June 22 to June 24, 2007 will forever go down as the darkest weekend in the history of professional wrestling, for that was the three-day span in which former WWE and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit brutally murdered his wife and 7-year-old son. After committing these heinous acts, Benoit took his own life, leaving a shocked and confused industry behind, wondering what possibly caused the man they knew to turn into a monster.
Even in the sports entertainment industry, where an unfortunate number of performers have died at a young age, the circumstances of the Benoit family tragedy were nonetheless completely unexpected. While Benoit’s intensity inside the squared circle was unmatched and was a big part of what made him a star, behind the scenes, he was a calm, sensitive soul whom much of the locker room could rely on when times were tough. In short, Chris Benoit was the last person anyone would’ve expected to kill his family in a violent rage. And yet, that’s exactly what he did.
By and large, the wrestling business has turned its back on Benoit in the wake of his crimes, and rightfully so. However, some individuals were extremely close friends with Chris Benoit the man, to the extent they still can’t reconcile the person he was with the way he ended his and his family’s lives. Some of them have praised Benoit now and again, focusing on his work and career. Of course, they also always make sure to point out what he did at the end of his life was inexcusable, which is pretty much all WWE has to say about the matter. Keep reading to find out which 8 wrestlers have said good things about Chris Benoit, along with 7 who’ll never forgive what he did.
15. SAID GOOD THINGS: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
In many respects, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became the biggest star of the Attitude Era by always speaking his mind, no matter how many times WWE corporate executives told him to stop. For this reason, it’s probably not all that surprising he’s one of the few who would buck convention and speak glowingly about Chris Benoit on an episode of The Stone Cold Podcast. Early in the run of his series, Austin knew this question would come up, so he gave a few quick thoughts summing up his feelings on the matter, hoping fans wouldn’t keep asking him about it. Basically, while Austin is with everyone else on having been completely shocked by what Benoit had done and calling it “unforgivable” and horrific, he spent just as much time talking about how Benoit was one of the best wrestlers he had ever met. Austin even went a step further by saying that as a person and a wrestler, he loved Benoit. To be fair, he did end his thoughts on the “unforgivable” note, calling that the bottom line.
14. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: New Jack
To call New Jack and Chris Benoit polar opposites would be a massive understatement, as the only thing they have in common at all is that they’re both wrestlers who competed for ECW in the mid-’90s. Quite frankly, we’re not even sure if the two ever wrestled one another or spent more than a few minutes together, but New Jack’s vitriolic comments about Benoit in the wake of his murders were too intense for us not to mention on this list. While even half the people who talk about how they hate what Benoit did have to point out he was a good wrestler and nice person at one point in his life, New Jack makes no such consolations. As far as the former ECW Tag Team Champion is concerned, by murdering his wife and son, Benoit erased anything positive he ever did and replaced it with pure evil. New Jack even goes so far as to condemn the people who try to praise his work, saying none of that matters, because Benoit’s just an awful murderer. Well, that’s the cleaned up version, anyway. We actually couldn’t print a single sentence of New Jack’s hateful rant about Benoit due to the number of profanities it contained.
13. SAID GOOD THINGS: MVP
Pretty much every wrestler who says positive things about Chris Benoit to this day knew him when he was alive, generally as a good friend. Another thing most of them have in common is that they try to rationalize or justify what he did as not necessarily his fault, blaming drugs, alcohol, or some combination thereof as the true killers. Others have pointed to mental illness, noting the repeated chair shots to the head and various other injuries caused Benoit to have the brain of a much older man. One of the people making this claim is MVP, who had been regularly working with Benoit in the months leading up to his death. The two feuded over the WWE United States Championship from April to May of 2007, and according to MVP, Benoit would regularly black out during matches and have trouble remembering what they had or hadn’t done in the ring. With this information, MVP believes mental illness is more responsible than Benoit himself, and thus, he can still praise the ways in which the future killer helped his own career.
12. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: John Morrison
Although the man in question doesn’t necessarily see it this way, if anyone could say he “benefitted” from the horrible Chris Benoit tragedy, it’s John Morrison. The night Benoit committed suicide, WWE had planned to make him the ECW Champion, and when he failed to show up to win the gold, they let Morrison take his place. At the time, Morrison called it the happiest moment of his life, suddenly becoming a top champion and cementing his reputation as a top worker. The next day, he realized what Benoit had done that led to him becoming champion, and the achievement was heavily marred, to say the least. Speaking about the incident, Morrison said he and many others broke down and cried when they heard the news, citing that Nancy and Daniel were extremely nice people who didn’t deserve their fate. According to Morrison, he can no longer watch matches or footage of Benoit without getting emotional, and it’s possible his own ECW Championship reign has the same negative memories attached. Reflecting on his brief joy over Benoit’s no-show, Morrison claims he retrospectively feels like “the biggest douchebag in the world.”
