Chris Benoit was a murderer. Between June 22 and June 25, 2007, the famed professional wrestler brutally murdered his wife, strangled their seven-year-old son and then hung himself. By the time he committed suicide using a piece of gym equipment, Benoit had been in the house with his dead family for several days, yet continued to answer texts from his fellow wrestlers, making excuses for why he wasn’t at house shows or a pay-per-view event.
Was Chris Benoit an evil person? It depends on how you define evil. Can a sick person be evil? Can a crazy person be evil? That’s not what we’re here to figure out since there are a million different arguments that can be made in the positive or negative. We mention this because we’re hoping the word “evil” can be left out of this list. We are not going to make excuses for his actions, speculate on any health issues that may have led to the tragedy or dwell on the grisly details. He did what he did.
What we will say, and hopefully this can be remembered for all people who do something horribly wrong or horribly stupid, is that they should not be solely defined by that one action. There have been some very bad in this world who have also had personality traits or performed actions the rest of us consider good. Those tend to get whitewashed in the face of the negative action.
Chris Benoit was one of the finest wrestlers who ever stepped foot between the ropes. Many wrestlers have called him one of the Top 10 of all time. In a career spanning more than 20 years, he wrestled, and won championships all over the world and inspired the next generation of wrestlers. Yes, he did what he did, but today let’s focus on the positive. Here are 15 Good Things About Chris Benoit.
15. Wanted to give back with a wrestling school
Benoit knew his years in the ring were winding down. After the death of his good friend Eddie Guerrero, he started to think about his legacy in wrestling and decided, along with his wife, Nancy, to begin the process of creating a wrestling school. It’s unknown exactly how far the duo got in really planning it, but there had already been shirts made up. Benoit would have been a great wrestling instructor as he learned from the best in Canada, Japan, Mexico and The United States. There are very few wrestlers who can claim that kind of professional training. It would have been interesting to see the kind of students Benoit would have produced had he been able to train the next generation.
14. Invented the Crippler Crossface
While there are some rumors that suggest Benoit may have used this devastating finishing move in the murder of his family, that fact has never been proven. What is proven is that Benoit developed one of the most iconic submission moves ever invented in wrestling. For fans who didn’t get to see Benoit wrestle, the Crippler Crossface was the move John Cena ripped off when he created the STF. Whereas Cena can’t beat anybody with his lame version, once Benoit slapped the Crippler Crossface on an opponent, that usually meant the end of the match. People will want to forget the wrestler forever, but his lasting legacy could very well be this finishing move. It should be seen as one of the things that the WRESTLER Chris Benoit left to the sport regardless of what Chris Benoit the person did to his family.
13. His wife’s family liked him
When something happens and a person snaps, much like Chris Benoit did when he killed his family at the beginning of the weekend and himself at the end, people are quick to take one heinous act and let it define who that person was. It’s hard to blame people for doing it, but a lot of perspective can be gained in Benoit’s case by listening to how much Nancy’s family liked him and what a complete shock his actions were. Both the father and sister of Nancy have gone on record saying that while they knew Chris and Nancy had some issues, they very much enjoyed his company. Nobody was ever going to confuse Benoit with being an outgoing guy, but prior to the tragedy, it was hard to find anyone either inside or outside of wrestling who had something very bad to say about Benoit.
12. Only one of two men to get WWE and WCW Triple Crowns
Yes, in professional wrestling a title can’t be looked at nearly as important as a title does in competitive sports. Vince McMahon putting a title around your waist doesn’t mean you’re the best wrestler. It means you suit his purpose, whatever it may be, at the moment. That said, you need to be somebody special to hold a title and you have to be someone extra special to hold multiple titles. Chris Benoit was that guy. In WWE, he held the world championship, the intercontinental championship and the world tag team championship with Chris Jericho. In WCW, Benoit held the WCW world heavyweight title, the US title and the world tag team championship with Dean Malenko. Benoit was the first to do get the Triple Crown in both companies and only Ric Flair can claim that he is also a double triple crown champion. Throughout his career, Benoit held 22 titles.
