The Vice series Dark Side of the Ring offers a gripping look at tragedies and controversies behind the scenes in professional wrestling. The Season 2 premiere was a two-parter looking at the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his wife and son.
This is a story that wrestling fans know well, but the way that Dark Side of the Ring approached it was fresh and actually brought a nice resolution to two people affected most from the tragedy.
Chris Benoit: The History
The documentary started out with the history of Chris Benoit.
He was a tough-as-nails wrestler who patterned his career after the legendary Dynamite Kid. However, this was a mistake.
See, Dynamite Kid was one of the best junior heavyweight wrestlers of all-time. However, he also utilized a flying headbutt in his matches.
This was despite the legendary Harley Race, a world champion from the ‘70s, telling him not to use it. Race used it for years and destroyed his spine.
Dynamite Kid used it for years and ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the end of his list.
Dynamite Kid also told Chris Benoit not to use it. Benoit also ignored the advice and ended up with the brain of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient by the time he was 40.
That was part of the reasoning behind his snapping and murdering his wife and child, but it was not what the documentary focused on the most.
What might have shocked some wrestling fans was that the first episode dealt with Benoit getting his start and his relationship with his wife Nancy, but it dealt even more with the death of Eddie Guerrero.
This was the catalyst that Dark Side of the Ring saw as starting the downfall of Chris Benoit.
It was an interesting take, as Eddie and Chris were best friends and even their other friends, like Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko, said that when Eddie died, Chris went inside his own head and stopped reaching out to people.
After that, the fights with Nancy got worse and the damage to Benoit’s brain from flying headbutts and unprotected headshots sent him to the point of no return.
Plus, hearing Chavo Guerrero talk about his Uncle Eddie dying in his arms and Vicki Guerrero talk about losing her husband was heartbreaking.
This episode delivered when it came to the tears flowing.
Sandra and David
Forget about the death of Chris Benoit. That is not what you really need to take out of this episode of Dark Side of the Ring.
Yes, the brain stuff was here, but we already knew about that. Yes, the Eddie stuff was interesting, but we already knew that connection. The stuff about Chris, Nancy and her ex-husband Kevin Sullivan is also common knowledge.
What hit home here was Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni, and Chris Benoit’s older son, David Benoit. This is a story about the two people who were left behind after the tragedy.
Sandra was always there for her sister, through the alleged abuse at the hands of Kevin Sullivan to the murder-suicide. Sandra blames herself for helping Nancy and Chris reconnect after domestic abuse caused Nancy to place a restraining order against him.
She felt she could have prevented this, and that is heartbreaking.
David Benoit is the son of a murderer. He is a truly innocent person, but he faces discrimination and hatred every day for something his father did that he had nothing to do with.
He loved his half-brother Daniel and he loved Nancy. More so, he loved his dad and can’t understand what led him to do this.
Chris Jericho was the narrator for the two-part Dark Side of the Ring episodes about Chris Benoit. Both men trained under Stu Hart in Canada and both men came up together.
And it was Chris Jericho that contacted Sandra and contacted David and had the two of them connect again.
They had not spoken since the murder-suicide of their sister and father. However, as David said, she is still his “Aunt Sandra” and this was needed.
There was a moment that David started breaking down in the interview. That is when we see that Chavo Guerrero was there the entire time with him and comforted him at that moment.
Then, from the back of the room, Sandra came up and started hugging David and telling him it was going to be okay.
Yes, this was where the tears really started flowing for this viewer.
Jericho knew these two needed some kind of closure and they were better together than alone.
Dark Side of the Ring has a way to really hit home in moments like this. If you don’t care to relive the life of a murderer, understand this.
The Chris Benoit documentary is about celebrating the lives of those two people left behind. This is their story.
And it is an amazing one.
Dark Side of the Ring airs on Vice.