by "Rockin" Robin Drodge
Date: July 19, 2004
Canadians have shown an expression for two passions. The first is hockey and the second is wrestling. The following is a commentary on the career of one of the best technical wrestlers today: Chris Benoit.
In Montreal, on May 21, 1967, a boy was born and his name was Chris Benoit. He grew up idolizing the Dynamite Kid. In fact, when the Dynamite Kid retired from the ring, he gave Chris his wrestling boots. Benoit in his early teens, with only twenty dollars in his pocket, hopped on a bus to Calgary, where his life changed. It was a decision that made him into the successful wrestler that he is today. He enrolled himself into the Stu Hart wrestling camp, where he received his training from the late great Stu Hart. This took place in the basement of Hart’s house; a place called the dungeon. A lot of people had visited the dungeon and some of today’s best wrestlers received their training there, from Stu Hart. They include Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Bret the "Hitman" Hart and others.
Benoit, at the age of 17, started his wrestling career in Stampede wrestling in the month of December 1985. This was a promotion that Stu Hart had developed. It was the place to start for a lot of wrestlers at that time. In fact, much of Hart’s family was also involved in Stampede wrestling in some fashion or another. After Stampede, Chris Benoit went to Japan. He had an opportunity to wrestle and experience a different culture from what he was used to in Canada or the United States. He then left Japan and moved on to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in Philadelphia. Benoit lost his tooth as a result of playing with his dog (a Rottweiler) in his own backyard; some people believe he actually lost his tooth in the ring, but this was not the case. This resulted in the famous smile without the tooth. Later, when he moved on to the WWE™ he was given a nickname in which this incident was used to promote him as "Toothless Aggression".
From there Benoit left ECW in 1995 or 1996 to go to World Championship Wrestling (WCW™). He wrestled there for a while and was hoping to be able to one-day wrestle for the world title. However, a problem occurred. He was never a political person, which probably at this point it might have helped him in pursuing the world title, had he been a little more assertive. He was not for politics. In fact, he was very quiet, leaving his words for inside the ring when he performed for the fans.
In 2000, Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Eddie Guerrero did not like the way that the WCW™ organization was going or the way that they were being used, so they wanted to leave. In January of 2000, Benoit at WCW™ Souled Out™, wrestled Sid Vicious for the WCW™ world title, with Arn Anderson as the referee for the match. Benoit went on to win the WCW™ world title that night but after he won, he gave the world title up and left for the WWF™, as it was known at that time. January 31, 2000 on RAW™ Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Eddie Guerrero showed up as a group and they were called The Radicals. A while after this, he went on to wrestle others, in particular, Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship. They went at it back and forth and finally Benoit won the Intercontinental Championship with the crippler crossface. After this, the title switched back to Jericho and they had a few more matches. They were great in the ring together. Finally, Benoit was given the opportunity to show that he could be a World Champion one day. If you are not in the wrestling business to win the world title, many people say (and this is correct), "Why should you even be here in the first place, if you are not here to win the world title?"
Then Benoit's next challenger was The Rock. He got the opportunity to wrestle with The Rock in the main event of Fully Loaded™. At Fully Loaded™ 2000, the match between Benoit and The Rock was unique in that if the Rock got disqualified or counted out he would lose the Championship. So in this match, the referee got knocked down and a steel chair was brought in the ring. Then The Rock locked in the crippler crossface on Benoit and the referee got back up and rang the bell. He thought The Rock had hit Benoit with the steel chair that was in the ring. So he disqualified The Rock and it was announced that Benoit was the new WWF™ Champion. However, this did not happen because Mick Foley, the current Commissioner of the WWF at that time, came out and decided to restart the match. The Rock went on to defeat Benoit and retain the Championship. The match ended with Benoit coming out on the short end of the stick, without the title.
The next opportunity for the title was at Unforgiven™ 2000, this was a fatal four-way match between Benoit, Undertaker, Kane and The Rock. The same thing happened again when Benoit had supposedly pinned the Undertaker and they had announced for the second time that Benoit was the new Champion. The Undertaker’s foot was on the rope, so Benoit did not get the Championship for the second time. This was what is commonly known in wrestling as "a dusty finish". What this means is that they declare someone the winner, then say that this person did not win, because of some rule violation to make sure that the Champion keeps their title. This has been tried a few times before, so twice Benoit had gotten the "dusty finish".
After this, the next challenger for him was Kurt Angle. Benoit and Angle worked really well together in the ring, mainly because of their backgrounds as technical and amateur wrestlers. The submission wrestling was great between the two and they always put on a good match. Things were going well for him and he wrestled "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Chris Jericho, in a triple threat match for the WWF™ Championship at the King of the Ring. Because of competing night after night, things finally got to him, in terms of the injuries that a wrestler can receive. After the King of the Ring match, in which Austin had won and retained the WWF™ Championship, Benoit had one year taken out of his career due to fusion neck surgery. He was out for a year or more, when he returned he came back to his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on the RAW™, May 27, 2002 episode. Things were changing at the time, in that the WWF™ name had changed to WWE™) and a brand extension had occurred, in which Benoit was sent to SmackDown™. When he returned, he showed up on RAW™, which he was not really supposed to do but he made an appearance on the show for his hometown fans and got back into some physical action. At the beginning of the show, Benoit came out as a fan favourite, but at the end of the show he came out and attacked "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, in which the fans were disgusted with his actions and he now was a bad guy; or a "heel" commonly referred to in the wrestling business.
