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COMMENT





Benoit living the dream!
By SCOTT ZERR - Edmonton Sun


Excerpted from the Jim Ross call of the WWE Wrestlemania 20 main event March 14, during which Chris Benoit won the world heavyweight championship: "Benoit countered with the Crossface. Triple-H is desperate. The sense of desperation is overwhelming. Triple-H reaches for the ropes ... Triple-H is fading away."

- -

The world of professional wrestling is unlike any other. So it's only appropriate that the experience of winning the heavyweight championship of the world be something extraordinary.

It took Chris Benoit, who returns today for the Backlash event at Rexall Place, 18 years to get there. The blood, sweat and tears may sound cliche, but in his case, they illustrate a life to perfection. He shed blood on more than one occasion, in the ring and later on a doctor's operating table, having his neck surgically repaired.

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Every night, whether in front of 50 slack-jawed spectators in rundown community halls scattered across the Prairies while toiling with Stampede Wrestling or demonstrating his craft before 20,000 fanatic followers in Madison Square Garden, Benoit got the job done the old-fashioned way.

And tears, yes, there were more than few, both in good times and in bad, through joyous moments and in heartbreak.

Benoit, Edmonton's own Rabid Wolverine, the heavyweight champion of World Wrestling Entertainment, reflected upon what he's gone through and the feeling of finally claiming the ultimate prize. It's quite the imagery.

"Some fans have a better idea of the lives we lead, the time we sacrifice," said Benoit.

"There's a lot of heartache involved. There's the anniversaries, the birthdays and the funerals we miss. We leave our kids behind when they're sick. We have to be on the road so much and it can be very stressful and very lonely."

But when he was crowned world champion at Wrestlemania 20 last month, the pain and sacrifice, even if just for a fleeting few moments, was all worth it.

"It was a big tornado of memories," said the 36-year-old. "My time in Edmonton, Japan, Germany, all these bits and pieces in my head were overwhelming.

"I remembered wrestling Bret (Hart) in a tribute match for Owen (Hart). I thought about Stu (Hart) and Brian Pillman and Davey Boy (Smith). There were a lot of little things I remembered all flashing in my mind."

Ross - Is Benoit this close to winning the heavyweight championship of the world? The Game is being tortured by the Wolverine.

But c'mon, wrestling is all fake. Choreographed and predetermined, to a degree, yes.

Fake? Say that to someone who's undergone a major operation to repair a fractured vertebra and you should get slapped upside the head. The damage wrestlers put their bodies through is incredible. It's amazing most can still walk.

So, it should come as no surprise that the emotions are very real. When Chris Benoit was handed the world title belt on March 14 in New York City, that toothless smile and those tears streaming down his face told the tale of a life and life's ambition realized.

"That was very real to me," said Benoit. "There were a lot of times when people didn't have a lot of faith in me. The one time I did win in WCW (the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling's heavyweight title) I walked away soon afterwards, and I felt it was a very tarnished victory because of all the politics behind the scenes.

"I never considered myself the champion after that victory. Soon after I was able to sign with the WWE. I thought it would be the best road to take and get me to where I wanted to be."

Ross - The Game countered ... but Benoit wouldn't let go. Benoit's torturing the champion with the Crossface. Will Triple-H tap out? The title's on the line.

At one point, that road looked to be on a map that Benoit would never get to travel. He'd gone from riding in the back of a cargo van for Stu Hart, to working in Japan, Europe and Mexico, surviving the brutality of Extreme Championship Wrestling to becoming a disenchanted member of the WCW locker-room.

The storyline building up to his title win circled around Benoit never being able to win the big one. It was in part true because he'd never been given the opportunity to prove himself.

Professional setbacks all take a back seat now to being at the top of the heap.

"I've learned from the negative experiences," he said. "When I was in WCW certain people who held the title were not conversational and I thought that was wrong. I've learned a lot from people who've held the title but not in a good way.

"They were not professional and didn't act like a champion.

"I'm trying to be a role model for the younger guys. I'd like to set an example for the guys on how they can get there.

"But it's too easy to look at the past and complain. I choose to look forward.

"Anyone can look at the past and say, 'It should have been this or that.' I chose not to live like that. I know where I'm going and what I'm aiming at. Living in the past is a waste. I live in the present and plan for the future."

Ross - It's over! It's over! This soldout crowd at Madison Square Garden has erupted! Chris Benoit's 18-year odyssey has culminated by winning the world heavyweight championship at Wrestlemania 20!

The future, undoubtedly, is bright for Benoit. Unlike some of his counterparts who are branching out from wrestling into TV appearances and movie roles, his future is strictly in wrestling. Perhaps a few more years in the ring, then taking on duty as a backstage agent planning matches. He is an old-school wrestler through and through, not one for the showbiz glitz and glam. A throwback to another era when the toughest men in the business did their job with aggression and understated enthusiasm.

"I have been very lucky and fortunate in my career," said Benoit. "All the paths I've been down, I've learned a lot, and a lot of people have come in and out of my life.

"People like Brian Pillman, Owen and Bret. It all started with Stu who I learned so much from. I've seen a lot of bad and cruel things and I've been through a lot of positive experiences."

Ross - Benoit so many times has been so close year after year, mile after mile, continent after continent but Benoit never gave up. He never gave up. Benoit is living his dream.

Finally ... finally ... by God finally, Chris Benoit has become the heavyweight champion of this world!

Benoit's most loyal fans would have noticed a change since Wrestlemania 20.

Product of Atlanta?

He had always walked down the aisle to the ring, announced as hailing from "Edmonton, Alberta, Canada," but since winning the title, Benoit's entrance has been altered to "now residing in Atlanta, Georgia."

The change was not Benoit's decision, but a move by the WWE to have all of their "faces" (good guys) announced as from the United States.

Don't be discouraged, faithful Crippler Cronies.

"I had to move to Atlanta for work purposes. I'm sure a lot of families have been split up because they have to do what's best.

"I do reside in Atlanta but that hasn't changed anything as far as what I consider my home.

"I could get on the mic and run my mouth but I do my talking in the ring ... They say home is where your heart is and I consider Edmonton my home."

He may not be a full-time resident, but Chris Benoit certainly qualifies as a proud member of the City of Champions.

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