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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Long, Hard Road - Chris Benoit's Dream is a Reality
March 20, 2004 - by Joe Pisaturo

Chris Benoit's dream is a reality, but will it now become nothing more than a nightmare"

What many believed would never happen has finally become a reality: Chris Benoit has won the World Heavyweight Title on quite possibly the biggest wrestling event in the history of the industry, Wrestlemania XX. Triple H relinquished the belt in what can only be deemed a breathtaking and historic match between three of the finest the industry has to offer today.

First, the reigning champion, Triple H; a man who may have carried the WWE (then-WWF) when there was no one else who could hold the weight, but also someone who has been on the top for so long that few people thought he'd lose the belt, much less to Chris Benoit, much less in a Wrestlemania main event, much less at Wrestlemania XX. Next, the charismatic veteran, Shawn Michaels, the man who came back after a five-year absence caused by increasing back problems, and a competitor that most people thought could never wrestle a full-schedule again, that made a triumphant return and even managed to hold the prestigious title for a short period of time. His unlikely addition to the match angered many people, but it also made them question just where the fate of Chris Benoit's quest for the gold would lead. And finally, Chris Benoit, the man who has paid his dues time and time again, and has never been fully repaid for what he has done and continues to do in and for the industry. Lately, it seemed like he was destined to once again fall off the final rung of the ladder, missing his opportunity just one more time.

Chris Benoit's fate seemed sealed after winning the 2004 Royal Rumble. Months prior on Smackdown!, Benoit came inches from winning the WWE Championship off of Brock Lesnar, passing out in what he calls the "Brock Lock." Paul E. Heyman let Benoit know that he wouldn't receive any more title shots as long as he was general manager, and Benoit realized that his only opportunity would come at the Royal Rumble. Heyman allowed him to participate in the match, but forced him to be the first entrant. On that night, Chris Benoit battled from the first man all the way to the last man, surviving everyone that came his way, and finally winning after single-handedly toppling The Big Show. Benoit celebrated, but his quest wasn't over. The next night, on Monday Night RAW, Benoit appeared and announced that he would be challenging for the World Heavyweight Title. At that point, it seemed like Benoit had taken one step forward, and then two steps back in his quest for the gold. Benoit had become the property of RAW, but he was beaten down, lost matches, and basically made to look inferior next to The Game. The contract signing that went awry when Shawn Michaels interrupted and signed his name on the document that didn't even have his name written on it only made the situation look that much bleaker. In a match between Michaels and Triple H, no one expected Benoit to be anything more than a third wheel.

After weeks of anticipation, Wrestlemania XX had arrived, and the match was finally underway. For a while, it seemed like it was anyone's title until Benoit was on the received end of a double suplex throuigh the announce table. It looked like Triple H was getting ready to pull off one more screwjob victory. Then, the unthinkable happened. Michaels was knocked outside the ring, and was motionless on the concrete floor.

Triple H set up for the Pedigree on Benoit, but was reversed. Benoit locked in the Crossface, and Triple H was only inches away from the ropes. Triple H had them within his grasp until Benoit rolled away from the ropes, forcing Triple H to tap out to a move that he couldn't get out of. In a touching moment, Eddie Guerrero, who had successfully defended the WWE Championship in a grueling match with Kurt angle, came out and raised hands with the new champion. Both men hugged, and Benoit cried, proving just how much that victory meant to him. Those who doubted were shocked, and those who believed were justified, because the impossible had happened.

After all of this, I reach my point: What will become of Chris Benoit's title reign" Backlash is next month, is a RAW PPV, and is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It seems like the stage is set for Triple H to get another title shot and steal back the belt that he has held on to for most of the time it's been in existence. I'm afraid that Triple H is going to win back the belt and make Chris Benoit's whole quest and victory seem like just another run-of-the-mill victory. Sure, Benoit has won the title, and he can say he's been on top, but the point is that he has the experience, and the technique, and the ability to stay champion, but no one will allow that to happen. Hopefully, I can be wrong, but I'm afraid that I can only be right in this situation. Benoit may be on top now, but that position only gets more precarious with each passing day/

by Enrique Casteles


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