A Tribute To “Woman”

She was one of the most beautiful valets in the history of the business and now she’s dead.  On June 25th, Nancy Benoit was murdered by her husband, professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who also killed their only child, 7-year-old Daniel.  Hours after committing those dispicable crimes, he hung himself. 
It’s a sad story we’ve seen time and time again.  A respected public figure who, behind closed doors, was a very different person, so different, in fact, that it’s unlikely he would’ve had such a successful career if his real-life dark side had always been exposed for all to see.  Few have much sympathy for men who abuse women.
And yet, with the notable exceptions of Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias, Edmonton Sun columnist Mindelle Jacobs and Howard Stern, tributes have poured in for the former WWE World Champion.  He was a great talent in the ring but, let’s not forget, he also killed his family.  Why is the former getting recognized more by friends, co-workers and fans than the latter?  Bret Hart, your lack of anger and outrage is stunning.
Lost in the coverage of the story are the victims, most especially, Nancy Benoit.  I first remembered her in the mid-1980s when I became an enormous pro wrestling fan.  She was a knock-out, a dark-haired vixen in the Bettie Page mold.  She looked great no matter what she wore or didn’t.  Her sex appeal was enormous.  While the WWF had the classy Elizabeth (also deceased), Randy Savage’s manager (and real-life wife), the NWA had Benoit, the villainous seductress who got her start selling programs at live events and participating in “apartment wrestling”, which involves sexy girls, wearing next to nothing, rolling around with each other while a photographer snaps away.  In one such memorable shot, she appeared to not be wearing anything (an illusion, most likely) while strategically hiding her best physical features with a blanket.  She sold her sexuality brilliantly.
In the numerous magazines I would purchase during that period, though, I first remembered her as Kevin Sullivan’s valet.  Sullivan had this devil-worshipping gimmick for a short time and Benoit was his “Fallen Angel”, a partner in crime, if you will.  They were so smitten with each other, they became a couple in real-life, marrying in 1985.  It was Benoit’s second go-round.
By the late ’80s, Benoit was given a new character to play.  In 1989, she started appearing at ringside during NWA TV tapings cheering on fan favourite Rick Steiner.  Her charisma camouflaged by a nerdy get-up, she was re-named Robin Green.  It was all a ruse to set up Steiner who, as the storyline went, was too in love with her to see what was coming.
According to Wikipedia, Green convinced Steiner to allow her to be in his corner during a televised tag team encounter involving Rick and his long-haired brother, Scott, and their opponents, Fabulous Freebird Michael Hayes and Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin.  Her interference in the match cost The Steiners, thereby exposing her as a dastardly imposter.  Taking on the name Woman and living up to the name, she represented Ron Simmons and Butch Reed, a tag team better known as Doom who ended up feuding with The Steiners.  In 1990, she moved on to help out Ric Flair during a number of his matches and accompanied other members of The Four Horsemen to the ring.
She would leave with her husband that same year and work with smaller, independent promotions like ECW until hooking up with former NWA territory, World Championship Wrestling, in 1996.  By 1997, her marriage to Sullivan was over.  In a storyline that would spill over into real-life, Woman became involved with Chris Benoit and wasn’t shy about rubbing it in Sullivan’s face.  The on-screen affair soon turned real.  Sullivan retired after being defeated by Benoit in order to concentrate on bookings and storylines.  Benoit married Nancy just a couple of days after giving birth to their son, Daniel, in February 2000.
By the mid-to-late 90s, wrestling was pretty much over for me, and for Nancy Benoit.  The Woman gimmick would be retired in May 1997 and she would end up managing her third husband’s career behind-the-scenes right up until he killed her.  The marriage was problematic and almost ended acrimoniously in 2003, but was literally on life support until this past Monday.
She’s yet another person from the wrestling business who never lived to see her 50th birthday, thanks to her asshole husband.  She was 43.  Her son, who suffered from something called Fragile X Syndrome, will never get to enjoy all the things about life we tend to take for granted, thanks to his father.
Woman will be missed.  Chris Benoit will not.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
8:20 p.m.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey brother, these are great blogs. Keep it up. You’re right about celebreties having different lives behind the spotlight. Remember how crazy Phil Hartman’s death was. And Gianni Versace. Obviously, killing is something only weak and despicable criminals do, but in situations like this, you HAVE to wonder what drove him to do it. I think this story is going to be one more example of how drugs like roids affect mental illness. But, then it isn’t always about substance abuse. What happened in Virginia was horrific, but nobody who knew the killer ever said he was an ASSHOLE or a jerk. Just weird and creepy. It’s a shame the world doesn’t pay more attention to the warning signs. Perhaps more tragedies like these could have been avoided if people had just listened…

  2. Thanks, man.  I really appreciate your feedback.  You made a lot of good points.
    I remember vividly how awful the Hartman and Versace murders were.  It’s interesting you bring up Hartman because I believe that was a similiar situation to the Benoit tragedy.  The only difference was no children were harmed.
    Have you read Steve Simmons’ interview with Bruce Hart in The Toronto Sun?  Check that out.  It’s on the official Sun site.  Bruce reveals that Benoit had a hard time separating his real self from his wrestling persona and that he wasn’t surprised he wiped out his entire family.  It’s a great read.

  3. […] 2007, shortly after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide tragedy, former WWF Womens Champion and beauty queen valet Debra Marshall appeared on Hannity & […]

  4. […] 2007, when Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son, then killed himself, the tragedy rocked the entire wrestling world.  Coming just a year after Eddie Guerrero’s […]

  5. […] It’s Chris Benoit all over again. […]

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