Chris Benoit was a famous professional wrestler whose dedication to his sport -- and possibly through chemical manipulations of his own and by those who handled his career -- led to great personal tragedy.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, to Michael and Margaret Benoit, Chris grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. It was in that city that he spent much of his wrestling career. He was fluent in both English and French, and according to interviews may have had a sister who also lived in Edmonton. His father has often spoken of his son's gentleness, kindness, and love of family. He came to the sport of wrestling early and excelled quickly. Even as a child he looked up to Bret Hart and the Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington).
Chris first began studying wrestling by watching numerous, pirated videos of professional matches. When he was a teenager he had a chance to meet his hero, Dynamite, and announced to the pro wrestler that he would one day be just like him, and flexed his biceps to demonstrate his power. His father did not really approve of his son's career choice, but he agreed to purchase him a set of weights, and allowed the boy to travel alone, three hours from home, to visit his earliest mentor, Bret Hart, who lived in Calgary. He counted among his mentors Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko.
The three traveled around Canada and the United States, promoting wrestling as well as their own specific matches. He was known for missing a tooth, largely speculated to have been lost during a bout of wrestling. The truth was quite different. Chris loved animals and was playing with his Rottweiler dog when the dog's hard skull smacked against Chris's jaw, popping his tooth out. Chris went on to have a storied career in wrestling, winning titles and making a name for himself in both Canada and the United States.
In 2004-2005 he attained the rank and title of World Heavyweight Champion. His great achievements came at a cost. The stresses of a high-profile career, the pressures to continue to win, the physical aches and pains that result from years of punishment in the ring all took a toll. Couple those with the use of illegal drugs, drugs that are very commonly taken by athletes who need to build and maintain tremendous muscle, all this set his life on a dangerous, risky path. One of the more common injuries sustained by boxers and wrestlers is a concussion to the head. Repeated concussions over a period of years can result in brain damage, trigger diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, or cause the individual to exhibit aberrant, even violent behavior. This is why Chris's father maintains that his son was not naturally given to violence, it was injuries to his brain that brought out characteristics his family had never before observed in his behavior.
Chris married twice during his life. He had two children with his first wife, Martina. In 1997 the marriage collapsed and the couple divorced. By that time, Chris was living with Nancy Sullivan, with whom he had a son, Daniel. When Chris and Martina's divorce was finalized, Chris and Nancy married. However, in 2003 Nancy filed for divorce, citing cruel treatment from her husband. She stated that he broke furniture and threw items around the house. Unfortunately, Nancy did not follow through with the divorce and returned to the marriage, with young Daniel.
In the summer of 2007, police were sent to Chris and Nancy's home. No one had heard from them in several days and they had missed important appointments. The police made a gruesome discovery. All three members of the family were dead. Following an investigation, police determined that over a three-day period, Chris had murdered his wife and his seven year old son. Apparently he drugged both of them, then once they were unconscious he strangled them. Later, he hung himself. Toxicology reports revealed drugs in all three of their systems.
The Benoit murder-suicide unleashed a torrent of criticism towards the wrestling industry, since the police investigation uncovered other wrestlers that had been provided steroids during their careers. Chris' family led a private investigation, which included striking evidence from a neurosurgeon, who stated that an examination of Chris' brain demonstrated that it was "so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient." The report also suggested that Chris had an advanced type of dementia, not unlike that observed in brains from retired NFL players.