March 22, 2005
BORN: May 21, 1967 Montreal, Quebec
5'10", 220 pounds
AKA: The Canadian Crippler, Pegasus Kid
A graduate of Stu Hart's dungeon, Chris Benoit is one of the best wrestlers in the world at the moment. He's a gifted athlete that loves to take it to the limit, with lots of high-flying moves, convincing brawling and legit technical wrestling. To those of us who watched Benoit grow up in Stampede Wrestling, it is great to see him succeed today. In Stampede, he started as a real skinny kid and grew into a star.
Benoit debuted in Stampede in December, 1985 (a tagteam match with Rick Patterson against Karl Moffat and Mike Hammer) and had grown up idolizing the Dynamite Kid, patterning much of his in-ring style after the British legend. His first title came in March, 1986 as he and Ben Bassarab defeated Ron Starr and Wayne Farris (later the Honky Tonk Man) to win the Stampede International Tagteam titles (the first of four reigns for Benoit). Benoit would also be a four-time British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Champion, winning it from the Great Gama and then trading it with former tag partner Johnny Smith throughout 1988.
Like many Stampede grads, he took his act to Japan and Mexico. Benoit was a light heavyweight champ in both locals. As the Pegasus Kid, Benoit wrestled in Mexico's Universal Wrestling Association and EMLL from 1991-1994 defeating Villano III for the WWF World Light Heavyweight title (and then defending it against Villano III in a three-fall match that lasted over 42 minutes).
His exploits in Japan were no less extraordinary. In 1990, Benoit (still wrestling as the Pegasus Kid) defeated Jushin Liger to win the IWGP Light Heavyweight title. After losing both the title and a mask-vs.-mask match to Liger, Benoit (now wrestling as Wild Pegasus) won the Inaugural Super J Cup in 1994 (one of his opponents in the tournament was Eddie Guerrero, wrestling as the Black Tiger). In December 1991, Benoit was in Germany to win the CWA Tagteam titles with David Taylor.
There were a few occasions over the years where it seemed he was destined to join the big two but it didn't happen. He teamed with long-time Stampede tagteam partner Biff Wellington during WCW's NWA Tagteam tournament in June 1992, where the pair lost to Jushin Liger and Brian Pillman (another member of the Stampede alumni) and, in 1993, appeared on a pair of pay-per-views (losing to Too Cold Scorpio at SuperBrawl and teaming with Bobby Eaton against Scorpio and Marcus Alexander Bagwell at Slamboree). In 1995, Benoit received a tryout with the then-WWF, facing Adam Bomb, Hardcore Holly and fellow former Stampede star, Owen Hart.
Instead, he wound up in ECW and became a star. In the nutty ECW environment, he found his voice and his character. During one match, he accidentally dropped Sabu on his head, breaking the hardcore superstar's neck. Benoit regretted the accident but, thanks in part to ECW head Paul Heyman, "The Crippler" was born.
Soon after signing with WCW in late 1995 (primarily due to WCW's relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling), Benoit took his place alongside the likes of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in the legendary Four Horsemen team. He was quickly drawn into a feud against the Dungeon of Doom, whose leader Kevin Sullivan just happened to be married to Benoit's valet, Woman.
After the breakup of the Horsemen and the long-delayed demise of his feud (on-screen at least) with Sullivan, Benoit was soon involved in a program with Diamond Dallas Page and Raven over the United States Heavyweight title. Though he never won the U.S. title from Page or Raven, he sailed smoothly into a feud with Booker T over the WCW TV title -- exchanging it with Booker T on a couple of occasions on the house show circuit in May 1998.
In September, 1998, Malenko and Benoit were seen trying to convince Arn Anderson to reform the Four Horsemen. After some hesitation, Anderson re-introduced the group and a returning Ric Flair. Malenko and Benoit (having won the ECW Tagteam titles together in 1995) proved to be a formidable tag team, and won the WCW World Tag titles from Barry Windham and Curt Hennig at WCW Uncensored in March 1999.
