When it comes to performers in professional wrestling, the role of the valet/manager is one of the most underappreciated. Managers/valets act as the mouthpiece of a wrestler. In the ring, they gave a heel to gain an extra advantage over the face creating opportunities by distracting the referee. It was a role Nancy Benoit excelled at.
A Case for Nancy Benoit in the WWE Hall of Fame
Born Nancy Toffoloni, she became best known for her two personas Fallen Angel and later, Woman. Her career was also largely defined by her two spouses Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit. While her life was cut short in 2007 from the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, her contributions to the business shouldn't be ignored.
Nancy began her career in Florida Championship Wrestling where she met Sullivan, who had a satanic gimmick. She became part of his staple as Fallen Angel. Over time, the two developed a relationship where they married. Their first stint in World Championship Wrestling was brief where Nancy adopted the name Woman and ended up managing the tag team of Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons). She ended her run with the company.
Extreme Championship Wrestling
After leaving WCW in 1990, Sullivan and Nancy went to Extreme Championship Wrestling. Sullivan's stay was brief winning the ECW Tag Titles with Taz in December 1993. After a few months, Sullivan left but Nancy stayed. She made more of a name for herself managing the likes of The Sandman and at one point, Shane Douglas.
Nancy helped The Sandman become one of ECW's top talent presiding over his success during her three-year stint with the company. She left to return to WCW in 1996 where Sullivan put her in a program with Chris Benoit. Nancy's real marital problems with Sullivan drove her into the arms of his storyline rival Benoit. She ended up divorcing Sullivan and later marrying Benoit. Nancy decided to leave the wrestling business in 1997 to start a family with Chris.
Golden Opportunity to Make Amends
While her life is largely defined by her death in 2007, inducting Nancy into the WWE Hall of Fame accomplishes two things. First, it can provide a real closure confronting tragedy with celebration. It's something the Benoit and Toffoloni families can agree on. Second, Nancy loved the business and the company could honor her legacy by what she did in her time in the industry, rather than the way her life tragically ended.
While WWE admittedly washed their hands of Chris Benoit and only references him in their encyclopedia, Nancy deserves better. In the season two premiere of Vice's Dark Side of the Ring that featured the life and career of Benoit, former WWE, and current AEW wrestler Chris Jericho made the suggestion to induct Nancy in. If WWE can come to terms with their past and bury the hatchet with Jim "Ultimate Warrior" Helwig and Bruno Sammartino, inducting Nancy Benoit into their Hall of Fame is the kind of gesture the company can make from the senseless tragedy.