Well, my friends, Chris Benoit has done it. Chris Benoit, finally, is the Heavyweight Champion of this World, BY GAWD KING!
Like a lot of you, I marked out like a freakin' madman when Triple H tapped last night, and I'm still very giddy and somewhat in a state of denial-- no way this could be real, right? The same Chris Benoit who jobbed in a WCW Cruiserweight Title match before he even made his WCW debut couldn't own the richest prize in our business, could he?
Man, the Benoit memories. Benoit's vicious feud with Kevin Sullivan, where he had to go through Meng and The Barbarian in order to even get at Sullivan. The retirement match between the two that ended Sullivan's career. Benoit as a Horseman, who, though clearly the best wrestler on the team, had to watch as WCW gave the belt to Jeff Jarrett and then to freakin' MONGO MCMICHAEL.
Benoit's brief and unsuccessful early attempts to wrest the U.S. Title from Diamond Dallas Page and the TV Title from Booker T. Benoit's vicious feud with Raven, which ended when DDP imposed himself into the feud, making it a three-way feud-- but eventually pushed Benoit out of it entirely.
The excitement I felt as Benoit and Malenko steadily advanced through the round-robin, double-elimination tournament for the revived WCW World Tag Team Title-- followed by the anger I felt when they were screwed out of the belts by the heel chicanery of Curt Hennig and Barry Windham.
The adulation I felt when Benoit and Malenko finally won the World Tag Team Title-- only to be forced to turn heel when Ric Flair turned heel, and end up losing the belts to Rey Mysterio and Billy “F'N” Kidman two weeks after winning them. And then they got a rematch in a three-way dance, only Raven and Saturn walked out with the belts, dammit.
The outrage as Ric Flair gave his son David the U.S. Title, and the bitter resentment as Arn Anderson helped David cheat his way to victories over more talented opponents. But the sheer joy that followed when Benoit beat David Flair for the U.S. Title, and then proceeded to kick the shit out of The Triad by himself and retain the title against DDP at Road Wild.
The disappointment when he lost the belt to Sid, only to be followed by a brief Television Title reign. The great ladder match against Jeff Jarrett at Starrcade for the U.S. Title, and then the heel chicanery that allowed Jarrett to win the title the following night.
This was followed by Souled Out 2000, when World Champion Bret Hart and U.S. Champion Jeff Jarrett suffered injuries prior to the show and both belts were vacated. The World Title was up for grabs in a match between Benoit and Sid, and finally the right man went over. WCW had done it-- they'd finally wised up and given Benoit their title...
...or had they? The sheer outrage when I learned the truth, that Benoit would never walk out on Nitro with the World Title belt around his waist, that he and the other soon-to-be-called Radicalz were leaving for the WWF, was more or less the last straw for me. I'd watched a few SmackDown! episodes prior to that anyway... I was familiar with the WWF talent, and now that Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn were in the Federation, what was the point of my watching WCW anymore?
Y'know, not everyone will remember this, but Benoit, in his first WWF match, actually made Triple H tap to the Crossface. But the referee was knocked out, and The Game pulled out the win with various underhanded shenanigans.
The Intercontinental Title reigns that followed for Benoit made me feel like the WWF was actually hell-bent on pushing Benoit towards the WWF Championship-- quite the opposite from WCW's strategy. And on the whole, Benoit's WWF career has been far kinder to him than his WCW career was, even if Benoit hadn't won the title last night.
Benoit's title victory over The Rock cemented it for me-- Benoit had finally done it, and now I'd actually see him with a world championship belt around his waist. But nope, Mick Foley overturned it... dammit. OK, enter the fatal four-way match. Benoit pinned The Undertaker. Nope, foot on the ropes, overturn the victory. Dammit!
Benoit's killer feud with Chris Jericho restored my faith quite a bit (the WWF has always been really good at dangling the carrot in front of my face, curse the loveable bastards), and then Benoit and Jericho teamed together to slaughter team after team in a tag-team turmoil match, and went on to an incredible, all-time markout victory over, of all people, Steve Austin and Triple H for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Holy shit, I thought, this is incredible-- and I'm sure all Benoit fans will agree with me there. Benoit and Jericho ended up losing the belts shortly before KotR, but I was okay with that-- 'cuz they were both gonna face Austin for the WWF Title in the main-event of a huge pay-per-view, yay!
