Wrestler of the Day – May 19: Chris Benoit

Today is Chris Benoit.

Before I start, let me make this clear: I’m going to be focusing on Benoit’s career, not what happened at the end of his life.

Benoit is another guy where there’s too much to pick from so the timeline is gone again.

We’ll start with one of his best matches ever, made on the fly six days before Wrestlemania X7.

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

On his way to the ring, Angle rips on Texas for various reasons, primarily the lone star flag. Oh and cowboy hats are stupid. This match was made on Raw because neither guy had anything to do for Wrestlemania. It’s as simple as it sounds, but do you need anything more than that for this pairing? Angle still insists that he didn’t tap out to Benoit on Raw. Heyman: “This is as excited as a man can get with his clothes on.”

Angle takes it to the mat to start which is fine with Benoit as the struggle begins. Benoit sits out and it’s a standoff, drawing a nice ovation from the crowd. It worked so well before that they do it again, drawing a bigger ovation this time. Angle hits a kind of suplex to take it to the mat for a third time but Benoit sits out again as they fight for position. They roll into the ropes for another break and the fans are pleased yet again.

Benoit takes it to the mat again and tries the Crossface, sending Angle into the safety of the ropes. Kurt bails to the floor for a breather as he isn’t sure what to do with Benoit here. Back in and Angle has to get to a rope to escape another Crossface attempt. Angle blasts Benoit with a right hand to shift the style and momentum here as they head outside. Benoit goes first into the announce table and shoulder first into the steps to keep Kurt in control.

Back in and Angle gets two off a belly to back suplex. A belly to belly gets no cover by Kurt and neither does the second one Angle hits in a row. Benoit comes back with a clothesline as the only advantage of the match so far is gone. Benoit starts slugging away in the corner before hitting a knee to Angle’s ribs. A back elbow to Angle’s face gets two as does a snap suplex ala Dynamite Kid. Benoit follows up with a superplex and holds his neck afterwards. He would be about three months from neck surgery that put him out for over a year.

Speaking of neck injuring suplexes, Benoit rolls some Germans but Angle rolls through the third one into the ankle lock. Benoit escapes that into an ankle lock of his own for good measure. The stealing finishers was one of Angle’s major deals so this shouldn’t be a surprise. Benoit tries the Crossface but Angle blocks it from going on full. Angle puts Benoit in the Crossface for good measure but Benoit gets a foot on the ropes.

Angle accidentally charges into the referee, just before Benoit puts Angle in the Crossface for an unseen tap out. Benoit releases the hold and gets caught in the Angle Slam for two. Angle’s moonsault hits Benoit’s knees, allowing Benoit to go up for the Swan Dive. That gets two, but Angle rolls through and hooks the tights for the win.

Rating: B+. It’s Angle vs. Benoit at Wrestlemania. Did you expect this to be anything less than awesome? This wasn’t as good as their masterpiece at the 2003 Rumble, but it would be a match of the year candidate on any other show. That’s what you expect from these two though, and this is an excellent match that is overshaddowed by the rematches they would have later.

Smackdown on December 4, 2003 was basically the Chris Benoit Show. Here are his two matches that night back to back.

John Cena vs. Chris Benoit

The winner gets Lesnar later tonight. Cena rhymes about the situation tonight before the match. He’s a face at this point. Benoit jumps him immediately and knocks him into the corner. This is going to be mostly brawling. Suplex gets two for Benoit. Cena comes back with the pounding to the back and a clothesline for two. They’re both trying to end this quickly for the sake of conserving energy for Lesnar later.

After a surfboard hold by Cena, a spinebuster gets two for John. Benoit is holding his ribs so Cena adds a delayed vertical suplex for two. Proto Bomb gets two as well. Cena sets for the FU but Benoit counters into the Rolling Germans and says Cena can’t see him. Swan Dive misses so Cena pumps the shoes up. Benoit comes back with chops but walks into the FU for the pin out of nowhere.

And never mind because Benoit’s feet were in the ropes for a Dusty Finish. We take a break and come back with Benoit ramming Cena’s shoulder into the mat and homing in on it to control. Northern Lights suplex gets two. Benoit chops away and hits a clothesline for two. Cena hits a hard right but that’s the bad arm so he can’t follow up. Benoit drops elbows on the arm for two.

Cena tries to go to the floor but Benoit gets him back in immediately. All Canadian right now. He cranks on the arm with a modified armbar but Cena fights back and hits the Throwback for two. Benoit trips the legs and puts on the Sharpshooter but Cena makes the rope. Benoit goes for the arm again but Cena grabs a bad FU (he fell down so it was more like a Death Valley Driver instead of the release Death Valley Driver that it usually is) and both guys are down. Big Show comes out for no apparent reason and the distraction allows Benoit to grab the Crossface for the tap out.

Rating: B-. Not a classic or anything but this was a good one. I couldn’t quite go higher than this because it never hit that next level, but Cena wasn’t ready to go there with Benoit yet. Big Show and the Dusty Finish didn’t help either but you can’t fault the guys in the ring for that. Good match.

Smackdown World Title: Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Benoit

Brock jumps Benoit during his entrance and hammers on the ribs. Benoit comes back and clotheslines Lesnar to the floor. He chops at the chest and sends Lesnar shoulder first into the post. Benoit throws Lesnar in for a Crossface attempt but Lesnar bails to the floor. Lesnar gets in a shot at the ribs and Brock takes over again. In a cool move, Brock sets for a fisherman’s suplex but holds Benoit up almost in a rack position before dropping him down.

Benoit gets sent to the floor and is rammed face first onto the announce table. Cole’s mic seems to mess up as he sounds like he’s on the arena mic. Back in because Lesnar wants to win by tapout like he promised. Off to a choke with a bodyscissors by the champion. Benoit fights up but walks into a tilt-a-whirl powerslam for two. Brock is bleeding from the nose.

We take a break and come back….with the same thing. I’m not sure if that was a break or not. Taz and Cole are whispering and I don’t think we’re supposed to hear it. I think this is footage from the break. That would explain something from Cena vs. Benoit as well as the announcers said welcome back but I didn’t see anything change. Lesnar puts the hold back on and Cole starts talking again.

Lesnar charges at Benoit and they tumble out to the floor. Benoit goes into the steps and the ribs are in big trouble. Lesnar seems more willing to take the countout win this time. Benoit pulls him to the floor and pounds away, sending Brock into the steps as well. Brock runs back into the ring but catches Benoit in a release German suplex. He charges into the corner but the shoulder goes into the post and Benoit snaps off Rolling Germans.

A shoulder block puts Brock down and Benoit hits the Swan Dive but can’t cover. A delayed cover gets two. The crowd is way into this now too. Benoit goes for the Crossface but Brock gets an arm out to block the hold. Chris settles for an armbar instead but Brock counters with an attempted side slam.

Benoit’s legs hit the referee though as Benoit grabs the Crossface. Lesnar taps but there’s no referee. Benoit lets it go and walks into the F5 which only gets two. The referee goes down again so Lesnar gets a chair and blasts Benoit’s knee with it. He hooks the Brock Lock (Benoit’s knee goes over Lesnar’s neck and Brock sits on his back while cranking on the knee) and Benoit passes out.

Rating: B+. It was around this point and possibly because of this match that there was no way the company could avoid putting the title on Benoit anymore. Lesnar would go on to feud with Hardcore Holly of all people while Benoit would go on to win the Rumble. Very good match that could have been the main event of a PPV.

Benoit would of course win the Raw World Title at Wrestlemania XX in a triple threat match against HHH and Shawn Michaels. Here’s the rematch from Backlash 2004.

Raw World Title: HHH vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit

Benoit’s pop is INSANE. He puts the title in both of their faces during his entrance which is a nice touch. The champ goes after HHH to start and doesn’t want Shawn to get any of the Game for some reason. HHH is sent to the floor so Shawn and Benoit can chop it out. The Game comes back in and hits the flying knee to Shawn. Benoit is thrown to the floor and it’s the DX explosion. After a quick fight they knock Benoit back to the floor, drawing a ton of booing.

