Wrestler of the Day – February 17: Shelton Benjamin

We get ready to fly today with Shelton Benjamin.

Shelton was an All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota along with a more famous wrestler named Brock Lesnar. The two would both join the WWF in 2000 and be assigned to OVW where they would be put in a tag team called the Minnesota Stretching Crew. Here’s a match from Christmas Chaos 2001.

Johnny Spade/Sly Scraper vs. Brock Lesnar/Shelton Benjamin

See what I mean about guys you might be surprised to see here? Lesnar and Benjamin were known as the Minnesota Stretching Crew and a handful of people are smiling at that reference. Scraper is someone you may remember as Sylvester Terkay. Spade likes to talk a lot but never was anything special. John Morrison would eventually use the name Johnny Spade but they’re definitely not the same guy.

Brock and Shelton are brand new here and this is their biggest match ever according to Cornette. Spade spits at Shelton and something tells me that’s not going to go well for him. You can barely see anything as the lighting is terrible, but like I said that wasn’t something you could expect there. Both Shelton and Brock have under a year of experience.

Benjamin shows off early and gets a slick headscissors to Scraper. Yeah Shelton’s debut was in November of 2000. Shelton gets a kick which busts Scraper open. Brock is in tights like Angle wears which is odd to see. Nip up by Brock as he destroys Spade just because he can. There’s that belly to belly of his. All Minnesotans so far.

Spade sends Shelton into the ropes and Scraper pulls the top rope down to shift the momentum. It’s amazing how calm Cornette is during this and how smoothly he says everything he talks about. Modified What’s Up to Shelton. Scraper looks like Bruiser Brody. How weird is it to see Brock and Shelton as completely brand new rookies? Spade and Scraper use a wheelbarrow splash to crush Shelton a bit more but Brock makes the save.

Both Shelton and Spade go for cross bodies at the same time and here comes Brock and Scraper. Big tilt-a-whirl slam to Scraper and a double Rock Bottom has Scraper in trouble. Spade saves the pin as everything goes crazy. Spade tries a monkey flip on Shelton but Shelton just flips over and lands on his feet. SICK superkick from Benjamin takes Spade’s head off.

We have three minutes left and the camera goes over to the corner where Brock is up top. He throws out a SHOOTING STAR PRESS! HOLY FREAKING GOODNESS that was awesome. Since OVW isn’t that smart though, it doesn’t end the match as Spade saves. That was incredible. Shelton throws out a 450 to end it even though we don’t see it. Look up that Shooting Star though as it’s something that has to be seen to be believed.

Rating: C+. Basic formula tag match here as Cornette knows how to book a show perfectly. Starting with a pretty fast paced tag match is a great way to get the crowd going and that Shooting Star didn’t hurt anything. Brock was scary good and couldn’t have been wrestling more than 6 months at this point. They were booking Shelton as the star of the team but obviously that didn’t exactly wind up being the case.

Like many other OVW guys, Shelton would wrestle dark matches on WWE shows, including this one from June 3, 2002 against the Prototype, who would debut under his real name very soon: John Cena.

Prototype vs. Shelton Benjamin

John is billed from Los Angeles and is wearing purple and gold in a nice touch. Cena’s hair is long enough that it’s hanging from his head and flaps around when he turns. Shelton looks like he always has. Fast start with Cena getting two off a rollup but walking into an armbar. Shelton hits a Stinger Splash in the corner but Cena avoids the second one and takes over. Cena is the heel here.

Some clotheslines get two and forearms to the back get the same on Shelton. It’s so strange seeing Cena as just a guy out there. A nice delayed vertical suplex gets two on Shelton and some nice applause. Cena scores with a powerslam and puts on a chinlock while demanding the referee ask if Shelton gives up. Benjamin fights up and hits a spinebuster followed by the Dragon Whip for the pin and a nice reaction.

Rating: C+. For a dark match between two guys straight out of developmental, this was a very nice little match. Cena looked like he knew what he was doing out there and Shelton got to show off his athletics. The fans approved of both guys and the match was entertaining enough. Both guys clearly had futures at this stuff.

Shelton would debut on the main roster in early 2003 with a new partner named Charlie Haas. They would comprise Team Angle and quickly captured the Smackdown Tag Titles, which they would defend at Wrestlemania XIX.

