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Fans give Benoit a day to remember
By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun


Wrestler Chris Benoit, of Edmonton, holds his World Wrestling Entertainment World Heavyweight Championship Belt as he speaks during Chris Benoit Day at City Hall in Edmonton, Alta. (Edmonton Sun Photo by Darryl Dyck).

With three thumps of his chest, Chris Benoit signalled his appreciation to a mob of his fans at City Hall yesterday. It was the most appropriate way the World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion could acknowledge the raucous welcome he received.

The Edmonton product didn't need to say much - all he had to do was raise the golden belt above his head to incite a huge response from the throng of jacked-up rowdies.

Before the Crippler grabbed the mic, Mayor Bill Smith declared Sunday - when Benoit defends the title at Rexall Place - "Chris Benoit Day."

"I've brought the championship to Edmonton, right where it belongs," said Benoit. "I can't begin to tell you what an honour, what a privilege, it is. I had a whole bunch of things I wanted to say, but to hear the reaction from the all the fans showing their support, it's really hit home.''

At that point, Benoit had to take a second to compose himself.

"It was quite overwhelming," he said.

The Rabid Wolverine wasn't the only one who was shedding a tear or two.

His mother, Margaret, seated in the front row next to a makeshift ring in the City Hall atrium, couldn't hold back her emotions.

"I always thought he would be an architect or a man of the cloth because he was so quiet," said mom.

"It's such a rough business but he loved it, so we had to support him. When he went to Japan to train for six months I knew that was it. He'd made his choice."

Benoit's mom didn't make the trip to New York to see her son claim the championship, but she's placed a special keepsake in her room of memorabilia.

"I took the confetti off my husband's shoes and put it on the wall.''

But the 36-year-old champ wasn't always the toughest guy inside the Benoit home. His sister, Laurie, used to regularly get the better of him in no-holds-barred main events in the living room.

"We used to roll around on the carpet and then as soon as we heard the car pull up and our parents come home, we'd separate," said Laurie. "We smashed a chair and had to glue it together in a panic. We'd fight but we'd work together when we'd break things because we didn't want to get caught."

Although he can be a practical joker on rare occasions, Benoit is much the same quiet type he was when his interest in wrestling was first piqued more than 20 years ago.

"He's a very private person," said Laurie. "He's very shy and likes to be in the background. He's stayed pretty normal. He's always loved being around his family."

Benoit was thrilled the entire clan could be front and centre for the special event.

"My family's made more sacrifices than I have in helping me get to where I am today," he said.

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