Christopher Michael Benoit (French pronunciation: [bəˈnwa]; May 21, 1967 – June 24, 2007), known as Chris Benoit, was a Canadian professional wrestler. During his 22-year career, Benoit worked for major promotions including Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF/WWE).
Benoit was a two-time world champion, having been a one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and a one-time World Heavyweight Champion in WWE; he was booked to win a third world championship at a WWE event on the night of his death. Benoit was the twelfth WWE Triple Crown Champion and sixth WCW Triple Crown Champion, and the second of five men in history to achieve both the WWE and WCW Triple Crown Championships. He held 22 titles between the WWF/E, WCW, NJPW and ECW.
Benoit was also the 2004 Royal Rumble winner, joining Shawn Michaels as the only men to win a Royal Rumble as the number one entrant. He headlined several major pay-per-views for WWE, including a victory in the World Heavyweight Championship match main event of WWE WrestleMania 20 in 2004. Benoit was widely respected by both viewers and peers; pre-eminent wrestling historian Dave Meltzer ranked him as "one of the top 10, maybe even the top five, all-time greats", while industry veteran Chris Jericho remarked: "He was almost like, say, the Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky of his profession. He was that good... you can't tell the story of pro wrestling without talking about Chris Benoit."
Double-murder and Suicide
On June 25, 2007, police entered Benoit's home on a "welfare check" after several missed appointments, leading to concerns. The officers discovered the bodies of Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel at around 2:30 p.m. EDT. Upon investigating, no additional suspects were sought by authorities. It was determined that Benoit had committed the murders. Over a three-day period, Benoit had killed his wife and son before hanging himself. His wife was bound before the killing. Benoit's son was drugged and likely unconscious before Benoit strangled him. Benoit then committed suicide with a weight machine.
WWE canceled the scheduled three-hour long live Raw show on June 25, and replaced the broadcast version with a three-hour tribute to his life and career, featuring his past matches, segments from the Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story DVD, and comments from wrestlers and announcers. However, once the details of the murder–suicide became apparent, WWE quickly and quietly began distancing itself from the wrestler by removing merchandise and no longer mentioning him. The June 26 episode of ECW began with Vince McMahon addressing the television audience about the circumstances and announcing that there would be no mention of Benoit that night other than his comments. There was no mention of Benoit at all the following Friday on SmackDown.
Toxicology reports released on July 17, 2007 revealed that at their time of death, Nancy had three different drugs in her system: Xanax, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone, all of which were found at the therapeutic rather than toxic levels. Daniel was found to have Xanax in his system, which led the chief medical examiner to believe that he was sedated before he was murdered. Benoit was found to have Xanax, hydrocodone, and an elevated level of testosterone, caused by a synthetic form of the hormone, in his system. The chief medical examiner attributed the testosterone level to Benoit possibly being treated for a deficiency caused by previous steroid abuse or testicular insufficiency. There was no indication that anything in Benoit's body contributed to his violent behavior that led to the murder–suicide, concluding that there was no "roid-rage" involved. Prior to the murder–suicide, Benoit had been given illegal steroids not in compliance with WWE's Talent Wellness Program in February 2006. Benoit received nandrolone and anastrozole. During the investigation into steroid abuse, it was revealed that other wrestlers had also been given steroids.
After the double-murder suicide, former wrestler Christopher Nowinski contacted Michael Benoit, father of Chris Benoit, suggesting that years of trauma to his son's brain may have led to his actions. Tests were conducted on Benoit's brain by Julian Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, and results showed that "Benoit's brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient." He was reported to have had an advanced form of dementia, similar to the brains of four retired NFL players who had suffered multiple concussions, sank into depression, and harmed themselves or others. Bailes and his colleagues concluded that repeated concussions can lead to dementia, which can contribute to severe behavioral problems. Benoit's father suggests that brain damage may have been the leading cause of the crime. He confirmed that his son was quietly cremated, but what was done with the ashes is not public knowledge.
- Catch Wrestling Association World Tag Team Championship
- ECW World Tag Team Championship
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
- Stampede Wrestling British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship
- Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Championship
- Universal Wrestling Association / WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship
- WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
- WCW World Tag Team Championship
- WCW World Television Championship
- WWE World Heavyweight Championship
- WWE Intercontinental Championship
- WWE United States Championship
- WWE Tag Team Championship
- WWE World Tag Team Championship