Benoit comes back in and hits Germans on both guys. Jerry says it’s hard to see who is doing what to who. No not really King, not really. Shawn gets flipped in the corner and out to the floor to get it back down to two. HHH jumps into the Crossface but Benoit lets it go to stop Shawn. Shawn’s back is rammed into the barricade twice to keep him down on the outside. Benoit goes up but HHH punches him in the jaw to slow him down.

HHH loads up a superplex but Shawn makes the save. Benoit literally falls off the top rope all the way to the floor. That’s a much scarier sight given what we know now. Shawn drops HHH in an electric chair for two. HHH comes back with a facebuster and Benoit’s Swan Dive gets two on HBK. The Game goes to the floor and Shawn’s forearm takes out the referee. Shawn goes to the floor now so we get both a Pedigree and Sharpshooter counter. The second attempt at the Sharpshooter works on HHH but Shawn makes the save. His save is countered into the Crossface but there’s no referee, so we better let go of the hold right?

Now Shawn puts the Sharpshooter on Benoit and Earl Hebner comes out to be the second referee. Ha Ha Ha it’s like Montreal yes WE GET IT ALREADY! Shawn swings at Benoit but gets caught in the Crossface again, only to have it broken up by HHH. A HHH DDT gets two on the champion. Benoit throws him over the corner and it’s back to HBK vs. Benoit. Chris gets thrown to the floor, landing on top of HHH.

Shawn tries to dive on the both of them but crashes through the table in a good explosion. Back in the ring Benoit’s shoulder goes hard into the post and then it does it a second time. Instead of going after the arm, the Cerebral Assassin puts on a camel clutch. The fans FINALLY drop the Bret stuff and chant for Benoit. HHH pounds away in the corner but gets caught in snake eyes to put him down.

It’s basically a one on one match at the moment. Benoit ducks a right hand and puts on Rolling Germans. The Swan Dive misses and there’s a Pedigree but HHH’s cover takes awhile, allowing Shawn to come back from the dead for the save. With Benoit down, Shawn hits the forearm to put HHH down. The top rope elbow hits but again Shawn can’t cover. Shawn loads up the superkick but instead kicks Benoit off the apron to make him PURE EVIL in Canada.

HHH hits a low blow for two on Shawn and everyone is down. Pedigree is countered by a backdrop to the floor but the fans won’t cheer Shawn period. HHH comes back in with the sledgehammer, drilling it right into Shawn’s back. HHH sets for another hammer shot to Shawn but Benoit makes the save, only to get sent into the steps. The Game sets for a Pedigree onto the steps but Benoit counters with a slingshot to send that nose into the post. Back in, Chin Music is countered into the Sharpshooter and after a LONG time, it’s finally over with Benoit retaining by submission.

Rating: B+. I really couldn’t get into this one as much as the other one. There was a lot more laying around this time, but this was a different kind of match. This was all about having a Benoit showcase instead of having a masterpiece. Considering the situations here, it’s hard to argue with them going that route. It worked well enough here though and it was a great match.

Here’s one of the matches that got Benoit on the map. From the Super J Cup in 1994 in Tokyo.

Super J Cup Finals: Wild Pegasus vs. Great Sasuke

They fight over arm control to start again and Sasuke spins and flips his way out of everything. The fans cheer for Sasuke which they’ve done all night so far. Benoit chops away in the corner but what might have been a Boston Crab is countered. Sasuke kicks him to the floor and Benoit takes a breather. Back in and Benoit takes him down with a triangle choke but Sasuke counters into a modified surfboard. Benoit pops up to a standoff and things reset.

Things speed up and Sasuke starts flying around, but Benoit takes his head off with a clothesline. The Canadian hits a German on the Japanese for two. Sasuke comes back with a spinwheel kick and a legdrop for two. They fight for arm control on the mat as all of the tournament participants are watching at ringside. Sasuke gets up and tries to jump around some more but Benoit runs him over with another clothesline.

Benoit drapes him over the top rope and hits a springboard elbow of all things to put Sasuke on the floor. Back in and Benoit can’t hit his dragon suplex. Ok scratch that as it gets two. Swan Dive gets two for Benoit as does a big powerbomb. Sasuke is amazing at selling this stuff too. Benoit channels his inner Hart and slaps on a Sharpshooter (remember this is 1994 and Bret is WWF Champion so it’s a big move at this time).

The hold gets released for no apparent reason so Benoit hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. Benoit misses a dropkick and gets clotheslined down. He’ll have none of that though and snaps off a great German suplex for two. Dragon suplex is countered into a rollup for two and Sasuke kicks him to the floor. In a SWEET move, Sasuke cartwheels towards the ropes and hits a spinning backflip over the top to the floor to take Benoit out.

They head back inside and Sasuke hits a German of his own for two. A fisherman’s suplex gets two for Sasuke as well but his missile dropkick misses. Sasuke goes to the apron but he suplexes Benoit over the top in a near 360 to the floor. Benoit slides back in but then right back out for some reason. Sasuke is annoyed by Benoit not making a commitment so he hits a missile dropkick to the floor. Back in and Sasuke is limping. Gee I wonder why. Top rope moonsault gets two on Benoit and a BIG reaction from the crowd. Sasuke goes up again but Benoit stops him and hits a gutwrench suplex off the top for the pin and the championship.

Rating: A+. This got five stars from Meltzer and I can’t say I can argue. They beat the TAR out of each other and there weren’t any major mistakes or botches at all in this. Benoit would go on to bigger and better things, but DANG Sasuke looked great. He kept flying higher and higher but Benoit was finally able to take him down and a wrestling move beat him. Great story to a great match.

How about Angle vs. Benoit 2/3 falls? From Judgment Day 2001.

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

Kurt grabs the mic before he starts. He says that tonight the gold medals are coming home. The crowd says he sucks so he says shut up. Tonight the medals go from against Benoit’s genitals to around his neck where they belong. Angle makes fun of the Sacramento Kings, the NBA team in town. Making fun of sports teams heat is still heat.

Nice pop for Benoit. Benoit takes the medals out and Angle jumps him. It’s aggressive Kurt tonight as he hammers away with the Rolling Germans. Angle goes up but misses a splash/headbutt and Benoit hits an Angle Slam and it’s 1-0 maybe a minute in. Dang that came out of nowhere. Crossface goes on almost immediately but Kurt gets a rope. This one is submission only remember.

Angle goes into the steps a few times as it’s all Benoit. Now he goes into the post. This hasn’t been a good 2 minutes for him so far. Benoit misses a chop so Kurt picks him up and rams him balls first into the post to shift momentum and Benoit’s voice range drastically. The fans are all over Angle here. Back in the ring and Angle tries the ankle lock but Benoit grabs the rope.

Another attempt fails and Benoit can’t get it either. He does however get a quick crossface which gets him nowhere. After a quick nothing on the floor it’s back in and Angle rakes the eyes to take over again. They’re clearly just going through stuff here but it’s not bad at all. Angle hits a belly to belly as Benoit is in trouble. Benoit reverses a whip in and almost gets another crossface but a rope is grabbed.

Angle grabs the ankle but Benoit grabs the ankle. That’s the idea here obviously: both guys are trying to grab their signature holds but neither can keep it on for any significant time at all. Out of instinct Angle tries a rollup which of course doesn’t count. Angle grabs something close to a knee bar but Benoit is in the ropes again. The referee threatens a DQ which kind of negates the whole SUBMISSION ONLY thing.

Benoit grabs a quick Liontamer of all things which doesn’t work very long but it got a great reaction. Spinning toe hold goes into a figure four but not a very good one. They roll over a few times and Benoit won’t break in the ropes. Oh never mind yes he does. Benoit focuses on the knee now which is good. It’s stupid for Benoit to do a bunch of leg work and then to try the Crossface unless it’s right there. That’s psychology there people.

Dragon screw leg whip and an ankle lock by Benoit almost works. JR: “If these ropes were a woman Angle would be going steady.” Good line. We head to the floor and Benoit is in trouble. Never mind as they’re back in already. They’re moving very quickly here. DDT by Benoit but Angle pops up and hits the Angle Slam. Uh….ok. Ankle Lock goes on and Benoit taps immediately. You could argue there that Benoit tapped that fast because he wanted his ankle to be ok for the ladder match.

