Chris Benoit vs. Raven
[WCW Thunder, 2/12/98]
Raven dressed like a grunge musician.
He would quote Edgar Allan Poe.
Benoit committed suicide in 2007.
Having killed his wife and son,
he strangled himself with a weight machine.
Forensic analyses determined he suffered from dementia.
Like Poe, he was forty years old.
If you search for ‘Chris Benoit’ on WWE.com,
you get former Superstars Chris Masters
and Chris Jericho.
You won’t find his T-shirt on WWEshop.com
nor can you find his old,
by searching for his name
on the promotion’s digital streaming platform.
He has been, according to one blogger, “essentially erased from wrestling history.”
The August 24, 2020 edition of WWE Monday Night Raw
took place in a closed set. Registered fans logged in from home
to appear during the live television broadcast.
Although users were given the expected warnings,
a number of them displayed what the company deemed ‘inappropriate images’
on their respective screens—
a KKK rally,
the last known photograph of Chris Benoit.
In the picture,
Benoit’s just standing there,
with a black T-shirt and a cap on,
facing the camera.
is it possible to look at this picture
and be reminded of something other
than the terrible thing that he did?
I know it’s possible. What I want to know is
am I betraying something
or someone when I do.
For the record,
Benoit is not even in my top ten favorite wrestlers
of all time. He was much better
than Raven, though.
Must be better than a KKK rally,
a beheading. Although, if pressed,
I couldn’t very well explain how.
He just is.
Like people say that Life just is and though they
never mean it as consolation, you hold on
to their words out of spite, as proof of their failure
to console you. They, in turn, must understand that you hurt them
not out of want but out of hurt. And so,
they withstand whatever grief you give them,
much like a wrestler patiently withstands
the onslaught of punishment from countless others
over time, until one day he snaps and kills
those who love him best, which I know,
is no consolation, but I don’t intend it as such.
It just happened that way.
This is what I see in the picture:
The snow on the roof of the house
in the painting hanging on the wall behind him.
That he has his shirt on.
That most of the painting is snow anyway.
And clouds, and some trees.
That the house either features prominently
or is barely there.
That this man means nothing to me.
That I’ve seen snow only a handful of times.
That each time is unerasable from my personal history.
That he certainly doesn’t mean more to me than the people he killed.
That he means way more to me than snow.
Guillermo Rebollo Gil
3 Questions for Guillermo
What was your process for creating this work?
Both "the snow on the roof of the house" and "brief family history told in the form of a classic wrestling storyline" were written around videos of wrestling matches found on YouTube. Thus, they each feature a partial account of whatever happened in the ring between two opponents. Then, a decision had to be made regarding what the context should be for offering this sort of play-by-play. In "the snow," I opted to consider the performer's biography. In "brief family history" I took the autobiographical route. In both instances, my intention was for the accounting of an event that, given the fact that pro wrestling matches are 'fixed', has no consequence per se, to come to matter on a deep emotional level for all of us who tune in to watch.
What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?
"The snow on the roof of the house" began as an essay where I hoped to explore why wrestler Chris Benoit mattered to me as well as the ethical implications of that concern. The essay started to take the form of a poem when—upon revising—I noticed that the piece could garner greater urgency the quicker it moved. "Brief family history" started with a series of failed poems where I was trying to imagine my father (who hated pro wrestling) as a wrestler. The poem began to take shape when I turned my attention to my son and my mother. Wrestling can be tender that way.
What is the significance of this work to you?
Poetry and pro wrestling have a lot in common: they both depend on an ever curious exertion and show of force with no real result. I am intrigued by the possibility of exploring one with the tools of the other. In this, I am looking to follow, and add to, the fine work of writers like W. Todd Kaneko, Colette Arrand, Brian Oliu and Josh Shepard, among others.
Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet, sociologist and attorney. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Feed, Mandorla, Spry, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Trampset, FreezeRay and Anti-Heroin Chic. His book-length essay Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment (2018), a careful consideration of the potentialities of radical thought and action in contemporary Puerto Rico, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in their New Caribbean Studies Series. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.