Most rational minds could never understand how a human being could take the lives of his or her family. Should a deranged killer happen to be a beloved public figure, the shock is only intensified, with society somehow having taught us famous movie stars and athletes always possess the moral high ground despite this rarely being the case. Of course, only a select few celebrities have made errors in judgment so severe they took the lives of others. For as violent and dangerous as most of the world perceives pro wrestling, these concepts still hold true, and this is why WWE fans haven’t heard the name “Chris Benoit” in nearly a decade.
On June 22, 2007, Benoit murdered his wife of 17 years, Nancy, then killed their 7-year-old son, Daniel the next morning. Two days later, either overcome by the grief of his actions or simply having lost his mind entirely, Benoit took his own life by hanging himself from a weight bench. Between these two events, an entire WWE Pay-Per-View event took place where Benoit was supposed to compete, and yet the company remained entirely out of the loop on his plans until reading about them on the news.
At the times of these crimes, they were pretty much the most disturbing events in pro wrestling history. Nearing the 10-year anniversary of these tragic events, those feelings remain quite strong, with wrestling fans to this day largely unable to comprehend what Benoit did, not to mention why. That said, some small bits of information have since been made public, so anyone looking for further explanation on wrestling’s biggest tragedy should keep reading to learn 15 facts about the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide that still shock us 10 years later.
15. It All Began Back In WCW
No matter how tragic the ending, every love story has a beginning, and for Chris and Nancy, said beginnings took place mere inches away from a WCW ring. During a prolonged war between The Dungeon of Doom and The Four Horsemen, Chris Benoit started a side battle against Kevin Sullivan. At the time, Sullivan was married to Nancy, who also happened to perform as one of Ric Flair’s valets under the name Woman. Nancy slowly gravitated from Flair to Benoit, drawing Sullivan’s ire and kicking off a number of intense hardcore matches. Soon enough, life imitated art, and Nancy left Sullivan for Benoit in real life. Ironically, Sullivan was booking WCW at the time, meaning he pretty much choreographed his wife leaving him for another man. Looking back on the incident, Sullivan has expressed great regret, more so because of Nancy’s tragic fate than his own divorce.
14. Nancy Tried To Leave Chris Two Years Earlier
One thing just about everybody thought upon hearing what Chris Benoit had done is that he was the last person anyone expected could do such a thing. While this feeling was entirely understandable, a prior incident would later come out, proving the murders were hardly an isolated incident. In fact, Nancy had flat out attempted to leave Benoit and even filed a restraining order against him roughly four years prior to their deaths. Reports indicated Benoit had been abusive, albeit not physically, though nonetheless leaving Nancy worried for her life. Apparently, fellow wrestler and neighbor Johnny Grunge intervened and convinced the couple to reconcile. Knowing how things ended, the question needs be raised whether or not publicizing this incident could have helped protect Nancy in the long run. Instead, the wrestling community largely swept it under the rug, acting as though the two were a perfect couple.
13. Both Chris And Nancy Were Upset Over Lost Friends
Well before the Benoit family tragedy, the wrestling world was already suffering a crisis where a shocking number of performers were dying at young ages. Chris and Nancy Benoit were hurting just as badly as anyone else, maybe even more so, considering they had been in the business for decades and thus had amassed many friends amongst their co-workers. In the five years immediately preceding their own deaths, the Benoits lost companions like Johnny Grunge, Black Cat, Big Boss Man, Eddie Guerrero, Miss Elizabeth, and Sherri Martel. Anyone who loses six close friends is going to feel a horrible emotional strain, and friends of both Chris and Nancy reported the two falling apart personally and as a couple because of it. They also both were reported as saying they didn’t believe they could handle the trend continuing on an emotional level.
12. Benoit Was Perceived As A Family Man Until The End
Notwithstanding the brief moment when Nancy attempted to leave Chris four years prior to their tragic demise, Chris Benoit had pretty much always been represented as the most “normal” or “level-headed” wrestler around. Sure, some might say he was a little intense about the business, but aside from that, nary a bad word was said about the Rabid Wolverine. Especially when removed from the ring, Benoit was always described as a consummate professional, and as this list has already established, the cliché of him being the last person expected to commit these crimes held true. Above all, Benoit also had a reputation for loving his family, sometimes taking long and expensive flights home when he had a few spare hours between WWE events simply to spend time with Nancy and their son. Once again, one can’t help but wonder whether or not the industry was trying to hide something in this regard, knowing how sordid their future would be.
