Chris Benoit: A Name Lost in the Shadows of Pro Wrestling
I was really on the fence when it came to doing this piece. I will make my feelings known once on this. As a father, I find the man Chris Benoit to be a coward and overall, an awful person.
That being said, it would be wrong not to recognize the accomplishments and skill he brought to the world of professional wrestling. I can also say that Chris Benoit was one of the best technical wrestlers I have ever seen.
While the WWE is doing everything in their power to wipe Chris Benoit off the map, the fact of the matter is you can’t do that. The man did exist, and he went on to accomplish great things during his career.
I am here to discuss just that. I will speak the truth and be unbiased; it would only be fair.
I will not discuss what happened the night he killed himself. We all know what happened; I will leave it to others to discuss if they want to. So without any further delay, I give you the life and career of Chris Benoit.
Chris Benoit was born in 1967 in Montreal, Quebec. Growing up, Chris Benoit was a big fan of pro wrestling. Benoit saw his first match at the age of three and was hooked. At the age of 12, he started going to his first matches at Stu's Pavilion.
There, he watched Stampede wrestling with his dad and grandfather. He saw the likes of Bret Hart and Bad News Allen, but it was Dynamite Kid that wound up being his favorite.
He even went as far as shaving his head if Dynamite did. That is how much respect and loyalty he had for him. It wasn't long before Benoit would be bitten by the ring bug. With support from his dad, the young Benoit got the OK to be a wrestler.
With the weight set his dad got him, Benoit trained hard to get into shape. It would take Benoit more than hard training to break into the business and he knew this. In an attempt to get closer to the wrestling business he started off busting down chairs and setting up the ring at the same pavilion he saw his heroes wrestle in.
As fate would have it, one day after work Benoit and his buddies were horsing around in the ring. That was when Stu Hart instantly took notice of Benoit's athletic abilities and asked Benoit if he wanted to train as a pro wrestler at the age of 17 years old.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He would go back and forth from school and to training until he graduated high school. During his training, he got to work with guys like Mr. Hito and Owen Hart. Still small by wrestling standards, Benoit had his first match at the age of 18 years old. He tagged with Rick Patterson and won his first bout as a pro wrestler.
He continued to spend time in Stampede and wound up winning the Commonwealth mid-heavyweight title in 1986. It was Benoit's first taste of gold. Benoit also would team with Johnny Smith and they found success in the tag ranks by winning tag gold a few times.
In 1989, Stu shut down Stampede wrestling. Benoit, not knowing where he would go, was dealt another card of fate. With a little help from "Bad News" Allen and Tokyo Joe, Chris Benoit was introduced to the world of wrestling in Japan.
NJPW signed and trained him. Once there though, he had to spend a year of tough training before he even set foot in a match. All his hard work and discipline paid off in the end. He was later introduced as a masked wrestler known as the Pegasus Kid.
He went on to have great matches with the likes of Jushin Liger, Shinjiro Otani, The Black Tiger, and many other great Japanese wrestlers. Not only did Benoit go on to win the Super J Cup Tournament twice, he would also win one of Japan's most notable titles.
In 1990, Benoit was one of a select few foreign wrestlers to ever hold the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title.
Benoit would spend time going from place to place for awhile. He wound up winning the WWF Light Heavyweight Title, which he held on to for roughly a year. His first run at the big leagues came in 1992 when he would sign with WCW, though he would spend little time there.
They used him very little, and when they did it wasn't in very memorable matches. He left and headed back to Japan shortly thereafter. He spent the next year or so going back and forth between Japan and ECW.
While doing a stint with ECW in 1994, Benoit would have a life-changing moment.
During a match, he accidentally broke Sabu's neck. For Benoit, this incident raised a lot of questions in regards to his wrestling career. Instead of quitting, he decided he would learn from his mistakes and move on.
Paul Heyman later tagged him as Crippler. After doing what he did to Sabu, Benoit could have taken it as an insult to be tagged with that name. Instead, Benoit took the name with him when he returned to WCW in 1995. On his return, he was thrust into the cruiserweight division where he would continue to turn heads, including Ric Flair's.
Flair was so overwhelmed by his ring work and aggressive style that he asked Benoit to join the Four Horsemen. After the Horsemen briefly feuded with Hogan, Benoit then started a feud with Kevin Sullivan, the booker for WCW. At this point, things started to go bad for Benoit.
