We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.
It can be hard to think about the life of Chris Benoit without thinking of the events of the final three days of his life. The tragedy of the Chris Benoit murder/suicide was perhaps the biggest scandal in wrestling history. According to Chris Jericho on "Talk Is Jericho," the surrounding aftermath of the controversy almost sent WWE, and the wrestling industry as a whole, out of business.
Before those final three days, he was considered to be one of the best wrestlers who ever lived. He was a bona fide top star, a future Hall Of Famer, a well-respected veteran, and many of his peers considered him a friend. For many, the tragedy of Benoit’s murder/suicide was a shocking event that came out of nowhere. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems like there were a lot of strange stories and bizarre occurrences which can now be looked at as warning signs for what was going to happen. Chris Benoit was leading a tragic life a long time before those final three days.
Chris Benoit would punish himself if he made a mistake in the ring
On his own podcast, "Talk Is Jericho," Chris Jericho told a bizarre story about working with Chris Benoit in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. During a tag match, Jericho slightly botched a spin kick, with Benoit selling a move that had barely touched him. The spot would have happened so fast that barely anybody would have noticed anyway, but the imperceptible mistake weighed heavily on Benoit.
Talking about finding Benoit backstage after the match, Jericho said on "Talk Is Jericho," "After the match was done I went looking for him. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I found him in the boiler room doing squats. And I said, ‘what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘you know I never should have bumped off that, that was so unprofessional of me and it was such a bad rookie mistake, I had to do squats.’ He did 500 squats as like purging himself for making that mistake … You know, when you hear things like that then you kinda equate it to the last few days. There was a lot of issues with him."
It goes without saying that this is very odd behavior, that Benoit thought he would have to put himself through physical pain because of a botched spot nobody even noticed. It shows Benoit’s mindset even as a younger man.
Chris Benoit’s infidelity
In 1997, Chris Benoit started dating Nancy Toffoloni, a fellow talent best known in WCW as Woman. How Chris and Nancy got together is perhaps a story that could only happen in the wrestling business. Toffoloni was married to Kevin Sullivan at the time, who was Benoit’s boss as head of WCW Creative. Sullivan booked the storyline of his own wife starting an onscreen relationship with Benoit. Much to his surprise, this storyline became a reality and Toffoloni started dating Benoit in real life. It has become wrestling legend that Sullivan booked his own divorce.
That wasn’t the only time infidelity would plague Benoit’s life, however. In documents featured by the Fayetteville Daily News (via PWInsider), it was revealed that Nancy suspected Benoit of having a relationship with "one of the WWE Divas" months before the tragedy.
A popular fan theory at the time was that this WWE Diva was Victoria. However, Victoria categorically denied these rumors at the time on her MySpace page (via WrestleZone): "A MySpace friend emailed me yesterday to let me know that a wrestling gossip website is claiming that they have an anonymous source or sources that say I was Chris Benoit’s secret mistress at the time of his murder-suicide. First let me say, this is absolutely false. I invite the ‘reporter’ from that website to come to my home city, and I will submit myself to a polygraph."
Benoit was in a terrible car accident with William Regal
William Regal spoke on his podcast "Gentleman Villain" of a terrible car accident he had with both Chris Benoit and Nancy Toffoloni. Regal referred to it as a near death experience for all three of them. It happened as Regal, Benoit and Toffoloni were returning to a hotel from the gym in preparation for the WCW pay per view, Spring Stampede 97.
Regal tells the story of stopping at a stop sign when he noticed a car coming towards them at speed in the rear view mirror. Unable to move, Regal could do nothing as the car slammed into them. Regal said on his podcast, "This car hit me, I have no idea what speed … it must have hit us that hard … it flipped onto the grass verge, it flipped my car three times." He considers himself lucky that he survived, and took note of his surroundings: "I was upside down with the roof crushed on my head … I look across and Chris is hanging with his tongue out, and I look across at Nancy and her eyes are closed. I think they’re both dead."
Regal somehow managed to kick his way out of the car and pulled both Chris and Nancy out through the window. Amazingly, both Benoit and Regal wrestled on the pay-per-view that night in spite of the near death experience.
Chris Benoit was a bully to younger WWE talent
Chris Benoit had a long career in wrestling, spanned 22 years. In that time, Benoit often exhibited toxic behavior and was accused of several counts of severe bullying. Current AEW ring announcer Justin Roberts went into detail of these in his autobiography "Best Seat In The House." According to Roberts, on one such occasion, Benoit tackled him to the ground in an airport along with Jaime Noble. Both men put him in a double crossface and refused to let go even after he tapped. The incident left Roberts unable to walk for days afterwards. Oddly, in spite of the bullying behavior to Roberts, Benoit would also treat him with kindness, and often called Roberts’ father to check up on him as he was going through cancer treatment.
