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Benoit praises London fans
By HANK DANISZEWSKI - London Free Press





Can Canadian wrestling star Chris Benoit use the crippler crossface or the diving head butt to defeat the arrogant new American champ?

An audience of millions could find out Monday night as London becomes the stage for what Benoit calls "physical theatre" as presented by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Wrestling fans will flock to the John Labatt Centre for a double bill of WWE Smackdown and Extreme Champion Wrestling, which is expected to reach a broadcast audience of over two million.

The JLC was in the running for WWE’s Saturday Night's Main Event but lost out to the larger Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Pro wrestling has drawn a huge fan base with elaborate technical shows setting all the usual ring grappling against a backdrop of elaborate entrances and melodramatic battles of good versus evil.

Long-running storylines have turned the shows into soap operas with drop kicks and body slams.

Tuesday night will feature a possible showdown between Benoit and his rival, Montel Vontavious Porter -- alias MVP.

Benoit, a 40-year-old Edmonton native, has been a pro wrestler since 1985.

"Every time I step into that ring I’m living my dream. I’ve never wanted to do anything else," he said.

Benoit had high praise for London wrestling fans and the JLC.

"The crowd always welcomes us with thunderous roars. It’s starts from the time we step off the plane. They’re in the hotels. They’re very enthusiastic."

Benoit recently lost the Unites States championship to MVP. He offered to shake hands with the new champ, only to have MVP crow: "I am the future, you are the past. So raise my hand, Benoit."

Benoit responded by slamming MVP to the mat three times before driving him out of the ring.

Benoit said MVP will be at the JLC Tuesday but won’t say whether the two will tangle. He does intend to challenge him to a rematch at some point.

"A lot of what happens is spontaneous," he said.

Although WWE shows are scripted, Benoit says the fights are anything but fake and he has the fused neck vertebrae to prove it.

The matches, featuring Benoit and the rest of the SmackDown and ECW stars, start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets, $20 to $70, are still available at the JLC.

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    Hank Daniszewski is a Free Press reporter.