Christopher Michael Benoit (/bənˈwɑː/; May 21, 1967 – June 24, 2007) was a Canadian professional wrestler. He worked for various pro-wrestling promotions during his 22-year career including most notably the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF/WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in the U.S. and for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) in Japan.
Benoit began his career in 1985, in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion. From the beginning, similarities between Benoit and Billington were apparent, as Benoit adopted many of his moves such as the diving headbutt and the snap suplex; the homage was complete with his initial billing as "Dynamite" Chris Benoit. According to Benoit, in his first match, he attempted the diving headbutt before learning how to land correctly, and had the wind knocked out of him; he said he would never do the move again at that point. His debut match was a tag team match on November 22, 1985, in Calgary, Alberta, where he teamed with "The Remarkable" Rick Patterson against Butch Moffat and Mike Hammer, which Benoit's team won the match after Benoit pinned Moffat with a sunset flip. The first title Benoit ever won was the Stampede British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship on March 18, 1988, against Gama Singh. During his tenure in Stampede, he won four International Tag Team and three more British Commonwealth titles, and had a lengthy feud with Johnny Smith that lasted for over a year, which both men traded back-and-forth the British Commonwealth title. In 1989, Stampede closed its doors, and with a recommendation from Bad News Allen, Benoit departed for New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Upon arriving in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Benoit spent about a year training in their "New Japan Dojo" with the younger wrestlers to improve his abilities. While in the dojo, he spent months doing strenuous activities like push-ups and floor sweeping before stepping into the ring. He made his Japanese debut in 1986 under his real name. In 1989, he started wearing a mask and assuming the name The Pegasus Kid. Benoit said numerous times that he originally hated the mask, but it eventually became a part of him. While with NJPW, he came into his own as a performer in critically acclaimed matches with luminaries like Jushin Thunder Liger, Shinjiro Otani, Black Tiger, and El Samurai in their junior heavyweight division.
In August 1990, he won his first major championship, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, from Jushin Thunder Liger. He eventually lost the title in November 1990 (and in July 1991 in Japan and in November 1991 in Mexico, his mask) back to Liger, forcing him to reinvent himself as Wild Pegasus. Benoit spent the next couple years in Japan, winning the Best of the Super Juniors tournament twice in 1993 and 1995. He went on to win the inaugural Super J-Cup tournament in 1994, defeating Black Tiger, Gedo, and The Great Sasuke in the finals. He wrestled outside New Japan occasionally to compete in Mexico and Europe, where he won a few regional championships, including the UWA Light Heavyweight Championship. He held that title for over a year, having many forty-plus minute matches with Villano III.
Benoit first came to World Championship Wrestling in June 1992, teaming up with fellow Canadian wrestler Biff Wellington for the NWA World Tag Team Championship tournament; they were defeated by Brian Pillman and Jushin Thunder Liger in the first round at Clash of the Champions XIX.
He did not return to WCW until January 1993 at Clash of the Champions XXII, defeating Brad Armstrong. A month later, at SuperBrawl III, he lost to 2 Cold Scorpio, getting pinned with only three seconds left in the 20-minute time limit. At the same time, he formed a tag team with Bobby Eaton. After he and Eaton lost to Scorpio and Marcus Bagwell at Slamboree, Benoit headed back to Japan.
In August 1994, Benoit began working with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in between tours of Japan. He was booked as a dominant wrestler there, gaining notoriety as the "Crippler" after he put Rocco Rock out. In his first appearance, Benoit competed in a one-night eight-man tournament for the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Championship, losing to 2 Cold Scorpio in the quarter-finals match.