The next week he won the Intercontinental Championship from Rob Van Dam and took the Championship with him to SmackDown™. He had the title for a while and then, on a pay-per-view between the two brands, he lost the title to Rob Van Dam, who returned the title to RAW™. After this, Benoit had to start his career all over again. He had to prove that he could be a top star, a main eventer and a Champion again one day. One obstacle facing him was his size. He was not a big guy in size but that did not matter at the time. There were others that were bigger in size and weighed a lot more but today appearances have changed, in that size does not matter as it did in the beginning.
Later, Benoit was wrestling superstars on SmackDown™ such as A-Train, the Full Blooded Italians and Brock Lesnar, just to name a few. He had been wrestling on some of the WWE™ live events at the beginning of the card. In fact, he was sometimes the first to wrestle. Benoit came close to winning the WWE™ Championship on SmackDown™, when he took on Brock Lesnar, but it did not happen. Finally, at the 2004 Royal Rumble, he was the first entry entered into the rumble match and had defeated 29 other superstars to win the match; staying in the ring for about 62 minutes, to gain a world title match at Wrestlemania™ in March of 2004. The next night on RAW™, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin called Benoit out on the show and nobody could believe it because he was a SmackDown™ talent. They wondered what he was doing on RAW™. Austin explained that in the contract it said that Benoit would wrestle for the world title and he then could select which Champion he wanted to wrestle. Benoit had selected the World Heavyweight Championship on RAW™ and the Champion at that time was Triple H. Triple H was considered to be the best in the business, so Benoit wanted to wrestle the best for the title.
Sometime later, when they went to sign the contract, Shawn Michaels got involved and wanted to wrestle Triple H for the title and signed the contract instead of Benoit. The final decision was that it would be a triple threat match at Wrestlemania™ for the Championship. It was between Benoit, Michaels and Triple H. The rules for this type of match are that the first person to score a pin-fall or submission would win the match and win the Championship. The Champion does not even have to be pinned or submit to lose the title. So, if you are the Champion going into this type of match, you are at a disadvantage, not an advantage. Wrestlemania™ took place on March 14, 2004, in New York City, at the historic Madison Square Garden. This is where a lot of sports events take place, and probably one of the biggest arenas to wrestle for the world title.
Going into the match, Benoit was the underdog. Maybe this was a good thing. For a long time he was told that he could not win the title and that he could not win 'the big one'. These words motivated him in a big way. This was stressed even more at the pay-per-view that night when Benoit said, "that the night at Wrestlemania™ would be his night".
The match took place and it was one of the best matches on the card. For eighteen years Benoit had wrestled his heart out for one thing: to be the best and to be the World Champion. This reality finally happened for him and a journey had begun for the crippler, his dream had been realized. I believe (not absolutely sure) that Benoit’s parents were at the pay-per-view, along with his wife and children. He was very emotional. He was crying in the ring, holding the title over his head. His best friend, Eddie Guerrero, had come into the ring to celebrate the victory with him. The two Champions were in the ring, one from RAW™ and the other from SmackDown™ but that night it was all about Benoit. The finisher that he used was the crippler crossface, the move that he had used for a long time. It won the title for him. He made Triple H tap out to the move so he could win the Championship. Benoit's good luck did not end there.
The next month, on April 18, 2004, for the first time, the WWE™ headed to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for Backlash™; the first ever Pay-Per-View in Edmonton. Benoit being the World Champion made it all the more exciting for fans to cheer on their hometown hero. A lot of publicity took place in order to promote the Pay-Per-View. The fans were at the Edmonton airport when Benoit arrived to his hometown, where he grew up and still considers home. He was presented with the keys to the City of Edmonton by Mayor Bill Smith. It was announced that April 18 was Chris Benoit day in Edmonton. That night, at Backlash, Benoit wrestled the same wrestlers that he had wrestled the previous month at Wrestlemania™, which was Shawn Michaels and Triple H in another triple threat match for the title. Benoit retained the title and pulled a “screw job” on Shawn Michaels with the Sharpshooter, similar to what happened in Montreal in 1997. The crippler is still the World Champion today.
One change that a lot of Canadian wrestling fans are not happy with; is that the WWE™ has changed the name of Benoit's residency. They say that he is currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. However, once the superstars return to Canada this all changes and they go back to where they reside in Canada. To a lot of wrestling fans, including myself, Benoit is the best technical wrestler and deserves all of his success. The tooth that he had lost, the WWE™ used this to their advantage by selling t-shirts with the slogan "toothless aggression". This was a boost for his career, even though he does not have that tooth. He had to do what he had to do for a long time to prove that he was the best.
In wrestling, you are not given anything; you have to earn it. This is what it is all about. Benoit has been quoted as saying - "Prove Me Wrong."It might have taken him eighteen years to win the World Championship and to prove that he is the best technical wrestler, but on his way through this journey he learned a lot. He had to learn the hard way about all of the hard work and injuries, also the strain on a marriage and a family that it took to reach his happiness in the ring. When his career is over, he has said that he may go back to live in Edmonton but he is not sure about this at the moment. He did say that he still loves Canada and Canadians certainly love him. I am sure that Stu Hart would be very proud of him. At this time he will be remembered as a legend because of his great work in the ring. He may go down in wrestling history as a great Canadian. This word "great" cannot be thrown around lightly because not everyone is great, but you can certainly say this about Benoit. It is great to know someone who was born in Canada and who has traveled all over the World for his career still considers Canada to be his home and very proud to say he's a Canadian.
has been another commentary for The Canadian Connection by your author,
(This page was last updated on 2007-01-01 )
© 2004 Robin Drodge, All Rights Reserved
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