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  3. Column: “Crippling Blow” by Brian Bertrand

Where was I on June 25, 2007? I was here at home. I had the opportunity to go out with my friends but had to pull out. I wanted to get to my girlfriend but things have been happening with us. Suddenly, I receive an instant message from a friend of mine about Chris Benoit. When I heard her mention his death, my mind looked back on when Owen Hart was dead. The big heartache from this tragedy along with another burden took over and my mind felt major mourning. He was not only a true wrestler, but he was also a great personality in terms of training and ability.

I first watched Benoit when he was in WCW. He had a great series with Booker T in the best of seven matches they had for the WCW TV Title. That went on to put the TV title way over and gave both wrestlers a place in history. Throughout his career he became a J-Cup Champion in Japan, a member of the IV Horsemen, a Revolutionary with Shane Douglass, and a Radical with Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko.

He’s held many titles including the J-Cup, Stampede Commonwealth, WCW World, ECW Tag Team, and WWE World Heavyweight Title. Wrestling was in this man’s blood both in and out of the ring. He was a locker room general and a great family man. His wife was a famous valet and managed about twenty of the most famous superstars in history including Chris Benoit himself, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, The Sandman, Taz, Scott Steiner, and so many more members of wrestling’s elite.

His title history shows his legacy and each one meant the world to him. In Stampede Wrestling, he was an International Tag Team champion with various partners and a British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Champion on multiple occasions. In Japan, he was a NJPW Junior-Heavyweight Champion and Super J Cup Champion.

In America, he was an ECW Tag Team Champion as well as WCW United States and Television Champion (after the best-of-seven series against Booker T, which put both wrestlers on the map), multi-time WWF Intercontinental Champion and Tag Team Champion. However, his title history is a fraction of the legacy that was Chris Benoit.

Benoit first trained upon graduation from high school in Stu Hart’s dungeon. Wrestling is a mainstay tradition in Edmonton and Calgary and he would make the 200-mile drive each way just to train with the likes of Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Lance Storm, and Chris Jericho. He made his debut in Stampede Wrestling a short time later and went on to begin his legacy in the world of professional wrestling. To many critics, Benoit was thought to be the spitting image of the Dynamite Kid. He had an extensive career with New Japan Pro Wrestling and went onto wrestling for ECW instead of going big until 1995 with World Championship Wrestling before coming to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2000.

Benoit went to WCW first in 1992 but only had a short time before going on the international ventures.

After he left for New Japan, he was billed as The Pegasus Kid. There he had many matches with Japanese legend, Jushin “Thunder” Liger. He then won the Super J Cup Tournament (similar to ECWA’s Super 8) against The Great Sasuke. Shortly after, he declined talks with WCW and WWF to join Extreme Championship Wrestling, helping make ECW showcase more than the hardcore wrestling. He, along with Shane Douglass, Eddie Guerrero, Lance Storm, and “Lionheart” Chris Jericho, showcased true technical prowess with puroresu-style wrestling to a crowd that thrived on tables, chairs, kendo sticks, and fire. He gained the nickname “Crippler” after breaking Sabu’s neck in in ECW.

When coming to WCW in 1992 and then back in 1996, Tony Schiavone acknowledged his Super J Cup win as Benoit came out of the limo that brought him to the WCW Monday Nitro event. Since that camera shot, he had put on some great matches that showed fans what international wrestling was all about. Three years of blood sweat and tears later, WCW held a Television Title #1 contender tournament where the finals would be a best-of-seven challenge. That challenge became a major milestone in Chris Benoit’s career. Booker T and him put on 10 to 15 minute matches in all seven matches going back and forth like it was a shoot chain wrestling match in the Dungeon. Having come off of that he went on to join the IV Horsemen and then onto the Revolution with Shane Douglas, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko. In January of 2000, Benoit became a little uneasy with the direction of WCW and parted ways shortly after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Coming into WWE in 2000, he came in dramatic fashion before turning on Mick Foley with the Radicalz. Since then, his first taste of gold came in the form of the WWF Intercontinental Title and for years, he was known to put wrestlers to their limits inside the squared circle. In the locker room, he was a mentor to many athletes. He would put rookies under his wing and if they stated to question him, he would go as far as to actually kick them out of the locker room and have them dress in another area. He would also go through training drills with them with squats, wind sprints, two, three, or even five mile runs. If needed, he will train you to become the wrestler with the potential of greatness that he believes you can be in the WWE.

Giving the fans what they wanted in his matches, he will always be remembered as a true technical wrestler. He was one of those wrestlers where, no matter if he was heel of babyface, he would always be cheered and respected. He had the talent, the ring presence, and the knowledge of one thing…wrestling.

His family was as much a part of his life as wrestling was and they respected his love for wrestling, which he referred to as his “mistress”, and his wanting to continue to be a part of it. Just like Owen Hart’s demise, “The Crippler” Chris Benoit will be a wrestler that doesn’t come out very often. His death is a big loss in the world of professional wrestling but his memory will continue to live on through the eyes of his children, who will no doubt want to bring back the Benoit legacy, as well as each and every one of his fans. Rest In Peace Chris, Nancy, and Daniel Benoit.

You will all be surely missed.