Season 1 of Vice TV’s Dark Side of the Ring” docuseries provided an in-depth look at some of the most provocative stories and people in professional wrestling, ranging from the infamous Montreal Screwjob, to a deep dive into the Von Erich family, to the life and controversial death of Bruiser Brody.
“Dark Side of the Ring” returns for a second season on Tuesday, March 24 at 9 p.m. ET on VICE TV with a two-hour episode covering the life and career of Chris Benoit including the shocking death of Chris Benoit.
While Benoit was considered one of the greatest in-ring technicians in the ring, he is more remembered for what he did in the final few days of his life when, in 2007, he murdered his wife Nancy along with their 7-year-old son Daniel before taking his own life.
“Dark Side of the Ring” takes a close look at the events leading up to that tragic weekend and talks to those people close to Benoit and his family including Chavo Guerrero and Dean Malenko. It also includes interviews from Benoit’s son David along with Nancy’s sister Sandra Toffoloni who painfully detail their relationships with the man and the horrific event.
Chris Jericho, another close friend of Benoit’s, is heavily included in the docuseries. The former WWE and AEW champion is interviewed for the episode, but also serves as the narrator for every episode in Season 2 of “Dark Side of the Ring”.
Sporting News recently spoke with Jericho about being a part of the docuseries, what to expect in the upcoming season and his relationship with Chris Benoit.
SPORTING NEWS: When it comes to this season of “Dark Side of the Ring,” some of the episodes deal with people that you were around including Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero as well as Owen Hart. What was it like to revisit those relationships?
CHRIS JERICHO: I think I barely knew Owen. I only met him one time. I was more coming at it from a fan standpoint and from a family lineage, you know, and always being connected with the Hart family. But Owen himself, I only had the one interaction with him, or, you know, one or two, whatever it was. Obviously, the Chris and Eddie shows were a lot different because those were two guys that were very, very close to me. All three of their kind of untimely deaths hit me in different ways. All three of them hit me very strongly because all three of them were very integral and important to my career, just in different aspects.
SN: You had relationships with those guys in particular and with other people that unfortunately passed away too early in the wrestling business. How you were able to continue your career after those after some of those deaths? And was there ever a time where you thought about getting out of the business?
CJ: No, I never thought about getting out of the business because of those reasons. I went through a burnout in 2005 and didn’t come back until mid-2007. I think after the Chris tragedy and after Eddie had passed away. So I was gone both of those times. I think I finished up SummerSlam of 2005 and returned, I think, October, November of 2007. In that timeframe, both Eddie and Chris passed away. So that’s when you’re seeing me tell these stories and talking about these things, I wasn’t there during that timeframe. And that’s one of the reasons why it was even stranger for me because I still would keep in touch with these guys. Not as much Eddie. Eddie and I weren’t really phone guys. We would talk once in a while on the phone. I think texting had started at that point. But Chris and I did talk, even if it was like, once a month or once every two weeks, but then that got less and less and less and less. And that’s when I started realizing he was going into, like, hermit zone. You can see kind of a little bit of a deterioration in this guy but I wasn’t there to see it face to face. I was just seeing it from afar but also noticing that there was a difference.
SN: You are the narrator for all the different episodes of the season of “Dark Side of the Ring.” As fans, a lot of times we hear about some of the more outrageous stories in wrestling and have a certain vantage point. What’s it like from your vantage point as someone who has been in the business for over 25 years and how much of what is covered this season was new to you?
CJ: Well, that’s what I love — the content of the show. I watched the first season, I heard about it, and obviously you knew about Montreal Screwjob. How much more can you hear about that? Two other shows in there I thought were good but the one that I really enjoyed was the Gino Hernandez one because that was the guy that I didn’t hear really anything about because I grew up in Canada, so no free internet. What I would hear about those types of guys is what I read in Pro Wrestling Illustrated or that sort of thing and I was super into wrestling but if I was able to watch World Class, I would have but we didn’t get it. There’s no way to watch it. So you would read these magazines and hear about Gino Hernandez. Then he dies and as you grow up through the business, you hear he was really good and he was, you know, this and that.