11. SAID GOOD THINGS: Booker T
For a crash course in how two wrestlers can make one another’s careers in 7 matches or less, look no further than the series between Booker T and Chris Benoit that took place in WCW throughout 1998. Both men were respected athletes up until that point, and afterward, both were truly poised for greatness, slowly gravitating up the card until they became World Champions. It may feel like hyperbole to claim all of their success was based on this one series of matches, yet that’s exactly what Booker T did in a 2017 interview. According to the five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time WCW Champion, the best-of-seven series he wrestled against Benoit was the best thing he ever accomplished in his career. Booker didn’t even touch on the subject of Benoit’s crimes and focused entirely on the positive experiences they had inside the ring.
10. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: John Cena
When Michael Cole calls John Cena the “Face of WWE,” he doesn’t simply mean that the 16-time World Champion is the most famous superstar in the business. Cena also represents his employer’s views and opinions, strictly adhering to the official company line on practically every issue imaginable. Naturally, this extends to the Chris Benoit situation, as Cena has been publicly agreeing with WWE’s stance that silence is the best policy as recently as July 2017. When asked how he felt about WWE erasing Benoit, Cena flatly refused to accept the notion that an artist should be separated from his or her real life. In Cena’s words, people should take ownership of their actions, and that means “all of them. Not just ones that are performed in front of an audience.” For this reason, Cene believes that the Benoit that killed his family is the same Benoit that got in the ring and wrestled, and therefore, WWE, nor should its top superstars, can’t support him.
9. SAID GOOD THINGS: Kurt Angle
Typically, the wrestlers who still have nice things to say about Chris Benoit either worked with him extensively or intensively studied his work, and the always overachieving Kurt Angle most definitely did both. Angle entered the WWE Universe in 1999 and was WWE Champion by the year 2000, one of the fastest rises in the company’s history. Along the way, he had a great deal of training during a prolonged feud against Chris Benoit, which continued pretty much until Angle left the company in 2006. Eleven years later, Angle returned to WWE long after the Benoit tragedy had taken place, and he’s since been one of the few people employed by the company to say good things about his former opponent while under contract. Although he did apologize for saying so and acknowledge he could never forgive what Benoit did in a traditional sense, Angle was steadfast in calling him one of “the top five, maybe top three” wrestlers in history.
8. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: Kevin Sullivan
Virtually every wrestler to cross paths with Chris Benoit could argue that he has strongly personally reasons for why he feels the way he does about his actions. That said, Kevin Sullivan, in particular, may have more reasons to make such a claim than anyone else, as he was the ex-husband of Nancy Benoit and still had strong connections with several members of her family. Sullivan doesn’t like to speculate on what drove Benoit to commit his final acts, noting no one could ever understand why he did that, feeling the only important part is that two innocent people had lost their lives. Sullivan also has a personal connection to the family in that he feuded against Benoit over Nancy’s love in WCW, in an angle that imitated life when she legitimately left Sullivan for Chris. Reflecting on this, some skeptical fans actually believed Sullivan may have been involved with the murders, something he found deeply distressing until Nancy’s family assured him they knew that such claims were absolutely ridiculous.
7. SAID GOOD THINGS: Shane Helms
Performers in the pro wrestling business usually claim a certain brotherhood exists between all coworkers, as they share certain experiences no one outside of the industry could ever understand. Shane Helms learned Chris Benoit felt this way about him in a major way when he was sidelined from the sport for over a full year due to a severe neck injury. During his first month on the shelf, Helms would regularly receive phone calls from Benoit, offering his support and advice, having gone through a similarly debilitating injury some six years earlier. Suddenly, the calls stopped because Benoit had killed himself and was thus no longer able to make them. Like anyone else, Helms was absolutely shocked by this development, yet he eventually settled on the same rationalization that worked for MVP. While Helms obviously finds what Benoit did horrible, he argued that people suffering from severe mental illness can’t be blamed for what they do in the same sense a cancer victim can’t be blamed for having contracted the disease.
6. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: Val Venis
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Val Venis and Chris Benoit had a whole lot in common, aside from the fact they were both wrestlers. However, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find two hardworking Canadians who were truly committed to putting on the best show they could for their fans, divergent though the audiences may have been. Even so, Venis and Benoit only crossed paths in WWE a handful of times in Raw and SmackDown matches that have mostly been forgotten. Once, they even formed an unlikely tag team against the equally strange tandem of Eddie Guerrero and Rikishi. Back to the point, this was enough for Venis to develop a very strong opinion on Benoit as an incredibly talented worker, something that was completely shattered by the way Benoit left this Earth. In Venis’s words, Benoit is nothing but a “coward,” having committed atrocities so horrible they completely invalidate all the good done in his life.
