Family Annihilators: Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit was a Canadian wrestling icon throughout a two-decade career. He worked with several pro-wrestling programs like WWF/WWE (World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment), WCW (World Championship Wrestling), ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), and NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling). He has been regarded as one of the greats with his technical wrestling ability. He was a one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion and a WWE one-time World Heavyweight Champion. On the night of his death, Benoit was scheduled to appear at a WWE event to win his third championship. For many, there was no way but up for Benoit.

Nancy Benoit

His wife was Nancy Benoit, who was also involved in the wrestling scene as a manager and also a model. Her debut was in Florida Championship Wrestling. She had many appearances in ECW and WCW as a character named “Woman.” Her final appearance was on WCW in 1997. She met Benoit and married in 1997, after which time she managed his career from their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

On the weekend of June 22, 2007, a series of events were put into deadly motion. Benoit had been in contact with some friends, and they had become increasingly worried about his behavior. He had sounded strange on the phone and was uncharacteristic in his communication with others. While alone with his wife in an upstairs bedroom, Benoit strangled her with a cord, and signs showed he had pressed his knee into her back for leverage. There was no initial sign of struggle. There were “therapeutic” levels of hydrocodone and alprazolam in her system, as well as alcohol. Decomposition made exact levels difficult to determine. The rope tied around her neck was pulled behind her, tying her hands together. Her ankles were bound as well. A blunt impact occurred on the right side of her head. Read the full autopsy file here. A bible was found near her body.

Nancy and Daniel Benoit

The time of death for Benoit’s son, Daniel (age 7), is assumed to have occurred the next day. The time of death could not be precisely determined. Daniel was sedated with Xanax and likely not conscious at his time of death. He was suffocated in his bedroom, a bible again left near his body. Daniel’s body was in a less severe decomposition state compared to Nancy’s, leading to further proof he was not killed on the same day. It is alleged that Daniel was found with needle track marks on his arms. Rumors allege that he was being given steroids by his father for an illness, leaving him undersized for his age. Family and teachers state that Daniel appeared normal-sized for his age, and the rumor of needle marks on his arms is disputed.

The Coverup

On Saturday, June 23, 2007, which was the day after Nancy was murdered, Benoit text messaged a friend, Chavo Guerrero. He stated that his wife and son had food poisoning and that he would be late for a scheduled wrestling event in Texas. Guerrero called Benoit back and stated he sounded groggy and tired. In a phone call later that day, Benoit ended a call by telling Guerrero, “Chavo, I love you.” This was out of character for Chris Benoit. Chavo Guerrero said in a later interview that Benoit sounded strange and it was odd the way he emphasized saying ‘I love you.’

Benoit missed his rescheduled flight to Texas and reportedly told Chavo Guerrero that Nancy was vomiting blood, and Daniel was also still sick. He, again, rescheduled his flight for arrival in Texas at 8 a.m. the next morning. In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 24, several text messages were sent from both Chris and Nancy’s cell phones. Four of the texts were the home address of the Benoit family. The fifth stated that the garage door was open, and the family dogs were in the pool area. Benoit failed to arrive at the Texas airport at 8 a.m.

Late Sunday morning, Benoit contacted someone at WWE to report that his wife was with him and they were at the hospital with his son, who was severely sick. He said he would arrive for a scheduled Pay-Per-View against CM Punk that afternoon, but again failed to arrive. That Monday, when WWE officials had yet to hear from Chris Benoit, they called Georgia police to perform a wellness check on the Benoit family. The bodies were discovered.

Benoit was discovered allegedly hanging from a weight machine cable in an apparent suicide. He created a noose from a white towel, attached it to the weight cable of a pull-down machine and removed the bar, leaving the weight to fall, strangling him. In a later interview, Nancy’s sister, Sandra Toffoloni stated that Benoit’s internet searches before his death included, “the quickest and easiest way to break a neck.” Chris Benoit was also found with “therapeutic” levels of hydrocodone and alprazolam in his system. He also had extreme levels of testosterone cited in the autopsy (read full autopsy here) to be from an “exogenous” source.

The Aftermath

A suicide note was not found in the home. Later in possessions that were sent to Benoit’s first wife in Canada, where his two older children lived, a note was found in a bible. This note said, “I’m preparing to leave this earth.” Possible motives were discussed, including steroid use leading to a case of “roid rage” and brain damage due to concussions sustained while wrestling. WWE described the claim of brain damage as “speculative.” During Benoit’s time wrestling, one of his signature moves was a “diving headbutt,” which consisted of him diving off of the top rope, and headbutting his opponent. It is also alleged that in 2003, Nancy Benoit attempted to file for divorce from Chris, citing domestic abuse, which was withdrawn months later.

The Benoit home in Georgia

The wrestling community was irreparably shaken by this news. On the Monday, June 25, 2007, show of Monday Night RAW, all matches were canceled and a special tribute show for Benoit was presented instead. When the truth of Benoit’s actions were announced, WWE changed its response by removing Benoit from wrestling memory. To this day, Benoit’s face, name, and matches are scrubbed from the WWE network. Vince McMahon stated the next day,

Vince McMahon announcing the death of the Benoit family on WWE

Last night on Monday Night Raw, the WWE presented a special tribute show, recognizing the career of Chris Benoit. However, now some 26 hours later, the facts of this horrific tragedy are now apparent. Therefore, other than my comments, there will be no mention of Mr. Benoit’s name tonight. On the contrary, tonight’s show will be dedicated to everyone who has been affected by this terrible incident. This evening marks the first step of the healing process. Tonight, WWE performers will do what they do better than anyone else in the world: entertain you.