Ring of Hell, fully titled as Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & The Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry, is a book authored by Matthew Randazzo V, and released in 2008.
Although the book contains many anecdotes about both wrestling personalities and promotions, the primary subject of the book is Chris Benoit himself. It covers his journey through the professional wrestling world from his start in Stampede Wrestling through Japan, Mexico, WCW and finally the World Wrestling Federation. It ends with the infamous double murder-suicide.
The gist of the book is twofold. One, Benoit's idol and his training was sadistic, and it brought him up to be the same way. The second was that Benoit's obsession with perfectionism lead him to take unnecessary risk after unnecessary risk and ended up destroying his body and mind.
There are also several anecdotes in the book about various people Benoit worked with and promotions he worked for.
Needless to say, this is a very negatively slanted book, and the tropes list will unavoidably reflect that.
Ring of Hell has been sharply criticized by many people within the wrestling industry, including Lance Storm. Many other anecdotes in the book were also disputed.
This book contains examples of:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Almost every single executive in the wrestling business. Perhaps surprisingly, the generally detested Bill Watts gets a pass.note So does Linda McMahon.
- Dan Browned: Dave Meltzer carved the book up like a Thanksgiving turkey in a 2008 newsletter, particularly parts about Benoit's later career and perception in the WWE and WCW locker rooms, and damn near everything Randazzo wrote about Brian Pillman (a close friend of Dave's).
- Determinator: Keiichi "Jushin Thunder Liger" Yamada is described as such by Randazzo - unable to convince the NJPW dojo to train him due to his height he moved to Mexico, where NJPW officials eventually found him living like a street urchin. They then consented to allow him into the NJPW dojo, where they couldn't come up with any abuse that caused him to do anything other than thank them for taking the time to train him.
- The Dog Bites Back: Dynamite Kid decided to make Jacques Rougeau his personal whipping boy. Rougeau, who was never a locker room tough guy and had previously been protected by his brother Raymond, eventually snapped and beat Dynamite senseless with a roll of quarters.
- Enforced Method Acting: Invoked when "Japanese Strong Style", the form of pro wrestling practiced in NJPW, is described as being "wrestling that looks like it hurts because it does hurt".
- Freudian Excuse: Randazzo did explain Dynamite Kid's horrible upbringing before launching into what a horrible person he turned out to be.
- To an extent he provided one for the entire pro wrestling industry. Pro wrestling tradition states that rookies in the business must be hazed mercilessly in order to drive the insufficiently determined out and improve the character of the ones who stay.
- Lighter and Softer / Darker and Edgier: Stampede Wrestling fell afoul of both of these tropes. Bruce Hart booked the promotion almost like a cartoon, which alienated the hardcore fans. Then, when Dynamite Kid managed to get the booker job in a coup, he made the promotion so violent and austere that it alienated casual fans, and eventually Bruce got the books back while Kid was out of the nation.
- Mood Whiplash: During the end, the book abruptly goes through describing Benoit losing friends to premature death (he had 24 friends die young), to calling him a "delusional druggy".
- Pointy-Haired Boss: According to Randazzo, Vince is becoming/has become one of these and Stephanie is both much worse and never was anything else. Ole Anderson was one as well.
- Shown Their Work: Averted several times. While Randazzo has a substantial bibliography, he doesn't really source anything or annotate his book. His version of the feud between the Dynamite Kid and Jacques Rougeau does not jibe with details given by anyone else, including the Dynamite Kid and Jacques Rougeau. There are also points where he blatantly takes thing from other authors, but doesn't actually research them himself. Randazzo notes that the Dynamite Kid come from a family steeped in violence based upon the fact that the Billington family once held the office of executioner by birthright. This comes directly from Heath McCoy's book "Pain and Passion." However, McCoy, who was much more thorough, notes that this is only possibly true, and that there was an executioner named Billington in the early 19th century in the same town Dynamite Kid Tom Billington hails from. Randazzo just runs with this, probably because it casts Dynamite in a less flattering light. Randazzo also lazily repeats that Goldberg lost 31.5 liters of blood in a poorly conceived incident where he smashed a car window and cut up his arm. This comes from the book "The Death of WCW." As the average man has about 5 liters of blood in his body, it is impossible, even for a big man like Goldberg, to lose anywhere near 30 liters of blood. This was a typo, which "The Death of WCW" is filled with, and should probably read 3.15 liters.
- Training from Hell: The Hart Family Dungeon and the NJPW dojo. Both of these wrestling schools beat the students up for real as part of their training. Ostensibly it helped the kids learn to do the moves fake to have them done to them for real, but it was also a deliberate ploy to drive the insufficiently determined away. The NJPW dojo added emotional abuse to the physical abuse.
- Yes-Man: WWF/WWE's decline is attributed to the gradual firing of all staffers who weren't these.