Chris Benoit, perhaps the greatest worker ever in the wrestling business, has died.
Benoit, his wife Nancy (former wrestling personality ‘Woman’) and their son Daniel, were found dead today at the family home in Atlanta. Benoit was 40 years old.
As authorities investigate the circumstances of their deaths, reports state that Benoit missed a house show over the weekend and failed to appear for the ‘Vengeance’ pay-per-view last night. Wrestler Johnny Nitro took his place against CM Punk in the ECW World Heavyweight Title match. Joey Styles and Tazz, the ECW announce team, stated that Benoit was absent for “personal reasons”. Throughout the bout, fans cheered “We want Benoit!”
Born in Montreal, Benoit, who looked up to the Dynamite Kid as a child, was trained by the legendary Stu Hart in Calgary and grew to be a mainstay of the Stampede Wrestling scene and a close family friend of the Hart family.
Benoit took on the persona of the ‘Pegasus Kid’ in Mexico and Japan and in a classic bout defeated Jushin Liger to win the IWGP Light Heavyweight title and as ‘Wild Pegasus’ won the Inaugural Super J Cup in 1994 when he defeated a man who would become his life-long friend: Eddie Guerrero.
Moving onto ECW, Benoit was nicknamed ‘The Crippler’ by booker/owner Paul Heyman after he accidentally broke Sabu’s neck in a match. Moving onto to WCW, Benoit off the hook work rate and natural wrestling ability won him on spot on the legendary ‘Four Horsemen’ wrestling stable headed by the one and only Ric Flair.
Bad blood erupted between Benoit and WCW booker and wrestler Kevin Sullivan when a storyline concerning Benoit stealing Sullivan’s wife, Nancy, became a reality.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment in WCW was Benoit’s “Best of Seven” series with Booker T. Booker won the series but the phenomenal matches elevated both in the eyes of fans and industry types alike.
On October 4th, 1999, Benoit and Bret Hart engaged in a classic match in Kemper Arena in Kansas City in a touching tribute to Bret’s brother, the late Owen Hart. A month later, Benoit would wrestle Hart again, this time losing in the finals of a tournament for the vacant WCW World title.
At the ‘Souled Out’ pay-per-view, Benoit defeated Sid Vicious for the WCW World Heavyweight Title then quit the company over backstage politics and headed to the WWE with friends Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero.
Appearing at his first Wrestlemania, Benoit defeated Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho in a Triple Threat Match to win his first Intercontinental Championship.
In 2001, Benoit was sidelined while having to undergo surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck and spinal disk problems, a procedure which caused him to miss out on participating at Wrestlemania XIX in Toronto’s SkyDome.
In late 2003, Benoit ran afoul of Smackdown General Manager Paul Heyman. Benoit became the number one entrant in the 2004 Royal Rumble and then went from number one entrant to number one contender, eliminating the Big Show to win the Royal Rumble.
At Wrestlemania XX on March 14th, 2004, Chris Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H in the main event to become the World Heavyweight Champion. After successfully defending the title in a rematch at Backlash in Edmonton a month later, Benoit would lose the belt to Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2004. Fans didn’t care though as Benoit was widely respected as one of the greatest, toughest and hard-working grapplers the squared circle had ever seen.
Nancy Daus Benoit had a memorable career in her own right. As the unforgettable and crafty valet and manager ‘Woman’, she managed Kevin Sullivan, the tag team Doom, Ric Flair, Tazz and The Sandman. As ‘Woman’, Nancy wasn’t content to look pretty at ringside. She was known to physically interfere in matches and will be remembered for the enthusiasm for which she approached her wrestling role.
— with files from John Milner