It was the darkest moment in the history of professional wrestling.
On June 25, 2007, Fayetteville County (GA) police were called by the WWE to do a welfare check on one of their superstars Chris Benoit. Benoit had missed two live events, one including a pay-per view. When they got to his suburban Atlanta mansion they found a gruesome discovery.
Benoit, his wife Nancy and their seven year old son Daniel were all dead. Hours later, the police ruled it a double murder-suicide and marked Chris Benoit as the man who murdered his wife and son before taking his own life.
Ten years later, despite WWE’s attempt to erase him from history, wrestling fans worldwide still pay their respects to him for his in-ring accomplishments despite what he did on that three-day span outside of the ring.
I can remember getting the news of his and his family’s death and just being shocked. I was riding home from dinner with my family when my older brother got a text from one of his friends telling him the news. I thought it was something like carbon monoxide poisoning or that someone broke into their house and murdered the entire family.
I watched the three hour tribute on that night’s Monday Night Raw episode, watching some his greatest moments and matches as well as other WWE wrestlers like John Cena, CM Punk, Chavo Guerrero, and Triple H give their thoughts and feelings on Benoit as a person, a husband and a father and as a performer.
During the tribute show, the details of the deaths were revealed and were spread all over the internet and TV. It’s been rumored that WWE knew of the details before they went on the air and they still went on with the show as a tribute to Benoit.
If WWE truly knew that Benoit did what he did, then it was completely uncalled for to do a tribute show to a murderer, regardless of his wrestling career.
The next night on ECW, the show Benoit was assigned to prior to his death and where he was scheduled to win their world championship on the pay-per view that he missed, Vince McMahon apologized for the tribute show and that from that show going forward they wouldn’t mention Benoit’s name and start the “healing process”.
WWE quickly removed all mentions of Benoit off their website and pulled any merchandise regarding him off their online merchandise store.
The media was quick to attack professional wrestling following the tragedy. Pointing the finger at Vince McMahon for allowing steroid and drug use and that “roid rage” was the cause of the murders.
People like Nancy Grace and Bill O’Reilly who clearly didn’t do any studying on the facts prior to their shows would blast professional wrestling and Benoit when other wrestlers would come on their shows and talk about how much a nice and caring guy he was and how much he loved his wife and kids (Benoit had two kids from a previous marriage) and that they couldn’t fathom that he’d do what he did.
They also would continuously bring up this list of wrestlers who died young and blamed them all on steroids.
Yes, over the last twenty years there has been a very high number of professional wrestlers who have died under the age of 50 including both Chris and Nancy Benoit.
Not every wrestler who died young wasn’t on just steroids however, they were wrestlers who were overdosing on painkillers and having heart attacks as a result from heavy drug use. They also committed suicide like Benoit or it wasn’t even a result of drugs. Andre The Giant died at age 45 as a result of acromegaly, a pituitary gland disorder which made him grow as big as he did. Yokozuna who died at age 34 as a result of being a very large man at almost 600 pounds and had heart failure
And of course there’s Owen Hart who died at age 34 after falling seventy feet in a pre-match stunt in May 1999.
Did drugs play a role in the Benoit tragedy?
Yes, but it wasn’t just drugs, it was a lot of different things that I believe all built up and caused Chris to snap which resulted in an awful situation.
Benoit was a heavy steroid user during his wrestling career. There was steroids along with other prescription drugs found in the home. His autopsy showed a 59.1/1 testosterone level, which is five times above the normal found in a male according to doctors. It’s likely that he was using the testosterone for replacement therapy after testicular damage as a result from steroid use.
Chris Benoit had suffered heavy brain trauma after 21 years in the wrestling business after using his signature move the flying headbutt which likely resulted in many concussions that went undiagnosed.
Former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski studied Benoit’s brain and that it looked like the brain of an 85 year old with Alzheimer’s and that Benoit had CTE which has now become famous after NFL players were diagnosed with it.
All the repeated concussions could’ve lead to dementia and behavior issues as a result which could’ve played a factor in the double murder-suicide.
Chris and Nancy had a rocky relationship too. They were married in 2000 and by 2003, Nancy had filed for divorce and alleged that Chris abused her. She later dropped the divorce.
There was rumors that Benoit was having an affair with a female wrestler, who turned out to possibly be Michelle McCool who is now married to the Undertaker.
Chris Benoit also lost a lot of close friends in a short span, the closest friend being WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero died of a heart attack in November of 2005 after years of drug and steroid abuse.
Friends of Benoit said he wasn’t the same after Guerrero’s death and was very depressed because they were very close and Eddie was Chris’ confidant on the road.
Benoit also turned 40 in May of 2007 and he knew his time as a wrestler was ending near and his body was starting to break down and I think he was worried about how he was going to provide for his family. His previous marriage was still costing him a lot of money in child support and alimony.
Now I’m sure WWE would’ve hired him as an agent or a trainer and he would’ve thrived in that role as a mentor to the upcoming superstars of the future.
I think all of those things built up inside and he just snapped on his wife. After that, I don’t know what he was thinking because I can’t fathom why he killed his son especially after Chris’ dad said that he always talked about Daniel and that he adored him.
He obviously killed himself becuase he couldn’t accept the consequences of his actions and that makes him a coward in my opinion.
I’m glad that WWE didn’t take this incident lightly and made strong changes immediately.
They banned chairshots to the head and made their programming more family friendly.
They also made their drug testing program stricter and offered more help to former wrestlers who were having drug problems like paying for rehab if they needed it.
As for Benoit’s legacy. In the ring, he was one of the greatest ever to be a professional wrestler and his accomplishments are Hall of Fame worthy.
However, what he did on that weekend ten years ago loses all respect for me as a human being.
WWE should recognize him because he is a big part of the history of professional wrestling and what happened with him could be used as a teaching method to people who have used drugs and have a history of concussions to seek medical attention to avoid other potential tragedies such as this one.