From Alberta’s Hart Family to Quebec’s Rougeau Brothers to Ontario’s Edge and Christian, the tradition of Canadian wrestling is full of larger-than-life personalities and unforgettable matches. Join us every week as we count down to Wrestlemania XXVI by taking a look at the Great White North’s finest contributions to the squared circle.
Editor’s Note: The “Modern Era” is defined as the period of wrestling that exists from
SummerSlam 1988 to the present day. Why 1988? Because that’s when I started watching wrestling. I know, I’m lame.
6: Chris Benoit
Weight: 220 lbs.
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Greatest Match: Benoit vs. Kurt Angle – Royal Rumble 2003
Editor’s Note: Truthfully, I wasn’t looking forward to writing this. I used to be a huge Chris Benoit fan. Now, I can’t stomach watching his work. That being said, the following article will reflect Chris Benoit’s work within the ring and not the horrific murder/suicide that occurred in June of 2007.
Chris Benoit was short, ugly, and terrible on the mic.
But when he stepped into the ring he was maybe the finest example of technical ability the industry has ever produced. There wasn’t a moment of wasted motion, every maneuver was fluid, every movement was crisp. Chris Benoit was a wrestling machine.
Even at his most popular in the winter of 2003/2004, Chris Benoit’s entrance didn’t elicit the kind of thunderous response that a Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels would receive. But once Benoit had a chance to win the crowd over during his match, he’d often receive a standing ovation – even in matches where he’d been defeated.
A perfect example of this took place on Jan. 25, 2004 at the Royal Rumble. From our seats high atop Philadelphia’s First Union Center (now the Wachovia Center) my buddy Zach and I watched as the sold-out crowd was transformed from mildly entertained by Benoit to rabidly rooting for him over the course of the one-hour Rumble match.
Of particular interest were two young fans sitting in front of us.
The two youngsters had been disappointed earlier in the evening as Rey Mysterio (the subject of their many poster board signs) had a criminally short match against Jamie Noble.
As the Rumble started and Zach and I erupted for the Canadian Crippler the two kids looked at us as if we were nuts. We chatted them up and learned that their Rumble hopes were pinned on Rob Van Dam and John Cena.
They also thought Chris Benoit was “Boring.”
However, over the course of the event their attitudes (along with the attitude of the other 17,000 in attendance) changed.
As the evening went on the 30-man Royal Rumble was eventually whittled down to a final six that consisted of Benoit, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, John Cena, Chris Jericho, and the Big Show.
What it boiled down to was each of the other five competitors trying to eliminate the enormous Big Show. They tried as a unit. No luck. They tried one by one and had even less luck. Eventually, Show started to toss them out. First Cena, then Van Dam, then Jericho, then Angle. Finally we were left with only Benoit and Show.
How on Earth was Benoit going to get the better of Show after he’d just man-handled four other top names?
It looked like he wasn’t going to. When the Big Show pressed Benoit over his head and made his way toward the ropes, the crowd in Philly (and our two new friends) stopped breathing. Benoit managed to weasel his way around to catch Show in a front facelook. As Benoit used his weight to gain leverage the crowd picked up on what he was attempting and started to buzz. When Show’s feet left the mat and he teetered on the top rope the noise built. And when Benoit finally managed to dump his gigantic opponent to the floor the place collectively lost their minds.
Perhaps Benoit’s ultimate in-ring legacy is that of a man who was born a few decades too late. Benoit simply wasn’t made for today’s quip-laden promos and four-minute television matches.
Even the World Championship that Benoit would go on to claim after winning the Royal Rumble was seen as more of a career achievement award than an effort to push him as a top name. During his reign he’d constantly play second fiddle to the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels feud. Eventually he dropped the title to up-and-comer Randy Orton and was shuffled back down the card.
But, that doesn’t take away from what the man could do from bell to bell.
Just ask two Mysterio fans I know.
Gordon Holmes is the wrestling correspondent for Comcast.net’s SlamCast wrestling coverage and the “Survivor” correspondent for Fancast.com. He was also trained to take a beating by WWE Hall of Famer Afa “The Wild Samoan” Anoa’i. You can follow Gordon on Twitter at twitter.com/gordonholmes.