The medals are hooked up and raised again. The guys are back on the floor with Benoit going into the steps. Angle brings in a ladder which is read and only 6’0 tall. That’s not something you often see here. Benoit knocks him down and gets a regular ladder but Angle rips Benoit down. Angle charges with the ladder but Benoit ducks and the ladder and Angle go to the floor.

Benoit gets it and instead of going up he hammers on Angle a bit. Such a nice psychopath. Angle somehow gets up and stops Benoit with a lot blow to take over again. The ladder is in the corner and both guys are rammed into it/crushed by it. Benoit in control at the moment. The ladder gets wedged between the top and middle ropes like you often see done with chairs and Benoit goes chest first into it.

Angle gets a suplex to throw Benoit into the ladder and the Canadian is in trouble. Scratch that as Benoit is able to seesaw the ladder and drive it into Angle’s face. He puts the ladder on top of Angle and climbs. For some reason Benoit climbs down for most stomping. He goes up again and Angle is able to shove him off. Benoit grabs a Crossface out of nowhere but here are Edge and Christian. Their distraction is enough to let Angle go up and get his medals back to win the match.

Rating: A-. Very solid stuff here but dude, it’s Benoit vs. Angle. Were you expecting anything other than a classic? 2/3 falls from these guys is something that you really can’t get wrong. They did their stuff out there and it was of course awesome. There isn’t much else to say here. It’s a great match but that’s par for the course with these two.

And from the next night on Raw.

Tag Titles: Steve Austin/HHH vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho

Here we go. Austin vs. Jericho gets us going and one of the belts is laying in the ring. Austin takes over with pounding boots but Jericho snaps off a cross body for two. A top rope elbow to the head scores for Jericho and he works on Austin’s arm. HHH comes in and the Canadians take over. Benoit chops Austin HARD and then hits a snap suplex for no cover. There’s a superplex for two as HHH saves.

Jericho comes in to even things out but it lets the champions take over. Benoit is like screw that and pounds them back, hooking the Crossface on Austin. HHH comes in with a big chair shot to break it up but Benoit kicks out to a big pop. Benoit goes into the steps for no count as he kicks out before the one. Austin pounds away on him and it’s off to HHH who hooks a cheating abdominal stretch.

Make that a sleeper as Benoit is in big trouble. Benoit manages to fire off a suplex to put both guys down and an enziguri is good enough for the hot tag to Jericho….but the referee doesn’t see it. The fans don’t like that at all. Jericho goes off with Austin on the floor as HHH hits the Pedigree. There’s no referee though so Jericho goes up and takes HHH’s head off with a missile dropkick.

There’s your hot tag to Jericho and he takes on the now legal Austin and HHH at the same time. Thesz Press is countered into a spinebuster and then the Walls but HHH makes the save. That right there, that save, resulted in HHH tearing his quad off the bone and would put him out of action until January of 2002. You could see HHH’s leg just stop moving. His leg is dead weight now.

HHH is like screw this potentially career ending injury and goes to set up the announce table. HHH loads up the Pedigree but Jericho counters into the Walls on the table, and remember that HHH has a torn muscle. FREAKING OW MAN!!! Benoit hits the swan dive on Austin but there’s no referee. Stunner to Benoit gets two as Jericho pulls the referee out. Lionsault gets knees and HHH finds the sledgehammer from somewhere. The second Lionsault hits but the hammer hits Austin and Jericho gets the pin and the titles as the place erupts!

Rating: A+. WOW this match holds up really well. After Jericho gets that hot tag, this is full speed ahead the rest of the way. The energy in this is great as they did everything they could to keep the Canadians down but in the end, HHH messes up to end it. Notice one very important thing here: Jericho had Austin (presumably) beat with the Lionsault, so it’s not like they got dominated the entire time and won on a mistake by the other team. That’s huge and it makes Benoit/Jericho look far stronger as the new champions.

Benoit and Angle would hook up and enter the tournament for the first Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Here’s the title match from No Mercy 2002.

Smackdown Tag Titles: Rey Mysterio/Edge vs. Chris Benoit/Kurt Angle

This was the undisputed match of the year so this more or less has to be awesome. Edge is about as hot as possible here and Rey is pretty new here. Yeah he had been around only three months or so here. Edge is just straight up awesome here and the whole thing is just greatness. Angle vs. Rey to start us off. We have what, about 25 world titles in there? Angle takes him to the mat and slaps him in the back of the head to be a jerk.

Kurt is really the only heel in this match. He literally throws Rey into his own corner because he wants a grownup apparently. Rey won’t tag out though because he wants Angle. They had a great opener at Summerslam so this works for me. Rey can’t get out of much of anything so he steps on Kurt’s foot and hits him with what can only be called an FU.

He busts out the speed and slaps Angle in the back of the head just like Kurt did earlier. The announce table being in pieces is funny for some reason. Here’s Edge to a big old pop. This is before Edge hurt his neck so he’s a totally different worker here. Off to Benoit now. Expect a LOT of play by play here as if the reviews I’ve heard are any indication there isn’t going to be much to make fun of.

The Canadians do a much more technical sequence and it’s a lot more entertaining than you would think a side headlock should be. Edge gets a knee to Benoit’s ribs and focuses on them for a while. Flapjack and a rollup get two. And there’s a knee from Kurt as Edge hits the ropes to give Benoit an advantage. They try the same thing again but Edge spears him this time.

Benoit and Angle double team Edge in a very nice sequence. Back to Angle now. The fans are all over him which is always good to hear. Better for them to be making noise at all than to be bored. Rear naked choke to Edge and Rey is getting antsy. Tazz adds in something by saying Angle is making sure Edge is facing his partner to mess with his head. Nicely done Mr. suplex machine.

Edge gets a big boot but walks into a belly to belly for two and here’s Chris again. Here are the rolling Germans as Edge is getting the tar beaten out of him. Benoit goes a little heel by drilling Rey to keep him from making the save. Benoit goes up for the headbutt and down he comes off a big old superplex.

There’s the big tag to Rey and he cranks things WAY up. The good thing is that he’s in there against two guys that can do the same thing. He sets Benoit for a Bronco Buster but goes with a running dropkick instead. HUH-FREAKING-ZAH! Rey and Benoit crank things up ever more but Benoit gets a counter and hooks up the Crossface until Edge finally saves.

Edge vs. Angle on the floor along with Benoit and Rey in the ring. 619 is blocked by Benoit but Edge hits a missile dropkick to drive Rey onto Benoit for a long two. This is all happening at a very fast pace. Rey goes up but Angle JUMPS from the mat to the top for the HUGE belly to belly off the top for another long two. Benoit’s face is like WHAT at that.

Angle in now vs. Rey as things slow down a bit. Rey starts a bit of a comeback but gets caught in a quick suplex and crashes for two. Back to the short and crazy Canadian now. After more of a beating Rey gets a headscissors to send Benoit into the post and we get double tags to bring in Edge vs. Kurt. Edge-O-Matic gets two and everyone is back in again.

Spear in the corner to Benoit and there’s the Bronco Buster. I withdraw my former HUZZAH! Spear in the corner again to Angle and Edge sits him on the middle rope. Rey runs at Edge who throws him into the air for a big old rana. Benoit looks to save with the diving headbutt but it crushes Angle and only gets two. Angle busts out a German from nowhere for two. He shouts at Edge to go to the middle which Edge does.

In a VERY nice spot, Rey runs at Edge who belly to bellies him into Angle to take down the bald one. That’s what he gets for calling spots that loudly. Benoit saves the spear and grabs the Crossface and Edge is in trouble but he gets a rope. He won’t let go so Rey hits a 619 out of somewhere. Angle Slam takes out Rey and Angle locks on the ankle lock.

Edge kicks off and grabs a small package for two. Spear gets two as Benoit saves and Rey takes out Benoit. Rey gets a running start at Edge again and Edge catches him and gives him a very nice launch into a moonsault to take out Benoit. SICK counter out of the Edgecution by Angle into the ankle lock. Edge counters that into an ankle lock of his own but Angle is all like OH NO YOU DIDN’T and counters into an ankle lock for the tap out and the titles. Sweet goodness as Cole says he’s going to applaud them for it.

