July 6, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devilís Advocate:
Chris Who?

That is probably the question WWE would respond with if you were to ask them where all the mentions of Chris Benoit went. He has disappeared from their programming (new and old), their web site (mostly Ė there is one match with John Cena still up on this page , he appears on their former champions pages, and heís also still listed in past Power 25 rankings, according to people with too much time on their hands that are clicking through every page on WWE.com), their merchandise site, and through their channels of merchandise distribution.

I can understand the frustration felt by some fans by this move. After all, I am the guy who keeps saying not to jump the gun and not to speculate. That may be true for the fans and the mainstream media, but WWE must take a different approach. That is because the vast majority of the media and viewing public has already decided what happened in the Benoit house, they have already decided Vince McMahon is at fault, and they have already decided that they know everything about this case. WWE must react to these people, not to the fans. If WWE kept Benoit references up, the media would make their reaction to the Benoit Tribute show look like a walk in the park.

WWE is a publicly traded company who canít afford to do anything but remove Chris Benoit from their collective memories. Whenever WWE does a storyline that some fans do not like, they use the fact that WWE is a publicly traded company as reasoning for why the storyline should be changed. So now that this is actually a valid rationale for WWEís actions, for some reason, people canít accept it.

As I have said in the past, WWE.com is a marketing tool. The entire site is used to market their storylines, their characters, and their merchandise, and is mostly a work. I donít think it would make any sense to market Chris Benoit right now (if ever again).

So letís look at the specific removals. WWE Shop has taken down all Chris Benoit merchandise. Why is this a smart move? Well, imagine if the media realized WWE was trying to profit off of an (alleged) murderer? The action figures have been recalled from retail stores, although, according to the bastion of proper reporting TMZ, some stores still have Benoit figures on the shelves. I have still seen some figures on shelves in my area (Long Island) which neither surprised nor offended me. Usually, when a wrestler passes away, his or her figures fly off the shelves with eBay on everyoneís mind. But, as I mentioned above, itís kind of hard to market an alleged murderer. On the other hand, there have been many Chris Benoit figures, and none of them were really rare, so that might explain it, since there is a lot of high priced Benoit auctions up on eBay right now.

It seems the biggest issue people are having with the removal of Chris Benoit is the editing of WWE 24/7 material. This week, shows such as Wrestlemania 23 and The Monday Night War have been edited to remove Chris Benoit and Woman. The twist here is, the cuts are supposedly being made not by WWE, but by each individual cable company, although, at WWEís request. From a business standpoint, I guess I have to agree with this move, as WWE isnít in a position right now to pick and choose where they can keep or remove Chris Benoit. But from a fan standpoint, itís not an easy one to swallow, and I get that. The argument can be made that you can just fast forward past something that might be offensive to the viewer, while the rest of the people who want to see it can. Good point, but as mentioned above, WWE has to make this a blanket move that covers everything right now. Hopefully, the shows will not edit out Benoit and Woman content in the future.

People are talking out of both sides of their mouths. On one hand, they are complaining about the removal of Chris Benoit, but on the other hand, they are going out of their way to find references to him on WWE.com or stores that still have his action figures on the shelves. This is another aspect of our society Ė people can not just accept something that they personally donít like, they have to go out of their way to prove their point and hold someone accountable. Does The Sopranos series finale ring a bell here?

Unfortunately, this line of thinking eventually turns into a situation that mirrors ďThe Boy Who Cried Wolf.Ē People get upset about things they really shouldnít be getting themselves worked up over, then when they finally have a valid reason to be upset, no one is paying attention anymore. You have to understand, WWE isnít doing any of this to personally annoy you, and they arenít overreacting. Right now, this is what they have to do to protect their own company. I know some of it seems stupid, but you have to suck it up right now.

The bottom line is, whether you agree or disagree, WWE is trying very hard right now to protect themselves from further negative press. Hopefully, at some point in the future, the E can, in the least, make reference to the career of the wrestler known as Chris Benoit.

Feedback is always welcome at figurefanatic@gmail.com or you can visit my blog here.

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