ecw (wwe)

10 years ago: The Chris Benoit double murder-suicide
[June 25th, 2017]

It was Sunday, June 24th, 2007. I was at a Buffalo Wild Wings with my ex-girlfriend and a friend of mine as we’d gathered monthly to watch the WWE pay per view. On this instance, it was Vengeance: Night Of Champions, an event where CM Punk would be battling Chris Benoit to determine the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion, a title that had been vacated by Bobby Lashley. As the event went on, it was announced that John Morrison would be replacing Benoit, with little explanation given as to why Benoit wasn’t on the show.

The next day, as I was driving home from work, my friend Brandon (who I’d watched the pay per view with the night before) called to tell me the news: Chris Benoit was dead. As I sat at a stoplight only minutes from my house, I remember crying immediately. Benoit wasn’t just a favorite wrestler of mine, but an inspiration to work harder, to never give up, to persist in the face of adversity, and to chase every dream you have, regardless of whether or not they’re attainable. I remember a video package the WWE had released for Benoit featuring the Finger Eleven song “One Thing”. This song still stands as one of my biggest inspirations as I recall how hard Benoit worked in wrestling.

What made this death that much more of a shock to me was that only weeks earlier, Benoit had wrestled at an Ohio Valley Wrestling event that I was at. He was very personable, smiling at anyone who approached him and happy to speak with anybody who had questions. This is a photo snapped that day:

I watched Raw that night as Vince McMahon, who only a week earlier had been “blown up” in a limousine, stood solemnly in a ring that stood in an empty arena, speaking about Benoit as the episode showcased Benoit’s finest moments in the ring. The episode was originally supposed to be a 3-hour memorial tribute to McMahon. Throughout the night, different wrestlers spoke on their fallen friend, some very upset and downtrodden, but it seemed that some knew the grisly details where others hadn’t. Two testimonials that stood out to me were Chavo Guerrero Jr.’s, and a very grim one from William Regal:

Regal seemed to lead on that he knew more about the situation, as he neglected to comment on Benoit the man, but rather on Benoit the wrestler. As the week unfolded, details surrounding Benoit’s death came to light and showed that Chris, his wife Nancy (formerly known as Woman in ECW and WCW), and his youngest son Daniel were all found dead in the home that they shared in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the autopsy, Nancy was murdered first, bound at the feet and wrists. She died of asphyxiation on Friday, June 22nd, and was found wrapped in a towel with blood under her head and a bible placed next to her bed. According to the autopsy on Daniel, he had died on Saturday morning as he lay in bed, again with a bible placed next to him, with Benoit himself dying on Sunday, having used a weight machine to break his own neck as a bible lay on the weight machine.

Although that’s the official cause of death listed for each of those involved, there are a lot of details that have been ignored following the incident. For example, several voicemails were left by Benoit to wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr. and WWE official Brad Armstrong, both of whom stated that Benoit seemed “off”. Chavo later told that he had spoken to Benoit, who claimed that he’d missed his flight and wouldn’t be appearing at Vengeance: Night Of Champions, and was stressed out due to Nancy and Daniel having food poisoning. On Sunday morning, between 3:51 and 3:58am, several texts were sent to co-workers and fellow wrestlers from both Chris and Nancy’s cell phones, stating that the dogs were in the enclosed pool area, and that the garage side door had been left open. A call was also placed to WWE officials by Benoit, who alleged that he was taking his family to the hospital and would be in Houston for the event.

According to Nancy’s sister, Sandra, Benoit’s computer history included “ the quickest and easiest way to break a neck”. When WWE official John Laurinaitis contacted the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department to check on the family, the police notified the WWE around 4:15pm to say that three bodies had been found, and that the home was ruled as “a major crime scene”.