He was booked in a story in which he was having an affair with Sullivan's wife, Nancy. This pretend affair would soon turn into a real one, causing problems between him and Sullivan. The feud would end in a retirement match which Benoit won. This was booked mainly so Sullivan could work in the back.
During 1998, Benoit's time in WCW wasn't all that memorable though he had one of his most talked about feuds. At the time, Benoit was fighting with Booker T over the U.S title. Those two would have a best of seven match to decide who would fight the champ.
With Benoit up three to one, Booker T made a dramatic comeback. In the seventh and final match, Bret Hart interfered on Benoit's behalf. Benoit wouldn't take the win in that way and told the ref, for which he was disqualified.
Booker T also didn’t want the series to end the way it did so they went on to have a final match at The Great American Bash. Booker T went on to win, earning the right to fight for the belt. It was now 1999, which would be Benoit's most successful stint in WCW. He would take the tag belts with Dean Malenko.
Benoit's two biggest moments came in 1999. He beat Jeff Jarrett in a ladder match to win the U.S title. Later, he wrestled Bret in a tribute to Owen Hart’s death. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as both men got a standing ovation.
On a side note, I saw the match the night it aired. I can honestly say it was one of the best matches I ever saw.
By 2000, WCW was in shambles. Most of the talent was unhappy with the bookings and the story lines. Benoit was no exception. In what should have been one of the most defining moments of his career, he was instead left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
He went on to wrestle and beat Sid Vicious at Souled Out to become the WCW champ. His reign was short because he would quit WCW the next day. Benoit, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn jumped ship to the WWF.
Benoit would not have to wait very long to strike gold in the WWE. He went on to pin Y2J in a triple-threat match to win the IC title. These two would have a great feud over the next year. During that time, Benoit would win the IC belt three times.
The Canadian Crippler would have a much bigger year in 2001. First, he had a notable feud with Kurt Angle over Benoit stealing his gold medals. These two would go on to have a five-star, best out of three match.
Benoit won that match, which featured an awesome display of wrestling ability by both men. He also went on to win tag team gold that year with Y2J .They would beat Austin and HHH to become the tag champs.
Later that year, he wrestled Steve Austin a couple times for the title. In both matches it looked like Benoit would win but he came up short.
His year would end up on a somewhat sour note though. Benoit hurt his neck and was forced to have surgery. He spent a whole year on the shelf.
In late 2003, Benoit came back in style. In what some consider the greatest makeshift tag team in WWE history, he and Kurt Angle formed a tag team. Folks, this was by far the most impressive duo I ever saw.
Benoit and Angle would have another classic five-star match at Royal Rumble. In the end, Angle won but both would receive a standing ovation.
In 2004, Benoit had what is considered by many his most memorable match.
After winning the Royal Rumble, he would challenge HHH for the title at WrestleMania XX. He forced The Game to tap out, and became the heavyweight champ for the first time. This match was also voted match of the year.
After the match, he and Eddie Guerrero would hug in the ring, as both men won their title matches for their respective brands. His year wasn't over though, as he would win tag gold and heavyweight gold again.
In 2005, Benoit was back on SmackDown. He faced Booker T in another best of seven match for the U.S title. This wasn't as memorable as their first one because Orton had to fill in for Booker T. Benoit beat Orton to become the U.S Champ at No Way Out.
Benoit would be involved in the U.S title picture, this time as an ECW member. On June 19, 2007, Benoit wrestled his last match against Elijah Burke. He was supposed to face CM Punk for the title at vengeance. He would never show up that night for his scheduled bout.
When Benoit didn't show up, they told the crowd it was due to a family emergency. The bodies of Chris Benoit, his wife, and child were later discovered. This event has gone on to haunt pro wrestling ever since.
It will forever be a black eye on this great pastime. Still, some good came out of this dreadful event. After they studied his brain, it was determined that Benoit had the brain of an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer’s.
This would force the WWE's hand to make things safer for today’s wrestlers. Now, a wrestler's head is protected at all times. In the WWE, we no longer see chair shots to the skull. Even in their conventional moves, wrestlers will rarely attack the head.
This was in large part due to the Chris Benoit tragedy.
Chris Benoit died June 25, 2007. As hard as the WWE may try, they can never erase what he accomplished inside the ring. They will also always have to answer questions in regards to his death because the man and wrestler Chris Benoit did indeed exist.
Stay tuned for the winner of the Creature vs. Creature. It will be up sometime today!
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