11. Friends Noticed Benoit Grow Paranoid And Despondent
For all the talk about how Benoit was the last person anyone expected to commit these crimes, it’s not as though they came entirely unexpected. Even Benoit’s closest friends would later admit he started acting a bit strange in the last months of his life, with paranoia seemingly taking over his very existence. It’s one thing for Benoit to have looked at all his friends dying and started worrying about himself, but his behavior was more in line with someone cheating on their spouse or evading federal arrest. Allegedly, Benoit would constantly change his travel plans at the last minute, switch rental cars as he rode to arenas, and generally act in an extremely suspicious manner. Obviously, none of this necessarily means a man is plotting to kill his family, nor does it prove guilt in any other crime. Nonetheless, it’s most definitely questionable and a sign Benoit needed help for some time.
10. Nancy’s Murder Was Brutal And Intentional
Given all the information leading up to Benoit’s crimes already covered on this list, it should be clear that the wrestling world had seriously conflicted emotions when the news of his final actions broke. Many of Benoit’s closest friends were utterly shocked by what he had done and found it extremely difficult to reconcile the great man they once knew with the monster who killed his wife and child. As a result, certain wrestlers started trying to rationalize what had happened, thinking perhaps a sudden argument or heated moment led to Benoit accidentally murdering Nancy, jumpstarting his spree. Make no mistake about it, though—Benoit may not have premeditated his actions, but they were definitely brutal enough that his intent was murder. Nancy’s arms were found restrained behind her back, and the only logical explanation is Chris was trying to ensure his wife couldn’t defend herself as he strangled her to death.
9. Benoit Sent Strange Messages To Friends Between Killings
As is often the case in crime scenes with no survivors, piecing together an exact timeline of Chris Benoit’s crimes is a bit of a challenge. All police know for sure is that Benoit murdered his wife and child on Saturday and then waited two days before taking his own life. What Benoit did in between taking lives is almost entirely a mystery, with a handful of minor, confusing details. One of these details is that the day Benoit murdered Nancy and Daniel, he also sent a number of cryptic and unsettling text messages to his friends Chavo Guerrero and referee Steve Armstrong, both WWE employees at the time. It was later revealed these texts were in reference to the Benoit family dogs, instructing Guerrero and Armstrong on how to take care of them in his wake. While Benoit’s friends were concerned, without any further information, all they could reasonably do in response was ask what he was talking about. By the time they knew, it was too late.
8. Daniel’s Murder Was Swift And Somewhat Predetermined
After murdering his wife Nancy and sending a few strange text messages to his friends, Chris Benoit committed his most unforgivable act in taking the life of his 7-year-old son, Daniel. While there have been a handful of justifications for how a man could conceivably get angry and murder his wife, the idea of that same man then murdering a completely innocent child is significantly harder to rationalize for anyone who isn’t a psychopath. Things only get worse with the knowledge Daniel’s death was most definitely predetermined, more so than Nancy’s even, proved by Benoit apparently having dosed his son with Xanax prior to taking his life. This alone makes it clear Benoit wanted Daniel unconscious, and it should be no surprise he quickly strangled him to death after achieving that goal.
7. Benoit Almost Attended A Pay-Per-View The Night After The Murders
All things considered, the terrifying details regarding Benoit’s decision to send strange texts between his murders became public knowledge shockingly fast. Although this was already enough to prove Benoit’s mental state was in disarray, a second story would come out later further elucidating his deterioration. The WWE Universe continued unperturbed by Benoit throughout his spree, not having the details until it was all said and done. The day between Benoit killing his wife and child and his own death happened to be the same night as the Pay-Per-View event Vengeance: Night of Champions, where the Wolverine was scheduled to wrestle John Morrison. Initially, Benoit informed WWE officials his family was sick and that he couldn’t attend the event, already somewhat shocking. Far more terrifying is that he apparently later changed his mind and tried to book a last-minute flight to the show, acting as though nothing happened. For better or worse, Benoit changed his mind again and didn’t make an appearance.
