Bob Holly and Chris Benoit were close friends. While rehabbing an injury, Holly was in Atlanta, Georgia, not far from where the Benoits lived. When Chris heard that Bob was in town, he begged for his friend to come over. When Bob didn’t come in the end, Chris was offended and upset and let Bob know as such in an expletive-filled conversation.
Hours later, Chris Benoit would tragically murder his wife, Nancy.
Bob Holly reflects on what transpired that day and how he was almost put in the position of being a potential hero or victim of the Benoit family tragedy.
Stories Still Unfolding in the Years Since the Chris Benoit Family Tragedy
June 24, 2007 — a date many see as just another in existence. For fans of professional wrestling, just hearing “June 2007” can bring on goosebumps, a chilled spine, mixed feelings, and disbelief. A 3-day tragedy finalized that day involving Chris Benoit and the murders of his wife Nancy, and 7-year-old son Daniel, before taking his own life.
Studies of Chris’ brain has yielded numerous analyses, such as one from the Sports Legacy Institute suggesting that the repeated concussions Benoit sustained in his wrestling career may have played a contributing role to his final actions.
Some fans have since attempted to look at Chris primarily for the wrestler he was, while others only see him for who he was and what he did during his final days. Stories about Chris Benoit behind the curtain and about the events of June 2007 have drawn attention to the minds of many in the years that have since passed, and Chris has been scolded by some of his peers while remembered positively by others.
Many have shared stories about their experiences with him in and out of the ring, professionally and personally. No matter who it was from, each story had a similarity: the person Chris was at his death was not the person many remembered him to be over his 22-year career and 40 years in life. In fact, many remembered him to be a respectful, devoted person to his craft, his friends, and especially his family, but Chris was far from the perfect person.
Nancy was the second wife of Chris Benoit, and they had a close call with divorce in 2003 when Nancy filed due to alleged domestic abuse. The divorce was withdrawn later in the year. On March 14, 2004, Nancy and Daniel joined Chris in the ring at WrestleMania 20 as the show went off the air in celebration of Chris’s career and life-defining WWE World Heavyweight Championship win. Nancy and Chris Benoit remained married until the tragedy occurred in June of 2007.
The double-murder suicide of the once-loved world champion was recently covered in the acclaimed VICE docuseries, Dark Side of The Ring. It included tales from those close to the Benoits such as Nancy’s sister Sandra Toffolini and close friend Vickie Guerrero along with professional wrestlers Chris Jericho, Chavo Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Benoit’s first son David.
Accounts from the weekend of the Benoit Family deaths, such as the text messages Chavo Guerrero received from Chris and Nancy’s phone regarding their dogs, have been told before on platforms such as Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast and Dark Side of The Ring. However, one story is not commonly told that is rather unsettling due to the tragedy that may have befallen a third victim. That person? "Hardcore" Bob Holly.
Bob Holly – From Sparky Plugg to Hardcore
Bob Holly was a fan of professional wrestling when he was young. Growing up in California and Oregon, Holly watched Big Time Wrestling and Portland Wrestling, idolizing Pat Patterson, Curt Hennig, Jesse Ventura, and Roddy Piper.
Holly moved to Alabama from Oregon, where he worked as an auto mechanic and welder.
Later, he met a wrestler named Marcel Pringle, who helped get Holly’s foot in the door for training in Pensacola, Florida.
He was trained by Bob Sweetan and Rip Tyler and made his in-ring debut in 1987, working the independent circuit and working small stints in World Championship Wrestling and Smokey Mountain Wrestling.
Holly met another Pringle, Percy Pringle — better known as Paul Bearer — who encouraged Holly to send in a 2-minute audition tape.
Bob Holly first worked for the then-World Wrestling Federation in 1991.
He returned in January 1994 after sending in that Percy Pringle endorsed tape under the gimmick of a NASCAR driver named Thurman "Sparky" Plugg.
Holly was a very upfront person with Vince McMahon, directly going up to the boss and requesting a name change, which was granted, and so he became Bob "Sparky Plugg" Holly, dropping the “Thurman” from his name and replacing it with “Bob.”
Bob Holly won the WWF Tag Team Championship with The 1-2-3 Kid at the 1995 Royal Rumble pay-per-view and competed in the infamous Brawl for All “shoot” boxing tournament in 1998.
The WWF transitioned to a more adult-oriented product in late 1997 in what is now looked back on as The Attitude Era.
As part of the company’s more edgy approach, the Hardcore division was introduced, which emphasized a more violent/extreme wrestling style based on the popularity of the Philadelphia-based promotion ECW. "Sparky Plugg" felt a change was once again needed, and the character "Hardcore Holly" was ready to shine.
It was in the Hardcore division where Holly found success and popularity, most famously winning the Hardcore Championship on the banks of the Mississippi River at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view in February 1999 and then regaining the title in the opening contest of WrestleMania 15, and in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2000.
Holly drew attention in 2002 when he appeared as a guest coach on a season 3 episode of Tough Enough, a reality show where hopefuls competed for a WWE contract.
\While in the ring with eventual season winner Matt Cappotelli, Holly showed Matt how tough and real the wrestling world can be, roughing up and making the trainee bleed before his coaches and fellow contestants. In a match with WWE Champion Brock Lesnar on WWE SmackDown in September 2002, Holly legitimately broke his neck during the match, leaving him out of action for one year.
