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« | Home | »

Chris Benoit dead at age 40

By Zach Arnold | June 25, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

More on Benoit’s death can be found at SLAM! Sports, The Edmonton Sun, WWE HP, and ABC News. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WAGA-TV has further updates. Even Gambling 911 has an update. Fox News has an update with a very sad graphic photo. More details at the Observer.

TMZ is also covering the story. More information tonight at The Citizen newspaper.

Let me pay my respects to Chris Benoit, one of the greatest professional wrestlers in the history of the business. He, alongside his wife and child, were found dead in their Atlanta-area home. Chris Benoit died at the age of 40.

In a professional wrestling business where an extraordinary amount of people die in between the ages of 40 and 50, hearing about Benoit’s death is absolutely shocking.

In the past, I have talked about Japanese professional wrestling in glowing terms. The roots of modern MMA in Japan came from the professional wrestling business. Many New Japan wrestlers were trained as both wrestlers and shooters in their dojo system, which created legitimate toughness for all athletes that passed through that system. Chris Benoit was indeed a rare breed — he was a gaijin who lived in the New Japan dojo system. He was unquestionably one of the toughest, most respected men ever to come out of their dojo system — a dojo system that produced al lot of talented individuals.

I’ll never forget watching him in a fantastic Super J Cup tournament finals match against The Great Sasuke (the event took place on April 16, 1994 in Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan). It was a fantastic tournament, topped off by Wild Pegasus (Benoit’s ring name in Japan) winning with a top-rope gut-wrench suplex. I have so many great memories of Chris Benoit ‘the wrestler’ in Japan.

This is one of those moments where everyone in the entire fight industry should pay their respects to one of the true greats to ever embrace the sport of professional wrestling. He not only embodied many good things about the industry, but also displayed a sense of toughness and credibility that you simply do not see in today’s industry that produces manufactured and cookie-cutter workers.

Update: The content up above was written before further details were released in the media in regards to a murder-suicide.

A murder-suicide… adding another layer of tragedy upon an already sad situation. I guess the best way to react to this story is to pay respects to the man as an athlete and a wrestler, but to also be fair and critical by separating the athlete from the person himself.

Furthermore, it was so bizarre and so surreal to see Vince McMahon on television tonight killing off his own ‘death’ angle and paying tribute to Chris Benoit. I can’t even put my fingers onto words to describe my first reaction when I saw McMahon talking on the microphone in the ring.

More columns: Larry Csonka, The Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Mooneyham (w/ Ric Flair comments), and Broadcasting & Cable. Michael David Smith at The Fanhouse has more thoughts.


Image credit: Multiple Romantic

The reaction in the Japanese wrestling industry right now is of total shock. (More in Japanese here and here).

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, Pro-Wrestling, WWE, Zach Arnold | 63 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

63 Responses to “Chris Benoit dead at age 40”

  1. Chuck says:

    Speaking of weird behavior, I rmember Chavo Guerrero and Dean Malenko saying that Benoit was a very private person, etc. and Malenko said that Benoit would just walk away half-way through a conversation. Excuse me for saying, but isn’t that kind of anti-social? Just saying…

  2. A Sad Day says:

    Tomer,

    I think the difficulty people are having separating the man’s accomplishments from his actions is a product of wrestling not being “real.” People like Ali, Robinson, et al, are easily respected for their actions inside a ring. It’s hard to argue that they were not great sportsmen even if their personal lives were less than stellar. But in the case of Benoit or other professional wrestlers, what they did in the ring is not so easily admired by non-fans. They are performers in a style that is not appreciated by some. Ask yourself the simple question: If a Hollywood star did something terrible would most people be quicker to focus on his work than if an opera singer were the murderer? As someone who has not watched wrestling in over a decade, I only know Benoit from his end and trying to consider his life’s work is difficult. It’s hard to make yourself think like an opera fan.

  3. Chuck says:

    http://www.411mania.com/wrestling/news/56289/Even-More-New-Information-On-The-Chris-Benoit-Double-Murder-Suicide.htm

    Some more news. And there will be more. This is for the more delusional fans out there…

  4. Grape Knee High says:

    “The same is true for Ali, Monzon, Robinson, LaMotta, etc. They may have been bad human beings, but it’s not factored into the achievement equation.”

    Tomer, you misunderstand me.

    I am *not* taking anything away from Benoit’s or OJ’s professional achievements. Benoit, I don’t know myself, but OJ was clearly an NFL great.

    However, I jumped into this thread because I’m a bit disconcerted that Benoit fans seem to me, from the outside, more concerned with paying respect to his professional legacy than his alleged murders.

    In the end, I’m a huge NFL fan but I’m going to remember OJ more as a murderer rather than a great RB (as I suspect most NFL fans will be). I don’t think there will be many people paying respect to OJ or his career when he dies.

