I’ve been left shaken by the news Chris Benoit murdered his family before killing himself.
What exactly happened is unclear, although police say the details will seem a little “bizarre”. The 40-year-old is believed to have killed his wife and seven-year-old child over the weekend and himself on Monday.
(Update: police have said he strangled her, smothered the child and then hanged himself. The incident may be linked to steroid-induced depression or ‘roid rage’)
For those who don’t know Benoit, he was a performer with World Wrestling Entertainment. He was due to appear on Sunday night’s Vengeance pay-per-view, but was withdrawn due to “personal reasons”.
He was also one of my all-time favourite pro-wrestlers, although I haven’t followed the industry for several years.
According to WWE, the company asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received “several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning”.
The bodies were found in three separate rooms of the wrestler’s Atlanta home.
Born in Canada, Benoit trained in Calgary with the legendary Stu Hart and competed for Hart’s Stampede Wrestling group from 1985-89.
His strong grappling style won him legions of fans in Japan, before enhancing his reputation in the US with a stint for Extreme Championship Wrestling. He style earned the nickname “Canadian Crippler”.
His career blossomed in World Championship Wrestling after he became one of the Four Horsemen (along with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman). A lengthy best-of-seven feud with Booker T propelled him toward the upper ranks before Benoit jumped ship to WWE.
He, along with the likes of Eddie Guerrero — who died of heart failure in 2005 — were the workers who renewed my interest in professional wrestling.
Although I was always aware of the backstage booking work, I was genuinely surprised when Benoit defeated Triple H in 2004 at Wrestlemania XX (the first time WWE’s flagship PPV ended with a submission). The footage of Benoit celebrating in the ring with Guerrero, who also won a world title that night, is one I will remember for a very long time.
In an industry replete with characters, Benoit was one who stood out. He wasn’t good on the microphone, nor was he a showboater, nor was he charismatic in a traditional sense.
He won the crowd over the old-fashioned way: by working hard in the ring, using his physical strength and demonstrating one of the best technical-wrestling arsenals of recent years.
This was what brought me back to wrestling. I seldom found the storylines compelling, but the in-ring work by the likes of Benoit was compelling. He made me appreciate the traditional aspects of the industry. It was a combination of no-nonsense physical grappling and expert ring psychology. His was never a “brawl for all” style, but you could see his use of tactics to bring down his opponent.
(Yes, the finishes etc are scripted. But it’s one thing to be told what to do and something completely different to go out there and make it realistic.)
A combination of moving home for work and then night shifts for the Examiner put paid to my WWE watching. I occasionally checked in on the website but never recovered the passion.
It is disturbing to think one’s heroes could be capable of such terrible acts. There could be many reasons, but it would be uncouth of me to speculate without a deeper knowledge of the facts.
All I can say is that professional wrestling has lost a true great, and I have lost an idol.