The Benoit Double Murder and Suicide Story: 5 years later
by: Martin V
The events that transpired in the Benoit residence from June 22 to 24th 2007 would forever make a black mark in the professional wrestling industry. Five years ago, professional wrestler Chris Benoit took the lives of his wife, son, and himself in a span of three days. This article looks into some of the effects of the incident to the industry of professional wrestling, and others.
The Benoit Tragedy: Background
During the three-day period of June 22 to 24th, Chris Benoit killed his wife Nancy, strangled his son Daniel, and then committed suicide by hanging himself inside his house. The bodies were found the next day (June 25, 2007) when the local county police entered the residence after the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) asked to check into the Benoit residence. Their reason for the request was the peculiar text messages sent by Chris and his wife’s cellphone numbers wherein it showed the address of their house in Atlanta. After hearing that the Benoit family died, the company would make a tribute show that night on their flagship show “WWE RAW” for Benoit, before the real reason of the deaths would be announce.
At the same time the tribute show aired, however, the police found out the nature of the crime scene. Chris Benoit was the one who took the lives of his family before hanging himself. A suicide note was found in one of the bibles which were placed beside each of the bodies. The next few days for the WWE and those who would be involved in this incident would prove to be interesting.
The Immediate Effects: Media/Government Involvement
After the discovery of the whole Benoit double murder and suicide, the media had a new topic that summer of 2007: steroids and wrestling. Most of the talk show hosts would attribute ‘roid rage’ as the reason for Benoit’s heinous acts to his family before taking his own life. Former wrestlers such as Marc Mero, Chyna, The Million Dollar Man, Brian Christopher would appear in shows such as Nancy Grace, Larry King, and so on to give their views and opinions regarding the case as well as the industry in general. Some, such as Mero, would push for a professional wrestler’s union to safeguard retired wrestlers and the like.
The WWE, outside the speculation of ‘roid rage’ would also face the US government as it ‘cracked down’ so to say on the steroid use in the company. Prior to the summer of 2007, the WWE already had a drug testing program in place around 2005. After the death of Benoit, the issue of steroid use got raised again in the company. A House Committee asked the WWE for information regarding steroid and drug abuse in the industry, shortly after the Benoit tragedy during that summer.
Two years later, a US congressman once again wanted to investigate steroid use and abuse within the WWE. Assael (2009) noted that “On Jan. 2, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman wrote to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), asking its director to investigate the WWE. In a six-page letter, Waxman cited “systemic deficiencies” in the way the company polices illegal drug use. He also claimed its shows sent “the wrong message” to three million kids who watch it each week.”
During July 17, 2007, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation held a press conference on their toxicology results of the Benoit double murder and suicide. The investigators found Xanax and hydrocodone found in Chris Benoit’s system toxicology results. Furthermore, elevated levels of testosterone cypionate were found in his urine; investigators believed that the level found suggested it had been taken recently. With the exception of the high levels of testosterone cypionate, there were no artificial steroids or GHB in his urine, which was highly speculated due to the ‘roid rage’ claims from people.
The Sports Legacy Institute also gave their findings after receiving a brain sample on the body of Chris Benoit (as allowed by the late wrestler’s father). They found that Benoit’s brain was severely damaged and can be compared to a 85-year old person that was suffering from Alzheimer’s. The damage on the brain, they said, were a “result of a lifetime of chronic concussions and head trauma suffered while Benoit was in the wrestling ring.” (abcnews.com, 2007)
The Benoit Legacy
After it was discovered that Chris Benoit murdered his family and then took his own life away, the WWE has taken down any mention of Benoit in their website (The videos, images, merchandise, etc.). There are notable exceptions to Chris Benoit’s ‘legacy’ being omitted. His match listings and title histories are still on display within the WWE website.
Another notable exception to the rule would be the WWE Encyclopedia (released in 2008) where there was an entry of Chris Benoit. This entry chronicled Benoit’s career until his world title loss to Randy Orton during Summerslam 2004.
The Benoit legacy also had a slight influence in the music industry. The band called ‘Our Lady Peace’ officially ‘retired’ their song entitled Whatever a couple of years after the incident. In one interview, they confirmed that the song’s retirement stemmed from its association to the late wrestler. Steve Mazur, the band’s guitarist was quoted with the following answer:
“I couldn’t imagine singing that to be honest, it’s so tied into him and the tragedy that happened, I just couldn’t get it out of my head.”
In terms of in-ring performances of WWE wrestlers, the tragedy and its findings also affected it in a great way. The company has limited its use of chairshots to the head as well as moves such as Benoit’s flying headbutt. During the year 2008, the WWE released a “WWE & ImPACT Concussion Management Program”. Under this program, it banned the talent from ‘unnecessary blows from the head’ as well as eliminating the use of folding metal chairs to hit a worker in the head. A fine or suspension would ensue if the said talent does these two things inside a WWE sanctioned match.
The Crippler Crossface, Chris Benoit’s finishing maneuver, would never be used again after his death. It was until the summer of 2010 where current WWE wrestler Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) would utilize a similar hold on WWE television and call it the Labelle Lock, a tribute to Gene LeBelle’s “Omoplata Crossface”.
In terms of drug testing, the WWE still has its wellness policy for its workers where it tests whether they are positive for drugs or steroids.
- (Credit: IGN.com)
The legacy of the Benoit tragedy also reaches to WWE’s videogame product. After his murder and suicide in the summer of 2007, THQ took out Benoit as part of the roster list for their upcoming game Smackdown vs RAW 2008 (SvR 2008), which was released November of 2007. After his omission from that game, Chris Benoit would never appear in a wrestling videogame ever again.
The game (SvR 2008) would still allow you to create a wrestler that has a physical similarity to Chris Benoit. However, they took out his two signature maneuvers during that year which were the Crippler Crossface and his patented Diving Headbutt (The latter move would still be there in the THQ WWE games, but not the variation that Benoit uses the diving headbutt). The Crippler Crossface would soon resurface (Smackdown vs RAW 2010 to be specific) and was be renamed as the ‘crossface’ in the “create-a-moveset” portion of THQ’s WWE Videogame.
It’s been five years since the Benoit tragedy. No one is certain what drove someone like Chris Benoit to do these acts in a span of 3 days. What is certain, however, is that the Benoit double murder and suicide case has made lasting effects in professional wrestling, music, videogames, and maybe a number of things that this article has not delved into.
abcnews.com. (2007, September 5). Benoit’s Brain Showed Severe Damage From Multiple Concussions, Doctor and Dad Say. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from abcnews.com: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3560015&page=1
Assael, S. (2009, April 13). WWE and steroids: still a tough target. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from espn.com: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/e60/columns/story?columnist=assael_shaun&id=4055522
Pena, D. (2012, June 2). Is Chris Benoit Featured In The New WWE Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.wrestlinginc.com: http://www.wrestlinginc.com/wi/news/2012/0602/553137/chris-benoit/
Pena, D. (2012, April 14). Our Lady Peace Discuss Retiring Chris Benoit’s Theme Song. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from wrestlenewz.com: http://www.wrestlenewz.com/wrestling/wwe-news/our-lady-peace-discuss-retiring-chris-benoits-theme-song/
World Wrestling Entertainment. (n.d.). WWE & ImPACT Concussion Management Program. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from wwe.com: http://corporate.wwe.com/documents/WWEImPACTConcussionProgram24.pdf