Hey there my ever lovely tatfans, I hope the weekend has been good to you. Before I go on about my newest grumblings and musings I would like to just give a quick mention to my man Mark Jindrak who this week on Smackdown! finally joined the big leagues when he interrupted Big Show & Eddie vs Angle & Reigns. Anyone who has followed old Boyo on the TWO forums will know how much of a fan I am of Jindrak, so seeing him pick a fight with Big Show was a great surprise for me!
However, this may be the article where I cause controversy. This may be the article that gains me a lot of fans or loses whatever I have earned. You see, I have been contemplating the “Chris Benoit Era” on Raw during 2004 and I have been wondering how he will be remembered in years to come.
Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, The Rock, Ric Flair and Bret Hart will all be remembered as great champions. Sure, there were times when they didn’t carry gold – in fact, there were often (ahem) “eras” when their waists were empty, but these people will always be remembered as “great champions”. And I mean that term seriously.
In my opinion, Chris Benoit will never be remembered as a “great champion”, but as a “great wrestler”. So what is the difference? If Benoit was a great wrestler – and he most certainly is; and he was The World Heavyweight Champion for five months – which he clearly was, then doesn’t that make him a great champion?
No, it does not.
When I think of The Rock or Hulk Hogan winning their belts for the first time in their lives, I will remember a young gifted wrestler who – when given his opportunity – snatched at it with both hands, said “that’s mine!” and subsequently sat back and enjoyed as their stock grew, the public demand for them grew, the world took note of who they were, and when Hollywood came calling, didn’t hesitate to respond.
None of this happened with Chris Benoit. Chris Benoit just won the belt, held it for a while, and then lost the belt. I can’t imagine that he’ll hold the belt again, and I think the more pro-active of the wrestling fans know that he will never hold the belt again. People complain about the power-plays that Triple H pulls behind the scenes, about how in 2003 he held the belt and no one else got a look-in. All fair enough, I suppose; but consider the fact that Chris Benoit did not “win” the belt – but that he was “rewarded” the belt.
I am not going to sit here and educate anyone about the history of Chris Benoit’s career. I know he has competed in Japan, Mexico, ECW, WCW and WWE over the years, and I know that he really started to gain international recognition when he competed in Japan as “Pegasus”, against other luminaries such as Eddy “Black Tiger” Guerrero, and suchlike. I know he formed The Radicalz and I know he has taken on Evolution.
My point is that I am not going to sit here and dismiss what Benoit has done in the pro-wrestling world. If I can paraphrase what JR might say, the man has busted his ass for 18 years to get where he is. I also am not going to question his in-ring capabilities; Benoit is the best of the best and anyone who questions this is a fool.
Where I feel I must interject with commentary is the Benoit legacy. When people look back at Benoit’s career what they will remember is the hardnut stalwart who gave his years to the wrestling industry and earned his title reign.
But you don’t earn titles. You WIN them. And this, I think, will reflect negatively on Chris Benoit as the years go on.
Let’s consider his title reign: he finally wins the big one at Wrestlemania XX, at the Garden, in a triple threat against Triple H and Shawn Michaels; he makes Triple H tap out to the Crossface. This is a good start. After that he defeats Kane by roll-up, Triple H by roll-up, HBK by roll-up (after Triple H interferes) and then loses to Randy Orton in the kid’s first title shot. And then Orton loses it straight back to Triple H!
Kinda takes the gloss off things, doesn’t it?
So was Benoit’s “era” a proper era? Or was he just keeping the title warm for the bonafide title-holders as a kind of retirement present?
“Chris Benoit, in recognition of your immense contribution and consistency worldwide in the sport of professional wrestling we, the WWE, would like to grant you custody of the World Heavyweight Championship. Take good care of her, son; we want her back.”
Benoit’s title reign wasn’t even promoted as special by the WWE. Benoit vs Kane played second fiddle to Triple H vs HBK Hell in a Cell, and I must remember 4 or 5 occasions where Benoit defended his title midway down the card on Raw so a Eugene segment, or an Evolution one, could take precedence. If a World Heavyweight Title match is not promoted as the highlight of the night, then how can you expect the holder of that title to remain prestigious, aloof and well…the highlight?
This booking, in my eyes, has damaged Benoit’s legacy as far as I am concerned. Yes, Benoit is a fabulous wrestler; yes Benoit has given his all for 18 years and counting; yes, Benoit has earned his moment in the sun – earned that gold.
But I’m sorry: Benoit was never a great champion. Just a guy who got one HELL of an early retirement present.