Another famous example of Benoit’s bullying comes with The Miz. Miz said in his "WWE 24" documentary that in 2006 he was eating chicken in the locker room and accidentally got crumbs on a WWE veteran’s bag. In turn, Benoit overreacted and confront him saying, "You are not allowed to dress in our locker room. I think you should just stay out of the locker room." Miz was then forced to change and shower elsewhere for seven months, all because Chris Benoit wouldn’t let him back in the locker room.
Benoit was always paranoid people were following him
In the weeks and months leading up to Chris Benoit’s death, many of his friends were saying that dealing with Benoit was like dealing with a completely different person. On the "Dark Side Of The Ring" episode focusing on Benoit, friends said Benoit was exhibiting extreme paranoia and was starting to obsess over child kidnappings and violent fans, which they say was very out of character for him.
According to "Dark Side Of The Ring," Benoit began to take different routes to the gym every day, as well as different routes home from the airport, fearing he was being followed. Benoit even took different cars with each journey to evade whoever he thought was following him. Speaking on "Talk Is Jericho," Nancy’s sister Sandra Toffoloni would go into detail on Benoit’s paranoia. "What really became noticeable was a little bit more of — like a sense of — un-safeness and paranoia for the family. He’d just would like, be constantly checking the alarm at night, constantly be checking things, and for himself. He used to be fairly laid back about stuff like that, there was never any issue like that, so when it did start happening I noticed immediately. I still kind of look back on it … Was it a precursor to everything that happened? I don’t know."
Benoit became known as The Crippler because he broke Sabu’s neck
In 1994, Chris Benoit started wrestling in ECW, and it was here he would get his most famous moniker, The Crippler. This nickname was cemented when Benoit wrestled Sabu at November 2 Remember 1994. The match, the main event of the show, ended after just two minutes, when Benoit threw Sabu into a face first bump. Sabu miscalculated and tried to change direction mid-air, causing him to land directly on his neck. Sabu broke his neck, causing damage to his spinal cord and nervous system.
According to the book "Ring of Hell," Paul Heyman found Benoit hiding in a closet, rocking and weeping uncontrollably at what had happened. He was terrified that he had crippled Sabu in the ring. Paul Heyman had to physically pick Benoit up and send him to the hospital with Sabu.
The event was clearly traumatic for Benoit. However, Heyman took advantage of the accident and used the footage, which would become infamous and one of the most replayed spots in ECW history, to push Benoit even further, using it to emphasize The Crippler nickname.
Benoit suffered intense grief for Eddie Guerrero
Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were long-time friends and considered each other to be brothers. Chris Jericho, a friend of both Benoit and Guerrero, said on "Talk Is Jericho" that Eddie’s death broke Benoit. Jericho remembers comforting Benoit with a hug at Guerrero’s funeral, saying it was "the most desperate, saddest ‘I’m hanging on for dear life’ hugs that you could ever get."
Benoit’s grief for Guerrero was plain to see on the tribute show on "Monday Night Raw," Benoit was visibly crushed, openly weeping on camera. On "Dark Side Of The Ring," it was revealed that Benoit’s wife Nancy had told Vickie Guerrero that Eddie’s death was "really affecting him in so many ways." Benoit decided to stay out of the public eye after Eddie’s death, and even started shutting himself off from his own friends and family. Sandra Toffoloni, Nancy Benoit’s sister, revealed on "Dark Side Of The Ring" that Benoit would go months without talking to his own family and that he had started a journal to work through his depression at losing Eddie, but it was all too late.
Chris Benoit wanted to open a wrestling school after Eddie died
Upon the death of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit was emotionally distraught and was even considering quitting WWE altogether. Sandra Toffoloni spoke on "Talk Is Jericho" that Chris Benoit was scared of moving on and leaving WWE, as wrestling was all he had ever known. Sandra said that Nancy was ready to move on but Chris Benoit was hesitant, "She was ready for the next move, and I don’t think that he was, in his mind, physically or emotionally — he was just really scared, so a lot of that boiled over into their personal life."