After impressing higher-ups with his work, he was approached by Ric Flair and the WCW booking staff to become a member of the reformed Four Horsemen in 1995, alongside Flair, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman; he was introduced by Pillman as a gruff, no-nonsense heel similar to his ECW persona, "The Crippler". He was brought in to add a new dynamic for Anderson and Flair's tormenting of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in their "Alliance to End Hulkamania", which saw the Horsemen team up with The Dungeon of Doom, but that alliance ended with Dungeon leader and WCW booker, Kevin Sullivan feuding with Pillman. When Pillman abruptly left the company for the WWF, Benoit was placed into his ongoing feud with Sullivan. This came to fruition through a dissension between the two in a tag team match with the two reluctantly teaming with each other against The Public Enemy, and Benoit being attacked by Sullivan at Slamboree. This led to the two having violent confrontations at pay-per-views, which led to Sullivan booking a feud in which Benoit was having an affair with Sullivan's real-life wife and onscreen valet, Nancy (also known as Woman). Benoit and Nancy were forced to spend time together to make the affair look real, (hold hands in public, share hotel rooms, etc.).
Benoit was inducted into the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 2003. His WON induction was put to a referendum-style re-vote for WON readers in 2008 to determine if he should remain a member of the WON Hall of Fame. Ultimately, the threshold percentage of votes required to remove Benoit was not met and he still remains in that Hall of Fame.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had a working relationship, and because of their "talent exchange" program, Benoit signed with WCW in late 1995 along with a number of talent working in New Japan to be a part of the angle. Like the majority of those who came to WCW in the exchange, he started out in as a member of the cruiserweight division, having lengthy matches against many of his former rivals in Japan on almost every single broadcast. At the end of 1995, Benoit went back to Japan as a part of the "talent exchange" to wrestle as a representative for New Japan in the Super J-Cup: 2nd Stage, defeating Lionheart in the quarterfinals (he received a bye to the quarterfinals for his work in 1995, similar to the way he advanced in the 1994 edition) and losing to Gedo in the semifinals.
Benoit and Dean Malenko won the ECW World Tag Team Championship - Benoit's first American title - from Sabu and The Tazmaniac in February 1995 at Return of the Funker. After winning, they were initiated into the Triple Threat stable, led by ECW World Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas, as Douglas's attempt to recreate the Four Horsemen, as the three-man contingency held all three of the ECW championships at the time (Malenko also held the ECW World Television Championship at the time). The team lost the championship to The Public Enemy that April at Three Way Dance. Benoit spent some time in ECW feuding with The Steiner Brothers and rekindling the feud with 2 Cold Scorpio. He was forced to leave ECW after his work visa expired; Heyman was supposed to renew it, but he failed to make it on time, so Benoit left ECW in August 1995 as a matter of job security and the ability to enter the United States. He toured Japan until WCW called.
After this match Benoit returned to the locker room and broke down over the possibility that he might have paralysed someone. Paul Heyman, the head booker of ECW at the time, came up with the idea of continuing the "Crippler" moniker for Benoit. From that point until his departure from ECW, he was known as "Crippler Benoit". When he returned to WCW in October 1995, WCW modified his ring name to "Canadian Crippler Chris Benoit". In The Rise and Fall of ECW book, Heyman commented that he planned on using Benoit as a dominant heel for quite some time, before putting the company's main title, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, on him to be the long-term champion of the company.
In 1998, Benoit had a long feud with Booker T. They fought over the WCW World Television Championship until Booker lost the title to Fit Finlay. Booker won a "Best-of-Seven" series which was held between the two to determine a number one contender. Benoit went up 3 to 1 before Booker caught up, forcing the 7th and final match on Monday Nitro. During the match, Bret Hart interjected himself, interfering on behalf of Benoit in an attempt to get him to join the New World Order. Benoit refused to win that way and told the referee what happened, getting himself disqualified. Booker refused that victory, instead opting for an eighth match at the Great American Bash to see who would fight Finlay later that night. Booker won the final match and went on to beat Finlay for the title. This feud significantly elevated both men's careers as singles competitors, and both remained at the top of the midcard afterward.
In 1999, Benoit teamed with Dean Malenko once again and defeated Curt Hennig and Barry Windham to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship. This led to a reformation of the Four Horsemen with the tag team champions, Anderson, and Steve "Mongo" McMichael. The two hunted after the tag team championship for several months, feuding with teams like Raven and Perry Saturn or Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio Jr.
