Height: 5 foot 11
Weight: 220 pounds
From: Atlanta (originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
Signature Move: Crippler Crossface
WWE Debut: Jan. 31, 2000
Trained By: Stu Hart
Career Highlights: World Heavyweight Champion; World Tag Team Champion; Intercontinental Champion; United States Champion; WWE Tag Team Champion; 2004 Royal Rumble Winner; WCW Tag Team Champion, WCW Television Champion; ECW Tag Team Champion
Two things you immediately notice about Chris Benoit: 1) he’s a man of few words, and 2) he’s one of the greatest technical wrestlers alive. Family and friends have always described him as “quiet” and “soft-spoken,” but his fellow WWE Superstars know better; they know that once Benoit steps inside the ring, he turns into the Rabid Wolverine, whose bite is infinitely worse than any bark.
“Wrestling has consumed my life,” he says. “It’s my mistress, my passion. It defines a lot of who I am as a person.”
It’s somehow fitting that this decorated WWE titleholder began defining himself in Edmonton, the Alberta-based “City of Champions,” as a 12-year-old attending his first live wrestling event at the Old Pavilion. He says that from the moment he saw the Dynamite Kid in ring action, “I wanted to be just like him.” When he wasn’t at home lifting the weights his parents gave him one Christmas, he was training on the football field or in the gym of Archbishop O’Leary High School (where his teachers would occasionally have to remind him to come to class). Or he was traveling with friends to wrestling venues throughout Edmonton and Calgary, becoming regular fixtures to the point where they often helped set up the ring and chairs.
Upon graduating high school, Benoit’s wrestling education ranged from months of torturous training in the renown Calgary “Dungeon” of the legendary Stu Hart, to years in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where he’d meet best friends Dean Malenko (now a WWE producer) and the late Eddie Guerrero. Benoit’s toothless smile grows whenever he remembers meeting Eddie during New Japan’s Super J Cup Tournament Semifinals—and knocking him out with an enzugiri kick to the head. “That was the beginning of our friendship,” he laughs.
Despite his well-earned reputation for “toothless aggression,” the Rabid Wolverine is a paradox of sorts. He confesses to feeling “freaked out” after breaking Sabu’s neck at ECW’s November 2 Remember in 1994, and hearing then-ECW owner Paul Heyman refer to him as “The Crippler.” He recalls celebrating in the ring with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin almost more than his unlikely win at the 2004 Royal Rumble. (“For the first time in my life,” he admits, “I actually drank a whole beer.”) And it’s hard to believe that someone who made Triple H tap out to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX was originally “very nervous” about joining World Wrestling Entertainment four years earlier. “If you were ever going to make a name for yourself in this industry,” he explains, “WWE was the place to be.”
Chris Benoit has certainly made a name for himself here, and continues to do with every match. As for his missing front tooth, the Rabid Wolverine lost it while play-wrestling with his pet Rottweiler; the dog’s head collided with his chin, causing the tooth to pop out. If the Rottweiler was smart, he didn’t seek a rematch.