts over Benoit as a father and everyone loved having the kids around. Jericho said Benoit hated missing things like Halloween and Father’s Day and Jericho would just tell him “get those days off man” but that wasn’t Benoit’s style. Or Eddie’s style for that matter. Jericho said they both gave up their lives for pro wrestling.

Benoit and Guerrero continued their bonding over religion. Eddie gave Chris a bible one Christmas and Chris always kept it on him. Their relationship was tight and Chris always went to Eddie with his personal issues. Vickie and Jericho talk about Eddie working through pain and Jericho goes further and talks about the self-medication. Vickie relays an amazing story about how she left Eddie on the couch while he was overdosing to take their kids to school and she hoped that if God wanted to take him, he would do it while they were gone.

Eddie cleaned himself up however and gets back on track. Wrestlemania XX comes, which was the highlight of both of their careers and includes the great image and the two best friends closing the biggest card of the year. David says he wished they just retired after that moment.

Chavo talks about the Minneapolis trip where Eddie is dying in his hotel and eventually dies in Chavo’s arms. Cause of death is heart failure. Chris took it hard. Everyone took it hard. I remember watching the tribute show and listening the Chris’ comments and I cried watching it. If I saw it now I would cry. It was truly heartbreaking. Jericho said that he and Chris weren’t as close after Eddie’s death. He didn’t want to be around anyone. He believes Chris needed to get away after Eddie’s death but he soldiered on.

Vickie said Nancy was there for her while she was in mourning. She said that Chris just couldn’t handle losing Eddie. He would break down all the time when he was around Vickie or in the Guerrero house. He would put on a brave face around the boys, but when he was alone or around Vickie, he was heartbroken. Toffoloni talks about how Chris began to act strange and show signs of paranoia that were unusual. Vickie said that Chris was sad all the time or he was angry or impatient. Toffoloni said that she and Nancy got Chris a journal so he could write to Eddie and that helped him cope a little.

But the memories remain. Nancy wanted him off the road. Jericho said everything was reminding him of Eddie while he was on the road.

And we come to the big incident. Chavo said that Chris was going to miss a show because Nancy and Daniel had “food poisoning”, Chris tells Chavo he loves him at the end of a phone call. Strange but Chavo went with it. He gets a text early in the AM from Chris’ phone and Nancy’s phone about the dogs being in an enclosed area and the back door is open. He is a little confused and just goes back to sleep. Referee Scott Armstrong gets the same text.

Johnny Ace asks Chavo about Chris and Chavo shows him the text and Johnny panics. Vince sends a wellness check to the Benoit house in Fayette County, Georgia. Later the office gets word that Chris, Nancy and Daniel Benoit are dead. Chavo said no one understood because no one knew the details. Jericho said he didn’t know what was going on, but he knew something wasn’t right.

Larry Alden, the Sheriff of Fayette County, Georgia, said he used to see Benoit a couple of times at a gym but didn’t know him or even knew where he lived. He did the welfare check. Benoit’s neighbor said she hadn’t seen the family in 3-4 days. She had fed the dogs for the Benoits so she was able to get into the house and eventually came running out saying “Daniel’s dead!”. The police found Daniel Benoit in his room. Nancy Benoit was dead on the floor in another room wrapped in a blanket. Chris Benoit was dead in the gym, death by suicide.

Jericho found out about the deaths from one of the writers. Chavo said no one is really putting the pieces together yet. It was just known that the family was dead. Jim Ross said that the WWE didn’t have knowledge of anything and tried to put on a show to honor the man and his family. “Shame on us for that I guess” Ross said with a twinge of sarcasm. Jericho said he didn’t want to be on the tribute show. Jericho said Eddie’s death was bad, but this was worse. Ross said that wanted to update the people on what was going on, but they didn’t have all the information, but they didn’t know they didn’t have all the information. They were going by what they received from law enforcement.

Jericho said that William Regal’s words during the tribute show was revealing. Regal basically said that all he could speak on at the moment was that Chris Benoit was the hardest working man in pro wrestling. Toffoloni had spent the day out and her parents wouldn’t tell her until she was at home. David Benoit was home in Edmonton and he was informed by local authorities.

The details continued to come late Monday night and into the next day. It was being investigated as a murder/suicide. Ross said you didn’t want to believe it, it couldn’t be true, but it was.

Matthew Randazzo, an author, is introduced and he says that there was an altercation between the Benoits on Friday and it’s assumed Chris strangled Nancy with a phone cord. He then overdosed Daniel on Xanax on Saturday morning. Chris kept himself alive Saturday, but did an internet search on the quickest and most painless way to break his neck. He committed suicide Sunday. Julie Malenko adds further detail by saying Chris broke Nancy’s back while strangling her. It was very violent and vicious. Dean Malenko said it sounded like a bad horror movie. Chavo said he felt like he took part in humanizing a murderer.

Randazzo said that Chris left somewhat of a suicide note so he was in some state of mind during these actions. Vince goes on TV the following night and says Chris Benoit’s name for the last time. Vickie said it was made clear that his name wasn’t to be spoken on air and the WWE has all but erased his history. Jim Ross was sent by WWE to attend the funeral of Nancy and Daniel and Toffoloni snapped on him and basically said he wasn’t welcome. JR said he felt like he was the most unwanted guy in the building despite having close relationships with Chris and Nancy. Vickie didn’t go to Chris’ funeral.

Off camera the question is asked to Toffoloni and David Benoit who from the wrestling community or WWE provided care or reach out. Outside of Chavo and Jericho it was no one. It’s kind of an odd question. I’m not really sure how the WWE is supposed to respond. Do they have an obligation to David Benoit? Do they have an obligation to support Sandra Toffoloni?