Several motives have been listed for the crime, such as Benoit’s mental state being so deteriorated due to years of head trauma that his brain “resembled an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient”. Steroids were also listed as a potential lead for the cause, as “roid rage” has been prevalent for years among athletes, but as several wrestlers have stated since the incident, “how many baseball players have killed their wife and kid?” It’s also noted that steroid rage usually leads to “rage, not deliberation”, which leads to the question of why Nancy’s arms and legs had been bound. It’s been stated by Benoit’s peers that he was immensely paranoid, often traveling different routes from the airport to get to his home in order to evade potential followers. Several wrestlers have claimed that Benoit would have two sides: one that would lash out at you, and another that would be your best friend, with the events of the day dictating which one you spoke to. Brad Armstrong, however, stated that Benoit “never said a cross word to anybody”.

In 2003, Nancy had filed for divorce, citing “domestic abuse”, but the divorce was dropped and the two continued to be married until their deaths. Hardcore Holly would later state in his autobiography that Benoit would drink heavily when issues with Nancy would arise, which several wrestlers later confirmed. As more details surrounding the Benoit case arose, the WWE issued the following statement on SmackDown:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Last night on Monday Night Raw, the WWE presented a special tribute show, recognizing the career of Chris Benoit. However, now some 26 hours later, the facts of this horrific tragedy are now apparent. Therefore, other than my comments, there will be no mention of Mr. Benoit’s name tonight. On the contrary, tonight’s show will be dedicated to everyone who has been affected by this terrible incident. This evening marks the first step of the healing process. Tonight, WWE performers will do what they do better than anyone else in the world: entertain you. 

Following this, the WWE have done all but eliminate Benoit from their history, often negating that he was part of several high profile events such as the Royal Rumble which Benoit won in 2004, or the main event of WrestleMania XX, where Benoit defeated Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Truly tragic, as the moment has often been cited as one of the greatest in ‘Mania history.

This photo is said to have been taken on Saturday morning, as Nancy was dead in Benoit’s home. One strange part of the Benoit situation is that Nancy’s Wikipedia page (which can be edited by anyone) listed Nancy as being dead 14 hours before the bodies were found. The original edit listed, “Chris Benoit was replaced by Johnny Nitro for the ECW World Championship match at Vengeance, as Benoit was not there due to personal issues, stemming from the death of his wife Nancy.” The man who posted this claimed that it was written due to rumors he’d heard on the internet, and it was found that he’d also made several edits to other Wikipedia articles that were unfounded.

It was claimed that Benoit was “given ten months to live due to an enlarged heart” by Nancy’s sister. What’s strange about the case is that a large knife was found under Daniel’s bed. Prior to her marriage to Benoit in 2000, Nancy was charged with aggravated battery after chasing her former husband, Kevin Sullivan, with a knife in 1997. Benoit’s friend Dean Malenko stated, “He’s not a monster. We’re talking about a guy who, a month ago, was in Jacksonville and rather than drive down to Orlando, where he needed to be the next day, he took a flight to be home with Daniel.”

Another bizarre detail that never seems to get mentioned is that wrestler Dave Taylor was allegedly spotted at the Benoit residence before police arrived. Benoit’s neighbor Holly Schrepfer was contacted by police to enter the property before they arrived to secure the dogs and check on the family. She discovered the bodies, and whilst fleeting the home, claimed that she saw Dave and his wife carrying a platter of deli food. In no way does this point to Taylor being involved in the deaths, but it’s possible that he was coming by to check on his friend. It was suggested that he was sent by the WWE to check everything out and get the facts early to prevent a PR problem. This could also be why William Regal’s tribute was so grim, as the two were friends and tag team partners in the WWE. Taylor has since denied that this is possible, as he says he was in Texas on tour with the WWE. There is no evidence for him being in either location, other than Schrepfer’s claim.