11. Couldn’t be bribed with WCW world title
Chris Benoit was that rare person in wrestling who absolutely loved the sport and the artistry that came with it, but wasn’t too big of a mark that something like a big shiny belt would sway him from his convictions. It was well known that Benoit (and several other wrestlers like Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero) were not happy with the way they were being treated by WCW during the height of the NWO storyline. Hoping to keep Benoit happy, WCW officials decided to give Benoit the world title at one of their pay-per-views, hoping he’d sign a contract that was coming due a day later. He didn’t, and was seen on WWE programming shortly thereafter. WCW had to call the title change invalid and ended up looking like fools in the process. Benoit went on to a bigger WWE career than he ever would have had in WCW.
10. Best diving headbutt in the business
This is a good thing, but it may also be one of the pieces of his undoing. Benoit idolized Dynamite Kid and took on a style similar to his hero when he wrestled in Japan as “The Pegasus Kid” melding high-risk maneuvers with a few hard-hitting or power moves. One such move was the diving headbutt off the top rope, which the Bulldog made famous. While Benoit obviously wasn’t having head-to-head contact with his fallen foes, his head would still often make contact with the mat or his opponent’s shoulder. These blows to the head are what some attribute to the brain damage found in Benoit after he died. It is speculative, but in wake of this revelation coupled with what doctors learned about concussions in the NFL, the WWE had cut way back on moves that involve any head impact, including the diving head butt and unprotected chair shots.
9. He was kind to and protective of those he cared for
Nancy Benoit’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni, went on Chris Jericho’s podcast in the summer of 2016 to talk about her former brother-in-law and what he was like leading up to the tragedy. While he had been on a steady decline, she recalled meeting a guy who wasn’t the kind of person Nancy had been drawn to in the past. She shared a story about the first time meeting Chris, who tried to shield them from an argument with Kevin Sullivan backstage. Toffoloni described Benoit: “He was kind and considerate, very quiet, very focused, and just a driven guy, but caring. He loved my sister. He wanted to be around myself [and] my parents a lot. So it was kind of a stark contrast from the relationships she had in the past.”
8. Inspired Chad Gable and others to become wrestlers
Elsewhere in this list, we talked about how Dynamite Kid was one of Chris Benoit’s inspirations. For those who know what happened to the Dynamite Kid after wrestling, it wasn’t exactly great. First came reports of spousal abuse and because of his reckless style in the ring, Kid was eventually confined to a wheelchair. He ended up in subsidized housing, rarely showing up in public except to attack wrestling. Obviously this is not the person Benoit idolized and it’s important to recognize that it’s OK for Chris Benoit, the wrestler, to have inspired the next generation. It doesn’t say anything negative for that generation. Among the wrestlers who have been willing to publicly admit that Benoit had a positive influence on them was Chad Gable, who has gone on to to success with Jason Jordan in American Alpha.
7. When it came to the WWE, he was a good company man
From Shawn Michaels “losing his smile” in the mid-90s to Steve Austin getting whiney about his character’s direction to Ryback taking his ball and going home because of being forced to job to Kalisto, wrestlers are notorious for missing the point that they are participating in a fictitious show, not a legitimate athletic contest. Chris Benoit was a legitimate tough guy who could have held his own in almost any fight, but he didn’t let that stand in the way of putting on the show WWE bookers envisioned. Whether he was being asked to be the world champion or to lose in two minutes, Benoit always did what was asked and, based on all accounts, didn’t complain. Had Benoit not done what he did, he was scheduled to get the ECW title. At that point, ECW was the third-tier, almost forgotten WWE show. It certainly wasn’t prestigious, but Benoit might have helped the brand, so he agreed to go with it. That’s the kind of guy you want working for you.
6. Spoke two languages fluently, knew two others
This may not seem like a big deal, but can you speak both French and English fluently and also have a working knowledge of Japanese and Spanish. Growing up in bilingual Canada and wrestling all over the world certainly had an upside and Benoit being able to pick up languages was one of them. A study was done in 1990 and found that about 14 percent of U.S. citizens were bilingual, up from 11 percent in 1980. It is believed that number is hovering around 20 percent now…for Americans. When it comes to the rest of the world, the number is closer to 50 percent. Depending on how you count Benoit’s abilities with Japanese and Spanish, he was exceptionally rare since only 13% of the world’s population can speak three languages and less than 3% can speak four. It certainly pokes holes in the belief wrestlers aren’t smart people.