The Revolution was a heel stable of younger wrestlers who felt slighted (both kayfabe and legitimate) by WCW management, believing they never gave them the chance to be stars, pushing older, more established wrestlers instead, despite their then-current questionable worthiness of their pushes. This led to the Revolution seceding from WCW, and forming their own nation, complete with a flag. This led to some friction being created between Benoit and leader, Douglas, who called into question Benoit's heart in the group, causing Benoit to quit the group, thus turning face, and having his own crusade against the top stars, winning the Television title one more time and the United States title from Jeff Jarrett in a ladder match. In October 1999 on Nitro in Kansas City, Missouri, Benoit wrestled Bret Hart as a tribute to Owen Hart, who had recently died due to an equipment malfunction. Hart defeated Benoit by submission, and the two received a standing ovation, and an embrace from guest ring announcer, Harley Race.
Benoit was unhappy working for WCW. One last attempt in January 2000 was made to try to keep him with WCW, by putting the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship on him by defeating Sid Vicious at Souled Out. However, due to disagreements with management and to protest the promotion of Kevin Sullivan to head booker, Benoit left the company the next day alongside his friends Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn, forfeiting his title in the process. WCW then refused to acknowledge Benoit's victory as an official title reign, and Benoit's title reign was not listed in the title lineage at WCW.com. However, the WWF recognized Benoit's title win, and Benoit's title reign is still listed in the title lineage at WWE.com. Benoit spent the next few weeks in Japan before heading to the WWF, who acknowledged his WCW World Heavyweight Championship win and presented him as a former world champion.
Benoit spoke both English and French fluently. He married twice, and had two children (David and Megan) with his first wife, Martina. By 1997, that marriage had broken down, and Benoit was living with Nancy Sullivan, the wife of the WCW booker and frequent opponent Kevin Sullivan. On February 25, 2000, Chris and Nancy's son Daniel was born; on November 23, 2000, Chris and Nancy married. It was Nancy's third marriage. In 2003, Nancy filed for divorce from Benoit, citing the marriage as "irrevocably broken" and alleging "cruel treatment". She claimed that he would break and throw furniture around. She later dropped the suit as well as the restraining order she had filed.
Along with Guerrero, Saturn, and Malenko, Benoit debuted in the WWF as a stable that became known as The Radicalz. After losing their "tryout matches" upon entry, The Radicalz aligned themselves with WWF Champion Triple H and became a heel faction. Benoit quickly won his first title in the WWF just over a month later at WrestleMania 2000, pinning Chris Jericho in a triple threat match to win Kurt Angle's Intercontinental Championship. It was also in this time period that Benoit wrestled in his first WWF pay-per-view main events, challenging The Rock for the WWF Championship at Fully Loaded in July and as part of a fatal four-way title match at Unforgiven in September. On both occasions Benoit appeared to have won the title, only to have the decision reversed by then-WWF commissioner Mick Foley due to cheating on Benoit's part. Benoit simultaneously entered into a long-running feud with Jericho for the Intercontinental title, with the two meeting at Backlash, Judgment Day and SummerSlam; Benoit winning all three matches. The feud finally culminated in Jericho defeating Benoit in a ladder match at the Royal Rumble in January 2001. Benoit won the Intercontinental title three times between April 2000 and January 2001.
During the first WWF draft, he was the third wrestler picked by Vince McMahon to be part of the new SmackDown! roster, although still on the injured list. However, when he returned, he did so as a member of the Raw roster. On his first night back, he turned heel again and aligned himself with Eddie Guerrero, and he feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin briefly. Benoit defeated Rob Van Dam on the July 29, 2002 edition of Raw to become Intercontinental Champion for the fourth time. He and Guerrero were then moved to SmackDown! during a storyline "open season" on wrestler contracts, with Benoit taking his newly won belt with him. Van Dam defeated Benoit at SummerSlam and returned the title to Raw.
