"Why are you guys bitching about Angle beating Benoit? Kawada NEVER defeated Misawa for the first five years in a singles matches, yet it is considered one of wrestling's greatest feuds."
True, but even that was stretched too long for maximum payoff. And 6 years in AJPW booking is like 26 in todays ADD afflicted WWE. And it wasn't like Kawada layed down for Misawa in a throwaway 10 minute match at a meaningless spot show two weeks after the match of his life on 6/4/94 either. Which is basically what they did here with Benoit. That's not how you prolong a chase and keep a contender in the thick of thing, you keep him hot. Here they're just beating it into the ground without it helping anyone. The fans start to percieve you as the peppy underdog instead of a real threat.
Not to mention the precedent for clean as a sheet jobs in WWE is far and few between. Anyone booked as a legit top guy to the title is more protected than the president with screwjob finishes. Even for all the vaunted jobs Rock did during his stay he rarely layed down clean. And for somebody trying to get that rub the WWE fan perception is clean job = JTTS. Thats how they're portraying Benoit here.
Pretty much this. Not that he's still being punished for that, but he was so damaged after they got that out of the system that he hasn't been worth the effort to rebuild. There must be people who still seem the same upside you (and others)