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HeadLocker — Jay Shannon

OWW Wrestler of the Week — Shelton Benjamin

Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, profiles the Gold Standard. During the past week, Benjamin took Triple H and MVP to their limits and beyond. The current US champion has battles all comers and came out shining (like gold).

Golden Origins

Shelton Benjamin was born in South Carolina in 1975. He was a stand-out in high school wrestling and moved to California in 1995 to attend college. Shelton wrestled for Lessen Community College and served as a trainer for the team. It was there that he first met Brock Lesnar. They would become life-long friends and would enter wrestling together.

Both men were recruited by the University of Minnesota (The Golden Gophers). In 1998, Benjamin posted a record of 36 wins and 6 losses. Shelton was noticed by Greg Gagne, son of the legendary Verne Gagne. Gagne contacted some of his connections within the WWE and they sent scouts to check out both Lesnar and Benjamin. Both men were offered developmental contracts with the WWE. They were brought in as a team called the Minnesota Stretching Crew, a take on the Anderson team name of Minnesota Wrecking Crew.

Benjamin and Lesnar arrived at OVW and immediately became top stars. They would hold the tag titles on three occasions. Lesnar was called up from OVW to Smackdown, so Benjamin had to find a new partner. He aligned himself with Redd Dogg (Rodney Mack). They won the OVW tag titles and held them for some time before Shelton received the call to head to the big leagues.

The World’s Greatest Tag Team

Shelton thought that he was going to be paired with his old partner, Brock Lesnar, when he arrived on Smackdown. Instead, he was united with Charlie Haas and Kurt Angle as Team Angle. Haas and Shelton wore similar patriotic ring gear to their leader, Angle. Shelton and Haas would take the tag straps from Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo Guerrero). The duo would successfully defend the titles against several top challengers. They even retained their titles in a Triple Threat match against Los Guerreros and Chris Benoit/Rhyno at Wrestlemania XIX. The team would finally drop the straps to Eddie Guerrero and Tajiri at that year’s Judgment Day. That loss would lead to the firing of Shelton and Haas by Kurt Angle.

Shelton and Haas would then begin to refer to themselves as The World’s Greatest Tag Team. The team would take the tag titles back from Guerrero and Tajiri on the July 3rd edition of Smackdown. They would lose the titles to Los Guerrero on September 18th, when Benjamin suffered a knee injury. Shelton took a month off to recover from his injury. The duo would continue to work together until shortly after Wrestlemania XX.

Finding some Raw gold

In 2004, Shelton was sent to RAW as part of that year’s draft. He was brought in as a face, for the first time in his WWE career. Shelton got into a feud with Evolution during his second week on RAW. He upset Triple H, two weeks in a row. That led to battles against Randy Orton and Ric Flair. Shelton’s career got a short vacation when Shelton broke his hand in a match against Garrison (Lance) Cade. Shelton punched Cade’s knee brace and broke the hand. Shelton took a couple of months off to heal and refocus his character.

When Shelton returned, he worked several RAW matches before heading into another round of matches against Triple H. Shelton performed well and WWE decided to give Shelton a run with individual gold. At Taboo Tuesday, Shelton received 37% of the vote to face Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental title. Shelton shocked the wrestling world when he took the title from Jericho. Shelton would hold the title for over a year, before losing it to Carlito on his (Carlito’s RAW debut).

During Shelton’s first I-C title run, he was also part of the original Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 21. While Shelton lost the match, he seriously impressed the fans and the WWE brass. Shelton was also involved in the Gold Rush Tournament. He lost to Shawn Michaels in a match that made the intro video for RAW for some time. Shawn took out Shelton with Sweet Chin Music as Shelton went for a Springboard move. That move is even on the RAW v Smackdown 2007 intro cut-scene.

From defeat comes…Mama

Shelton went into a major losing streak following his loss of the I-C title to Carlito. The WWE, who loves to parody and mimic current films and news stories, brought in over-sized actress, Thea Vidale, to portray Shelton’s Mama (ala Big Momma’s House). Mama got involved with several hilarious skits with people like Big Show, Val Venis and Goldust during her run with her “son”. The crowds loved Mama, at first. Eventually, her character became stale and the WWE decided to give her a grand exit. Mama faked a heart attack on the February 20th edition of RAW. When Shelton saw his Mama suffer because of Ric Flair, he went ballistic and took out Flair to win his second Intercontinental title. Mama’s heart condition would be pushed over the next few weeks and Shelton would eventually announce that he Mama wasn’t able to come to the ring with him anymore.

More Gold for Shelton

Shelton would move on from being Mama’s boya fighting I-C champion. Shelton got into a nasty feud with Rob Van Dam that began at Wrestlemania 22. RVD beat Shelton and 4 others in that year’s Money-in-the-Bank match. Shelton put his I-C title up against RVD’s M-I-T-B Briefcase. At Backlash, RVD took the I-C title from Shelton. Shelton would continue to feud with RVD, as well as Carlito and others over the next few months.

Shelton would take the I-C title back from RVD a few weeks later, only to drop the belt to Johnny Nitro (John Morrison). Nitro would later drop the belt to Jeff Hardy. Shelton, in the meantime, would switch focus to feud with the new team of Cryme Tyme. Shelton took exception to their Street Thug Image. Shelton called for his old partner, Charlie Haas, to rejoin him and the World’s Greatest Tag Team was reborn.

The World’s Greatest Tag Team (not quite)

Shelton and Haas really struggled during their second incarnation. They feuded with numerous mid-level teams over the next few months. The biggest match was a losing effort against Matt and Jeff Hardy. Shelton also helped Booker T kick off his PWA promotion in Houston, Tx. Shelton worked several matches for OVW to help his old training ground.

Shelton and Haas challenged several tag champs during the second big run as a team. They always managed to come up short. Eventually, Creative decided to give Shelton a new look…and a new home.

The birth of the Gold Standard

Elijah Burke brought Benjamin over to ECW on November 20, 2007. Shelton had bleached his hair golden and began using the nickname The Gold Standard. Shelton had an amazing run on ECW, losing only a few matches (mostly to Kane). Shelton fell short in the 4th annual Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 24, though he showed very well in the match.

Shelton feuded with Kofi Kingston in ECW, until the 2008 sent them to different brands. Kofi went to RAW and Shelton headed to Smackdown. Upon arriving in Smackdown, Shelton decided to live up to his nickname. He focused on Matt Hardy‘s United States title. At the 2008 Great American Bash, Shelton upset Matt Hardy to take the US title.

What’s next for Shelton?

After winning the US title, Shelton got into a feud with Jeff Hardy (who had been drafted to Smackdown, as well). Shelton has managed to retain his US title, so far. Shelton is also set to feud with former US champion, MVP, over the US title. Shelton will also compete in the upcoming Championship Scramble at Unforgiven.

Shelton has also begun a new feud with old enemy, Triple H. Shelton gave Triple H all he had on a recent edition of Smackdown. While Shelton lost, he came closer to upsetting Triple H than anyone has in months. Shelton also upset MVP in various house shows.

In Conclusion:

Shelton Benjamin has won numerous titles during his career in WWE. He has yet to manage to take one of the top three belts (WWE, World or ECW). It is likely only a matter of time before the Gold Standard becomes the standard by which all other champions are compared. He is a future World Champion and almost a lock to someday become a WWE Hall of Fame member. His performance against Triple H, this week, as well as his continued success as the US champion earned Shelton Benjamin this week’s award as O.W.W. Wrestler of the Week.

–Jay Shannon
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