Benoit kept a personal journal following the death of longtime best friend Eddie Guerrero. In it, he would write letters to Eddie, which makes me wonder why he never wrote a suicide note or a farewell. In the personal effects returned to Benoit’s father, a handwritten note was found in a bible that said “I am preparing to leave this Earth.” Within a few months of each other, Guerrero, Johnny Grunge, and Victor “Black Cat” Mar all died, respectively consisting of Benoit’s best friend, his local buddy who he went to after problems with Nancy, and his riding partner on Japanese tours. Chris’ diary remains weren’t found by police, but rather by neighbor Holly Schrepfer in a garbage can.

There are a lot of facts that don’t make sense with what has been alleged to have happened. Toxicology reports claim that all three involved in the incident, Chris, Nancy, and Daniel, were sedated heavily. There are claims that beer cans were found near Benoit’s body, but there was no alcohol found in his system. There were texts sent from Benoit’s phone that were sent AFTER Benoit’s time of death, as determined by police.

There are several wrestling fans who have turned on Benoit and refuse to give credit to his hard work in the sport. That is their prerogative. I personally loved Benoit as a wrestler and will never shun the fact that he gave a lot to wrestling, but I also don’t have children and have never been married. I don’t know how I’d feel from that perspective. That being said, after watching several videos and reading endless articles and write-ups regarding the case, I do think that everything is worth a second look, as I don’t think it happened quite like we all have been told that it did. Nevertheless, two great figures of wrestling history died ten years ago, and the wrestling world was changed forever as a result.

Rest in peace, Chris, Nancy, and Daniel.

9

I came across a VERY cool find: a photo tour of the WWE warehouse! The photos above were taken inside the warehouse which holds billions of dollars’ worth of memorabilia, including rings, props, cages, caskets, you name it! There are more photos from the tour here. Definitely worth checking out! Here’s the write-up from the tour:

Back in March WWE and Charity Buzz ran a bunch of Superstars for Kids Auctions which had different Meet and Greet Opportunities. One that really caught my eye was a Tour of the WWE Warehouse and it would be hosted by Howard Finkel and WWE Warehouse Archivist Ben Brown. I wound up winning this auction. Dont ask me how much!!! lol. Although myself and cousin split it. Also it did all go to charity.

I arrived at WWE Headquarters at 9:40 for the scheduled 10am Meet time. Right from when you get off the exit for WWE HQ you can see the building with the WWE Flag at the top. Its such a cool sight! They had us park in the visitors section of the garage. When we entered the hallway from the garage there were various WWE photos of superstars and events lining the walls on the way to the lobby. I asked to use the rest room. I had to take the elevator to the second floor. Inside the elevator they have WWE Programming playing on a small LED screen above the door! Really cool. Once off the elevator, like the previous hallways this one was also lined with different event and superstar photos. Just really cool.

In the lobby they have the life size statues of Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino they had on display from the past two Wrestlemanias. They also have a giant size poster of the upcoming PPV for the month. So its currently a Payback poster. First our escort from WWE came down and introduced herself. Shortly after Howard Finkel and WWE Warehouse Archivist Ben Brown came down and said hello. Howard Finkel remembered me from past conventions and last years Wrestlemania Axxess VIP Backstage Tour. After we said our hellos, we all got into a waiting SUV which took us to the WWE Warehouse!

From the outside you would never guess this was the WWE Warehouse. It has no markings at all indicating WWE. Inside the warehouse is huge. Aisles and Aisles of three tiered shelves with nothing but WWE Equipment and Memorabilia. The first section had a bunch of unconstructed rings. The wood for the rings, the ring posts, ropes, ring steps etc. Also in this section was the Punjabi Prison set which was cool to see in person.

The next section had one item I hoped would be there. An actual WWE Ring!!! Ben Brown said they use the ring for training sometimes when wrestlers are in the area. So I asked to make sure if it was ok to get in the ring to take a picture, and they said it was ok. Now I have been inside Indy rings which was cool, but this was an ACTUAL WWE RING. Such a cool moment. i have to say to, the mat was alot harder with alot less give than I thought there would be.

