Christopher Michael “Chris” Benoit (French pronunciation: [b??nw?]) (May 21, 1967 – June 24, 2007) was a Canadian professional wrestler whose career and life ended in a murder– suicide. During his professional wrestling career, Benoit worked for such major promotions as 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).
Among other accolades, Benoit is a two-time world champion: a one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, one-time World Heavyweight Champion (tied for third longest reign in history). Both of his world title reigns were represented by the Big Gold Belt: Benoit is one of four men to have held the Big Gold Belt in both WCW and WWE, alongside Bill Goldberg, Booker T and Big Show. He is also a record-tying five-time WCW/WWE United States Champion, having held the championship twice in WCW, and three times in WWE. The twelfth WWE Triple Crown Champion, and seventh WCW Triple Crown Champion, he is the second of four men in history to achieve both the WWF and WCW Triple Crown Championships.
In addition to championships, Benoit won the 2004 Royal Rumble match, joining Shawn Michaels as one of two men to win the match as the number one entrant. Described by WWE as “a favorite among WWE fans for his unbelievable athleticism and wrestling ability,” Benoit was widely regarded as one of the most popular, respected, and gifted technical wrestlers in history.
Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son on June 22, 2007 and subsequently hanged himself on June 24, 2007. Since Benoit’s suicide, numerous explanations for his actions have been proposed, including brain damage, steroid abuse, and a failing marriage. Benoit last performed for WWE on their ECW brand. Paul Heyman, head of the original ECW promotion, intended to book Benoit to win the ECW World Heavyweight Championship in 1995, but did not renew his United States Work Visa in time, and twelve years later, Benoit was booked by WWE to win the title in one of three world championship matches at pay-per-view event Vengeance: Night of Champions, which again did not come to fruition due to his death that night.
- Ten years ago today, Bret Hart suffered a stroke after hitting his head in a bicycle accident. He briefly suffered paralysis on his left side, which required months of physical therapy. Hart has since recovered much of his mobility and is in good health, although he suffers from an emotional imbalance.
Hart addressed the anniversary on Twitter, writing, “10 years ago today at this very hour, death came calling and returned home empty handed. Thank you God for letting me continue my journey.”
- Today marks the anniversary of three more wrestling deaths: Shane Bauer, who was Chris Benoit’s early tag team partner Biff Wellington, was found dead five years ago today. Toni Adams passed away two years ago today at the age of 45, while midget wrestling star Cowboy Bradley passed away that same day at 75.