Rating: A+. OH YES. Now this is what you get when you have two teams out there that are young and moving as fast as they can to make something look awesome. Smackdown was supposed to be the wrestling show back then and it certainly was. I completely get why this was the match of the year and couldn’t argue much at all.

We’ll jump to WCW for a bit here with an attempt to keep him in the company as he was about to leave. Or they ran out of people to put the belt on and he was their last resort. From Souled Out 2000.

WCW World Title: Sid Vicious vs. Chris Benoit

Sid beat Benoit for the US Title at Fall Brawl in a joke of a match that we need to get to later. Sid is pushed as the face here because Benoit was part of the Revolution, a heel group, even though he’s the more popular guy here. After some big match intros we’re ready to go. Buffer calling Bischoff the #2 ranked contender in the world makes him sound a bit weak.

Now Arn gives instructions. Get on with it already. They feel each other to start and that’s more or less a stalemate. Some guys like Saturn and David Flair come out to watch. Sid sends him to the floor as more and more come out. The fans chant for Sid so he press slams Benoit with ease. Benoit goes to the knee and the fans cheer. Not sure who they’re behind here but I think it’s Sid more than Benoit for the most part.

Benoit dropkicks the steps into the knee into the post and then does it again. Back in the ring and Benoit puts on a kind of bad figure four. Sid taps his hand (which is funny as he tapped the mat to get the fans behind him in the Fall Brawl match which had to be ignored for the sake of the ending) to try to get some momentum going here and he powers out of it.

Sid is on his knees in the middle of the ring and Benoit adds a dropkick to the head. We hear the bull about the belt being around since 1905 as Benoit hits a dragon screw leg whip for two. Benoit throws on a bridging Indian Deathlock with a chinlock (Benoit is in what looks like a Matrix Move and Sid is on his stomach and Benoit pulls up on his chin. Looks awesome) and kicks Sid to the floor.

Sid Sids Up but a dropkick to the knee takes him right back down. Rolling Germans as I can feel the hackers breaking into Angle’s Twitter even though Twitter didn’t exist yet. Sid takes him down with a powerslam for two but gets caught in an ankle hook. Another German and the sign for the Swan Dive gets a BIG pop so Sid launches Benoit off to make the finishers look weak.

Chokeslam out of nowhere puts Benoit down but Sid is too weakened to do anything now. Benoit’s foot is under the ropes so that only gets two for Sid. Remember that as it becomes important later. Benoit puts the Crossface on and Sid taps to give Benoit the champion. Sid’s foot was under the rope which would become important later.

Rating: B-. This was by far the match of the night but Sid’s eternally questionable selling comes into play again here. A good thing though was that he tapped immediately, but the channeling of his inner big bald Irish dude with orange skin got old. Anyway, Benoit wins the title finally, albeit as a heel and as the fourth or fifth option but who cares?

Back to the WWF for a fondly remembered ladder match. From Royal Rumble 2001.

Intercontinental Title: Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho

It’s a slugout to start with Jericho getting a very early advantage. Benoit tries the Crossface but has to escape the Walls instead. Jericho misses a charge and hits the post before missing the springboard dropkick and crashing to the floor. Benoit posts him and goes for the ladder but stops to send Jericho into the steps. We’re only three minutes into the match though so Jericho stops Benoit’s climb. A ladder shot to the face puts Benoit down and the referee tells them they have thirteen minutes left.

Jericho lays the ladder across the top rope and of course goes face first into it as a result. Good to see that even Canadians follow the first law of wrestling. Benoit tries a suicide dive but Jericho puts up a chair, causing Benoit massive head trauma. Jericho tries to ride the ladder from the apron onto Benoit on the barricade but the other Chris moves out of the way. A ladder to the face stops Jericho again and now Benoit swings a chair.

Back in and Benoit loads up a ladder in the corner before ramming Jericho face first into it. Jericho gets up and puts the ladder in the corner again before tying Benoit’s legs between the rungs for a kind of Russian legsweep off the middle rope. Benoit comes right back with a dropkick to send the ladder into Jericho’s face and a hard belly to back suplex. The ladder is placed on the top rope again and Benoit’s face is whipped into it HARD. Jericho immediately follows up by see-sawing the ladder into Benoit’s face. Almost every one of these shots would be classified as FREAKING OW MAN.

A missile dropkick puts Benoit down again but he saves a climb attempt by Jericho. Benoit suplexes Jericho out to the floor and both guys are down again. Benoit goes up again but has to stop to kick Jericho away. Jericho gets up anyway and bends Benoit backwards into the Walls ON TOP OF THE LADDER. Benoit falls on his head but still kicks the ladder over to stop Jericho. AWESOME sequence there.

Jericho drills him with the ladder and goes up, but Benoit immediately pulls him down into the Crossface. Jericho taps out but it means nothing other than pleasure for Benoit here. Benoit sends him shoulder first into the post but Jericho comes back by sending Benoit face first into the ladder. The ladder is moved to the corner and both guys climb, resulting in Jericho being superplexed back down.

The Swan Dive hits the mat though and Benoit is in big trouble. Jericho puts the ladder on top of Benoit’s ribs, but the champion shoves it over anyway from the mat, sending Jericho face first into the buckle and out to the floor. Benoit goes up again but gets shoved out to the floor, allowing Jericho to sprint up the ladder and win the title.

Rating: A+. Take two Canadians, give them a ladder and 19 minutes and this is what you should expect. These two beat on each other HARD and the match was excellent as a result. They came up with some new stuff while mixing in basic stuff like HIT THE GUY IN THE FACE WITH A LADDER but it was so intense that it became a classic. Check this one out.

Here’s Benoit’s first major match in the WWF, from Wrestlemania 2000. It’s technically a two fall match but you could say it’s two in a row.

Intercontinental Title/European Title: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho

This is an interesting idea. Angle holds both titles coming in and there are going to be two falls here. The first is for the Intercontinental Title and the second is for the European Title, so basically we’re getting back to back triple threats. Jericho guarantees to walk out of this match as the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah while the other two will walk out with a shirt that complains about how lousy the shirt is as well as how bad the beating from Jericho was.

Benoit jumps Angle before the bell before heading inside for a clothesline from his fellow Canadian. All three are in now and Benoit chops Jericho, only to have his belly to back suplex escaped. Benoit breaks up a springboard dropkick by Jericho before fighting with Angle on the apron. Jericho hits the previously broken up dropkick to send both guys out to the floor. He joins them immediately, only to be sent into the steps by Kurt. Back in and a belly to belly suplex gets two for Angle on Jericho.

Jericho hits a backbreaker on Angle but Benoit shoves Jericho off the top and into the announce table for good measure. Benoit covers Angle for two before suplexing him down for the same. Jericho is back in for a dropkick to his fellow Canadian but Benoit comes right back with a clothesline for two more. Jericho bulldogs Angle down but Benoit comes back with chops of his own on the other Chris. Angle suplexes Benoit down but Jericho makes the save. Very back and forth action so far.

Jericho camel clutches Benoit but has to break it up to stop a charging Kurt. Angle hits a big suplex on Jericho for two as Benoit makes another save. Benoit rolls up Jericho in the corner but Angle dropkicks his head face first into the middle buckle to break it up. Jericho loads up a double arm suplex on Angle but gets countered into a crossface chickenwing. Benoit comes back in and dropkicks Angle before sending him to the floor and into the barricade. Back in and the Swan Dive to Jericho gives Benoit the first fall and the Intercontinental Title.

Very wisely Benoit immediately covers Jericho for an attempt at the European Title but it only gets two as Kurt dives in for the save. Angle suplexes Benoit down for two but takes too long on the moonsault attempt, allowing Jericho to break it up. Jericho loads up a belly to back superplex but Benoit supelxes Chris down, allowing Angle to miss the moonsault on Benoit. All three guys are down now until Angle covers Benoit for two. Jericho gets back into it with a Walls attempt on Angle, only to have the other Chris break it up.