Smackdown Tag Titles: Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit/Rhyno vs. World’s Greatest Tag Team

Haas and Benjamin are defending here. This is Benoit’s reward for having the match of the year against Angle two months earlier, followed by a feud with the freaking FBI while Kevin Nash got world title shots on PPV. I’m sure HHH has NOTHING to do with this right? It’s a big brawl to start until we get down to Benoit vs. Guerrero for a chop off. They collide in the middle of the ring with both guys going down. Rhyno comes in to face Eddie and gets two off a powerslam.

Off to Shelton who pounds Rhyno down before hitting an elbow to the face for two. Off to Haas for a double tag team by the champions on Rhyno. Rhyno throws Haas around with ease and it’s off to Benoit for more chops in the corner. A snap suplex gets two as does its belly to back cousin. Back to Rhyno vs. Benjamin as the announcers talk about Haas and Benjamin having stage fright.

Eddie comes in and dropkicks Rhyno down before it’s back to Benoit for more chopping on his fellow dead guy. Eddie snapmares him down and loads up the Frog Splash, only to have Benoit run over to the corner for some crotching and a superplex. Guerrero comes right back with a brainbuster for two as Haas breaks up the cover again. Off to Chavo who fires off some fast clotheslines to the champions, only to get caught in Rolling Germans by Benoit.

Benjamin comes in off a blind tag and superkicks Chris down for two. Eddie tags himself in and collides with Benoit to put both guys down. Shelton comes in to work on Benoit some more and a legdrop gets two. Eddie breaks it up with a Frog Splash but Chavo tags himself in, only to be suplexed down by Haas. Rhyno comes in for some Gores including one to Chavo, but Benjamin comes in (I have no idea if he was legal) and steals the retaining pin on Chavo.

Rating: C. The match was fine but it had no business being on Wrestlemania. This could have been on any given episode of Smackdown and no one would have noticed the difference. Rhyno and Benoit were just thrown together while the Guerreros were a regular team and former champions. Not bad here but not Wrestlemania worthy.

The team would gain and lose the titles multiple times over the next year before being split up by the Draft. Benjamin went to Raw and was put in a feud with HHH of all people, facing him in his first match on Raw on March 29, 2004.

HHH vs. Shelton Benjamin

The Game takes him into the corner to start and patronizes him a little bit. Shelton easily gets HHH on the mat and rides him amateur style before giving HHH a big smile. A Shelton chant starts up before they tell HHH that he tapped out at Wrestlemania. Benjamin nips up to stop a charging Game but almost gets caught in the Pedigree. HHH shows him how close that was but gets caught in a backslide for an even closer two. Shelton shows HHH how close THAT was and HHH is mad.

An armbar takes HHH down and an armdrag does it again. The Dragon Whip takes HHH’s head off for two and it’s back to the armbar. Cue Flair to ringside as Shelton is thrown through the ropes. This brings out Benoit to back Flair up as we take a break. Back with Shelton powering out of a top wristlock and going back to the armbar. HHH fights up and scores with the running knee to the face before sending Shelton shoulder first into the post twice in a row.

Flair sneaks over but doesn’t touch Shelton, allowing HHH to get two off a neckbreaker. Things slow down until Shelton scores with some right hands, only to be caught in the sleeper. Shelton rams HHH into the buckle to escape and puts on a sleeper of his own. HHH quickly counters with a belly to back suplex and goes up, only to jump into Shelton’s feet to put both guys down. A clothesline puts HHH on the floor and a clothesline off the apron takes his head off.

Back in and a top rope clothesline gets two more as the crowd is losing its collective mind. Shelton pounds away in the corner but gets dropped face first on the buckle. JR says that HHH’s spot calling is trash talk in a nice cover up. HHH charges into a powerslam for two and a rollup gets the same. Flair gets in a cheap shot but Benoit goes after him. HHH looks at the two of them, allowing Shelton to hit a Stinger Splash and roll up the Game for the shocking upset.

Rating: B-. This was a nice, long match that made Benjamin look like a star. Make no mistake about it: the ending wasn’t a fluke with HHH dominating him the entire time before getting caught. Shelton hung with him the entire match and had HHH in trouble for a long stretch. Good match here and Shelton looked great.

Shelton would actually beat HHH again the next week by countout and go on a huge roll, only to break his hand and be put on the shelf for a month. He would come back at Taboo Tuesday, having won the poll to face Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho.