The next section over had alot of cool random stuff. Some of the cool highlights were the original King of the Ring Chair used on TV, the old Wrestlefest Arcade Game, random promo posters, an old Saturday Nights Main Event Entrance Sign and even an Arena used sign from the FINAL WCW PPV. Greed.

Next they had the last remaining piece of the old school blue steel cage, an unconstructed hell in a cell cage, an old original WCW logo sign and the giant fist which used to be part of the Smackdown Set on TV. Ben Brown said the thing weighs 6,000 pounds. They also had a pile of event used barbed wire baseball bats, sledgehammers and other weapons. Back in 2009 at the Bragging Rights PPV they had RAW vs Smackdown and the winner got a Trophy Cup. That was there also. One of the coolest pieces to me was the Original Tumbler used at the early Royal Rumble PPVs which wrestlers would draw their numbers out of.

Another section had all the old caskets used in Undertakers various caseket matches. A few that stood out were an oversized casket used for Big Show, the big black coffin used at the 98 Royal Rumble for Undertakers match vs Shawn Michaels. The one Kane lit on fire at the end. It was all burned and still had the holes Kane put in it with an ax. Another was the one used for Mark Henry at Wrestlemania 22. The lady from WWE who was our escort took a photo of all of us by it and tweeted it from the Official WWE Twitter account. They also had the 2 coffins used in the background during the funeral parlor skits from the early 90s.  Another Undertaker piece was the the big Undertaker logo that was set on fire on Raw back around 1998.

Probably the coolest piece there was the actual ring used in Madison Square Garden for Wrestlemania 1. It was not setup, but you could see all the pieces.

The final couple sections had more random props or event used memorabilia. Slammy Awards, Saturday Nights Main Event Neon Sign. HBK Ring Worn Entrance Gear. L.O.D. Shoulder pads. Damien Sandows MITB Briefcase, Brutus Beefacke Clippers, Andre the Giants and Buddy Rogers boots. Old Womans title from the 50s. John Cenas original US Spinner Title. They even had the actual “contracts” used on WWE TV at contract signings. Two that stood out for me where the Triple H vs Brock Lesnar for Summerslam a few years back and also the Hulk Hogan vs Vince McMahon for Wrestlemania 19 which Hogan made Vince sign in his own blood by busting him open. The contract still had Vinces dried blood on it from 11 years ago!!

I saw so much stuff in the warehouse, yet there were still TONS of boxes unopened that contained even more memorabilia. Some boxes even the Archivist Ben Brown admitted he had not even got around to opening yet. You could spend days upon days in this place. Any true old school WWF fan would LOVE this place.

At the end of the tour Ben Brown gave me an actual event used RAW Ring Skirt which is really cool. After the tour we went to lunch at a BBQ place called Dinosaur BBQ. I never heard of it before, but it was really good food.

After lunch Howard Finkel and Ben Brown said they had one more place they wanted to take us. They brought us to the WWE TV Studios where their HUGE video vault is. The vault room alone was worth the visit. Row after row of shelves from floor to ceiling of ALL the WWE,WCW, AWA, Memphis etc. wrestling tapes. I even saw a shelf with TNA & ROH logos. It was crazy to think that pretty much almost every piece of wrestling footage ever was stored in that room!! The guy who showed us around the TV Studio was George from the duo “George & Adam” from the mid 90s. They played WWF Superfans and did small skits which aired during WWE TV then.

After the TV Studio they took as back to WWE HQ where we then parted ways and started the drive home. I have to say this was an AWESOME Experience. Seeing all those props, sets and pieces of memorabilia brought back so many memories. Definitely worth it to me.

One thing I left out from the TV Studio was one of the areas they showed us was where Lord Alfred Hayes, Sean Mooney or Mene Gene would do the Updates segment from the control center with the tvs in the background. They still have that room just with updated screens.

Also the area Todd Pettengill used to do WWF Mania from. That area is still there also.

Also, I got a kick out of this. Read the “contract” from the 2012 SummerSlam match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar: