The Tragic Story Of WWE Star Chris Benoit

If you were a fan in the early-to-late 2000s, you knew what to expect upon hearing the strains of Our Lady Peace's "Whatever" on WWE programming — it was time for Chris Benoit to put on another wrestling clinic. Standing 5-feet-10-inches and weighing around 230 pounds, the "Canadian Crippler," as he was called, was a key figure in WWE's Ruthless Aggression Era, along with other big names such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, and Kurt Angle. But despite taking part in many now-iconic matches and winning his fair share of championships, his name isn't one that you should expect to see in anyone's wrestling hall of fame going forward.

Most fans are aware of the crime that has since overshadowed all of Benoit's accomplishments and sullied his reputation as a hard-nosed, yet technically gifted worker who could have a fantastic match with just about anybody. But Benoit went through several other trials in his life, both in and out of the wrestling ring, and the murder-suicide that took place at his Georgia home in June 2007 marked the end of what one can call the tragic life of a talented, yet oftentimes troubled wrestler.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Benoit got his infamous nickname following an in-ring accident

Growing up in Edmonton in the 1970s, Chris Benoit had pro wrestling dreams at a very young age (via Maxim). As a teenager, he trained at wrestling icon Stu Hart's "Dungeon" before making his professional debut in 1985 for Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion, aged just 18 years old at that time. He then went on to compete for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and had a brief stint in World Championship Wrestling in the early '90s. Despite his youth, he was carving a reputation as someone who made up for his lack of size with superior technical wrestling skills.

In addition to Stampede, NJPW, and WCW, Benoit also competed in Extreme Championship Wrestling during his first decade in the business, and it was there that he got his "Canadian Crippler" nickname. During a match against Sabu at the November to Remember pay-per-view in 1994, Benoit flipped his opponent in the air, but Sabu turned his head awkwardly while taking the back body drop, as seen in this clip from the match. Benoit reportedly felt very bad about the accident, but as Cageside Seats pointed out, he somehow got over with ECW audiences for breaking someone's neck. Fortunately, Sabu recovered from the injury, though it wasn't the last time he broke his neck while wrestling for the hardcore-centric promotion.

Mired in the mid-card at WCW

Chris Benoit's second WCW run started out with promise as he returned to the company in 1995 and was introduced as the latest member of the legendary Four Horsemen faction (via Bleacher Report). Granted, this was no longer the classic version of the stable, but Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were still members, and Benoit's arrival gave them another young talent (along with Brian Pillman) to keep the group fresh in the changing wrestling landscape. However, the rise of the New World Order in 1996 — as well as Pillman's departure to the WWE — proved to be a serious blow to the Horsemen's relevance in WCW.

For most of his time in WCW, Benoit was utilized as a mid-card talent. He did have his share of memorable feuds, including one with Booker T that featured a best-of-seven series for the World Television Championship in 1998. But this also meant he was largely kept away from major rivalries and storylines; it didn't help that Benoit was one of the "vanilla midgets" whom nWo co-founder Kevin Nash felt were too small and uncharismatic to make an impact in the wrestling business (via Grantland). 

It was only in January 2000, toward the end of his time in WCW, when he was booked to win the World Heavyweight Championship, but it was a last-ditch effort to keep him in the company, and he forfeited the title anyway when soon after, he took his talents to Vince McMahon's promotion.

He was greatly affected by the death of Eddie Guerrero

Chris Benoit made his WWE debut on the January 31, 2000, episode of "Monday Night Raw" alongside Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn, all of whom had joined him in jumping ship from WCW. Together, they were known as the Radicalz, and while the faction didn't last that long, Benoit and Guerrero would go on to enjoy much greater success in singles competition in the coming years. This all culminated at WrestleMania XX in 2004, where the two longtime friends celebrated in the ring as new world champions — Benoit, representing the Raw brand, won the World Heavyweight Championship, while Guerrero, who was affiliated with the SmackDown brand, beat Kurt Angle to take the WWE Championship.

Sadly, Eddie Guerrero died of an enlarged heart on November 13, 2005, aged just 38 years old. It seemed that no one in the WWE locker room was more affected by his death than Benoit, as multiple colleagues recalled on Vice's "Dark Side of the Ring." According to Chris Jericho, Benoit sobbed uncontrollably at Guerrero's funeral and gave him "the most desperate, saddest 'I'm hanging on for dear life' hugs that you could ever get," as quoted by CBR. Guerrero's nephew and former tag teammate, Chavo Guerrero, likewise noted that it was almost like Benoit lost a spouse now that he was, for the first time in his wrestling career, showing emotion to his fellow wrestlers.

A tragic turn of events in Fayetteville, Georgia

On the afternoon of June 23, 2007, Chavo Guerrero received a voice message from Chris Benoit, who claimed that he had missed his flight and would be late to the WWE SmackDown live event scheduled that day in Beaumont, Texas. Benoit then told Guerrero that his wife, Nancy, and 7-year-old son, Daniel, were suffering from food poisoning. He would tell a similar story to other wrestlers and officials who spoke to him that day (via Wrestling Inc).

Two days later, authorities responded to WWE's request to do a welfare check on Benoit and discovered three deceased bodies — those of Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit — in the wrestler's Fayetteville, Georgia, home. That night, WWE did a tribute episode of "Monday Night Raw" honoring Benoit, but as the facts came to light, the company would quickly distance itself from the wrestler.

Shortly after the Benoit memorial episode, it was revealed that over a three-day period from June 22 to 24, Benoit had killed his wife and their son before taking his own life. Given that anabolic steroids were found at the scene of the crime, the media pushed the narrative that the murder-suicide was caused by "roid rage." However, a team of doctors revealed toward the end of 2007 that Benoit had suffered so many concussions that his brain was akin to that of a man in his 80s (via ABC News). Based on analyses of the brains of Benoit and two former NFL players who also died by suicide, the doctors suggested that repeated concussions might have been responsible for certain negative changes in their behavior in the lead-up to their deaths.

WWE still refuses to promote Benoit despite his many achievements

Enter Chris Benoit's name in the search bar on WWE's website, and you won't get any results. Look for official clips from his matches on WWE's YouTube channel and you'll similarly come up empty. And don't expect to see him in the "WWE 2K" video game series, may it be as one of the Superstars who come with the game or as downloadable content; some Redditors even claimed that 2K Games would ban players who tried to upload Benoit's face and create their own version of the late wrestler on "WWE 2K15." It's all part of WWE's continued refusal to promote anything that Benoit ever accomplished during his time as a professional wrestler.

That said, it's a bit misleading to say that Benoit has been erased from WWE's history books. The company's website still recognizes his 153-day reign as World Heavyweight Champion in 2004, and there are some news articles on the site that mention him by name, including a few that detail developments related to the murder-suicide. WWE Network subscribers can also watch his matches, but not actually search for them. Nowhere, though, is his name listed in the show descriptions, not even in the one for WrestleMania XX, where he won the World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat Match against Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

The debate on whether or not Chris Benoit should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame still rages on 15 years later. But as long as people still remember the horrific events of June 22 to 24, 2007, it's almost a given that WWE won't even think of considering him for potential induction.