Chris Benoit. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week, I'm pretty sure that you've heard about how the man murdered his wife and child before killing himself (if not, the details are on every news program and website out there - that's a little outside the scope of this site). So, knowing what he's done just three years after the release of this documentary, I'm a bit stuck on how to proceed with this review. Should I blast and condemn the man for being not only a murderer, but for being a child murderer as well? That's not quite what I wanted to do here, as although those horrific events are what prompted me to pick up a copy of this documentary, there's still a fairly inspiring story to be told within the ninety minutes of this disc - and with that in mind, I'm going to focus solely on the disc at hand and (mostly) ignore the events of the last week for the purpose of this review.
Following the traditional format of both biographies and the various WWE SuperStar releases, Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story introduces us to the man himself and shows how he got to be where he was in the world of sports entertainment. The story starts with his teenage years, showing us what prompted him to get into the sport and who his idols were, follows his career throughout Japan, ECW, WCW, and finally, concludes with his major title win at WrestleMania XX back in 2004. The vast majority of the story is told by Benoit himself, but a few of his close friends in the business (the late Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Chris Jericho to name a few) also pop in to say a word or two. Also included with this two-disc set is a large assortment of his matches from throughout his career, but again, this is outside the scope of this review as I'll only be focusing on the actual documentary.
With the obvious exception of the last days of his life, Chris Benoit led an extremely interesting and inspiring life. Here is a man who was told that he'd never amount to much in the world of professional wrestling due to his smaller-than-average size and his lack of charisma, but due to an outstanding work ethic and being one of the best technical wrestlers in the sport, he would go on to become one of the biggest draws of his time. Did he sell as much merchandise as someone like Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan? Of course not - but every time the man got into the ring, you knew that you were in for a damned memorable match.
One thing in particular about Benoit that struck me as fascinating was the fact that nobody had a bad word to say about him (again, prior to the events of last week). You can name just about anybody in the business, and there will be someone out there - be it his former or current wrestling peers, the online writers, a segment of the fans, etc. - who holds a grudge or has nothing but spite for them for one reason or another. Not Benoit. Regardless of what company he worked for or who you talked to, you'd never find anyone talking negatively about him on either a personal or professional level: the man was well-loved by everyone around him, and that definitely shows in this documentary. Watching this film shows how warm and caring he was towards both his family and those around him, and it's still rather shocking to yours truly that he did what he did after watching this.
Getting a little bit back on subject here, the documentary is a damned fine introduction to the man and what he's done throughout his career. Just about everything he's done was covered here, with the only exception being how he would go on to meet Nancy Benoit (Woman) after getting involved with her in WCW. Benoit chooses to avoid this subject as - to paraphrase the man - he didn't want his kids to learn about this part of his life through watching television, but instead, he wanted to be able to tell them about it himself. That's rather ironic when you think about how the media has spilled the beans for him, but again, I'll take the high road here and avoid commenting on that. We also get to hear his thoughts on other important topics in his life: why he decided to leave both ECW and WCW, his thoughts on the neck injury that nearly ended his career, his reaction to finally winning "the big one" on the biggest show of the year, and much, much more.
I'm going with a high rating for this disc, but before I give out the final rating, I am again going to say that I do not condone what he did and - if the facts as presented by the media turn out to be true (which it's looking like they will) - I've lost all respect for the man regardless of what he's done both inside and outside the ring. However, judging this disc based solely on the content included within, I'm going to go with an 8/10.