5. His brain led to a revamp of wrestling rules
It’s hard to find silver linings in clouds that are stained with the blood of a wife and little boy who are victims, but if there is one, Chris Benoit’s actions forced wrestling to take a hard look at itself once things started to become more clear. Benoit’s brain, his doctor’s said, resembled one of an 80-year-old dementia patient. The hypothesis is that all of those unprotected chair shots to the head and years of diving headbutts off the top rope which led to concussions likely played a part in the deterioration of his brain. Around this time, the NFL developed their concussion policy based on scientific reports. WWE immediately started to ban moves that could cause damage to the head, including chair shots and pile drivers. Some complain this somehow cheapens today’s product, but if it means long term health for the wrestlers, we’ll take the lame looking chair shots to the back instead.
4. He took the loss of Eddie Guerrero very, very hard
One of the ways you can often spot a caring human being from one that is cold is how they grieve. For those who saw Chris “The Crippler” Benoit as something with nothing but cold water running his through his veins, those who have talked about how he felt in the wake of Eddie Guerrero’s death tell a very different story. First, Benoit, along with Dean Malenko, flew with Guerrero’s body from the Minnesota hotel it was found in, bringing it home in advance of the funeral. He didn’t talk much about coping with the death, but at one point Benoit admitted to writing Eddie Guerrero letters as a way of communicating with him after he died. When it came time to induct Latino Heat into the Hall of Fame, Benoit was one of three people who helped do the honors. Somebody without feelings wouldn’t have done these things.
3. He was clearly loved by his colleagues
Chris Benoit’s actions took place over a weekend, ending with him killing himself. It wasn’t made public until 30-36 hours later what exactly had transpired. Unfortunately for the WWE, they made the decision to postpone Monday Night Raw and run a tribute show, which included testimonials from many of his co-workers. Keep in mind, they didn’t know what had actually happened yet, many took to Raw to pay tribute. Steve Austin called Benoit: “Generous with his time and his knowledge. I love you, Chris.” John Cena said: “Chris was the type of guy you want to go to war with. He formed close bonds with a lot of people and some will talk to you like he was their brother.” Tazz said: “Chris Benoit was not just a great pro, great guy and great man. When you got in the ring with him, you better up your game.” Dean Malenko said: “Supporting each other in and out of the ring as people, Chris was one of the few people I could talk to.”
2. Had among the best work ethics in the business
Chris Benoit was considered one of the best overall wrestlers in the business even if he had to portrayed as a bit of a silent assassin since his mic skills were not that great. He never stopped trying to improve them and even though he was a master grappler, he never tried to stop being better. In the book. Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport by Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, Irvin Muchnick, Greg Oliver, no less than CM Punk talked about Benoit’s worth ethic, saying, “I was always a huge fan of Chris Benoit and was always influenced by him and his work ethic. He was a student of the game. He was a student when he didn’t really need to be.” This kind of testimonial can be found again and again in wrestling books when people look back on the kind of professional Benoit was.
1. His wrestling legacy is too big to forget
There will be people who claim that we only talk about Chris Benoit these days because of those horrible days 10 years ago when he murdered his wife and child, but those people can’t see the life leading up to it. Wrestlers these days, especially Chris Jericho, work to publicly remember Chris Benoit as a great wrestling artist. The WWE has tried to expunge all of Chris Benoit from their archives. This includes pretending like the tribute show never existed. In its place on WWE Network is a highlight show of that year’s championship matches. It’s kind of pathetic. Thankfully wrestling fans who are willing to not define the man based on one action still fly the “Chris Benoit was one of the all-time greats” flags. He’ll never be mentioned on WWE TV if they can help it and you’ll never see him in the Hall of Fame, but Benoit was one of very few people who will always be remembered no matter how many people try to label him by one act and expunge his memory from television.