6. Benoit’s Suicide Was Grizzly And Required Great Physical Strength
Should a man truly lose his mind and murder his family in a psychotic fugue state, it goes without saying he’s probably going to be more shocked and horrified than anyone else upon discovering his own actions. No one knows for sure if that’s what happened to Chris Benoit or if his suicide was merely part of his deranged plan, but we do know that his method of self-destruction was particularly ghastly. Several weeks before his death, Benoit had apparently made a web search for “the easiest way to break a person’s spine,” and he just may have found it. In a feat requiring what police called “superhuman strength,” Benoit lifted hundreds of pounds connected to his exercise bench, tied the rope around his neck, and let them drop. The effort involved makes it clear Benoit very much intended to kill himself, and had at least enough control of his mind to set out doing so.
5. Wikipedia Somehow Knew The Truth Before WWE
Mainstream news has been going through lots of changes thanks to the introduction of social media, and believe it or not, the Benoit crimes were one of the first times this trend became a story in and of itself. For reasons that to this day remain almost entirely a mystery, the fact Benoit missed Vengeance: Night of Champions due to his wife dying was posted to Wikipedia before the police had even discovered their bodies. Of course, Wikipedia is still a relatively new medium, and there are plenty of kinks to be worked out with regard to people posting information that hasn’t been confirmed. While police didn’t discover the Benoits until after the article was posted, the rumor mill had been spinning from the second Vengeance hit the air, and some were even speculating about a family emergency. That this speculation led to a Wikipedia edit is hardly uncommon, and police were satisfied in believing it was a bizarre coincidence.
4. CTE Was Only One Of Many Factors
To this day, friends, fans, and even some family members of Chris Benoit are attempting desperately to understand what drove him to commit his final actions. Initially, people were entirely baffled, speculating that there may have been secret marital problems for some time. Others assumed Benoit must have genuinely gone insane, suffering some sort of psychotic break no one could have predicted. Due to a major story concerning the sports world in general, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, has gained a reputation as one of the main culprits. There’s no doubt Benoit suffered some level of brain damage from constant chair shots to the head and worse, diving headbutts, yet a question remains on how integral this was in Benoit’s crimes. Could it have played some small factor? Absolutely. However, the explanation that Benoit simply completely lost his mind seems unlikely given the sheer brutality of his actions.
3. Nancy’s Sister Told All On An Episode Of Talk Is Jericho
Everyone in the entire wrestling industry was shaken and shocked by what happened to the Benoit family to the extent that some people have forgotten there were other victims even closer to the crimes. Let’s not forget there were also the remaining members of the family, including Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni. Roughly nine years after the murders, Toffoloni broke her family’s long silence by appearing on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk Is Jericho. The appearance was especially noteworthy considering Benoit and Jericho had been such close friends, a detail that made the already emotional interview feel extra personal and revealing. For as difficult as things must have been for her, Toffolini handled the interview extremely well, revealing many of the details that have been shared on this list. Toffolini was clearly still hurt and traumatized by what had happened, yet her courage in moving past it was admirable, the one light at the end of this tunnel.
2. WWE Aired A Tribute Show The Day After Benoit Died
Thanks to the WWE Network, fans of pro wrestling can watch virtually every hour of entertainment the company has ever produced. The service isn’t at its peak yet, with plenty of content still needing to be added, but one program WWE was quick to ensure would be on its network in full was the flagship Monday Night Raw. Legal and technical limitations mean new episodes take a week before getting added, but aside from that, almost every episode is on the website, with one notable exception. Even if 99% of all recorded wrestling is one day available online, the July 25, 2007 episode of the show will never appear. Not knowing the full story, WWE made the questionable decision to air a tribute show on Benoit’s behalf. At the time, it felt appropriate, although by the very next day, it needed to be erased entirely.
1. Benoit’s Name Still Hasn’t Been Mentioned Since
Outside of the tribute show in his honor and a cursory mention on ECW the next night, the name Chris Benoit has not been said on WWE programming since his death. Chances are, this will never change, as memories of his crimes still weigh heavily in most wrestling fans’ minds. While the company has occasionally changed their minds on some pretty bad criminals in the past, even celebrating accused murderers like Jimmy Snuka, the fact that Benoit brutally murdered his own child takes the severity of his crimes to an entirely different level. Especially considering a good portion of the WWE audience are children themselves, the idea of a man once a beloved hero killing his own offspring is too horrifying to explain. Because there’s no real reason to keep bringing Benoit up, it’s hard to argue against this policy, yet some of his fans have nonetheless tried.
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