So, I learned a lot about his story through Dark Side of the Ring and even the Von Erich show, you know, we all know the story, but you don’t really know it from the perspective of the people that are involved. So, that was interesting too, to kind of experience that. So when Season 2 came around beyond just the Benoit show, and they asked me to narrate it, I really thought it’d be kind of cool to do because A), I enjoyed the first season and B) I was excited to see what topics are we going to be talking about for this one. I didn’t know. They would just send me the episodes every few weeks and they’d go, “Here’s a Dino Bravo episode and here’s a ‘Brawl for All’ episode and here’s a New Jack episode.” I’m like, wow, this stuff is so interesting. I’m not a trivia lunatic but I am a historian of the business. So I like to learn about these things from the perspective of the people that were involved because as I know, sometimes what gets told you and what gets reported is not necessarily the real true story so it was kind of cool to see it from a firsthand standpoint.
SN: Were there any stories that were covered this year that were almost too wild to be true?
CJ: The New Jack story blew my mind because I knew him a little bit from ECW. Just the stuff that he did, you know, attempting to murder guys in the ring, stabbing guys during matches and just literally not giving a s—. I was like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this guy isn’t in jail or didn’t get murdered because of the things that he did. So, that was pretty heavy. The one that I really enjoyed though, that I didn’t think I would, was the “Brawl for All” because I remember the “Brawl for All” but I wasn’t in WWE at the time. But just watching the whole storyline behind that and just how it basically ended Bart Gunn’s career in the States, even though he won it, it was just a really interesting kind of time capsule of what wrestling was like only 20 years ago, 23 years ago, and it was really interesting to watch it.
SN: I know that you started your portion of the episode on Chris Benoit saying some people are not going to like what you say. Considering your relationship that you had with Chris, how are you able to compartmentalize your relationship and kind of separate the person that you knew from the person who did what he did at the end of his life?
CJ: I said during that interview that I had done a podcast a few years ago with Dave Meltzer just to discuss the career of Chris Benoit. And the reason why is I felt like I needed some closure on that side of things because I was so locked in step with Benoit’s career and some of my greatest matches came with him and they’ve basically been erased from existence. So, I said at the end of the podcast, listen, if you’re going to listen to this and say that I’m glorifying a murderer, stop listening now because we’re not. We’re not excusing what he did in the last weekend of his life but we are talking about this brilliant performer, one of the greatest of all time, and somebody that I had a personal, career relationship with.
So if you don’t like it, don’t listen but I need to talk about this much like football historians might want to talk about the career of O.J. Simpson and say, listen, this guy did terrible things outside of the field, but on the field, this is what he did and you can’t excuse the fact that guy was great. So that kind of is where that standpoint comes from. I find “Dark Side of the Ring,” we are talking about the brilliance of Chris and Eddie as performers but the overall tone is we’re setting the backstory up for this horrible tragedy of what happened.
SN: I think it’s pretty similar to his son David who is featured in the episode as well. He is dealing with the relationship that he had with his father and having to deal with this horrible thing that happened. There was a positive that came out of this in that you were instrumental in helping reconnect David and Nancy’s sister Sandra. How and when were you able to help bring them together?
CJ: I had Nancy on my podcast. I’m not sure how we connected. It was the first time she ever talked about what happened. And much like what I just said earlier about the Chris podcast I did, I wanted to do a podcast with Sandra to talk more about the career of Nancy, Nancy Sullivan, Nancy Benoit. Woman, Fallen Angel, because she was very, very good at what she did was in the business as far as being a valet and a manager, you know, all these different things that she did. That really got forgotten. She became this victim and not this really incredible performer with a Hall of Fame-worthy career that had a terrible demise.
So when we had this podcast and I had a conversation, first time we ever met, just her and I and then had like a great conversation and at the end of it I said have you spoken to Dave? She goes no, I don’t have his number. I’m like, well, I got it if you want it and that’s kind of how I put them together. That was a few years ago. The first time they ever saw each other face to face, I believe since all that happened, was what you see on camera at the end of part two of the episode.
SN: Let me wrap up with this. Last week’s episode of AEW television was pretty unique with there being no audience. What’s it like to be a part of a show that is so unique and so different than what you’re used to seeing?
CJ: Well, you just answered it. It’s very unique and it’s different. But in the way things are in the world right now, I think it’s important for us to still do the best we can to put on the best shows we can to give people a diversion from what’s really happening. And is it strange? Absolutely. But I think it’s the only choice we have right now, to continue doing what we’re doing which is to put on the best show we can.
SN: Maybe we’ll get more Sammy singing.
CJ: I hope so. That’s the best part.
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