Everyone gets back up and it’s Jericho with a spinwheel kick to take Benoit to the floor. The double powerbomb puts Angle down but Benoit comes back in for the Rolling Germans on Jericho. Benoit goes old school with a Dragon Supelx on Angle for two. Jericho hits the forearm on the referee by mistake, only to be put in the Crossface by the new IC Champion.

It gets an unseen tapout but Benoit releases, allowing Jericho to put Benoit in the Walls. Angle hits Jericho with a title belt but Benoit makes the save as the referee is awake again. Benoit suplexes Angle down again but misses the Swan Dive. Jericho slides in for the Lionsault on Benoit for the European Title to end things.

Rating: B+. Awesome match here which would have been match of the year when this style dominated in 2003. All three guys were the future generation of the company once we shifted to the technical style over on Smackdown in a few years, but here it’s just awesome instead of a match of the times. This is one of the only things that people remember from this show and with good reason: it was awesome.

Benoit would start getting pushed near the end of his WCW run, including being US Champion at Starrcade 1999. He was supposed to defend in a ladder match but his opponent was hurt. An open challenge was issued.

US Title: Chris Benoit vs. ???

This is a ladder match, meaning the belt is hanging from the ceiling and you have to climb a ladder to bring it down. And it’s Jeff Jarrett. The roster is as stacked as it is so we have Jarrett appear in his third match of the night. You couldn’t possibly throw Booker T or Malenko or someone like that out there right? Tony: “Jeff Jarrett? Again?” Benoit is cool with fighting Jarrett and brings him in for a hard clothesline and an elbow to the face. A backbreaker takes Jeff down and a superplex does it even better.

Benoit brings in the first ladder but Jeff baseball slides it into Chris’ ribs before blasting him in the face to take over. Back inside and the ladder is set up in the corner but it’s Jeff being whipped into it by Benoit. The champion heads up for the belt but Jeff pulls Benoit down and crotches him on the top rope. The earlier ladder shot to Benoit’s head has busted him open. Benoit is whipped into the ladder in the corner but he comes right back for a whip of his own to put Jarrett down.

Jeff responds by putting Benoit in the ladder and dropping it back onto the champion in a painful looking landing. Benoit comes back by tying Jarrett’s legs in the ladder and hanging him upside down, only to have Jarrett shake Benoit off the ladder to put both guys down. Jarrett goes up again but gets dumped off, only to do the exact same thing to Benoit a few moments later.

Benoit gets up and shoves the ladder down again, sending a climbing Jeff down onto the ropes. Chris goes up but Jeff dropkicks the ladder from the top rope, sending Benoit crashing down in a scary fall. Back up again and Benoit rams the ladder into Jarrett’s face to put him down, allowing Chris to climb up…..and hit a Swan Dive headbutt to knock Jarrett out even colder. Benoit climbs up and keeps the title.

Rating: B-. It’s not great but this is by far and away the best match of the night so far. The fact that there wasn’t a boring and stupid story to this helped it a lot. Instead of having to adjust to some idiotic idea, they just went out there and beat each other up for ten minutes. Given what we’ve had to sit through on this show so far, that’s the best thing they could have done.

Here’s a fun one from Summerslam 2005.

US Title: Chris Benoit vs. Orlando Jordan

Jordan, the most worthless wrestler I can think of at the moment, is defending. He took the title from Cena of all people and defended it over the course of the summer. In some of the smartest booking you’ll ever see to open a show, Benoit shoves him into the corner, snaps off a German suplex and puts Jordan in the Crossface for the submission and the title in 25 seconds.

When a guy is so bad that you can’t trust Chris Benoit with him on live TV, this is the right move. Benoit would go on to show how fast the match was by timing how long it took him to do things like go to the bathroom or have a cup of coffee, each of which lasted longer than the match. Brilliant stuff here and the crowd is instantly on fire.

This is probably Benoit’s first great American match that people actually saw. From Great American Bash 1996.

Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan

This is falls count anywhere. Now this was a very interesting story to say the least. The idea is that the Dungeon and the Horsemen want to team up to fight Hogan, but these two hate each other too much. As for the real life story, these two HATED each other. There was a storyline where Benoit stole Sullivan’s storyline wife. To play up the storyline, they traveled together.

However, it soon became real life as Nancy Woman Sullivan left Kevin for Benoit. The feuds you would see on TV would often be shoots instead of works, with these two really beating the tar out of each other. It’s this match where Benoit allegedly became a big deal, and if I remember it right, that’s a very fair assessment to make.

They’re beating the living tar out of each other very early on and if these shots aren’t legit, they’re the best fakes I’ve ever seen. Almost immediately they’re out in the crowd. They go up into the stands and go into the men’s room. Benoit gets his head slammed in a stall door which has to hurt badly. For some reason there’s like 25 people in there, which shows how interested the people were in this show.

They fight over shoving the other’s head into the commode. Dusty loses his mind over a woman being in the men’s room. Sullivan lands a great shot with some toilet paper as this is just a wild fight. You really can see the mega star in Benoit just begging to be unleashed, but alas it wouldn’t happen for several years. In a very painful spot, Benoit is thrown down the stairs in the arena.

Jimmy has been standing in the ring the whole time. They say why would people want to come in and declare war? That would make a lot more sense if guys like Benoit got to fight them. Benoit vs. Nash when Nash was worth something. How’s that sound? Tony for some reason can’t get the difference between a chair and a table.

We have a D-Von Special as we get one of the old school tables, as in the oens that don’t break. They sit the table on the top rope and Benoit wins with a snap suplex off the top, which looks painful as heck. Dusty says you don’t want to get caught in the bathroom with Benoit. Anderson runs out to save Sullivan from Benoit but beats up Sullivan with him, officially reforming the Horsemen to a MASSIVE pop. The Dungeon runs out for the save as the Horsemen leave together.

Rating: A. DANG this was a wild fight. Benoit looked like a star out there and he and Sullivan just beat the tar out of each other. Benoit had everything you could want, and he didn’t even use the Crossface yet. How WCW screwed this up is truly beyond me. This match was just pure brutality, making it a very fun match all around. Not great from a technical perspective, but it wasn’t supposed to be at all. Very fun and a pure breath of fresh air given how bad this show has been so far.

What would wrestling be without a three way? For the US Title at Uncensored 1998.

US Title: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Raven vs. Chris Benoit

This is No DQ and falls count anywhere. Page is defending after invading the Benoit vs. Raven feud. It’s a triple lockup to start and now everyone stands around. Another triple lockup brings everyone out to the floor. Page is sent into the steps and the challengers fight in the ring with Benoit getting two off an elbow. Benoit stomps him down in the corner but Page comes back in to break it up. Raven and Benoit head back to the floor so DDP can hit a big dive to take them both out.

Back in again with Chris taking over and hitting a top rope splash for two on Raven. Page and Benoit slug it out to the floor but Raven dives over the top to take them both out for two on each. Page sends Benoit into the barricade but Raven charges into both of them again. Raven is whipped into the barricade and it’s Page vs. Benoit for a bit. Raven goes up by the set and comes back with a garbage can but Benoit puts it over Raven’s head so the other guys can beat on it with crutches. Benoit takes over with a crutch shot to Page’s back as they’re up by the entrance.

A trashcan to Page’s bad ribs has him in trouble and a suplex on the ramp has the ribs in even more trouble. Benoit and Raven team up for a few seconds to send Page through an Uncensored sign. Chris pulls out a kitchen sink of all things to hit Raven in the head but Raven throws a table at his head. Raven comes back with a velvet rope to choke Benoit but Chris whips Raven through the table. Page is still down as the other guys head back to the ring.

Benoit chokes Raven with the velvet rope but Raven hits him low to change momentum again. Now it’s chair time but it’s Raven taking the drop toehold into the metal. Page is slowly crawling back to the ring as Benoit whips Raven into a chair in the corner to send him to the floor. Back in and Benoit puts on a sleeper but Page comes in to put one on Benoit at the same time.