Media coverage for the murders was huge and the sport of pro wrestling took a lot of major shots. Mike Benoit, Chris’ father, called Dean Malenko looking for answers and Dean didn’t have any. Steroids were blamed. Razdazzo says that steroids were part of Benoit’s life since he was in high school. Nancy had issues with Chris’ “rage” based off his steroids abuse and at the time whatever drug policy the WWE had wasn’t much. Jericho said after Eddie Guerrero died the wellness policy was super strict. He said you could get popped for taking aspirin. Randazzo has a different opinion and says there were a lot of loopholes.

The WWE’s stance was that Benoit’s actions weren’t a product of rage, but deliberation. It took him three days. I say some of it was rage, some was done based on the fallout from that rage. He kills his wife, maybe he turns himself him to save his son. Once he kills Nancy and Daniel there’s only one thing left to do.

Jericho said that in some ways their relationship was volatile because Nancy didn’t take too much shit from anyone and Benoit was pretty intense. Vickie said there were a few incidents, one when Chris busted the windshield of her car. Toffoloni said that on one occasion Johnny Grunge, who was a friend that lived nearby, had to calm things down. She said out of respect for Chris’ living kids she wouldn’t say more than that he hurt her. Nancy had a restraining order against Chris and Toffoloni served as a conduit. Chris asked Nancy for forgiveness through her and they reconciled. Toffoloni said she thinks about that every day and wonders if she shouldn’t have shut it down.

CHRIS NOWINSKI~! joins us. He has done amazing work in trying to diagnose concussions and CTE and how much damage the brain can take before it completely snapped. Nowinski remembers Chris talking with him about the book he was planning to write on concussions and told Nowinski that he had suffered more concussions than he could remember. After the incident Nowinski reached out to Mike Benoit and he was receptive to Nowinski examining Chris’ brain. He had an extreme case of CTE due to brain trauma. Why did they introduce Nowinski so late? He had so much more to offer this documentary.

Vickie and Jericho talk about the chair shots and how bad they were. Jericho said you would just grit your teeth and take the chair shot. If you had a concussion you shook it off, that’s what you did. Chavo wonders how much CTE does he have. How much do other wrestlers had. Randazzo does about how the flying headbutt finish ruined careers. Harley Race told Dynamite Kid not to do it and Kid told Benoit not to do it…they all did it.

Randazzo said CTE or concussion talk misses the point. He is of the opinion that Chris was willing to do anything to succeed as a pro wrestling and however it happened, he death was going to be tragic. Jericho says he was never the same after Eddie died. Toffoloni said it was a mixture of drugs, alcohol, CTE, grief, etc. Dean Malenko said what Chris did was unforgivable but he still finds it hard to separate their friendship and his ability as a wrestler. Jim Ross said Chris Benoit does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. It would be a great distraction because all people would think about is the murders.

Jericho said two guys that had clean reputations as workers and people died young. One guy (Eddie Guerrero) recovered from his demons, has a pristine reputation and is beloved. The other had his legacy all but buried. Jericho said if you would’ve told Chris that his career would be erased when he died, it would have broke his heart. Jericho said what Chris did almost took down the business and destroyed the only thing he ever loved. That was the best part of Jericho’s involvement right there. He really got the crux of Chris Benoit and what mattered to him.

David Benoit has had it tough. He said people look at him different, he’s been a victim of bullying. He defends his family and his dad though. He wishes they would recognize Nancy. Jericho puts over Nancy and said he’d like nothing more than to see Woman in the Hall of Fame. Vickie said she was a great mother and friend. Toffoloni said she remembers everything about her sister. She said Daniel was very loved. She tried to mend fences with the Benoit family but she had been unsuccessful with the claim that his other kids weren’t interested in a relationship with her. That turned out to be a big fat lie.

David breaks down at the end when he talks about their final trip together as a family and there’s a beautiful moment when Chavo and Toffoloni (who has since reconciled with David) give him a hug. I can barely keep it together watching this. Chavo feels so bad for David as do I. He doesn’t deserve the hand he was dealt. I feel for him. He didn’t do anything wrong.

How did David and Toffoloni reconcile? Jericho comes through and connects them. He really is LE CHAMPÍON~! They actually watched wrestling together. Toffoloni talks about how much she loves David and how much they mean to each other. It’s a small sliver of light in this sad story, but it’s so incredibly sweet to see these two people trying to fill this void in their lives and be the family that each of them need.

To close Toffoloni said that she will eventually forgive Chris because she can’t live forever with the burden of hate. It will happen soon, but not today.

For this episode they also did a “Dark Side of the Ring: After Dark” with Chavo Guerrero and Tommy Dreamer. The scene they cut from the documentary is David talking about being harassed by fans on his social media. His plea to ask fans to stop doing it is the saddest thing. That poor kid. Chavo said that every now and then someone will tweet him “the dogs are in the enclosed pool area and the back door is open”…that’s just messed up.

The Bottom Line: Most of this we know. There were some new details about the volatility of the Benoits relationship we might not have known. There was probably a little more domestic violence than what has been reported. They could’ve probably trimmed this to 90 minutes. End of the day if you’re gong to do a series like this then this is a story that must be told. And they did manage to find a hopeful ending through it all. It was nice to see David Benoit and Sandra Toffoloni in each other’s lives. I hope that’s still the case.

Next Week’s episode is based around New Jack. Not looking forward to that at all.