King of the Ring 2001, Triple Threat Match. WWF Champion Steve Austin defended against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. Hey, I figured, if Austin loses the belt to either of these two guys, I'll be happy. Didn't happen. Found out later that there had been a good chance of Benoit winning the title in that match, but for Benoit's injury that he suffered in an earlier TLC Match and tag-team title defense.
The following year without Benoit was a long one, although I was pleased to see Jericho have a four-month-long reign as Undisputed Champion, carrying both the WWF and WCW title belts around. But 2002 was the year I was just about ready to beat the hell outta Jerry Lawler for his constant harping on the subject of puppies. Everything else-- bah. A blur.
Then Benoit returned, and soon he turned heel, and based on his return angle I figured he was gonna go right back to feuding with Austin. But Austin got the F out, and soon Benoit was on SmackDown, where he won the SmackDown version of the WWE Tag Team Championship, and made it to the finals of the tournament for the revived U.S. Title. Not that I could see any of that, though, since I always worked on Thursdays and never ordered pay-per-views.
But after a brief stay in midcard hell, he made Brock Lesnar tap out in a classic Survivor Series match, declared his utter contempt for Lesnar and Paul Heyman, and I figured, hey... he's gonna feud with Lesnar, and maybe win the WWE Championship.
After he did the impossible, getting #1 at the Royal Rumble and winning it, I thought, sweet, Lesnar vs. Benoit at WrestleMania. I was pissed, pissed, pissed when he went to RAW, even though that meant I could see him every week again, because I knew there was no way he was gonna dethrone Triple H. That feeling only grew when Shawn Michaels inserted himself into the match.
Oh, what a difference two months make. Chris Benoit is your, and my, new World Heavyweight Champion, and it couldn't have happened in a better way... he made Triple H tap right there in the middle of the ring to the Crippler Crossface.
So... what's next for Benoit? A rematch with Triple H is likely, but I'd like to see him do some more stuff with Michaels, maybe with Michaels turning full-blown heel. A feud with Christian would be nice, but Christian's not quite at that point yet... he needs to finish his business with Chris Jericho in a way that'll make Y2J and Christian look like a million bucks. Then we'll maybe be ready to talk about the main event for Christian.
So, who's next, then? Michaels? Ric Flair? Randy Orton? Someone else?
Anyone else wanna contribute your thoughts, or delve more deeply into your own memories of our new World Heavyweight Champion?
“Chris Benoit, finally, is the Heavyweight Champion of this world!” --Jim Ross, WrestleMania XX
Two-Time, Two-Time Randomly Selected Wiener of the Day, 5/27/02 and 7/3/02
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Let us not forget the series on Saturday Night against Eddy after both of their debuts in the late summer/early fall of '95, culminating with them closing Centre Stage with the double knockout superplex.
Pondering whether the world is ready for the Red Sox Nation Lawrence Welk Workrate Report.
Nice post, I liked the recap of Benoit's WCW/WWE career alot. Most of that stuff I had forgotten about, it really puts the win last night in perspective.
I think the biggest question right now is what is next on Benoit's plate. I highly doubt that this will all end up being only a transitional reign and main event spot for Benoit. If he loses the belt anytime soon (ie within the next 3 months) he will have it back by the end of the year, not a doubt in my mind. WWE just wouldn't go through all the trouble of having him win the Rumble as #1, have him win at WMXX, and then just forget about him as a main eventer. Makes absolutely no business sense.
A rematch with HHH or HBK is most likely at Backlash, as pretty much everybody has assumed. But after that, what is next? Personally, I would like to see Benoit/HHH at Backlash, with HBK making a return to at first help Benoit retain (by blocking outside interference maybe, so its still clean, thus cementing Benoit as a ME'er), but then turning on Benoit right after the match to get some CANADIAN heel heat. Go with HBK/Benoit for the next few months, until someone else is elevated enough. Orton will be in good position to do that if him and HHH feud somehow while Benoit is busy with HBK.
Benoit and Jericho sure as hell better start acknowledging their past together too. What I wouldn't give to see the Crossface/Walls double team one last time. That shit was SWEEEET.