Intercontinental Title: Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho

This was just after Shelton had come to Raw and beaten HHH in three matches but got hurt. This is his big return. Jericho gets backdropped over the top and might have hurt his back. He was in a big funk at this point as he had no direction whatsoever. He also had the medium length hair and it looked horrible. Running enziguri gets two and the Canadian takes over.

He works on the back as there’s not a lot of direction to this at all. The crowd being painfully small isn’t helping much either, but that could have something to do with the show being on a Tuesday night. Both guys work on the others’ back with Jericho hitting a backbreaker and Benjamin hitting a top rope suplex. I love the Dragon Whip. Lawler suggests that if the bookers had anything to do with it then this match may never have happened.

Lionsault misses but he actually crashes on it in a thing I’m not used to doing. Shelton hits a nice diving clothesline off the top but the Stinger Splash misses. This is getting better but the crowd doesn’t seem to care. Lionsault hits this time but of course it only gets two. Jericho goes up but jumps into the T-Bone to give Shelton the title. Ross and Lawler seem to be the most excited though. So much for that idea. Is there anyone Jericho won’t put over? Shelton would hold the title until June which is the longest title reign since Rock in 97.

Rating: B-. Pretty good match here as Jericho wasn’t prepared for Shelton so he had to do his usual stuff which didn’t work because Shelton knew what to prepare for. The crowd is pretty weak here and it’s not a good sign for the rest of the show. This was a good push for Shelton, even though nothing really ever came of it as he has more untapped potential than anyone in a long time.

Shelton would hold the title for the longest reign in over seven years. During the reign he would enter the Gold Rush Tournament for a World Title shot. His first round match was on May 2, 2005 against a mystery opponent.

Gold Rush Tournament First Round: Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels

Shawn is back in the world title hunt after going after Muhammad Hassan for a few months. Shelton is on fire at this point so this is going to be great. They immediately hit the mat and Shelton dominates as you would expect him to. Shawn grabs a hammerlock and they hit the mat again. Shelton rides him again and Shawn has to head to the ropes to get a break.

Shelton takes him back to the mat but Shawn easily gets back up. A cradle gets two for Shawn out of nowhere and it’s followed by a forearm to take over. Shelton comes back with a clothesline and both guys go to the floor. We take a break and come back with Shelton countering a belly to back superplex into a cross body off the top but he can’t cover. Batista is watching in the back.

Shelton hits a Samoan Drop and both guys are down again. Things speed up and Shelton gets two off a backbreaker. Shawn hits the forearm and nips up, but Shelton nips up a second later, freaking Shawn out. We get a fast paced pinfall reversal sequence and Shawn takes Shelton down with a hard chop. Benjamin comes back with the Stinger Splash in the corner but the T-Bone is broken up.

Sweet Chin Music is caught and the Dragon Whip gets two. That sounded GREAT and JR’s commentary is only making this better. Shelton loads up a superplex but Shawn knocks him down and hits the elbow for two. Another Chin Music attempt is countered by a high kick for a VERY close two. Shelton jumps from the mat to the top rope and hits a spinning clothesline for another two. This is getting better and better with each kickout. Shelton gets sent to the apron and tries a springboard, but he jumps right into the Sweet Chin Music in an incredible spot. Shelton is DEAD and Shawn advances. That never gets old.

Rating: A+. It’s my favorite match ever. What grade did you expect me to give it? Also, this probably furthers Shawn’s record of most A+ matches for a single guy held by Shawn. The last few minutes of this has some of the best near falls on TV that I’ve ever seen. This is easily one of the best TV matches of all time. The only issue I have with it: what was Shelton going for at the end other than diving into the kick? I’ve never gotten that. The idea here was simple: Shawn was fighting himself from ten years ago. That’s very interesting and it worked like a masterpiece here.

Shelton would drop the title to Carlito in June and start slipping a bit. Shawn would tell him to get it together, leading to Shelton’s Mama debuting and turning Shelton heel. He would get the Intercontinental Title back in February and appear in the MITB match at Wrestlemania 22. Rob Van Dam would win the briefcase, but Shelton wasn’t done yet, challenging RVD to a winner take all match at Backlash 2006.

