Chris Benoit, 40, was found dead in his suburban Atlanta home on Monday along with his wife and son. The sudden news comes as a shock to the millions of professional wrestling fans who have been following the “Crippler’s” long career, which got its start on the Japanese pro circuit. The deaths are being investigated at this moment as a double-murder suicide, but no official word has come from police as of yet. An autopsy is set for Tuesday morning, and it could be weeks before we get any further details. At the moment we only have speculation on what happened, but it appears – from initial reports – that Benoit killed his wife and son before taking his own life. It’s an event I find unfathomable, and until the investigation is done will be hard for me to believe.

My first memory of watching Benoit was in the early 90’s. At that time Ted Turner owned WCW was inching its way into the limelight and the Canadian superstar had a brief appearance on the brand. His time there was too brief to be memorable, but he’d return later with a much greater impact. Benoit moved to the Japanese circuit where he met with great success and caught the eye of Paul Heyman, then the mastermind of ECW. In the mid-90’s I discovered this weird little wrestling program that aired now and then late on Friday nights. They called it “Extreme Championship Wrestling,” and it looked like my friends stole a camcorder and made their own wrestling show. It was there where I first really took notice of this angry looking dude who had some tremendous matches with Too Cold Scorpio, and on the list of silly wrestling names “Too Cold” is right up there with Vomit.

The man brought a level of professionalism and competence to the ring that few could hope to match. Chris would have a problem breaking through to mainstream success his entire career. He was a soft-spoken guy for the most part and couldn’t get the swagger and fast-talking promos down to put him over with a more mainstream audience. During the infamous “Monday Night Wars” Benoit would often get lost in the shuffle because he wasn’t all that flashy. He did his job, did it better than was asked of him, and he went backstage. There were plenty of fans that recognized his talent, but the now wider audience was far more interested in the flapping jaw of The Rock In 2004 Benoit did the “impossible” and won The Royal Rumble after being thrown into the ring first. Rivaling the endurance of Ric Flair back in 1992, Benoit went on to throw the giant Big Show over the top and secure his spot at the mecca of professional wrestling. Benoit finally made it to the main event of Wrestlemania where he defeated Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship. His wife Nancy and son Dylan joined him in the ring to celebrate.

From all accounts the Stu Hart dungeon survivor was a quiet and respected man. The professional wrestling business is very difficult, and Benoit was always ready to help out a young wrestler who showed a real passion for the industry. Nothing in his demeanor as an onscreen character – or the raw moments of backstage life – would indicate anything was wrong. Then again, things like this are often a surprise to the wider world that truly doesn’t know what happens in their favorite celebrity’s life. Police are following standard procedure in their initial steps investigating this is a murder/suicide, but the truth could be far different. We may never know what was happening when Benoit suddenly called off his match with CM Punk at Sunday night’s Vengeance PPV to attend to family business. In the end wrestling fans have lost a great and honest performer, and even sadder Benoit’s family has lost a great man. Our condolences go out to Benoit’s, and his wife Nancy’s, families.

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