In a move that is sure to spark conversation, the WWE are lifting the “Benoit Ban.” All mentions and matches of Benoit have been removed from WWE programming for almost seven years. That ban is officially over.
This is a big step for the WWE who have gone to great lengths to remove any association with Benoit since gruesome details of his crimes were confirmed in 2007. For almost seven years it has been impossible to see Benoit or even hear his name mentioned on their DVDs, television, live events, or Classics on Demand. While you can certainly find his matches on YouTube or in the cheap DVD bin, the WWE wanted to do everything they could to erase him from your memory.
The timing of this is incredibly ironic for me. I was just jotting down some ideas the other day for future blogs and one was about the Benoit ban. I started working on a blog which took the position that it was indeed time to lift the ban. It has been long enough and while nobody wants to see Benoit promoted, it isn’t fair to penalize his opponents who have had their great matches buried and locked up in a vault. It looks like we both feel the same way.
The Benoit issue is incredibly polarizing. Does it appear that the WWE are supporting a murderer by profiting off of his matches? Who is receiving the royalties earned by airing the matches? These are fair questions to ask yet at the end of the day I think a rational person would see that enough time has passed and it is acceptable to air Benoit’s bouts.
The company is almost better just airing the matches without even a disclaimer. Adding the disclaimer or banning him entirely almost keeps his name alive more due to controversy. The added attention is probably something that nobody wants. However if a disclaimer is the compromise I don’t see a big issue with that.
Naturally the talk will immediately shift from the ban to Benoit in the Hall of Fame. It is an incredibly hard argument to make. His body of work as a professional wrestler may be the best body of work of any wrestler in our lifetime which includes Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. Yet at the end of the day I don’t think there is any way that the WWE could honor him, even if it is strictly for his work. I don’t see anyone running out to honor O.J. Simpson and he was found not guilty!
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