After returning to SmackDown!, he embarked on a feud with Kurt Angle in which he defeated him at Unforgiven. On October 20, 2002, at No Mercy, he teamed with Angle to win a tournament to crown the first-ever WWE Tag Team Champions. They became tweeners after betraying Los Guerreros. At Rebellion, Benoit and Angle made their successful title defence, defeating Los Guerreros. They lost the championships to Edge and Rey Mysterio Jr. on the November 7 episode of SmackDown! in a two-out-of-three falls match. They received a rematch at Survivor Series in a triple threat elimination match against Edge and Mysterio and Los Guerreros, but failed to win the titles after being the first team eliminated. The team split up shortly afterward and Benoit became a face.
In April 2003, following WrestleMania XIX, Benoit then feuded with John Cena (wearing a shirt saying "Toothless Aggression") and The Full Blooded Italians, teaming with Rhyno occasionally.
In June 2003, the WCW United States Championship was reactivated and renamed the WWE United States Championship, and Benoit participated in the tournament for the title. He lost in the final match to Eddie Guerrero at Vengeance. The two feuded over the title for the next month, and Benoit went on to defeat the likes of A-Train at No Mercy, Big Show, and eliminating Brock Lesnar by submission at Survivor Series as part of a Survivor Series elimination tag team match between Team Angle against Team Lesnar. As a result, Benoit challenged Lesnar for the WWE Championship on the December 4 episode of SmackDown!, but lost after passing out to Lesnar's debuting Brock Lock submission hold. General Manager Paul Heyman had a vendetta against Benoit along with Lesnar, preventing him from gaining a shot at Lesnar's WWE title.
When Benoit won a qualifying match for the 2004 Royal Rumble against the Full Blooded Italians in a handicap match with John Cena, Heyman named him as the number one entry. On January 25, 2004, he won the Royal Rumble by last eliminating Big Show, and thus earned a world title shot at WrestleMania XX. He became only the second WWE performer to win the Royal Rumble as the number one entrant along with Shawn Michaels. With Benoit being on the SmackDown! brand at the time, it was assumed that he was going to compete for his brand's championship, the WWE Championship. However, Benoit exploited a "loophole" in the rules and was traded on Raw the following night to announce he would instead challenge World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at WrestleMania. Though the match was originally intended to be a one-on-one match, Shawn Michaels, whose Last Man Standing match against Triple H at the Royal Rumble for the World Heavyweight Championship ended in a draw, thought that he deserved to be in the main event. When it was time for Benoit to sign the contract putting himself in the main event, Michaels superkicked him and signed his name on the contract, which eventually resulted in a Triple Threat match between Michaels, Benoit, and the champion, Triple H.
Bearing the nicknames The (Canadian) Crippler alongside The Rabid Wolverine throughout his career, Benoit held 22 championships between WWF/WWE, WCW, NJPW, and ECW. He was a two-time world champion, having been a one-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and a one-time World Heavyweight Champion in WWE; he was booked to win a third world championship at a WWE event on the night of his death. Benoit was the twelfth WWE Triple Crown Champion and seventh WCW Triple Crown Champion, and the second of four men in history to achieve both the WWE and WCW Triple Crown Championships. He was also the 2004 Royal Rumble winner, joining Shawn Michaels and preceding Edge as one of three men to win a Royal Rumble as the number one entrant. Benoit headlined multiple pay-per-views for WWE, including a victory in the World Heavyweight Championship main event match of WrestleMania XX in March 2004.
On March 14, 2004, at WrestleMania XX, Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship by forcing Triple H to tap out to his signature submission move, the Crippler Crossface, in a highly acclaimed match. The match marked the first time the main event of a WrestleMania ended in submission. After the match, Benoit celebrated his win with then-reigning WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero. The rematch was held at Backlash in Benoit's hometown of Edmonton. It was Michaels who ended up submitting to Benoit's Sharpshooter, allowing Benoit to retain his title. The next night in Calgary, he and Edge won the World Tag Team Championship from Batista and Ric Flair, making Benoit a double champion.
