Dark Side of the Ring tends to focus on many wrestling stories that can be considered quite sad or depressing for the viewers. This one is no different as it focused on one of the most controversial wrestlers to date. Here is my breakdown of ‘Chris Benoit, A Tragedy in 2 Parts.’
Chris Benoit was born on May 21st, 1967. His wrestling career spanned 22 years, which saw him winning 22 championships over the many wrestling companies he worked for.
With regards to his time in WWE, he was the 12th WWE Triple Crown Champion and the 7th WCW Triple Crown Champion. Chris was also one of 2 men to win the Royal Rumble as the number one entrant. The other two were Shawn Michaels, who did it before him, and Edge afterward.
As a kid watching Benoit, he wasn’t a flashy wrestler. He didn’t talk well on the mic and he bored me, especially in comparison to wrestlers such as Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Jeff Hardy, etc.
However, as I got older and paid attention to matches at the time, I couldn’t deny that Chris was one of the best technical wrestlers I have ever seen. He had an array of submission holds that he used when he wrestled such as a sharpshooter, a diving headbutt, three rolling German suplexes, and a move I remember very distinctly: the Crippler Crossface.
This dive into Chris Benoit with Dark Side of the Ring was broken into 2 episodes, focusing on his first wife Martha and his 2 kids with her, as well as Eddie Guerrero and Nancy Toffolon and the horrible things Benoit did leading to his death.
One of the first things that everyone said is that Chris Benoit enjoyed wrestling. It was a job that he took quite seriously. It was something about his work ethic that made him stand out. Chris worked extremely hard.
Chris would be very upset with himself if he messed up a move. He would resort to punishing himself, such as doing 500 squats for his mess-up. It seemed a bit extreme because everyone makes mistakes. I think in Chris’s case, it may have been detrimental to his mental health concerning his in-ring performance.
“His first job was wrestling, and his last job was wrestling.”
Chris was a smaller guy compared to the likes of wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, and his hard work showed even when he was wrestling in Canada’s Stampede Wrestling. Wrestling was a passion of Chris’s from when he was a teen until his death.
Eddie Guerro was born on October 9, 1967. He was a member of the Guerrero wrestling family, a family that was very prominent in wrestling. Eddie wrestled in Mexico and Japan, which is where Chris met him actually after they both worked there. Eddie wrestled under a mask as Black Tiger. Chris was Wild Pegasus. While Eddie didn’t take to Chris at first, his dedication to wrestling changed that and they became fast friends.
Both men would find themselves in ECW, WCW, and WWE which is where they both notably took off. Eddie became beloved by the wrestling world for his charisma, his skill, and his ability to connect with the crowd. One of his most notable moments for me as a fan was his Latino Heat gimmick, his paring with Chyna, and him beating Brock Lesnar at No Way Out in 2004 to become the WWE World Heavyweight champion—his first world title in his career.
Eddie’s move seat consisted of the frog splash, one of the wrestlers who did it best. He also had a move called the 3 Amigos, which were 3 suplexes that followed each other.
Eddie was married to Vickie Guerrero on April 24, 1990. They had two daughters named Shaul and Sherilyn. Eddie was also good friends with Kurt Angle, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Batista, and Jericho.
Eddie battled with substance abuse and alcohol problems, and it cost him his job at WWE at a point and his family. By the time he got cleaned up, he was able to get back into the WWE and get his family back.
However, by the time he stopped engaging with alcohol, it was too late as Eddie passed away in a hotel room in his nephew Chavo Guerrero’s arms. He died from heart issues.
When Chavo told Chris about Eddie’s death, he wailed on the phone and spiraled into a depression. Chris would sit in Eddie’s workout room in the Guerrero home and cry. He cried more than the Guerrero’s at that point.
Vickie mentioned her daughters telling her that Chris was there crying and depressed. Even during the tribute to Eddie, Chris cried on camera as he seemed very distraught.
He withdrew from his friends, and it also caused a lot of issues with Nancy and their marriage. Chris would put on a brave face to work even though he was struggling. It was also stated that Nancy thought he should take a break from wrestling as it proved to be a burden for his mental state at the time.
Nancy Toffoloni was born on May 17th, 1964. She was a beautiful woman who served as a model and a professional wrestling manager. Most notable was her time with ECW and WCW where she worked under the name Woman.
Nancy started going to wrestling shows with her husband at the time Jim Daus. She loved wrestling, and it was through her dabbling in the sport that she met Kevin Sullivan. She would be part of his entourage and valet under the name of “Fallen Angel.” While working with Kevin, Nancy would also meet Benoit and their friendship would turn into an extramarital affair after on-air screen time between the two. In a way, it was like Kevin, as booker at the time, set the wheels in motion to the end of his marriage to her.
