World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) today made the announcement on their website that wrestler Chris Benoit, along with his wife Nancy, and their son Daniel were found dead today at their home in Atlanta, Georgia. Benoit was 40 years old.
No other details regarding the circumstances of this discovery have been released by WWE or by the Atlanta police. Just this past weekend, Benoit had been scheduled to wrestle for the vacant Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) World Championship against C.M. Punk at WWE's Vengeance pay per view show. Benoit abruptly pulled out of the scheduled match just days prior, to attend what was called a family emergency in Atlanta. The match took place with another wrestler, Johnny Nitro, substituting for Benoit. In the match, Nitro won the ECW title.
Although he lacked the big, musclebound look of fellow WWE stars like Hulk Hogan, and the flashy microphone skills of Ric Flair and The Rock, Benoit was a favorite of diehard wrestling fans because of his aggressive, no-nonsense style in the ring. This style earned him many nicknames over his twenty-year career, including "The Rabid Wolverine" and "The Canadian Crippler." His most famous wrestling moves were a textbook flying headbutt off of the top turnbuckle, and the "Crippler Crossface," a punishing submission move that more often than not would cause his opponents to tap out.
During his twenty-year career, Benoit enjoyed success in all of the "big three" wrestling promotions, WWE, ECW, and the now defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He also wrestled in Japan, where he enjoyed success wearing a mask as the Pegasus Kid. His most noteworthy matches included an ECW match against Sabu which ended in a broken neck for his opponent.
Another notable bout was a falls count anywhere in the building match against Kevin Sullivan for WCW. In an ironic real life twist, Benoit ended up marrying Sullivan's wife Nancy, who was a valet manager working under the name Woman. Benoit also enjoyed considerable success in WCW as a member in one of the final incarnations of the legendary Four Horsemen, the faction of heel wrestlers headed up by Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.
Chris Benoit won numerous championships during his career — including tag team gold in both ECW and WCW — before finally winning his first world championship in WCW in a match against Sid Vicious. He was stripped of that title however, when he defected to WWE, along with fellow WCW wrestlers Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and the late Eddie Guerrero.
Once arriving in WWE, Benoit made an immediate impact with fans, and eventually finally won a world championship he could keep, by defeating both Shawn Micheals and HHH at Wrestlemania XX.
Tonight's edition of WWE's flagship show Monday Night Raw on the USA Network will be a three-hour tribute to Chris Benoit. Ironically, the show had been scheduled to revolve around the scripted angle of the presumed "death" of WWE chairman Vince McMahon. That plan has for the moment been scrapped, in order to pay tribute to Chris Benoit and his family.
Raw airs on the USA Network at 9:00 PM in most time zones. Chris Benoit will be missed by wrestling fans throughout the world. Our prayers go out to his family.