Money in the Bank Briefcase/Intercontinental Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Shelton Benjamin

It’s winner take all with Rob holding the case and Shelton holding the title. Shelton takes him to the mat to start and rides Van Dam a bit. The fans are completely behind RVD, namely because this is during the opening part of Shelton’s heel run. Shelton backflips out of a wristlock to show that he can hang with Rob in all of the high flying stuff. RVD gets his rolling cradle for two and Shelton bails to the corner.

Shelton keeps getting frustrated and heads to the floor for a breather. Back in and Benjamin pounds him down and fires off some forearms. Rob will have none of that and kicks Shelton down. The champ (Shelton) bails to the floor again to avoid Rolling Thunder so Rob dives to the floor to take him out. Shelton runs back in and hits a sunset bomb to the floor to take over again.

Back in and Benjamin works over the back before hooking a chinlock with a knee in the spine. Rob quickly escapes that but gets caught by a knee lift for two. Back to the chinlock which might be a choke. Not that it matters as Rob makes the rope. Rob fights up and tries Rolling Thunder but Shelton catches him in a Samoan Drop in a SWEET counter. They go up and Rob knocks him off the top, but Shelton JUMPS up the corner (not runs the corner. He JUMPED from the mat to the top rope and superplexes Rob down for two.

Off to a kind of rear naked choke which is broken up again. A spin kick takes down Shelton as do some clotheslines. Van Dam kicks him down a few more times and FINALLY hits Rolling Thunder for two. See? Build it up, then pay it off. Not that hard. Split legged moonsault out of the corner gets two. Shelton counters the monkey flip but another spin kick puts him down. Five Star misses and Shelton hits a DDT for two. Actually make that six as it’s three two counts, the third having feet on the ropes.

Shelton goes to the floor for no apparent reason. Oh ok he’s grabbing the briefcase. Rob goes to the floor after him but gets knocked down quickly. Back in and Shelton hits a top rope cross body which Van Dam rolls through for two. Dragon Whip misses Van Dam and he hits a rana to take Shelton down. Shelton goes for the case and there goes the referee. Rob ducks a shot and hits a Van Daminator with the case. Five Star gives Rob the title.

Rating: B. This was a very fun match and the Five Star absolutely has to be seen to be believed. He didn’t hold the title long but he would cash in the case in about a month and a half for the WWE Title at One Night Stand. Shelton never got back to the point he was at a year before this, which is a shame as he was on fire at that point. Good match here.

Shelton would fall way down the card over the next year, mainly appearing in lower level matches on Raw or main eventing Heat. He would eventually reform the World’s Greatest Tag Team with Charlie Haas and get a shot against the Hardy Boys in a tag team ladder match at One Night Stand 2007.

Raw Tag Titles: Hardys vs. World’s Greatest Tag Team

Ladder match so this should be awesome. Hardys are champions coming in. Big brawl to start but that’s the point of this match I suppose. Haas takes down both Hardys with a double clothesline and here come the ladders. All four have ladders so the Hardys throw theirs at their opponents’ and put a pair in corners. Haas gets buried under a pair of ladders in the corner and Shelton is pushed on top of them.

The Hardys start being the Hardys in a ladder match and dominate quickly but make a mental mistake (the Hardys? Nah) and both go up at once, only for Shelton to toss a ladder at them and take over. They work on Jeff’s leg and send him into a ladder in the corner so softly that the fans boo it. When do you EVER hear of a spot being booed in a ladder match? Haas and Benjamin both go up but they have the same issue the Hardys had and we all come down again.

Shelton dropkicks a ladder into Matt’s face and the World’s Greatest Tag Team takes over all over again. They set up a pair of ladders in a sea-saw pattern and according to rule 2 of ladder matches, they both get slammed onto it. Here come the Hardys again and a double clothesline takes everyone not named Shelton to the floor. The Hardys bring in the huge ladders and set one between the ring and the railing.

Shelton blocks a suplex through said ladder though, until Matt backdrops Shelton onto a ladder which he just bounces off. The ladder is bent and Jeff isn’t happy. He thinks to himself by George (and bonds. Pills. Maybe some cocaine too. My band’s album because no one else will) I want him to go through that ladder but Haas makes a last second save.

Matt takes Charlie down and goes up himself, only to get shoved onto the top rope. You know the move Haas and Benjamin do where Haas holds a guy up on the top and Shelton jumps on his back? Well here they use a ladder instead of a rope and Shelton jumps to the floor onto Matt’s back and more or less destroys it in an awesome looking spot. Charlie goes up but here’s your friendly resident drug addict (Jeff in case you thought Matt got up that fast) for a superplex off the ladder to the mat.