The peak of Holly’s WWE career came after his return from neck surgery.
In January of 2004, Holly challenged Lesnar unsuccessfully for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Holly was then drafted to the revived ECW brand in 2006, and another memorable "Hardcore Holly" moment occurred during an Extreme Rules match with Rob Van Dam.
A suplex to the outside through a table inadvertently sliced Holly’s back open in one of wrestling’s most gruesome injuries. The injury was not sidelining, but he was put on the sidelines until later that September due to a nasty staph infection that nearly cost him his arm.
Holly would have been off the road in June of 2007 at the time of the Chris Benoit tragedy. As it turns out, that staph infection almost put Bob Holly in a position to be a potential hero or victim.
Bob Holly – “I was supposed to be at Chris Benoit’s house the night he killed Nancy.”
In December of 2014, Bob Holly joined host Jim Ross on an episode of the now-discontinued Ross Report podcast. Holly revealed that he had plans with Chris in his last days that would have had Bob going to the Benoit house when the murders occurred. Holly shared the following when asked by Ross what was the night like when he found out that Chris, Nancy, and Daniel were gone.
"I don’t know if you know this or not,” Bob Holly begins, “I was supposed to be at Chris’ house [the night] that he killed Nancy. I was supposed to be at his house that day.
“He called me ’cause I had gone to Atlanta for some business up there, and he went to the doctor. I had talked to him a few days prior to that, and he said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be home on Wednesday,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna be up in Atlanta, so…’ you know? He said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come by my house and see me?" and I said, ‘Chris, it’s your day off, I want you to spend time with Nancy and Daniel, and you don’t need me there.’ He goes, well, I’m not gonna repeat how he said it, but he said, ‘That doesn’t matter, just come.’ He said, ‘I don’t mind, Nancy doesn’t mind just come on, and you know you can have dinner with us or whatever.’”
Bob Holly continued, “So… I didn’t call him; I just went home. He called me on his way home from the doctor, this was at like 11 o’clock or 11:15 in the morning on his way home from the doctor’s office, and he got on me for not calling him and coming over.
“Now, mind you, later on that afternoon, that’s when he killed Nancy and so that really hit me hard because it’s one of those things where, okay, if I would’ve shown up, would the outcome be completely different? Would they still be alive today? I mean…that hit me hard. You couldn’t unplug from that one. And that was really tough to digest because I talked to Chris.
“He said, ‘Why in the heck aren’t you coming up here? F this, I don’t care, blah blah blah you should’ve come up. It doesn’t matter. I wanted- I’d like to see you.’ We rode together a lot; we were pretty close. He and I were pretty tight.
“We rode a lot, and he was the most polite person ever on the planet to anyone he ever met. And so, he said, ‘Hey, I just left Dr. Aston’s office, I’m on my way home how come you’re not up here?’ And it’s like, wow…"
Jim Ross then asked Bob Holly if Chris sounded particularly agitated in those conversations as if something was bothering him other than the fact that they couldn’t get together.
Holly responded, "No. After he said how he felt about me ’cause I wasn’t coming up there to hang out with him or whatever, it was just small talk. You know, ‘How’s TV? How’s this, how’s that? How’s everything going with…” you know? I said, ‘How are you and Nancy doing?’ ’cause I knew him and Nancy were having trouble because we talked and he said, his exact words were: ‘Aww, she’s acting like Hitler again.’
“I didn’t know what to say to that obviously because I didn’t want to get in their business or anything, and so I just kinda laughed it off followed by a little small talk here and there, and then that was it.
“[Chris] said, ‘Well, next time you’re up here, you need to come see us and come to the house,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, I will, I will. I get it, Chris. Alright, I’ll be there!’
“And then I find out that he killed Nancy at like, what was it, 4:30 or 5 o’clock that afternoon? This was like 5 hours after I got done talking to him."
Jim Ross brought up how Bob Holly may have been one of the last guys on the WWE roster Chris Benoit spoke to. Why was Chris so adamant about having Holly at his house? What was his tone like on that one call Holly did not want to repeat? The "what ifs" are countless, but as Holly questioned, could he have prevented anything had he gone over to Benoit’s house hours before Nancy’s death?
Knowing what we do now about what happened and the state Chris was in, Holly may very well have arrived after Chris was in a horribly bad place in a horribly bad time. Thankfully, these are just hypothetical questions and not heartbreaking facts. We, along with Bob, can only be grateful that he stayed safe from a dangerous situation.
Bob Holly last wrestled June 2, 2019, for the World Association of Wrestling (WAW) in Norwich, Norfolk, England* in a losing effort against Cody Hall and Luke Hawx at WAW Fightmare 3. You can learn more about Holly through his highly recommended 2013 autobiography entitled The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story.
* The WAW was featured in the movie Fighting With My Family and was founded by the Knight family. The family’s daughter, Saraya Jade Bevis, was the movie’s main character and is working for WWE under the name Paige where she currently is a personality on the FOX television broadcast WWE Backstage.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles on our site:
- The Day I Met Chris Benoit 3 Weeks Before the Tragic Double Murder-Suicide
- Jimmy Snuka and the Death of Nancy Argentino
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