(Note: This is a re-posting of an entry I made on June 25, 2007 on a Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)
Around 8PM Eastern time tonight, I was getting ready for Monday Night RAW and was shocked to see a photo of Benoit on the screen with "1967-2007" underneath it. He had missed last night's pay-per-view, Vengeance, due to what WWE announcer Jim Ross called "personal reasons," and had also missed a "house show" Saturday night. Still, everybody expected those "personal reasons" to be a temporary thing.
Then came another shock. Vince McMahon, standing in the ring in an empty arena in Corpus Christi, Texas, announced that not only was Benoit dead, but police found the bodies of his wife and son along with Benoit's at his Fayetteville, Georgia home.
I (along with many other WWE fans) have seen many shocking premature deaths among its performers at relatively young ages (Rick Rude, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, John "Earthquake" Tenta, The Big Boss Man, Brian Pillman, Davey Boy Smith, Elizabeth Hulette, and most recently Sherri Martel at age 49), but Benoit's is the most shocking for two reasons: One, unlike the other deaths, his family also died with him; and two, Benoit was still wrestling (the majority of the others I mention above had been out of the WWE for a long time, perhaps out of wrestling altogether).
I hope Nancy and Daniel find a peace in death the likes of which they did not discover in life. Especially Daniel, who was only 7.
According to a report from WAGA (Atlanta's Fox affiliate) from around 8:45 P.M., police investigators believe that Benoit murdered his wife and son over the weekend, then killed himself earlier today.
Like all murders, this is utterly senseless. I had hoped against all hope that those personal reasons were that some sick bastard threatened the lives of Benoit's wife and son and would kill them if he didn't come home, then killed them and Benoit anyway. It sure would have beaten the crap out of the murder-suicide scenario.
Nowadays, however; it seems like families are never murdered from someone outside anymore. The murder-suicide is more prevalent in crimes where whole families are wiped out (examples: Mark Orrin Barton, Atlanta, 1999; Michael Waleskowski, Waterford, Michigan, 2004). No matter what, I doubt WWE will ever take those two words, "personal reasons," at face value ever again.
Assuming the investigators' beliefs are correct--and they seldom aren't--these events just about destroy a great career. My best memories of Benoit include his feud with The Rock (a favorite wrestler of mine), his winning the Tag Team Championship in 2001 (with Chris Jericho, against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Triple H) and his capturing of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX in 2004. He was battling Triple H (then the current champion) and Shawn Michaels in a "triple threat" match for the title. I remember watching that match with a couple of my friends, and recall how, at first, we thought the fans were cheering because they wanted either Michaels or Benoit to win, just not Helmsley; but later, as Benoit put Helmsley in the Crippler Crossface, and the pop grew even greater, we realized that the crowd really wanted Benoit to win. That's the Benoit I wanted to remember. I didn't want my last impression of Benoit to be of him murdering his wife and child and himself; after all, in a twist on the old saying, you never get a second chance to make a good final impression.
Earlier tonight, WWE put together a tribute show to Benoit in place of the live RAW show they had cancelled. Maybe they should have waited for the facts to come forth before making such a decision.