One of my favorite pro wrestling books is now available in paperback. Matthew Randazzo V’s Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit and the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry is one of the most powerful books ever written on pro wrestling. Regardless of your level of fandom, Ring of Hell will change the way you look at pro wrestling forever.
I have never read a wrestling book that has impacted me in the way that Ring of Hell has. As someone in the business for well over a decade and around the business even longer, I rarely find that I learn or hear anything new. As Roddy Piper would say, “Just when I thought I had all of the answers, Matthew Randazzo V changes the questions.”
I don’t even know where to begin about Ring of Hell. The book’s main theme is about the rise and fall of Chris Benoit. However, there is way more to this book than Chris Benoit’s story. In telling the story about the Chris Benoit most of us didn’t know, Randazzo paints a sometimes sick and destructive picture of the entire pro wrestling industry that turned Benoit into a monster.
I thought I have heard it all within the wrestling business. I have heard hundreds of anecdotes on and off of the record. I was not only shocked about what I read in Ring of Hell, but I was also a little disturbed. I began to look at the business and its heroes that I have loved since childhood in a different light. The heroes we all have had inside of the business may not be so heroic after all.
Randazzo creates a persona of Chris Benoit which is much different than anything that I have ever heard before. Randazzo paints a picture of a man who is so obsessed with a business about fooling fans that Benoit wound up the biggest fool of all. Benoit was willing to sacrifice his family, his health, and his life for a cheap pop.
Randazzo begins his portrait by going back into Benoit’s childhood. Benoit saw only one shortcut past his small frame into the business he so loved. Benoit’s early steroid use and his obsession with working out as a teenager are well documented. The early signs of a man with an obsessive compulsive disorder were missed by his friends and family.
Randazzo heavily explores Benoit’s obsession with his wrestling hero, the Dynamite Kid. While he may have been one of the greats in the ring, the Dynamite Kid was hardly a great man. Dynamites sadistic ribs on unsuspecting wrestlers would be passed down to Chris Benoit. Randazzo looks back at how Dynamite’s influences turned Benoit from a skinny, shy kid, into a juiced up, evil ribber.
Randazzo first begins to deviate from Benoit’s story by looking at Benoit’s early career with Stu Hart and Stampede Wrestling. Randazzo explains that it is crucial to look inside of the madness of the Harts to understand how Benoit was broken into the wrestling business. The stories aren’t much different from what you have probably heard, yet are important to understanding Chris Benoit’s wrestling and life mentalities.
The most fascinating part of the book to me was Randazzo’s chapters on the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. The dojos of Japanese pro wrestling have been a secret world and romanticized world for years in the wrestling business. I have heard a lot of stories, but nothing to the extent that Randazzo provides about the closed world of one of Japan’s biggest industries.
Chris Benoit is one of a very short list of Americans to have attended and graduated the dojo system. The dojos make a Navy SEAL camp look like a baby’s birthday party. The dojo is a torturous system designed to break the weak and reward the strong. Kids have died training in the dojos and nobody has blinked an eye. The stories about what kids were put through in the dojo are some of the sickest and most twisted that I have ever heard of.
Randazzo also explores Benoit’s rocky runs in WCW and the politics that surrounded his employment in the company. Randazzo digs deep into the angle that turned real life when Nancy Sullivan left her husband on camera and off to be with his rival and married father, Chris Benoit. If people were uncomfortable with what Hulk Hogan said about Nancy following her murder, you won’t be fond of this chapter.
The entire business is explored as the book continues with the most inside view of the WWE than anything I have ever read. Randazzo talks on the record to several former WWE writers who aren’t afraid to dish on their former employer. I have never read a more detailed profile of Vince McMahon and the WWE than the one that Randazzo creates with the help of these anecdotes and comments.
One of the criticisms of this book is its inaccuracies. I read a few things that I know from first-hand knowledge weren’t correct. Bobby Heenan once told me in regards to making errors in writing books. ”It would be like if I wrote a book and if I said, I was on your radio show and then afterwards we went out for dinner in Philly and we had six Philly cheese steak sandwiches and two cases of beer and we had a great night. But that never happened and he wrote that we did something like that. So I couldn’t go on with the book any further, because I didn’t know if the rest of it was bs.”
It is obvious that Randazzo put a lot of effort and meticulous research into his book. Randazzo has comments from many people inside of the wrestling business, some who knew Benoit better than anyone else.
The bottom line here is that if you are looking for a book about the dirt in the wrestling business, this is it. I would think fans in their late 20s or older would find the book a little more interesting than anyone else. The book will definitely make you think twice about the next time you watch wrestling. By the time you finish the book, you don’t have to ask yourself why Chris Benoit committed such a heinous crime.
You will have to ask yourself why nobody saw this coming.
Order Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit and the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry by, clicking here.
Order another great pro wrestling book, Bret Hart’s biography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by, clicking here.
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