Chris, led by Nancy, began to consider alternate career options outside of WWE and settled on the idea of starting a wrestling school in Atlanta. The school would have been called Benoit Academy and Chris and Nancy had begun developing business ideas for the school and even had merchandise made. After Eddie’s death, Benoit was still heavily involved in WWE — he never took any time off, he was still booked in big storylines and angles, including being booked for an ECW World Championship match on the day he died. Any potential retirement seemed like a long way off.
Chris Benoit abused steroids
At the time of his death, it was revealed the Chris Benoit’s body contained 10 times the normal levels of testosterone, which is incredibly high for any normal man, and it is a huge indication that Benoit was abusing steroids at the end of his life. Many wrestlers of Benoit’s era have spoken about using steroids, it was just part of the game back then, and Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer (via LA Times) speculated Benoit had abused steroids for 20 years.
Nancy Benoit had a low opinion of the WWE wellness program In texts found of Benoit’s phone, Nancy said, "I will not accept this steroid induced roller coaster ride of emotional abuse … Ignoring the problem or running away isn’t going to help you face it. You need professional (help) and only if you’re fully honest about all of it … Get off the stuff. I’m probably not the only one who can see and we both know the wellness program is a joke." In a criminal case against Dr. Phil Astin, Benoit’s personal physician, it was revealed that Astin’s prescription to Benoit far exceeded the normal amount for a testosterone disorder and was well above the normal dose. The discovery of Benoit’s steroid abuse led many to believe, especially the mainstream media, that "roid rage" was the reason Benoit snapped and murdered his family. However, Benoit’s father thinks it was another element of wrestling which was responsible for Benoit’s downfall, namely head trauma.
Benoit suffered a lifetime of chronic concussions/CTE
Chris Benoit suffered a number of concussions during his long in-ring career. During his time in the ring, it was not uncommon for wrestlers to take unprotected chair shots to the head, concussion protocols were lax and it wasn’t uncommon for wrestlers to take no time off from a concussion. ABC News reports that Benoit himself had told friends that he had suffered "more concussions than he could count." This sloppy protection from concussions is what Benoit’s family believes to be the reason for him snapping.
Chris Benoit’s father, Michael Benoit, turned over his son’s brain to Julian Bailes of the Sports Legacy Institute. Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, studied Chris Benoit’s brain and found that at the time of his death, Benoit had the brain of an 80-year-old suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. Damage was found in all four lobes of the brain and deep into the brain stem. Bailes told ABC News, "It was extensive throughout Chris’ brain. This is something you should never see in a 40-year-old."
Bailes said that while he can’t know for sure that this brain damage is the reason Benoit did what he did, he does believe it is the leading cause.
Benoit murdered his wife and child
Over the weekend of June 22nd 2007, Chris Benoit uncharacteristically missed a WWE event, though nobody could have ever imagined that a simple no show would become one of the darkest days in wrestling history.
Late at night on the Friday, Chris Benoit killed his wife Nancy in an upstairs bedroom in their house. Nancy’s limbs were bound and her injuries showed that Benoit had pressed his knee into her back while pulling at a cord around her neck, strangling her to death.
The next morning, Benoit drugged his son 7-year-old son Daniel with Xanax, leaving him unconscious, and then Benoit brutally suffocated him.
Benoit left a copy of the bible by each body, which Sandra Toffoloni considered strange on "Talk Is Jericho," as they weren’t very religious.
On that Saturday, Benoit talked on the phone to his good friend Chavo Guerrero and told him that Nancy and Daniel were suffering from food poisoning. On "Talk is Jericho," Chavo said something sounded off with Benoit, especially with the way he said goodbye, saying, "Chavo, I love you."
Nancy and Daniel would have both been dead by the time Benoit made that call.
Chris Benoit died of suicide
On June 24th 2007, Chris Benoit died by suicide, creating a noose from the end of a weight machine cord to hang himself. Benoit was found by the police hanging from the pulley cable.
On "Talk Is Jericho," Sandra Toffoloni gave further details of just what Benoit was doing over that horrible weekend. Sandra said that Benoit’s computer search history shows he has researched the quickest and easiest way to break a neck. On "Dark Side Of The Ring" it was also revealed Benoit had googled a bible story about the prophet Elijah and, quite morbidly, the resurrecting of a dead boy.
When nobody from WWE had heard from Benoit in over 24 hours, Chavo Guerrero showed the messages he got from Benoit to WWE management, WWE then called the Fayetteville police who discovered the three bodies at the house.
Michael Benoit told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Cageside Seats) that Chris Benoit had left a handwritten suicide note saying, "I’m preparing to leave this Earth."
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.