Everyone is down now and Jeff has a glazed over look in his eye. In other words, everything is normal with him. In one of the best accidental spots I’ve ever seen, Shelton tries to springboard from the apron to the ladder to stop Jeff but slips and flips forward, kicking the ladder over. JR actually does a decent job of making it sound intentional. Matt shoves Shelton off and starts climbing up two ladders at once. Everyone goes up and it’s a four way fight. The Hardys go down but maintain enough composure to shove their opponents off. Swanton kills Haas and Matt gets the belts to retain.

Rating: B+. Pretty good tag team ladder match here as they let all four guys go in there and just do their thing which is the right idea more often than not. Also they had time (seventeen minutes) here which helped a lot as well. Very hard hitting match here as they managed to make the older spots look good again. Rather good match and not much to complain about at all here.

Shelton would jump to ECW in 2007 but continue his streak of MITB appearances at Wrestlemania XXIV. Benjamin would also dye his hair gold at this point and begin calling himself the Gold Standard which didn’t work at all.

CM Punk vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison vs. Chris Jericho vs. MVP vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. Carlito

Morrison is a tag champion and MVP is US Champion, having held it for nearly a year. Jericho is also Intercontinental Champion because what else is he supposed to do? Everyone goes after a ladder to start other than MVP who stays in the ring. Someone slides one in and MVP uses it to knock everyone down. Jericho brings in a big ladder and it’s time for a duel. MVP goes down and here’s Morrison to use his own ladder to send Jericho down.

In an awesome move, Morrison goes up top with the ladder and moonsaults down onto a bunch of guys at once. Kennedy uses the distraction to go up but Jericho makes the save. He tries a catapult on Kennedy but sends him onto the ladder by mistake. Morrison dives onto the ladder to stop Kennedy but Shelton climbs his own ladder to make it a three way race. Kennedy loads up a superplex on Morrison but Shelton jumps over both of them with a sunset flip to make it a Tower of Doom. Cool spot.

Carlito tries to shove Shelton off the ladder but he lands on the top rope on his feet. Shelton shoves the ladder at Carlito and tries to dive onto said ladder but it gives way. Punk stops Shelton from going up and hits the GTS but Kennedy stops him with the rolling fireman’s carry onto a ladder. MVP is back in now to kick Kennedy in the head but gets sent into a ladder by Carlito.

Shelton’s dragon whip CRACKS Carlito in the head but as he goes up, Kennedy and Carlito shove the ladder forward, sending Shelton over the top and through a ladder which was bridged between the ring and the barricade. Carlito and Kennedy go up but MVP breaks that up, only to be broken up by Morrison. Jericho breaks up Morrison’s attempt by putting him in the Walls on top of the ladder. Again, awesome. Kennedy tries to use the opening but Jericho throws John down and starts brawling.

Punk and Carlito dive at the ladders to make it a fourway with only Jericho lasting on top. Carlito comes back with the Backstabber off the ladder and everyone is down again. MVP goes up the ladder but here’s the returning Matt Hardy to stop him with a Twist of Fate off the ladder. Everyone is back in again and Jericho beats on all of them with the ladder. In a cool visual one ladder is jammed into the bottom of another, so as Morrison climbs the vertical (and unfolded) one, Jericho shoves it back into the corner and onto Punk.

Carlito and Jericho go up but Carlito spits apple in the face to break it up. Kennedy shoves Carlito off but gets hit in the ribs with a ladder by Punk. Jericho hits a Codebreaker with a ladder onto Punk to put everyone not named Jericho down. Punk goes up to stop Jericho but gets hit in the face by the briefcase. Punk climbs up again and knocks Jericho into the Tree of Woe with a shot to the head, allowing Punk to climb up and win the briefcase.

Rating: B. Good MITB here but as usual the high amount of people hurt it. Nothing here really stood out other than the Walls and Matt’s return, as you can only get so much out of the same spots we’ve seen before. It’s certainly good but it’s a step below some of the other stuff, and this would only get worse until we got some fresh blood in there. A power guy wouldn’t hurt either.

He would get back into the midcard title scene with a title shot against US Champion Matt Hardy at the 2008 Great American Bash.