Raven hits a jawbreaker to put everyone down. Why Benoit’s leg being on Page isn’t a cover I’m not sure. Chris gets up and rolls the Germans on Raven but Page gets up to German suplex both guys at the same time. The challengers both knock Page down and Lodi hands in a stop sign to crack Page in the head. Now it’s a table as Benoit stands around. Raven puts Page on the table but Benoit cracks Raven in the head with the sign. Benoit takes Raven to the top for a superplex through Page through the table but Page knocks Benoit to the floor and Diamond Cuts Raven “though” the table to retain.

Rating: A-. This was a wild brawl before the wild brawl became the norm in wrestling. Benoit and Raven did most of the work here as Page laid up by the sign but that’s to be expected. The match was fun though and was exactly what it was supposed to be: a big ECW style battle (with a bunch of ECW spots) on a mainstream stage.

Here’s a singles version, from Souled Out 1998.

Raven vs. Chris Benoit

This is one of the best built matches WCW has had in a long time with Benoit having to face every member of the Flock before finally getting his hands on Raven. Raven has sent all of his lackeys to attack Benoit time after time and tonight Benoit FINALLY gets his hands on their leader. The Flock comes out to back Raven but are ejected by an executive order. Raven rants about being shunned all his life and being fine with it here. The match is also Raven’s Rules, meaning anything goes.

Raven starts with a baseball slide before Benoit is even in the ring. Benoit is sent into the barricade and then the steps before heading inside for a backslide on Raven for two. Benoit is sent right back to the floor so Raven can blast him in the back with a chair. Back in and Benoit is snapmared and bulldogged down onto the chair for two. Benoit comes back with a drop toehold onto the chair (Dusty: “YOU TAKE A SEAT! YOU TAKE A SEAT! YOU TAKE A SEAT!”) but can’t immediately follow up.

Chris hits the snap suplex onto the chair for two of his own before ripping Raven’s shirt off. Raven bails to the floor and gets caught by a baseball slide before being sent into the steps. That’s a nice callback to what Raven did to open the match. Bird Boy stumbles up the aisle with Benoit chopping him down along the way. There’s another snap suplex on the ramp to put Raven in big trouble. Back in and Benoit stomps the chair into Raven’s head before hitting the Swan Dive onto the chair but both guys are out.

Benoit finally covers for two but can’t even stand up to keep the pressure on Raven. A northern lights suplex is countered into Raven’s DDT but Raven is too weakened to cover. It’s Benoit covering Raven for two before putting on the Crossface. Raven doesn’t try to escape and instead smiles at the pain. He laughs himself into unconsciousness in a creepy moment to end the match.

Rating: A. If there’s a better Raven match out there I’d love to see it. These two beat the tar out of each other and it was brutal throughout. This is the kind of emotional response you can get to a well built feud. The place went NUTS for Benoit’s win, which makes you wonder why he was wasted for so long in WCW.

Post match Kidman comes out for the save but Dean Malenko runs out to put him in the Cloverleaf. The rest of the Flock comes in but Dean and Chris fight them off.

Speaking of Dean Malenko, here he is against Benoit at Hog Wild 1996 with a long explanation post match.

Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit

This works. Jimmy Hart is with Malenko. Now there’s an odd combination. Liz is in leather. This WORKS. Even Woman looks good. Dusty says Benoit is coming out with two devilish women and he’s talking about Woman and Liz. Wow I thought you meant the two flies on his head. So Malenko is the hired gun of the Dungeon apparently to get Benoit out of the way in the endless Dungeon vs. Horsemen feud.

I would tell you they start with some technical stuff but I figured that was obvious. That goes away soon and we’re in straight physical stuff here with Benoit being in control less than Malenko. Dusty talks about the women at ringside which makes sense as he says Dean has to watch out for them. Ok, that’s fine. Tony uses this to talk about Konnan who isn’t on the main card tonight. Benoit takes over and just beats Dean up a lot.

NOW we hit the technical stuff and the pinfall reversals that you knew were coming. Dang these guys are crisp. That was very impressive. Seriously did you expect anything else? Benoit does the short arm scissors lift that Davey Boy Smith was so famous for doing to Shawn Michaels, showing that it’s more of a leverage thing than power. Tony says these two are the wrestlers of the new century for WCW.

That’s just amazing to hear knowing what’s coming. Tony tries really hard to not insult bikers, which makes him all the more insulting. Heenan talks about how awesome the midcard is and my mind continues to be blown over how WCW managed to screw everything up with the talent they had. Malenko gets a jumping tombstone as I’m trying to figure out who is face and who is heel here.

That was the issue with the NWO: EVERYONE became at least half face. That’s fine in some cases, but for others it just didn’t work at all as there are some people that you just don’t want to cheer. It’s fine if you have people that are never associated with the NWO angle, but EVERYONE was. That can’t work and it didn’t at all. Dang these two are physical. Heenan plugs the TV shows which you likely needed to watch in order to see this show. Brilliant indeed Bobby.

Benoit hooks the Liontamer before it’s called that. Benoit busts out a dive over the ropes as the fans are DEAD. That’s in no way the problem of the wrestlers either as this has been a great match. This is the problem with having non-fans, who we now go to a wide shot of, being in attendance as they’ll cheer Hogan. I’d bet on it. Dusty talks about how tired they are and points out that he’s talking about the guys in the ring.

Dang where would I be without the Dream? Benoit hits a nice powerbomb which he should have used more often. We hit a minute to go, which means this match had a 22 minute time limit. And there’s the draw. Actually scratch that as we’re getting a 5 minute overtime. SWEET. The fans boo the HECK out of this. Yeah screw this incredible match that has two guys busting themselves to death for YOUR entertainment at a show you’re not even paying to see.

I guess because they’re not 6’8 and don’t weigh 300lbs they’re not worth watching. One person shouts to get this nonsense out of the ring. I didn’t know fans like that could get in the ring in the first place. Also, don’t call yourself nonsense. It’s not nice. Benoit is clearly pissed off at the fans and I can’t blame him a bit. Benoit hooks the Cloverleaf on Malenko to be evil. Benoit goes for the knee and Dean is in trouble. Fans continue to be dead for this.

We have a minute to go and Benoit is dominating. Dean gets a rollup at 3 seconds left for two. WE GET ANOTHER OVERTIME BABY! We’ve gotten 25 minutes of Benoit vs. Malenko….and you can’t hear Dusty over the fans booing. I’ll spare the rant for the rating.

Benoit hits his finisher, the Dragon Suplex (Full Nelson into a suplex) for two as the Crossface didn’t exist yet for him. Malenko gets the Cloverleaf but as Benoit is almost in the ropes he shifts into an STF. And then Woman goes for Malenko and Benoit hooks a rollup to end it. Very good match.

Rating: A-. This was great stuff but the ending hurt it a lot. These two had mad chemistry together and this was no exception. Giving them nearly half an hour is fine as they looked like they had been out there for about 5 minutes at the end. It’s no wonder that they were such sought after guys by WWF. However, there was one reason why this match was hurt, which brings me to this.

This match sums up WCW’s demise in a nutshell. Everything they wound up doing wrong to just die is summed up right here. To begin with, they’re making NO gate money for this show. The fans can come and go as they please. In other words, with five thousand people here at say 20 dollars a person, that’s 100,000 dollars they’re just not getting, and that’s being conservative with it.

We’ll also ignore any potential money from parking, concessions and likely merchandise as there is no indication of anyone wearing anything other than leather out there that I can see. The reason we’re in Sturgis, South Dakota of all places and having a wrestling show at a biker rally you ask? The only answer I can find anywhere is that Eric Bischoff likes motorcycles. Seriously, THAT’S why we’re here.

If that’s not enough reason, as soon as Bischoff was out of power, this show was canceled. They came here FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS. But wait, remember that there was a line in there about these two being the wrestlers of the century for WCW. Well since these four PPVs were around the end of the century, one could assume that they would have moved closer and closer to the main events right?