It was also stated that there may have been some other issues in the Sullivan marriage, which is why Nancy went to Chris in the first place. She divorced Kevin and was married to Chris in 2000. Before the marriage, the two had a son together named Daniel in February 2000.
Another thing of note is Nancy’s care of Vickie when Eddie passed away. She was a good friend and even stayed with Vickie for a month to help her with her grief. Woman was one of the best managers and valets in professional wrestling and it’s a shame that she isn’t talked about and honored in the way she should be.
The Tragedy of Nancy and Daniel
The second part begins where the first part left off. Chris was found dead after a wellness check and it was discovered Nancy and Daniel were also dead. We hear from the police and the media that it was stated that all of them were dead. This was before it came out what had occurred.
That Monday during Monday Night Raw, Vince gave a three-hour tribute to Chris and many superstars such as CM Punk, John Cena and William Regal talked about him. Chris Jericho refused to take part. One of the parts that stood out was William only mentioning that Benoit was the hardest working man in the business. It implied that William knew more of the personal happenings with Chris and Nancy, as he lived near them.
WWE and the Media
WWE thought they were doing the right thing at the time. As the information came out that Chris killed Nancy on Friday Night, Daniel on Saturday morning, and then himself Sunday, it revealed how horrible and tragic this was for Nancy and Daniel. If anything, Nancy, in particular, had to have felt frightened and alone. Chris wrote that he was preparing to leave Earth. He knew what he was doing, especially after sitting with the bodies that weekend.
Vince made it that no one could even mention Chris Benoit as if he didn’t exist. Dean Malenko seemed to be okay with that, as am I.
The media painted that this was all the result of steroid rage. Steroids were pretty rampant in wrestling during that time. This seemed to take prevalence over Nancy and Daniel’s life as the media tried to dissect his descent into madness before what he did. They also mentioned that Chris had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) from too many headshots over the years. While that makes sense with regards to head trauma, even then I can’t use that as an excuse for what he did. It all seemed rather thought out.
It was also stated that no one reached out to Nancy’s family. Sandra said not one person outside of Jericho and Chavo did. David Benoit stated people backed off and he was ridiculed for what his dad did. None of this was their fault. It was Chris’s and his alone.
The first time I watched this, I was watching it as a person who knew the story and a person who had to then speak on it after it aired for a show I used to work on. It was extremely difficult both times to watch these episodes, knowing how upset I was about Nancy and poor Daniel. Their lives were taken brazenly and selfishly.
While I do understand that Benoit was depressed and he had other health issues due to being a wrestler, I still can’t fathom it coming to this. The fact that Chris called Chavo and sounded off; he made it a point to say “I love you” to Chavo. He sent texts and made the calls implying that Nancy and Daniel were sick with food poising/ stomach virus and that was clearly after he hurt them.
That is the part that got to me after hearing that they died. The fact that he killed Nancy on a Friday night and then killed his son the next day, then went to bed again after Nancy was gone for 2 days is sickening.
He put his knee into Nancy’s back and strangled her, drugging her and Daniel so he could suffocate them. The knife under the bed; the bibles near the bodies; the fact that he went to look up a way to break his neck. All of this was disgusting. It was heartbreaking and it wasn’t right. For years I saw wrestling fans make excuses for what he did. All the head trauma caused this. All of these conspiracies that someone else did these horrible things.
The fact that he texted, called, made excuses, and slept with those bodies implied he knew what he did. He knew what he did and it is inexcusable.
Help should’ve been sought for his mental health. There was something Vickie said along the lines of if he wanted to take his own life, do so, but leave Nancy and Daniel out of it. I agreed. They were innocent in this.
I understood WWE making it as if Chris did not exist anymore because he did a terrible thing.
Can His Personal and Professional Life Be Separated?
Some people like to say you should separate the person from their accolades, but nine times out of ten it isn’t that easy when they do a horrible thing.
Nancy being erased bothered me as well. She was still very good at what she did before she left wrestling. Nancy was innocent in this. Her work should be recognized. It should be praised. Without Chris.
I also felt bad for Chris’s older son David, as he was shunned for something his dad did. He lost his dad, his brother, and a woman who treated him as her own. I felt sympathetic for Nancy’s sister, Sandra, as well, as she lost her sister and best friend, and tragically at that.
My final takeaway now that I’ve written about it is I’m okay with never acknowledging Chris again. Sure, he was a phenomenal wrestler, but his cruel actions can’t be glossed over. If anything, we should celebrate Nancy’s life. We should celebrate what she did and we should pray that the loved ones that were affected by this will continue to have much love and goodness in their lives.