US Title: Matt Hardy vs. Shelton Benjamin

Shelton is the Gold Standard and challenger. The announcers point out that no one has ever lost the title at the Bash and of course they treat it like the same show as the WCW incarnation. Shelton takes over with a headlock but Matt takes over with an armdrag of his own. A quick Pay Dirty (Little Jimmy) and Twist of Fate are both countered and Matt takes over again.

Matt tries to skin the cat but Shelton dropkicks him to the floor. Shelton rams him into the post to take over. The fans are into this and I presume they’re behind Hardy but I can’t really tell. It might be split. Matt tries a Side Effect but Shelton counters into an STO for two. The Dragon Whip looks to set up the Stinger Splash but Matt counters. Middle rope leg and sunset flip get two for Matt. Twist attempt is countered and Shelton looks for a middle rope belly to back superplex but Matt knocks him off. Moonsault gets knees and Pay Dirt gives Benjamin the title.

Rating: C-. This wasn’t bad but I really didn’t get into it. Matt was certainly better as a guy that was chasing the title rather than actually holding it. Matt would go on to win the ECW Title soon after this as Shelton would hold the US Title for like 8 months and then would just chill on ECW until being released in 2010.

Shelton would hold the belt for about eight months but do very little with it before dropping it to MVP. He would head back to ECW and not do much for the next year before getting an ECW Title shot against Christian at TLC 2009.

ECW Title: Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian

This is the ladder match. I had almost gotten to the point of being sure that Benjamin would be winning here. Ah sweet we have the three man commentary team now. That’s a great thing to have for the PPVs. Christian gets a solid pop. Dang man there are ladders EVERYWHERE. Why in the world would you ask Lawler about his strategy for a ladder match? Actually that’s good as that’s his job.

Cole has gotten better at setting him up with softball questions which is what King is there for. This should be very awesome. The ECW Title has never changed hands in Texas. Could be because ECW didn’t go to Texas that much but whatever. We hit the floor and Christian gets the BIG ladder. And that doesn’t work so there we are. He’s in the ring with a ladder first but something tells me this isn’t how the match ends and I’m right as Shelton makes the save.

If nothing else Shelton is one of the few people that truly impresses me in the ring at times. Not a lot of people have ever been able to do that but there are times when he has my jaw hanging open. Christian is busted open and I’m pretty sure it’s legit as a ladder fell on his head. Yeah that’s legit. And here’s a guy to check on him. Oh dear. The fans chant WE WANT BLOOD. I love modern crowds. There’s a Santa in the crowd. That’s cool if nothing else.

For no apparent reason Shelton climbs a ladder on the floor. Sure why not? And it’s table time now. Apparently not as Shelton sets up a ladder between the ring and the announce table. Something tells me I know what’s coming. Nothing happens with it yet as we’re back in the ring. Shelton sets for what would be a Stinger Splash but Christian just throws the ladder at him. Simple yet effective.

Crowd is WAY behind Christian. I’m not sure if I like them going with the big ladders here or not. I think I do but I’m not sure. Shelton gets up the ladder and Christian shoves him off very slowly, but Shelton lands on the top rope on his feet. Think about that for a minute. That’s amazing. I know there isn’t much to criticize here but it’s a solid match. Yeah those ladders hanging from the ceiling look awesome. Shelton with a powerslam from the top of the ladder that looks better than it sounds.

Shelton does the Jeff Hardy spot where he hangs from the belt. I’ve always found that stupid. Why not just unhook the stupid thing? Striker wants to know that too. Spotfests are fun. In a mostly cool looking spot, Shelton does that slingshot sunset flip into a powerbomb but Christian reverses into a hurricanrana. Nicely done but slightly botched which is understandable given the move they were trying to do. And now we get to the ladder they set up as a table earlier.

Shelton is trying to hit a German Suplex to Christian through the ladder but it’s blocked and Shelton lands on it. Christian dives through it and the ladder breaks. Has NOTHING on the Hardy/Edge version. Not a thing and the crowd is clearly not as into it as they wanted them to be. It ends the match though.

Rating: B+. Total spotfest but incredibly fun. It was missing that epic spot to make it legendary though. Still though, perfect choice for the opener and it did exactly what it was supposed to do: get the crowd into the show. Very entertaining match and I think I lowballed it here.