  5. Tomer Chen says:

    However, I jumped into this thread because I’m a bit disconcerted that Benoit fans seem to me, from the outside, more concerned with paying respect to his professional legacy than his alleged murders.

    It’s not any different than any other case when a controversial person died. I don’t remember ever reading a Carlos Monzon obit that said he was a piece of garbage and ignored his Middleweight legacy (they focused on the legacy and casually mentioned that he went to jail for second degree murder). The same for ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson and others that weren’t exactly saints.

    Cognitive dissonance is a funny thing. People prefer to accentuate the positive rather than the negative 99% of the time. It’s just human nature.

  6. Tim Short says:

    Tomer Chen Says:

    June 26th, 2007 at 7:46 am
    No athlete linked to concusssion/head trauma injuries, to my knowledge, has been accused of such an act like Benoit’s.

    Billy Papke supposedly was extremely erratic the last few years of his life after his Boxing career ended and he ended up killing his wife and then himself.

    That adds to my point. It is something that occurred over time not one single psychaotic break leading to murder of everyone around you.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Good Lord…nearly 60 comments on this thing. I do not know if we are all a bunch of closet pro wrestling fans, or if we are shocked to hear that someone whom most of us have “known” would commit such a heinous act. There is no excuse for what happened.

  8. Dr. C. Anderson says:

    I do have some expertise (keyword is some) as I am a psychologist who has been a fan of Chris Benoit as a pro wrestler. I admit that a ’shrink’ may be an odd person to be a pro wrestling/”sports entertainment” fan, but I am who I am.

    I do not claim to personally know Mr. Benoit, but from a superficial angle, I do wonder if he wasn’t engulfed in a state of depression… stemming from his standing in his business. It always appeared that Benoit, like many other performers of his stature, was one of the hardest working and dedicated individuals to work in the WWE. With all of his skill, he lacked that innate charisma to transform into a premier star, like lesser-talents had (e.g. Hulk Hogan, Rock, Steve Austin). Nothing against those talents, but they lacked the technicality of Benoit, the dedication, and the work ethic.

    That being said, I wonder if he recognized these factors and felt angered. These feelings were targeted at those closest to him… a mix of anger, rage, and confusion that builds and builds until and individual makes the sense out of the unreasonable. Patterns of fear and loathing develop which transfer into all aspects of life — even directed at the ones most loved. Jealousy, vengefulness, fear of betrayal, and hate become the “colors” that cloud one’s vision.

    This is simply a theory by an outsider. I do not claim to have any sort of personal knowledge of the man… just trying to make sense out of my own shock and dismay. I am horrified that someone I respected as an althlete/performer was not only capable of such, but acted on it. I condemn the actions, not the man.

  9. Tony A. says:

    I have been a wrestling fan off and on since 1984. I used to enjoy the Monday Night Main Event. And I loved watching Sting take on The NwO on Monday Nitro. And I got a kick out of DX and their shenanigans on Monday Night Raw. And I stood up and cheered when The Rock beat Hollywood Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania. So when I learned about Chris Benoit and his alleged murder/suicide pact I was shocked, saddened, and revolted. I thought “how could he do this???” but then I looked at the other posts. His head traumas from past injuries, his behavior in the ring, his use of steroids, his rocky marriage with Woman. And a chilling thought came to me. It was in the early 90s when Benoit was at ECW. They called him The Crippler. He broke the neck of an opponent and he took sheer delight in it…no remorse.

  10. Tradition Rules says:

    “And a chilling thought came to me. It was in the early 90s when Benoit was at ECW. They called him The Crippler. He broke the neck of an opponent and he took sheer delight in it…no remorse.”

    YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

    T.R!

  11. Luciano says:

    Tonys never kid around with things like this – I know it for a fact.
    “Dr C. Anderson”… I can almost hear Paul E call for “Dr. Arn Anderson” on a broadcast of WCW POWER HOUR way back in 1990 or 1991 I think… lol
    Must be synchronicity?
    To be serious now though, for this is quite the moment to be serious too, such a tragedy cannot be explained. MANY factors contributed to this horror taking place in the Benoit household; the child’s rare genetic defect was a factor as well. Steroids induced depression – for sure. After so many years of taxing himself at the employ of VKM, Benoit had to be tired of it all as well…
    Nothing excuses those two murders, of course – but he did place a Bible next to each victim.
    And if Benoit’s going to hell, so is Vince McMahon.

  12. Chuck says:

    To Tradition Rules, the man Tony A. mentioned who Benoit broke the neck of in ECW was Sabu. Check out the footage of the incident, very disgusting. Then again, something like that to Sabu is like spraining your arm.

  13. Luciano says:

    Sabu lived.
    It needed not be cleared up – “Tradition Rules” should know his wrestling history, with a name like that…

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