Mick Foley has provided a detailed rundown of the emotions he felt upon discovering the tragedy surrounding the family of Chris Benoit.
25 June 2007 is a day that will never be forgotten for wrestling fans. The bodies of Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy, and their son Daniel were found at their residence, beginning one of the darkest periods in wrestling history. Everyone has had their say on the situation, with wrestling icon Mick Foley the latest.
‘The Hardcore Legend’ spoke on his podcast of the tragic event, detailing how he initially learned of Chris Benoit’s absence from his scheduled Vengenace: Night of Champions encounter with CM Punk:
“It was just that rumbling, we didn’t know where he was. And so at that point, I had quite a bit of seniority. So when I spoke, people tend to listen, I remember saying, ‘One thing’s for sure. If Chris Benoit is not [at] a pay-per-view, something’s wrong.’ Like, something major. I was thinking that he had some type of health problem, but he was not the type of guy who would miss a match at all.
Now, the next day, after that talk with Mr McMahon, still no sign of Chris Benoit, but Vince understands how offended I am by that angle. And he says, you know, you don’t want to be part of it, go home. So he sent me home. And on that night, there was just awful weather throughout the southeast and the southwest. Flights being cancelled and delayed.
So I’m sitting in the Corpus Christi airport, [I’m] trying to think, this was 2007, the Internet was around but I didn’t have access to it. I would not have had a tablet or anything like that. I probably just had a flip phone but I start hearing rumblings. Maybe it’s from local news that there’s been this tragedy and I can’t get more information. And because my flight is delayed and I’ve been rerouted, it’s one of those situations where you end up in Atlanta four hours after you’re supposed to be there.”
Continuing, Mick Foley discussed the media’s perception and Chris Jericho’s role in the aftermath of the Benoit family’s passing, stating how wary ‘The Wizard’ was of dealing with such situations:
“In the aftermath of the deaths and suicides, I think the only guy who came across well was Chris Jericho, because Chris was wise enough to understand that nobody gains from a shouting match. And he said he would only be on if he was the only guest. That’s the only way you really make your points. Otherwise, I’ve been in those situations, you know, where you go to like CNN and it’s you and three professional panellists. And they all have to get their stuff in. And you’re kind of depending on the person running the show to ask you a question so that you can talk but other than that, you got to butt in.
And like I said, you’re dealing with three people who are doing that as a living. It’s really uncomfortable. They had a lot of misinformation out there. Everyone wanted to go with the roid rage thing. I remember Chris Jericho, Chris, real smart guy. He says, he reads off a list of effects. And they are, you know, jittery and you know, there’s a bunch of jittery, uptight, prone to frustration, he reads it off. And at that moment [the presenter says], ‘This just goes to show what the steroids can do.’ And Chris said, ‘I just read you the effects of too much caffeine.’
And he had a way of putting things in perspective, like, you know, we all jump out. It’s a shame that the news revolves around the ratings. So it’s entertainment, it’s not so much news. When I was growing up, the news was a loss leader, it wasn’t there to make money, it was there as a public service. And then you have guys trying to, like, outdo each other on different networks. So for like that week, it was a free for all and I didn’t want a part of it. I didn’t want any part of it.
I remember, I’d been approached by the Bill O’Reilly Show. And I was going to do it. And it was actually one of the representatives from ChildFund International who said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ And I said, ‘I think Bill would treat me well.’ And they said, ‘You’ve done a lot of good work in the world. I don’t think you should trust that this one guy is going to do the right thing for you.’ I went, ‘All right’. And it’s yeah, it’s a valid point. And I didn’t talk about it.”
Elaborating further, Mick Foley recalled Eddie Guerrero’s passing and how that affected Chris Benoit mentally:
“One thing you know, when I say I was struggling, I think a lot of us in the industry are struggling in the aftermath of that tragedy. Our personal appearances were cut down dramatically. Nobody wanted to book a pro wrestler for a period of time. And the few things I did do, I remember going to Six Flags over Texas, and you just feel like every eyeball is upon you like, ‘Oh, you’re one of those guys’.
Looking back, Conrad [Thompson], after Eddie Guerrero’s death. You know, all of us were sad, but Chris was devastated. There’s that clip of him and he’s just bawling his eyes out. And so I thought, you know, a writing side of me might try to understand it and write a fictitious but in a sense, historically, you know, inspired book called Letters to Eddie, in which you see a human being losing his grip on reality, and succumbing to his demons through his own words.
And I never followed through with that, I think it would have been really interesting, but I have no doubt. I don’t want to say don’t have any doubt, but it would not surprise me, and I think it’s…I’m almost sure that Eddie’s death played so heavily on Chris’ mind having lost his very best friend that he was never quite the same.”
Wrapping up, the multi-time World Champion addressed Chris Benoit’s intense in-ring style, despite having had his neck surgically repaired:
“You compound that with the style he had that was relentless. He wasn’t one of those guys who changed gears as he got older, learned how to make audiences laugh, learn to connect another way, he never did that. He was just going to give you everything you had every single match. And he was, you don’t come back after neck surgery and still drop that butt off the top rope, you don’t do that. I wish somebody had pulled him aside and said you got a lot of moves, you got to come up with something different.
I don’t care if Tommy Billington did it or not, you need to stop coming off the top rope with a surgically repaired neck, but some of these guys push themselves so hard. I believe Chris was always, you know, small by wrestling standards. He continued to use, you know, enhancers, even while he was recovering from his neck surgery. So it was sad, it was really sad. He was an intense guy by nature anyway, I think he was greatly affected by the loss of his friend.
I do not know what was going on behind the scenes in his marriage. I mean, I’ve never found out for sure if Daniel had Fragile X syndrome. I don’t know what the situation was. I just didn’t know it was tragic. And one of the worst things that’s ever happened to us. And it really set WWE and wrestling back away, because it came across so negatively in the media.”
Chris Benoit wrestled his final match on 19 June 2007, defeating Elijah Burke on a broadcast of ECW. A two-part Dark Side of the Ring special centred around the family aired in March 2020, showing how Chris and Nancy’s sides of the family came back together to support each other following the tragedy.