Shelton would leave the WWE in April of 2010 and hit the indies for awhile before making it to ROH. He would hook up with Haas again, this time called Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team. They would pick up the ROH Tag Team Titles and face Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander in a Proving Ground match (if the champs lose they have to defend the titles against the winners in I believe 90 days) on November 5, 2011.

Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander vs. Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team

This is one of those Proving Ground matches. There’s a 15 minute time limit here. Alexander has the blonde mowhawk. Got it. Coleman vs. Benjamin starts us off. Benjamin works on the arm to start and Coleman can’t get anything going. He’s trying though so give him some points for that. Coleman manages to send him to the corner and gets a surprised look from Shelton.

Off to Haas vs. Alexander who is a bit more physical than his partner. Benjamin gets a blind tag in and kicks Alexander down for two. The champs have never really been in trouble at all. Haas works over the knee as we take a break. Back with Alexander fighting out of something by Benjamin but Shelton kicks him down with ease. Haas works on a leg lock but eventually walks into a bad tornado DDT.

We’re over ten minutes in now if this is in real time. Double tag brings in Coleman and Benjamin who is taken down by a leg lariat for two. We have less than four minutes according to Kelly. The non-champions speed things up and hit a double dropkick to send Haas into the barricade. Three minutes left. Their clock is about 10 seconds off but it’s close enough. There’s a double powerbomb to Coleman and we’re done at 12:55.

Rating: C. Uh…so? The champions beat the newcomers with their finishing move. Is this supposed to be surprising in a way or something? If Coleman and Alexander were worth something they would be on the roster already. Not a bad match or anything but it’s not like anything changes now or in the future. I don’t mean it hurt anything but it didn’t change things at all.

Shelton’s last and current stop was in New Japan where he would challenge for the Never Openweight Title at Wrestle Kingdom 7.

Never Openweight Title: Masato Tanaka vs. Shelton Benjamin

The Never (it’s an acronym and usually capitalized which annoys me as always) Title is part of an offshoot of NJPW for newcomers and outsiders with Tanaka defending. You might remember him from his wars with Mike Awesome back in ECW. I’m sure you know Shelton. Tanaka comes to the ring with a kendo stick which I guess is a signature prop. Feeling out process to start until Shelton speeds things up with a northern lights suplex for two. A release German suplex sends Tanaka bailing to the floor and things slow down.

Shelton will have none of this standing around and hits a BIG flip dive over the top to take out Tanaka and some other guy who was standing next to him. Back in and Tanaka comes back with a forearm in the corner to drop Benjamin and we hit the chinlock. Shelton fights up and they fight over a suplex with Tanaka getting the better of it. They chop it out and whip each other across the ring until Tanaka hits a SCREAMING CLOTHESLINE to take over. Shelton avoids a diving clothesline and comes back with the Dragon Whip to drop the champion.

A Stinger Splash keeps Tanaka in trouble and a bad looking Blockbuster gets two on the champion. Paydirt (Little Jimmy) is blocked by Tanaka but Shelton kicks his head off for two as the announcers talk about ECW. The same guy that Shelton dove on earlier trips Shelton up and blasts him in the head with a kendo stick (Checkov’s Gun works in Japan too) to give Tanaka a two count. Benjamin comes back with an ankle lock but has to take out the interfering guy with a belly to belly superplex. Tanaka uses the distraction to hit a sliding elbow to the head of a seated Shelton to retain the title. That’s a pretty weak finisher.

Rating: C. This wasn’t much to see as it didn’t have time to go anywhere, making it feel like a TV match rather than a PPV title defense. I’ve always been a Shelton fan and it’s nice to see that he’s still in great shape. Tanaka seems to be a heel here which makes sense when you have him facing a guy that can fly like Shelton.

To say Benjamin had potential is the understatement of the year. He did stuff in the ring that no one else could do with his MITB stuff being absolutely mind blowing. The heel turn in 2005 just crippled him though and he never recovered. Had he kept going on the run he had in 2004/2005, there was no way he wouldn’t have won a world title. Still though, his best years were absolutely awesome and are worth checking out if you want your jaw to drop.

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  1. dudeddude says:

    Didn’t he have a really shitty attitude backstage as well which didn’t help his cause?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I’ve heard that before yeah. You could see that he wasn’t trying nearly as hard around 2005/6 and it caught up with him too.