Let’s see. Benoit’s position on the card over these four shows: 4th out of 8, 3rd out of 9, Off the card, 5th out of 9. Malenko: 4th out of 8, 3rd out of 9, 7th out of 9 (as a referee and not a wrestler), 3rd of 9. On the other hand, let’s compare these guys to Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash. Nash: Next to last, next to last, next to last, main event. Hogan: Main event all four years. But remember that Hogan and Nash were DRAWS BABY!

Yeah the fans are going to pay to see them….except at this show because WCW didn’t get any ticket money here but pay no attention to that. Keep in mind that the fans will boo these two but cheer Hogan. Why do I have an image of Hogan talking to the higher ups and saying well they cheered me and booed those guys. What more proof do you need that I should be on top of the card?

The problem is these fans are all drunken bikers that likely never even watch the show. Yeah, coming from a freaking biker rally really looks cutting edge doesn’t it? I’m sure this got away completely from the wrestling fans are hicks theory. It was an amazing match, but it’s a microcosm of the things that killed the biggest wrestling company in the world.

This is a match that I’ve always wanted to cover but have somehow never reviewed. From October 4, 1999 on Nitro in a tribute match to Bret’s recently deceased brother Owen in the same building that he passed away in.

Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit

Both are faces here and this is nothing more than a showcase, even though Benoit is TV Champion. Harley Race does the intros to make this really special. Bret grabs a headlock to start before they fight over a top wristlock. Hart holds the ropes to avoid a monkey flip but Benoit nips up before Bret can do anything. Very technical so far. Chris bridges out of a test of strength and wraps Bret’s arms across his own throat to get a breather.

A hammerlock has Bret on the mat and the fans chant for Owen. Off to a double arm crank on Hart but Bret reverses into one of his own. Thankfully Bret is actually holding Chris’ wrists unlike Scott Hall who would be keeping himself in the hold whenever that was reversed. Benoit flips out with a dropkick to the chest but gets caught in a Russian legsweep to put him down again.

We hit the chinlock from Hart followed by a hard knee to the ribs to drop Chris one more time. A DDT sets up the middle rope elbow for two for Hart but Benoit grabs a rollup for two. He doesn’t let go of the legs though and turns it into a Boston crab. Bret is quickly in the ropes but gets caught in a backbreaker for two as we take a break.

Back with Benoit getting two off something we didn’t see but Bret comes back with the headbutt to the lower abdomen. A snap suplex sets up a chinlock by the Hitman as things settle down a bit. Another backbreaker puts Benoit on the mat and Bret rams him into the apron. Back in and Benoit spins out of another backbreaker and hits a jumping tombstone for two. A northern lights suplex gets another two for Chris and he fires off the headbutts.

Benoit stomps away in the corner but Bret holds the ropes to avoid a dropkick and a few elbows get two. Bret charges but his cross body hits the ropes to send him outside. Chris hits a big dive through the ropes to put both guys down and we take our second break. Back again with both guys rolling each other up for two followed by Bret stomping away in the corner. They trade rollups for two each again until Bret nails a swinging neckbreaker.

A superplex puts Benoit down but he counters the Sharpshooter into the Crossface but Bret is right next to the ropes. Chris rolls some vertical suplexes and calls for the Swan Dive. He goes to the furthest corner and nails the headbutt for a slightly delayed two. The fans chant for Bret and he comes back with an elbow to the jaw. A piledriver gets two on Benoit as he puts his foot on the ropes.

Benoit gets to do Bret’s chest first bump into the corner but comes out with some hard chops. Bret tries a clothesline but gets caught in the Rolling Germans. The Crossface is blocked and they go to the mat with Bret manuevering his legs so that he stands up in the Sharpshooter. The fans freak out over that awesome trap by Bret and Benoit has to give up.

Rating: A. This was an excellent wrestling match. Bret worked over the back to set up the Sharpshooter and Benoit tried everything he knew but at the end of the day it was Bret winning with a counter to Benoit’s best hold and a very smooth move into the Sharpshooter. That’s exactly what it was supposed to be and it was more than an awesome match. The crowd respected it too. This is the last great match that WCW had and the last time Bret was actually motivated in a wrestling ring.

Here’s all the summary you need for the next match: Benoit, Angle, Ultimate Submission, Backlash 2001.

Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle

30 minute time limit, most submissions win. Angle says Chicago is full of fat sweaty pigs and needs winners. He makes fun of the city which is kind of funny. There’s a thirty second rest period between falls. After some feeling out stuff to start, Angle takes it to the mat and Benoit is all cool with that. Ankle lock doesn’t work so Kurt hits the floor to think for a bit.

This is going to be a long one as the clock is on the screen the entire time. Back in the ring and Angle takes Benoit down which gets him nowhere. Back to the mat again and this time to the floor. Benoit gets the Crossface out there and Angle taps but they’re outside so it doesn’t count. Five minutes in and no falls yet. Angle tries to bring in a chair as we stall a bit. With half an hour I can understand that though.

Back in and Angle is holding his shoulder a lot. And never mind as he was faking since he charges straight in and grabs the ankle lock for the quick tap. You could argue Benoit tapped early to prevent further damage but it still looks kind of weak by Benoit. Angle works on the ankle/knee but charges into a Crossface attempt. That doesn’t work so Benoit shifts to a cross armbreaker to tie us up.

Benoit rams Angle’s shoulder into the post and there’s the armbreaker again but Kurt leans forward to avoid a lot of the pressure before making the rope. Shoulder breaker by Benoit and he goes after Kurt, only to take out the referee at the ten minute mark. Angle gets a chair shot to the head and the ankle lock makes it 2-1. Angle jumps him during the rest period and you can’t really DQ him I guess.

Angle puts on a Crossface seconds later to make it 3-1. Maybe 10 seconds between the end of the rest period and the tap. Kurt hammers him some more and rams his face into the announce table. Benoit backdrops Angle to the floor but doesn’t take the time to breathe. Kurt’s shoulder goes into the post but Benoit’s everything goes into the steps. Ankle lock goes on but it’s still on the floor, meaning Benoit tapping doesn’t mean anything.

We go back in with fifteen minutes left and a 3-1 lead for Kurt. Benoit avoids a cross armbreaker by Kurt which wastes some time. Off to an abdominal stretch which Benoit counters into another cross armbreaker attempt but he can’t get the tap. Out of almost nowhere Benoit gets a Sharpshooter, only for Kurt to make the ropes again. A German is countered into a half Liontamer by Benoit (he used it before Jericho in WCW) for the tap to make it 3-2.

Kurt heads to the floor and it’s time to play defense. Benoit catches him pretty easily and sends him into the steps. Kurt tries to run again and the fans aren’t thrilled at all. With ten minutes to go Angle catches Benoit coming in and they slug it out a bit. Benoit can’t get back in for a bit and Kurt stomps him when he does. Angle hits a snap suplex back inside and keeps trying for the ankle lock.

Out to the floor again and they chop it out. Back in and Benoit gets a dragon screw but can’t hook the ankle. Benoit misses a dropkick and Angle locks in some freaky looking hold before going to a chinlock. Five minutes left as Benoit gets his arm up before a third drop. With four minutes left Benoit breaks the hold with a jawbreaker. And never mind as Kurt takes his head off with a clothesline.

Belly to belly by Kurt which is scary considering how long they’ve been out there. Another hits with three minutes left. Benoit manages to grab some Germans but gets reversed into an ankle lock which he reverses into an ankle lock of his own to tie it up at 3 with just over two minutes to go. The clock keeps running during the thirty second rest. Chop block by Benoit with 1:20 to go. Minute left and it’s German time again. Low blow by Kurt breaks that up but the ankle lock is broken quickly. Ankle lock goes on fill with 8 seconds left and we’re done. Benoit taps after the bell ends in a draw.

Just like in 96 though with Shawn and Bret, it’s time for some overtime, first submission wins it. If it continued though, why wouldn’t the tap just after the bell have ended it? Angle hammers him and the fans aren’t thrilled with him. They go to the mat and Angle grabs an abdominal stretch down there. There’s a Crossface out of nowhere and Angle taps for the ending. Like Benoit was losing in sudden death.

Rating: B. It was entertaining, but the main idea of Benoit vs. Angle is all about having them go back and forth with insane counters until one of them finally gets caught in something. That was taken away here and it brings the match down a lot. To be fair it’s still good but by comparison it’s definitely not as good.

