Professional wrestling is fake.
The carnage it has left in its wake is not.
Add Chris Benoit to the long list of freakishly muscled carnival attractions for whom a pro wrestling career ended tragically.
Toxicology results are pending and Benoit may well have been battling deeper, more primal personal demons when he reportedly killed his wife and son before taking his own life, but only the most naīve observer could ignore the overwhelming evidence that most wrestlers who look like Benoit have undergone countless cycles of chemical enhancement.
The prescription anabolic steroids found at Benoit's home have long been known to contribute to paranoia, depression and the violent outbursts we've come to know as "roid rage." Couple that with the near-compulsory painkillers a wrestler must take to do his job effectively after enduring countless body slams and you have a ****tail for massive, mind-altering mood swings.
The Benoit story is the latest and most tragic installment in an ongoing saga that the men who get rich promoting professional wrestling would prefer their fans didn't know too much about.
Vince McMahon wants you to think about the stars of today and tomorrow, not the cemetery of steroid-fueled bodies his "sport" has helped put in the ground. But on the grim occasion of the deaths of Nancy and Daniel and Chris Benoit, let's remember some of the other pro wrestlers who died before their time.
ˇ Ravishing Rick Rude — Died at 40 of an apparent heart attack in 1999, a bottle of prescription pills for his bad back at his side. The autopsy report said he died of "mixed medications." Rude was an admitted user of anabolic steroids.
ˇ Louis Mucciolo, a.k.a, Louie Spicolli — Died in 1998 at age 27 when he suffocated on his own vomit after ingesting massive amounts of Soma and alcohol. Investigators also found an empty vial of testosterone, pain pills and an anti-anxiety drug at the scene.
ˇ Brian Pillman — An admitted user of steroids, he died of a heart attack at age 35 in 1997 on the morning of WWF's In Your House: Badd Blood pay-per-view event.
ˇ Rick "the Renegade" Williams — Died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 33 after being released from his World Championship Wrestling contract in 1999.
ˇ "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig — Found dead of a cocaine overdose at age 44 in his motel room on April 10, 2003, the morning of a match. Hennig's father maintained that steroids and painkillers contributed to his death.
ˇ Rodney "Yokozuna" Anoa'i — Died of a heart attack in 2002 at 34.
ˇ Davey Boy Smith, "The British Bulldog" — Died of a heart attack at age 39 on May 17, 2002. An autopsy report indicated that past steroid use had likely played a part in his death.
ˇ Michael "Road Warrior Hawk" Hegstrand — An admitted steroid user, he died of a heart attack at age 46 in 2003.
ˇ Michael Lockwood, "Crash Holly" — In 2003, at the age of 32, he choked to death on his own vomit after ingesting 90 painkiller pills.
ˇ Jerry Tuite, "The Wall" a.k.a. "Malice" — Died at age 36 in 2003 of an apparent heart attack in his hotel room.
ˇ Raymond "Hercules" Hernandez — Dead of heart failure in 2004 at age 47.
ˇ Ray "The Big Boss Man" Traylor — Found dead of a heart attack in 2004 at age 42.
ˇ Eddie Guerrero — After a long battle with painkillers, he was found dead of a heart attack by his nephew in his hotel room at age 38. The first person his nephew reportedly called was Guerrero's best friend, Chris Benoit.
ˇ Chris Candido — Died in 2005 at age 33 from a blood clot after breaking his tibia and fibula and dislocating his ankle in a pay-per-view event.
ˇ Owen Hart — Fell to his death at age 34 in 1999 when the rigging that was lowering him into the ring malfunctioned.
And then there's the story of the Von Erich wrestling family.
Wrestling patriarch Fritz Von Erich, nee Jack Adkisson, had five wrestling sons: Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris.
David died in a hotel room in Tokyo at the age of 25 in 1984 just as he was embarking on a three-week pro wrestling tour of Japan. The official cause of death was acute enteritis, severe inflammation of the intestines.
Three years later, Mike committed suicide by overdosing on the tranquilizer Placidyl at the age of 23. After David's death, Mike had suffered a series of setbacks including a serious shoulder injury that had left him severely depressed.
Devastated by the deaths of his older brothers and frustrated by his own limitations as a wrestler, the youngest and smallest brother, Chris, shot himself to death at the age of 21 in 1991.
Two years later, Kerry, who had battled a long addiction to painkillers, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 33, leaving eldest brother Kevin as the only survivor of the sport that had defined his family.
And now Chris Benoit, his wife and son have been added to the long, unbearably sad list of victims claimed, in part, by the brutal chemical calculus that is professional wrestling.
There is no arguing that the physical capabilities of these massive men can provide awesome theater. When Hulk Hogan lifted the 500-pound Andre the Giant and dropped him to the canvas, it was legitimately hugely thrilling.
But keep in mind there is a price these impossibly engorged specimens are paying for your entertainment.
And the price for many of them is their very lives.