Canadian WWE wrestler Benoit, family found dead
Updated Mon. Jun. 25 2007 10:12 PM ET News Staff

Canadian pro wrestling superstar Chris Benoit, his wife and son have been found dead at their suburban Atlanta home, World Wrestling Entertainment says.

Police said Monday they are treating the matter as a homicide.

Lt. Tommy Pope of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department told the Associated Press that the three were found at their home about 2:30 p.m. local time. He wouldn't give details.

Results of autopsies on Benoit, his wife Nancy, and seven-year-old son Daniel are expected Tuesday, he said.

WWE aired a three-hour tribute show to Benoit instead of its usual "Monday Night RAW" TV show on the USA Network.

"I am deeply saddened over the loss of Chris Benoit," WWE Canada president Carl DeMarco said on the WWE website.

"My heartfelt thoughts and sympathy go out to his parents and family. My relationship with Chris has extended many years and I consider him a great friend. Chris was always first-class -- warm, friendly, caring and professional ... one of the best in our business."

Wrestling fan Chris Szabunia told CTV Edmonton: "Definitely a sad day for wrestling and for Edmonton too. ... He's been one of my favourites for a long time, with a local connection, but I like what he does in the ring too."

Benoit, 40, was born in Montreal and grew up in Edmonton, graduating from Archbishop O'Leary High School.

A wrestling fan as a boy, he began his career in 1985, starting with the famous Hart family of Calgary, who operated Stampede Wrestling.

"Wrestling has consumed my life," Benoit is quoted as saying on his WWE bio page. "It's my mistress, my passion. It defines a lot of who I am as a person."

He would wrestle for the National Wrestling Alliance, World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling before joining WWE in 2000.

Four years after that, he would win the world heavyweight championship at Wrestlemania XX. In response, Edmonton declared "Chris Benoit Day" on April 15, 2004.

Benoit stood 180 centimetres tall, weighed about 100 kilograms and looked ripped. Some called him "The Canadian Crippler," in part because he broke another wrestler's neck in 1994. Another nickname was the Rabid Wolverine. His signature move is the "Crippler Crossface."

"Chris was beloved among his fellow superstars, and was a favourite among WWE fans for his unbelievable athleticism and wrestling ability," the WWE said on its website.

"He always took great pride in his performance, and always showed respect for the business he loved, for his peers and towards his fans. This is a terrible tragedy and an unbearable loss."

Benoit had been scheduled to wrestle at a pay-per-view event in Houston on Sunday night. However, he got replaced at the last minute for "personal reasons," according to announcer Jim Ross.

With files from CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press