On August 15, 2004, Benoit was defeated by Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. Benoit then teamed with William Regal at Unforgiven against Ric Flair and Batista in a winning effort. Benoit then feuded with Edge (who had turned into an arrogant and conceited heel), leading to Taboo Tuesday where Benoit, Edge, and Shawn Michaels were all put into a poll to see who would face Triple H for the World Heavyweight title that night. Michaels received the most votes and as a result, Edge and Benoit were forced to team up to face the World Tag Team Champions, La Résistance, in the same night. However, Edge deserted Benoit during the match and Benoit was forced to take on both members of La Résistance by himself. He and Edge still managed to regain the World Tag Team Championship. They lost the titles back to La Résistance on the November 1 episode of Raw. At Survivor Series, Benoit sided with Randy Orton's team while Edge teamed with Triple H's team, and while Edge was able to pin Benoit after a Pedigree, Orton's team won.
On November 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room. The following night, Raw held a Guerrero tribute show hosted by both Raw and SmackDown! wrestlers. Benoit was devastated at the loss of his best friend and was very emotional during a series of video testimonials, eventually breaking down on camera. The same week on SmackDown! (taped on the same night as Raw), Benoit defeated Triple H in a tribute match to Guerrero. Following the contest, Benoit, Triple H, and Dean Malenko all assembled in the ring and pointed to the sky in salute of Guerrero.
Toxicology reports released on July 17, 2007, revealed that at their time of death, Nancy had three different drugs in her system: Xanax, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone, all of which were found at the therapeutic rather than toxic levels. Daniel was found to have Xanax in his system, which led the chief medical examiner to believe that he was sedated before he was murdered. Benoit was found to have Xanax, hydrocodone, and an elevated level of testosterone, caused by a synthetic form of the hormone, in his system. The chief medical examiner attributed the testosterone level to Benoit possibly being treated for a deficiency caused by previous steroid abuse or testicular insufficiency. There was no indication that anything in Benoit's body contributed to his violent behaviour that led to the murder-suicide, concluding that there was no "roid-rage" involved. Prior to the murder-suicide, Benoit had illegally been given medications not in compliance with WWE's Talent Wellness Program in February 2006, including nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, and anastrozole, a breast cancer medication which is used by bodybuilders for its powerful antiestrogenic effects. During the investigation into steroid abuse, it was revealed that other wrestlers had also been given steroids.
In a three-day double-murder and suicide, Benoit murdered his wife in their residence on June 22, 2007, killed his 7-year-old son on June 23, and committed suicide on June 24. Subsequent research undertaken by the Sports Legacy Institute (now the Concussion Legacy Foundation) suggested that depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition of brain damage, from numerous concussions that Benoit had sustained during his professional wrestling career were contributing factors of the crimes.
On June 25, 2007, police entered Benoit's home in Fayetteville, Georgia when WWE, Benoit's employers, requested a "welfare check" after Benoit missed weekend events without notice, leading to concerns. The officers discovered the bodies of Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel at around 2:30 p.m. EDT. Upon investigating, no additional suspects were sought by authorities. It was determined that Benoit had committed the murders. Over a three-day period, Benoit had killed his wife and son before committing suicide. His wife was bound before the killing. Benoit's son was drugged with Xanax and likely unconscious before Benoit strangled him. Benoit then committed suicide by hanging himself on his lat pulldown machine.
In early 2001, Benoit broke away from The Radicalz (who had recently reformed three months earlier) and turned face, feuding first with his former stablemates and then with Kurt Angle, whom he wrestled and lost to at WrestleMania X-Seven. He gained some amount of revenge after beating Angle in an "Ultimate Submission" match at Backlash. The feud continued after Benoit stole Angle's cherished Olympic Gold Medal. This culminated in a match at Judgment Day where Angle won a two out of three falls match with the help of Edge and Christian. In response, Benoit teamed up with his former rival Jericho to defeat Edge and Christian in that night's Tag Team Turmoil match.
Benoit became good friends with fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero following a match in Japan, when Benoit kicked Guerrero in the head and knocked him out cold. This started a friendship that lasted even after Guerrero's death in late 2005, in which Benoit had written diary entries to him just ten days after his passing.