Former wrestling announcer Mauro Ranallo believes Chris Benoit was a byproduct of what is commonly referred to as "the sickness."
"I always used to consider it a tongue-in-cheek thing," commented Ranallo on the condition that is brought on by a combination of a grueling-work schedule and a desire to constantly please the insatiable appetites of wrestling fans.
"In simple terms, 'the sickness' is just being a part of the industry - you feel the rush of the crowd and begin to blur the line between what is real and what is not," said Ranallo, who first met Benoit when he worked with the legendary Hart family on Stampede Wrestling.
Benoit's body was found at his Georgia home last Monday, along with those of his wife and seven-year-old son. Police believe Benoit murdered his wife and child and then hanged himself afterward. He also apparently laid a Bible next to each of their bodies.
Ranallo thinks the 'wrestling sickness' could explain part of Benoit's mental condition before killing his wife and son.
"These athletes, these people, are being forced to do things that a normal person could not tolerate for very long," he said. "These guys have to take pills to wake up and to go to sleep and take steroids to look a certain way, otherwise they won't be marketed. That is something innately wrong with the business and I think that is 'the sickness.'"
Ranallo used to consider Benoit a friend, but now refers to him as a monster.
"I would not want to portray Chris Benoit as a victim of anything; we're all responsible for our own actions," he said. "He was dealing with a lot of stuff - the death of his best friend Eddie Guerrero and a lot of other deaths in the industry - but he was a byproduct of the wrestling sickness. The victims are Nancy and Daniel Benoit and I feel horrible for his parents and his other two children."
When asked what he thought about Benoit before the tragedy, Ranallo said that would be like asking how he felt before Sept. 11, 2001.
"I have no feeling and don't even want to comment on what I thought of Chris Benoit prior to the events of this past weekend," Ranallo said. "It really doesn't matter to be honest with you.
"Obviously, he had his own demons that no one else knew about. So, I don't really care what I thought of Chris Benoit before. And after this week, I never want to have to deal with Chris Benoit again."
If there's a positive that came out of this tragedy, it's that the wrestling industry has received a wake-up call.
"This was a result of the wrestling industry and no one will convince me otherwise," Ranallo said. "There have been enough deaths in this business that they should have already known that something has to be done. Whether it's an off-season or psychiatric and drug counseling, they need to address the aspects of this business that are leading to high body counts."
Ranallo, who now announces for EliteXC and is an on-air host for The Fight Network, cut his teeth in the wrestling business. At age 16, he was a television announcer and heel manager.
"I definitely hope the industry doesn't just sweep this under the carpet. They need to address what is innately wrong with the business. Otherwise, there will be more tragedies like this, I can guarantee that."
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