If Wrestlemania XX is Benoit’s best match ever, this beats anything else for second place. From Royal Rumble 2003.

Smackdown World Title: Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle

Team Angle is immediately ejected to make sure it’s one on one. Benoit grabs a headlock to start before trying the Sharpshooter to send Angle to the floor. Back in and Angle goes for the ankle but gets dropkicked away. Benoit grabs a kind up reverse Figure Four but Angle grabs the rope. This is all holds/counter holds so far. Benoit gets sent shoulder first into the post followed by an Angle suplex for two.

They chop it out with Benoit taking over and hitting a reverse clothesline to take Angle down. Angle drops Benoit across the top rope but gets guillotined down by the Canadian. They head to the apron with Benoit DDTing him down onto the side of the ring. The champion has a busted nose now. Back in and the Swan Dive misses but Benoit rolls out of the Angle Slam. There’s the Sharpshooter to Angle who eventually gets to a rope. A belly to back suplex gets two for Chris but Angle snaps off an overhead belly to belly (just one so far).

Back to the floor where Benoit gets dropped onto the barricade to further mess with his head. Off to a rear naked choke back inside so Kurt can overly loudly call some spots. Angle catches Benoit in another belly to belly followed by a belly to back for two. Back to the chinlock for a bit until a double clothesline puts both guys down. Benoit rolls some Germans but so does Angle. And people wonder why their necks were held together by tape.

Benoit gets the final German but Angle runs the ropes to hit the belly to belly off the top to put both guys down. That gets two but the Angle Slam is countered into the Crossface. Angle gets the rope, so Benoit shifts to an ankle lock. Angle reverses into one of his own and now Benoit is in trouble. Benoit goes to kick off but instead grabs another Crossface. Kurt counters into a rollup but Benoit put the Crossface on the other (right) arm this time. Angle stands up and hits the Angle Slam but can’t immediately cover.

Angle takes the straps down but another German attempt is countered into a rollup for two. They trade HARD Germans until Benoit hooks a release German to put both guys down. Before anyone asks, the difference between this and the previous match with the suplexes is how hard these are. Steiner looked like he was at a dance recital but here they look like they’re trying to kill one another. Not to mention there’s OTHER STUFF in between the suplexes.

Benoit hits the longest diving headbutt you’ll EVER see, but he can’t cover because of his head getting jarred like that. Angle counters the Crossface into a reverse powerbomb onto the buckle. The Angle Slam gets a VERY close two as the crowd is losing their minds. Back to the Crossface but Angle rolls through into the ankle lock. Benoit rolls over but can’t break the hold. He kicks Kurt off but Angle goes right back to the hold. Benoit keeps trying to kick him off but Angle hooks the grapevine and Benoit has to tap.

Rating: A+. That’s your match of the year right there people. Oh wait according to Meltzer there was some match in Japan that no one but him ever saw and that has to be better than this right? Anyway, these two DESTROYED each other with some absolutely amazing counters and awesome sequences out there while suplexing the tar out of each other. This both guy’s best match ever, and that’s saying A LOT.

Benoit gets a standing ovation, showing that he was ready to be world champion. Naturally that’s why he had to wait fifteen months to get the title, because the world was BEGGING for another Steiner match, the Nash feud with HHH, and the Goldberg run of doom. Ok Goldberg I can live with but the other two? Screw that.

I’ve mentioned it enough times now so I have to close out with this: the main event of Wrestlemania XX.

Raw World Title: HHH vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit

HHH (and his big white boots) bail to the floor as the other two chop it out. They head to the mat with Benoit bridging up into a backslide attempt but Shawn blocks. The Crossface doesn’t work but Benoit gets two off a northern lights suplex. The Game comes back in to take over and he slugs both guys down. Shawn is thrown over the top rope for some skinning of the cat but comes back in to pound away at the champion in the corner.

The high knee takes Shawn down for two and a less high knee puts Benoit on the floor. Benoit has his back rammed into the barricade but Shawn baseball slides both of them onto the concrete. That is followed up by a big moonsault to the floor to take out all three guys and wow the crowd a bit. Shawn and HHH go back inside but Benoit has to come in with a clothesline to break up a Pedigree. Shawn goes shoulder first into the post at the hands of the Canadian but HHH ties Benoit up in the Tree of Woe.

Michaels whips HHH into Benoit and rolls up the champion for two before nipping up, only to be clotheslined out to the floor by Benoit. Chris rolls some Germans on the champion but Shawn comes back to break up the Swan Dive. HHH DDTs Shawn down and superplexes Benoit for a pair of two’s. Benoit gets a weak Crossface on HHH but Michaels makes the save. Now Shawn tries to roll Germans on Benoit but you can’t do that to a Canadian (without being Kurt Angle of course), and Benoit reverses into Germans of his own on Shawn.

The Swan Dive hits Shawn for two as HHH makes another save. HHH low bridges Benoit to the floor and it’s time for DX to fight again. Shawn drops the top rope elbow on HHH and there’s Sweet Chin Music for good measure but it only gets two. Benoit makes the save and it’s time to chop a Canadian. Michaels has to fight off the Sharpshooter but can’t avoid a catapult into the post. There’s the Crossface on Shawn but HHH grabs Shawn’s hand to prevent tapping. That catapult into the post busted Shawn open too.

Out to the floor they go with HHH whipping Benoit into the steps to put him down. HHH loads up the announce table but Benoit fights him onto said table. Benoit fights out of a Pedigree attempt but here’s Shawn on the table as well. A double suplex/slam sends Benoit flying through a table and it’s down to one on one for all intents and purposes. HHH pounds away on Shawn in the corner but gets backdropped out to the floor, taking out the referee in the process. Shawn sends him into the post to bust the champion open too.

Back in and HHH hits a Pedigree out of nowhere but he’s too exhausted to cover. Eventually he does but Benoit pops in to break it up at the last second. Shawn falls out to the floor as Benoit chops the champion. The Pedigree is countered into the Sharpshooter but Shawn comes back in with Sweet Chin Music to break it up, but only for two. Michaels tunes up the band again but misses the superkick and gets backdropped to the floor. Benoit hooks the Crossface on HHH and holds onto it even as Benoit rolls into the middle of the ring until HHH taps out, giving Benoit the world title.

Rating: A+. I can’t stand triple threat matches but this is a masterpiece. They were so crisp with everything and while Shawn didn’t need to be there at all, it was still an excellent match. Benoit winning was the absolutely right decision (and would have been the year before as well) but it was the feel good moment they needed.

Eddie comes out to celebrate with his friend as confetti falls to end the show.

Chris Benoit is one of the finest in ring performers ever. He was so intense and able to wrestle with anyone at all on a mat. When you can regularly bring out the best in Kurt Angle, there has to be something to you. Some of those matches he had are as memorable as anything else and the stretch he had in 2003 into 2004 is as good and solid of a run as you’ll ever see. Benoit was an outstanding performer and that’s all there is to it for his in ring career.

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  1. M.R. says:

    You could easily make the case for him being the greatest in-ring performer of all time, he’s certainly in the conversation with guys like Shawn and Angle. I know personally that I’d rather watch a great Benoit match as opposed to a great Flair match.

  2. Heyo says:

    Was it difficult to write this?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Nah. I separated the personal life from the professional life a long time ago. I completely understand how some people can’t do that though.

    ted Reply:

    I never got that line of thinking. You can enjoy someone’s work without glorying horrible things they did in their personal life. Benoit is one of the best.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    You can, but at the same time I can see that if you have a child and look at a man who murdered a child that age and not being able to be entertained by them.

    Rocko Reply:

    I would be one of those people. Haven’t watched a match of his since. I get he had brain damage but it’s just too hard to watch him.

    Heyo Reply:

    Chris Brown is one of those people I really can’t seperate his personal life from his professional one, especially when there’s songs people interrepted as a dig at Rihanna.

  3. ted says:

    Yes it comes to a person by person basis.

  4. M.R. says:

    Not to mention years of flying headbutts didn’t help the cause.