"They're all hot," Benoit replied without missing a beat.
WWE Canadian president Carl de Marco welcomed the crowd to the World Trade and Convention Centre to chants of "cheap pop" as he told the fans how important they are to the show.
Halifax fans know when they are being courted.
Next week's show is not one but two events: RAW, the WWE's major league wrestling extravaganza, will be broadcast live from the Metro Centre on Monday, and SmackDown!, the show for newcomers and rising stars, will be taped Tuesday night for broadcast Thursday.
Two million fans worldwide are expected to tune in. It will be the first time ever in Halifax for SmackDown! and the first WWE televised appearance in the city since 1997.
De Marco teased the fans with "big" and "biggest" announcements, promising an appearance in Halifax by the mysterious Mr. America, thought by many fans to be Hulk Hogan. De Marco introduced Mayor Peter Kelly, whose "Welcome WWE to HRM!" sent the crowd into a roar.
But chants of "Ben-oit, Ben-oit" showed the fans wanted to cut to the chase.
"The next guest is the best technical wrestler in the world today," de Marco shouted over the cheering.
Chris Benoit, compact and trim and smaller than you would expect, given his aggressive style and reputation as the Crippler, walked in, gave a raised-fist power salute and said: "It's awesome! Canada fans rule!"
This time, no one chanted "cheap pop."
After a few general remarks about next week's show and a little horseplay for the cameras, with Benoit locking the mayor in a classic Crippler crossface hold, the floor was thrown open to the fans for questions.
Young men mostly, courteous and a little shy, at least one or two women and a couple of kids asked Benoit if it is hard to be a wrestler ("Yes. You need passion to be successful at it"), if Benoit considered it as a career as a kid ("I never considered any other career - I'm living my dream") and what was going through his mind when he broke his neck ("I just wanted to get out of the ring safely and come back," which he did last June after taking more than a year to heal).
Benoit's answers were quick and soft-spoken, but de Marco cut in when a fan asked what the easiest match of his career was.
"Peter Kelly," de Marco quipped.
Fri, May 2, 2003