Chris Benoit Seemed to Have Everything
The murder-suicide perpetrated by Chris Benoit in 2007 shocked the world. First, he killed his beautiful pro-wrestler wife and 7-year-old son and then proceeded to kill himself. However, after having lived a life of a marquee athlete and still drawing large crowds, the mystery is why he would end it all in such a heinous fashion.
Over the span of 30+ years, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE – formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)) has become the leading brand in Sports Entertainment. Much of this success can be attributed to company Chairman, Vince McMahon and his vision of Pay Per View television. When he took over the reins from his own father, McMahon started an annual tradition that has become a wrestling superpower known as Wrestlemania and totally transformed the industry.
This global success story has come at the odd price along the way. Controversy with alleged substance abuse from wrestlers that have been contracted to the WWE down the years; or the accident that claimed the life of Owen Hart. The events of the weekend of 22-25 June 2007 must rank as the most shocking turn of events during his tenure as Chairman.
Texts and Calls From Chris Benoit
At the time Chris Benoit (pronounced Ben-wah) was one of the premier athletes in the whole of the WWE. At 40 years of age, he had moved into a veteran stage of his career. However, he had been a champion within the organization numerous times. He was still a major draw for audiences and was widely regarded as one of the best technical wrestlers of any generation. Benoit was worthy of mention in the same breath as the likes of Ric Flair and Macho Man Randy Savage.
It was approximately 3:30 pm EDT when close friend Chavo Guerrero received a voicemail message from Benoit that admitted to missing a flight for the show that was scheduled for later that evening. When Guerrero returned the call for confirmation, he got it but commented that Benoit sounded like he was exhausted. During this call, Benoit told Guerrero that a bout of food poisoning affected Nancy Benoit – known to WCW audiences simply as ‘Woman’ – and their 7-year-old son Daniel. Guerrero had no qualms about accepting what he was told and left it there.
In the early hours of 24 June 2007, a string of text messages were sent from the phones of both Benoit elders to several WWE staff, including Chavo Guerrerro and referee Scott Armstrong. Another voicemail that was sent much later on that same day stated simply that Daniel Benoit was vomiting blood and both Chris and Nancy Benoit were at the hospital with him. As a result, Chris Benoit doubted that he would be able to attend the PPV event Night of Champions, where he was advertised in a title match against CM Punk.
Chris and His Family Are Discovered Dead
Chris did say that he would be taking a later flight to Houston. The following day, however, he did not turn up as promised. Senior Vice-President of Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis, learned of the text messages sent out over the previous weekend and began to have suspicions that all was not what it seemed. When the WWE asked the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department to check on the Benoit family, they found the three bodies.
The scheduled broadcast of WWE Monday Night Raw was canceled and replaced with a tribute show to Chris Benoit’s life and career. It was an understandable gesture to make, but in this case was a touch premature. It was only after this broadcast that the true and horrifying tale began to emerge.
The Heinous Details
When the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department began their investigation into the ‘major crime scene’, they were able to determine a few facts almost immediately. According to the forensic analysis, Nancy Benoit died of strangulation sometime on Friday. Police found her tied up and wrapped in a towel in an upstairs bedroom. There was a bible next to her. Injuries to her back did suggest that Benoit jammed one knee into her back while he was strangling her. Blood beneath her head did indicate that she fought for her life, but officially no signs of a struggle were recorded.
Nobody knows for certain the time of death for Daniel Benoit, but it is said that decomposition had begun – just like it had with his mother, but was not at the same stages. The youngster had internal injuries to his throat but no exterior wounds. A toxicology report said that Xanax was found and that Daniel was more than likely unconscious when he was suffocated. Another bible was found not far from his body.
Did Chris’s Son Have a Medical Condition?
A claim was later made that Chris Benoit’s son, Daniel, had a condition known as Fragile X Syndrome. Chris’s best friend was another wrestler, Chris Jericho. Jericho conducted research into this condition and, at the time, said that it fit Daniel ‘to a tee’. Needle marks were allegedly found on the arms of Daniel. They were assumed to have been attempts made by his father to inject growth hormones into him to combat this. However, this is all conjecture. Jericho did later confess that if Benoit wished to keep something private, then he would have easily done so.
In his 2011 book, Jericho acknowledged that Daniel Benoit wasn’t suffering from Fragile X Syndrome. But at the time of his death, it did make some sense that he was. A statement was released after the events that all Daniel Benoit’s medical records made no mentions of any ailments of a physical or mental nature. Additionally, his teachers considered the young Benoit on a par with other students of his age. Earlier this year, Sandra Toffoloni, Nancy Benoit’s sister, appeared on an episode of Talk is Jericho. She denied all claims that Daniel had any sickness. The needle marks said to be on his arms were, in her own words, preposterous.
The Premeditated Suicide
Benoit himself was discovered in his gym. He had committed suicide by hanging. Benoit had made a makeshift noose from one of the pulley cables. Then he fastened it to some weights on a weight machine. When the custom made set-up was triggered by dropping the counterweights, it immediately broke Benoit’s neck. The investigation into the deaths started and ended at Benoit. Police were satisfied that they need not look for anyone else in relations to the deaths. They ruled it a double murder-suicide. One question that hasn’t been answered, and isn’t likely to be, is why.
Theories About Why Chris Would Do This
One of the main theories proposed was initially made by another former wrestler, Christopher Nowinski. Nowinski believed that Chris Benoit suffered from constant concussions that went untreated. During his wrestling career, Benoit did allow himself to be struck on the head with a folded up chair made of steel on numerous occasions. As part of the shows, this was deemed to be acceptable for the time. And Benoit was by no means the only one who risked his health with this seemingly dangerous activity.
During his postmortem examination, it was concluded that Benoit’s brain was akin to an 85-year sufferer of Alzheimer’s Disease. Further damage was recorded in all four lobes and the stem. Not all former WWE superstars believe this though. In his autobiography, The Hardcore Truth, Bob Holly believes that alcoholism is to blame. He did not believe the cause to be dementia from blows to the head or even steroid abuse. When on the road, Holly regularly traveled with Benoit. Holly witnessed him drink a lot more often than use steroids or other drugs.
Erased From WWE History
Whatever the cause behind the Chris Benoit murder-suicide over that weekend, the WWE reacted quickly and firmly. In this last 9 years, the name of Chris Benoit has been omitted from all merchandise, promotional materials and past history. All of his accomplishments within the squared circle have been expunged. Plus, all active and former wrestlers, staff and executives of WWE were banned from bringing up his name at any time.
There was one good thing to come out of this dark day in sports. Many of the major wrestling companies: TNA, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro and in particular the WWE have all updated their wellness policies in the hope that such an act will never happen again.
Sites pulled 07/08 July 2016