Chris Hyatte died on June 5th, 2020.
This time it was for real. Maybe. He’d died perhaps a hundred Internet deaths by then already, disappearing for months or years, then popping up on websites like Scoops, ScoopThis, 411Mania, and Inside Pulse, bringing a deluge of readers and picking entertaining Internet fights with other “celebrity” wrestling writers. Hyatte was something of a lightning rod for readers and colleagues alike.
Chris Hyatte – You either loved him or hated him.
Chris Hyatte (the real-life Chris Gaudreau) chronicled the Monday Night Wars with his (mostly) weekly Mop-Ups, doing stream-of-consciousness comedy recaps of both Raw and Nitro, first for Al Isaacs at Scoops. The columns were informative and opinionated, and they felt alive with snark and sarcasm in a way that no one else’s work did.
If you wanted no-nonsense smark-centric recaps where the writer talked down to you, you’d go read Scott Keith. If you wanted to know who was WALKING and when you’d read CRZ. But if you wanted to actually be entertained? No one — not before nor since — could touch Hyatte. And, at least in his public persona, he did not give one solitary randy fuck about whether anyone liked what he was doing or not. He was fearless when he was writing, and I admired the hell out of him for that.
Often (far too often, really), reading the Mop-Up was better than the actual shows he recapped.
The man died on June 5th, 2020 after taking himself off of dialysis on May 15th. He had a slew of health problems. If you want to read about them, go check out his Twitter. In many ways, it’s an ironic twist that Hyatte, whose work generated hundreds of thousands reads in his heyday, would return to one of the world’s largest social media platforms and garner fewer than 500 followers before his death.
(And let me tell you, it has crossed my mind that Hyatte has somehow faked his own death and will return, some way, to the Internet, and laughing his ass off at how he worked everyone. If that happens, I’m not even gonna be mad. It’ll be just another Hyatte story.)
A victim of his own success
Chris Hyatte was, in many ways, a victim of his own success. He admittedly enjoyed pricking the balloon-like egos of some very notable Internet writers at the time. His feuds with Rick Scaia, Sean Shannon, Bob Ryder, Scott Keith, the Scotsman … good lord. The Monday Night Wars were not the only ones that raged in the Attitude Era of professional wrestling. (Also, if none of those names mean anything to you, you’re likely too young — or, less likely, too old — for this column. Nothing to see here, move along.)
Hyatte’s own ego would get the best of him. He knew that he was good. He knew he drove traffic to the websites for which he wrote. He knew that when he started up with someone (often another writer working for the same site) that it would pull readers to that other writer, too. An elegant little way to get writers he liked or sites he enjoyed working for some more traffic.
This isn’t hagiography, though. Hyatte could be an asshole. And worse. He once bragged that he’d perform oral sex on anyone who roughed up Tony Schiavone for him. He even said, in what I hope was a joke, that Tony’s kids weren’t off-limits, either. If I recall correctly, Schiavone’s lawyers got involved in that one, and that bit got left behind quickly. You could tell when Hyatte was tiring of the work: the jokes would go too far. He knew it, but either couldn’t or wouldn’t stop himself. Hyatte was like a volcano: you knew the eruption was coming, that it would be cataclysmic and that you couldn’t look away.
The man was either fired or quit from more jobs than Jim Cornette, for God’s sake.
Chris Hyatte sometimes gets written off as one note, a sort of Howard Stern (back when Howard was funny) for the smarks crowd. But he wasn’t only that. If you look at his work today, you wonder how he got away with many of the jokes — some racial, even more sexist — that he made. The late 1990s were the Wild West of wrestling writing, folks. And Hyatte was the top word slinger of them all.
Looking back at his work now, it still has an edge. You couldn’t get comfortable with Hyatte: he’d bite the hell out of you (with a joke, with a literary reference, with something wholly unexpected like The Taking of HHH) when you weren’t paying close attention. It was part of the pleasure of reading him.
Some critics, those who claim he was just a Stern ripoff, for instance, will tell you that anyone could do what Hyatte did.
Okay, that’s fine. Maybe it’s a valid criticism.
But the fact is that no one did. Hyatte did it. In an Internet Wrestling Community that was doing its best to be so serious that it bordered on boring, he refused to be anything but the most entertaining motherfucker in the room.
Thanks for that, Hyatte. Godspeed.
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