5. SAID GOOD THINGS: CM Punk
Before the full weight of Chris Benoit’s fate was known, it could’ve been argued the wrestler affected the most by his failure to appear at Vengeance 2007 was CM Punk. While it was Morrison who lucked out and won the ECW Championship that night, Punk was the wrestler originally poised to face Benoit, and thus, he was the one who had major plans changed in a heartbeat without any explanation. For some reason, though, Punk was quick to make surprisingly positive comments about the man in spite of both this personal slight and the far worse things Benoit did to his family. Back when Punk was still working for WWE, Punk was asked if the company was trying to erase Benoit from history, and unlike the usual company line at the time, he refused to back down. Instead, he answered honestly by saying he and WWE were “proud of Benoit’s achievements” in the industry, presumably referring to his top-level work as an athlete. Vague and confusing as the statement was, for a WWE employee to say he was in any way proud of a man the company wanted its employees to ignore was a pretty huge shock.
4. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: Triple H
Believe it or not, once upon a time, Triple H and Chris Benoit were considered extremely close friends. Nowadays, the subject never gets brought up at all due to Triple H’s high-level corporate position in WWE, a company that refuses to acknowledge the former World Champion’s name in any way. This apparently includes when troll-like fans of NXT decide to heckle the performers by chanting Benoit’s name, which happened immediately prior to NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the chanting got so loud that Triple H had to address it by sternly telling them to shut up, pointing out it wasn’t funny. This is in stark contrast to what Triple H said immediately after Benoit’s death in the controversial Raw tribute to Benoit, where he glowingly praised the man’s work and claimed to hold a great respect for him to the end. Once the truth came out, however, HHH decided to change his mind along with his company, doing whatever it takes to ensure his name never gets brought up again.
3. SAID GOOD THINGS: Batista
Two days after Chris Benoit killed himself, Vince McMahon appeared on WWE television and decreed Benoit’s name would never again be mentioned on one of their broadcasts. This promise has mostly been kept, even extending to out of character interviews with WWE superstars on major news outlets. Perhaps the first wrestler to buck this trend was Batista, a close friend of Benoit who released his autobiography in October 2007, a mere three months after the tragedy took place. WWE lawyers fought vehemently for Batista to remove all mentions of Benoit from his book, but the Animal steadfastly refused, saying he “loved” Benoit and wouldn’t “erase him from [Batista’s] life” because of what he did. Of course, Batista is like everyone else in pointing out he despises the final acts Benoit committed, yet it clearly wasn’t enough for him to forget about the many good times they shared before then.
2. CAN’T FORGIVE HIM: Vince McMahon
Ultimately, the reputation of Chris Benoit in respect to the WWE Universe comes down to the feelings of one person: Vince McMahon. Like with anything else in his sports entertainment empire, Vince controls how and what other wrestlers are allowed to say on the subject, forcing them to either condemn Benoit’s actions or ignore him outright. From a business perspective, this is almost certainly the right thing to do, as Benoit’s image alone brings up vile and painful feelings for a great number of WWE fans. There’s also the issue that whenever Benoit’s name gets brought up, certain aspects of the media start trying to blame pro wrestling for what he did. The argument is that the industry’s once-relaxed policies toward drugs and letting performers get hit in the head with chairs might’ve contributed to his later mental state. There may be some truth to that idea, in general, yet it also needs to be pointed out that every other wrestler experienced similar conditions, and 99.9% of them didn’t murder their families, so it makes total sense Vince doesn’t want people focusing on the .1% who did.
1. SAID GOOD THINGS: Chris Jericho
In the immediate wake of Chris Benoit’s death, practically every living wrestler to have worked with him was invited on various news and talk shows to discuss what had happened. One of the most prolific interviews within this timeframe was Chris Jericho‘s, and with good reason. Jericho’s and Benoit’s careers had been intertwined for some time by then, both as friends and enemies. They were former WWE Tag Team Champions together and had also feuded over the Intercontinental and European belts, not to mention the fact they were also extremely close behind the scenes. This was the main focus of Jericho’s thoughts during his many news appearances, with his favorite talking points all focused on the fact Benoit was a great friend, husband, and father up until the very last moments of his life. In 2016, Jericho’s stance changed a bit during a discussion with Nancy’s sister Sandra, where he learned new details about his friend’s horrific crime spree. Even still, Jericho seems more positive than most in his remembrances of Benoit as a once-good person who happened to do something awful at the end of his life.
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