Chris Benoit, one of WWE’s most iconic wrestlers of the early 2000s, committed suicide in 2007 after strangling and suffocating his young son at his home.
Chris Benoit appeared to have it all before his death. The professional wrestler known as the “Canadian Crippler” was well-known and well-liked by his fans around the world. However, on June 24, 2007, the wrestler murdered his family before killing himself. Chris Benoit’s murder of his wife and young son, followed by his suicide, shocked the wrestling world.
Benoit’s death was a tragic end to an otherwise extraordinary life. The wrestler, who was born in Quebec, had steadily risen through the ranks of professional wrestling over the course of 22 years. He began his career in Canada before moving to Japan and eventually joining Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2000.
Benoit was a WWE superstar, with 22 championships and a slew of adoring fans. But everything changed in three days in June 2007, when Benoit murdered his wife Nancy, then his seven-year-old son Daniel, before killing himself.
The murder-suicide stunned the wrestling world. It sparked speculation about WWE’s drug-testing policy, Benoit’s steroid use, and how his lengthy wrestling career may have impacted his brain.
Though some answers emerged after Chris Benoit’s death, the world would never know what motivated the bloody end of the wrestler who killed his family and then himself.
Chris Benoit’s Rise In Professional Wrestling
Christopher Michael Benoit, born on May 21, 1967, in Quebec, Canada, was drawn to wrestling at a young age. Benoit wanted to wrestle since he was a child, according to his father.
“He was pretty much driven from the age of 12, 13 to get in the wrestling industry,” said his father, Mike Benoit. “Chris worked out every day. He was 13 years old… he was breaking high school records in our basement.”
Benoit began wrestling seriously at the age of 18. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Stampede Wrestling circuit, New Japan World Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)/World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Benoit rose through the ranks to become a well-known wrestler. He won 22 championships and was frequently praised for his ring prowess, particularly his technical ability. However, his success came at a cost. In defiance of WWE policy, Benoit used steroids and testosterone, and his opponents frequently struck him in the head with heavy objects.
“The props they were using when they were hit in the head were cables, ladders, and chairs.” “It’s a real chair, a steel chair,” his father explained to ABC News.
Benoit appeared to be able to function normally outside of the ring, marrying twice and having three children, but he was prone to violent behavior at times. Nancy, his second wife, filed for divorce shortly after they married in 2000.
Nancy claimed that when Chris Benoit lost his temper, he could become unpredictable, and she was afraid he’d hurt her or their son, Daniel. Nancy, on the other hand, later withdrew her divorce petition.
As a result, it came as a surprise to the world when Chris Benoit committed suicide at the age of 40, taking Nancy and Daniel with him.
Chris Benoit’s Death & The Murder Of His Family
Chris Benoit was scheduled to compete in a pay-per-view match called Vengeance: Night of Champions on June 24, 2007, in Houston, Texas, where he was expected to win the Extreme Championship Wrestling World Championship. But Benoit never arrived.
On the same day, his friend Chavo Guerrero, nephew of late wrestler Eddie Guerrero, received an unusual message from the wrestler. “The dogs are in the enclosed pool area, and the back door is open,” Benoit wrote, texting Guerrero his address.
Sports According to Keeda, Guerrero was unconcerned about Benoit’s messages until he learned that Benoit had failed to appear at the pay-per-view fight. Then he notified WWE officials, who called the cops. They went to Benoit’s house in Fayetteville, Georgia, where he lived with Nancy and Daniel, 7, and discovered a gruesome scene. All three had died.
Nancy was discovered with her hands and feet tied and blood under her head, according to The New York Times. Daniel was discovered in his bed. Chris Benoit, meanwhile, was discovered hanging from a weight machine cable in his home gym.
Investigators soon determined that as early as June 22, 2007, Chris Benoit murdered Nancy and Daniel before killing himself. Nancy was strangled first, possibly in a rage. Next, it appears that Benoit gave his son Xanax, then smothered him.
Then, before committing suicide, Chris Benoit conducted some online research. According to ABC News, he searched for stories about the prophet Elijah, who once raised a boy from the dead. Then Benoit looked for the simplest way for someone to break their neck.
Chris Benoit entered the family’s home gym after placing Bibles next to Nancy and Daniel’s bodies. He tied a cable around his neck, attached it to the highest weight on a weight machine, and let go, according to Talk Sports.
However, the investigation into why the wrestler’s life had come to such a grisly end was just beginning.
What Led A Pro Wrestler To Kill His Family?
In the aftermath of Chris Benoit’s death and the murders of his wife and son, questions arose. What had compelled the wrestler to commit such a heinous crime?
The autopsy of Benoit provided some answers. According to Esquire, the wrestler had a severely damaged brain as well as ten times the normal amount of testosterone. Benoit also had a heart that was so enlarged that it would have eventually killed him, which is common in athletes who abuse steroids and growth hormones.
Despite the fact that Benoit’s toxicology report sparked a “media frenzy,” with many pointing to “roid rage” as a possible reason why the wrestler killed his family and himself, experts were skeptical.
“This was a murder-suicide spree that lasted over, I believe, a three-day weekend,” West Virginia University’s Health and Science Center’s Dr. Julian Bailes told ABC News. “I don’t believe that ‘roid rage,’ which is thought to be a snap judgment… I don’t believe this explains Chris’s behavior in terms of emotions or actions.”
Instead, some experts believed that Benoit’s brain injuries drove him to murder his family and commit suicide. His brain was “so severely damaged,” according to West Virginia University, that it “resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.”
Bailes also told ABC News that Benoit’s brain showed evidence of repeated blows to the head, which may have been an obvious conclusion given the violence he’d experienced in the ring.
“Chris’s damage was extensive,” Bailes said. “It was replete across multiple areas of the brain. It remains one the worst we have seen.”
Some of Benoit’s friends did say that he seemed different before he died. He’d been depressed since the death of his friend, fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero, in 2005. Benoit had also started acting strangely. Nancy’s sister, pro wrestler Chris Jericho, recalled him disappearing for weeks at a time and acting paranoid.
WWE, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge that Chris Benoit’s wrestling career was directly responsible for his death.
According to ABC News, “someone with the brain of an 85-year-old with dementia would be unable to keep a traveling work schedule, drive himself to arenas, and perform intricate maneuvers in the ring, much less commit a methodical murder-suicide over a 48-hour period.”
Benoit was promptly removed from the organization’s website, DVDs, and historical references. WWE, on the other hand, changed some of its policies. According to Pro Wrestling Stories and Sports Keeda, they implemented a “no chair shots to the head” rule, hired doctors to oversee matches, and began more extensive drug testing.
As a result, while Chris Benoit’s death may have improved pro wrestling, he remains a persona non grata in the sport. Deadspin even referred to him as “basically wrestling’s equivalent of Lord Voldemort,” and flatly denied that he should be recognized as a wrestling great in the future. If anyone should be honored, it’s his murdered wife Nancy, who had her own wrestling career for 13 years, according to the publication.
However, one person continues to defend the wrestler who murdered his family. Mike Benoit, Chris Benoit’s father, told ABC News that the pro-wrestling industry is to blame for his son’s death.
“I think if Chris Benoit had been anything other than a professional wrestler… he would still be alive,” Mike Benoit said. “I would like people to have an understanding that the tragedy that took place in 2007 happened because of his career choice.”