The wrestling world was rocked on June 25, 2007 with the deaths of then-WWF superstar, Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy and seven year-old son Daniel at their Fayetteville, Georgia, home. That night, RAW was replaced by a three-hour tribute to the former World Heavyweight Champion, with testimonials from his peers accompanying highlight reel matches.
However, one day later, when details came out of what happened, Vince McMahon made it clear the company would be distancing themselves from the Benoit name. Since the truth emerged, Benoit has been scrubbed from archived footage, merchandise, the website and never mentioned again. This means that Benoit, despite his storied career, will never be eligible for WWE’s Hall of Fame. But after Viceland’s Dark Side of the Ring, there’s actually a perfect solution to this problem.
The two-part Season 2 premiere focused on the story of Benoit, his journey from WCW to WWF and his marriage to Nancy. Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero, two former superstars who fought alongside him in both companies, spearheaded the project to bring closure to both his and Nancy’s families and, more so, to get Benoit’s son from his first marriage, David, back in contact with Nancy’s sister, Sandra. Towards the end, it’s mentioned that what Chris did was unforgivable, and how he almost brought down the one thing he truly loved: wrestling. As they speak about how McMahon and Co. erased his presence, however, Jericho presents an intriguing notion that does allow a Benoit in the Hall of Fame in the shape of Nancy.
Nancy is considered one of the pioneer valets of mainstream wrestling, coming out as Woman in the ’80s even before Randy Savage’s Miss Elizabeth made a name for herself. Nancy worked in Florida Championship Wrestling in 1984 with then-boyfriend Kevin Sullivan’s satanic cult, and over the years she’d work with the likes of Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen, Rick Steiner, and the Sandman in ECW. In 1997 she left Sullivan for Benoit but by then was focusing on her life away from WCW, eventually marrying Benoit.
But as Dean Malenko, Chavo and Jericho make clear in the documentary, Nancy as Woman really paved the way for modern valets and female managers. It’s a dying art in today’s wrestling, something Jericho references when he says this would be the perfect tribute to the Benoit legacy without even mentioning the “Rabid Wolverine” by his last name.
“She’s a Hall of Famer all across the board in my opinion. She was a pioneer and one of the best in a role that doesn’t exist anymore,” Jericho said in the documentary. “As a pro-wrestling manager, she created the role, she perfected the role and when she stopped doing it, the role basically disappeared. I would like nothing better than to see Nancy Benoit — once again you can’t even say that name, right? Woman… I would like nothing better than to see Woman put in the WWE Hall of Fame.”
David also agrees with this notion, hinting it could smooth things out with him and the company. He said no WWF personnel contacted the Benoit family following the tragedy, a sentiment echoed by Nancy’s sister, Sandra. It’s why Sandra verbally accosted WWF’s Jim Ross at the funeral, as she felt it was disingenuous. But with David wanting Nancy, someone who wasn’t his mother by blood, to be inducted. it’d definitely feel like a step toward mending bridges with both families.
“I want them to recognize Nancy […],” David said. “She definitely deserves the recognition that she does not get.” Things wouldn’t be completely fixed by this, but it would show WWE wants to move past the shadow of Benoit’s tragedy without totally ignoring the Nancy’s legacy in the industry. This would put Nancy above her husband and honor her craft, as well as do both families justice. It’d honestly feel right, as Nancy was part of a key feminist movement in sport entertainment, an advocate for empowerment in the business. More importantly, though, it reminds the world she was more than just Benoit’s victim.
Dark Side of the Ring airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on VICE TV.
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VICE's Dark Side of the Ring provides an interesting solution for WWE when it comes to the problem of Chris Benoit in the Hall of Fame: Nancy Benoit.