Last Wednesday (July 6), Impact Knockouts champion Jordynne Grace decided to tweet about Chris Benoit. It’s not clear what precipitated her decision*. But after Grace shared her thoughts on the former WCW & WWE World Heavyweight champion who in 2007 murdered his wife Nancy & their seven-year old son Daniel before committing suicide, she quickly found herself at the center of an internet controversy.
Her deleted tweets read:
“This is gonna be the coldest take I ever tweet on this app. I already know y’all gonna be mad. I don’t think Benoit could 100% hang with most of the present day best wrestlers. He would not be able to remember matches. Also may he burn in hell, amen.
“Maybe I’m biased because he murdered his family, idk. Probably just me. I think we should all hate him and disregard his entire body of work. But again. That’s just my take. I always found it revolting to see people praise his wrestling after what he did.
“Proving a point: I said something very lightly critical about him. People jump to defend him. He should NEVER be defended. Dude lost that right when [not reprinting it here, but Grace described one of the murders].”
It’s an odd way to condemn Benoit for the murder-suicide, inferring that the brain injury that may have contributed to his actions (it seems likely, but one of the most confounding aspects of the tragedy is that we’ll never definitively know what caused him to do what he did) would prohibit him from memorizing sequences of moves. Some wrestlers chose to perform pre-planned choreography, but that style is often the subject of debate. The wrestlers who tend to be universally praised are known for being able to read a crowd and tailor the in-ring story they’re telling accordingly.
Her overall point is that she’s chosen to dismiss Benoit’s work because of the horrible way he ended his life. Which is a completely valid one, but not one everyone shares. And again choosing to make that point by diminishing his wrestling is odd — just say you don’t want to think about his wrestling, or that it doesn’t deserve to be considered.
But, with her initial argument being what it was, the most prominent criticism of Grace’s tweet came from Benoit’s friends and contemporaries. Chavo Guerrero replied by writing:
“I think Jordynne Grace just lost a lot of wrestling credibility from some of her comments.”
Konnan slammed Grace’s take on his Keepin’ It 100 podcast, and defended Benoit’s wrestling ability:
“[Benoit] had the ability to control the match and say, ‘Hey, we don’t need this, take this out’ because he was wrestling with Rey Mysterio, who was a wild fucking guy that he had to edit down and say, ‘Hey, do this, Juventud do this, Psychosis do this.’ So I mean, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. That’s fucking ignorant.”
He also commented on Grace’s reason for attacking Benoit:
“And bro, okay, yeah, he killed his family. Yeah, the guy had CTE. It ain’t like he was a serial killer. The guy had all these problems accumulated from years like we’re seeing now in wrestling, like we’re seeing now in football, like we just saw with this one guy, the 33-year-old wide receiver [Demaryius Thomas] that just passed away — it’s a serious thing for you to make light of it...”
With the discussion now centering on CTE, Grace sought to turn a negative into a positive. She consulted with Guerrero, Chris Jericho & Benoit’s son from a previous marriage, David. The solution they came up with was a donation and fundraiser for the Concussion Legacy Foundation:
“Last week I made an irresponsible and unnecessary tweet. Regardless of how my personal emotions influence my opinion, I should have recognized the impact my words would have on friends and family close to the situation. I was completely thoughtless in that regard.
“Since reflecting this past week, I’ve reached out privately to friends and family that I angered or hurt.
“Among those was David Benoit, Chavo Guererro, and Chris Jericho, who are supporting me in the decision to partner and fundraise with the Concussion Legacy Foundation (formerly Sports Legacy Institute). I have pledged $5,000, with the overall campaign goal being $20,000.
“I’m acutely aware that the damage has been done. I would never intentionally add onto the suffering of those already dealing with such a traumatic event, and I am sorry for my insensitivity and aggravating this already delicate topic.
“This is my way of attempting to squeeze something positive out of the negative situation I created. Thank you in advance to everyone who donates.”
It drew some reactions wondering why Grace was forced to do damage control for condemning a murderer, which again is the ongoing debate about Benoit and any talented artist who does horrible things. More importantly though, it again left his victims — Nancy Benoit and her son — out of the entire discussion.
That was pointed out by Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni. She quote-tweeted Grace’s apology, writing:
“It’s weird, I didn’t hear my phone ring. I really thought the work, I’ve been putting in for 15 yrs trying to keep & elevate my sister’s legacy hadn’t gone unnoticed. Guess my family is an afterthought…again.
“I don’t…I don’t even know where to fucking start. #heartbroken
“To think I broke all the yrs of silence, ignored my personal pain and rage to successfully put EVERY person mentioned in this apology tweet over time & again in the press, doing pr and on my platforms. Why did I think it would be different? Fuckin Groundhogs Day.”
Grace publicly reached out to Toffoloni in hopes of starting a private dialogue with her. Toffoloni’s response indicated that she’s not there yet: “My hurt is not aimed at you personally, but could I have a moment where I think of myself and my parents first?”
It’s a fraught issue with a lot of pain and emotion involved for all involved. You can empathize with Chavo & Konnan’s desire to protect their friends’ legacy, as a way to differentiate the man they knew & loved from the heinous act that ended his, Nancy, and Daniel’s lives. You can certainly understand the hurt Toffoloni & her family experience every time they see the woman & child they love ignored while their murderer’s legacy is debated.
Hopefully the wounds this re-opened for several people will scar up again before too long. For now, it’s a reminder to all to ask yourself if the social media post you know will upset people are really necessary before firing them off.
* AUTHOR’S NOTE: It’s been pointed out Grace was joining a conversation in progress involving this tweet.