In August 1999, Benoit beat David Flair for the U.S. title, his first major singles title in WCW. (Benoit would defeat Jeff Jarrett at Starrcade 99 in a ladder match to begin another U.S. title reign.)
On October 4th, 1999, Benoit and Bret Hart engaged in a classic match in Kemper Arena in Kansas City in a touching tribute to Bret's brother, the late Owen Hart. A month later, Benoit would wrestle Hart again, this time losing in the finals of a tournament for the vacant WCW World title.
In January 2000, Benoit seemed to have finally won "the Big One", defeating Sid Vicious to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at WCW's Souled Out pay-per-view. However, backstage politics had made life in WCW unbearable for Benoit. He quickly surrendered the title and left the company. Days later, He, along with Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero soon showed up on Raw as "the Radicals". A few months later appearing at his first Wrestlemania, Benoit defeated Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho in a Triple Threat Match to win his first Intercontinental Championship.
In 2001, Benoit, along with Chris Jericho seemingly broke through "the Glass Ceiling" by defeating Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for the WWF World Tagteam titles. But Benoit's road hit a bump when he was sidelined while having to undergo surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck and spinal disk problems, a procedure which caused him to miss out on participating at Wrestlemania XIX in Toronto's Skydome.
Returning to the ring in June 2002, Benoit defeated Rob Van Dam on July 29th to win his fourth and final (to date) Intercontinental Championship. He would spend much of his time over the next few months, teaming with both Kurt Angle (the pair would win the Smackdown brand's first Tagteam titles) and Rhyno, who he would later feud with.
In late 2003, Benoit ran afoul of Smackdown General Manager Paul Heyman. Benoit become the number one entrant in the 2004 Royal Rumble and then went from number one entrant to number one contender, eliminating the Big Show to win the Royal Rumble.
At Wrestlemania XX on March 14th, 2004, Chris Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H in the main event to become the World Heavyweight Champion. After successfully defending the title in a rematch at Backlash in Edmonton a month later, Benoit would lose the belt to Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2004.
After the loss, Benoit would continue to chase Evolution, even if his status as the top contender to the belt went first to Triple H, then to Randy Orton. After losing out on a title shot to Shawn Michaels at Taboo Tuesday, Benoit would form a very short-lived team with Edge and win the WWE Tag Team titles from La Resistance.
Edge would walk out on Benoit and the tag titles on November 4th and the the two Canadians would feud with each other. In late November, a week after GM Benoit battled Edge in a steel cage match, the pair found themselves co-winners of a #1 contender battle royale. After the ensuing Triple Threat match involving Triple H, the title was held up. Benoit would come up short at New Year's Revolution's Elimination Chamber bout.
With 2005 underway, Benoit was named to compete at Wrestlemania XXI's "Money In the Bank" ladder match along with Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin and Kane. After a loss there that left him injured, Benoit still impressed with a great TV match on Raw against Christian in April and a submission defeat of Triple H as part of the "Gold Rush Tournament".
True to his ECW roots, Benoit would face Tajiri in an ECW-style match. It would turn out to be one of the last matches Benoit had on Raw, as he was drafted to Smackdown on June 9th. That same weekend, Benoit defeated Eddie Guerrero at ECW's One Night Stand pay-per-view.
Back on Smackdown, Benoit took aim at the United States title, held by Orlando Jordan. Jordan managed to dodge a bullet, retaining against Benoit at the Great American Bash only to lose the belt in near record time at SummerSlam.
Benoit managed to improve on his time in several Smackdown rematches against Jordan. Meanwhile, his friend Booker T was making some noise about challenging for the U.S. title. But as good as Booker was in the ring, it would be interference from his wife Sharmell that would end Benoit's reign as U.S. champion. A week later, Booker arranged for Sharmell to apologize to Benoit, only to turn on his former friend.
After defeating Triple H in the main event of the Eddie Guerrero tribute episode of Smackdown, Benoit began his quest to regain the United States Championship. After one rematch against Booker T led to a double-pin, Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long announced a Best-of-Seven series between Benoit and Booker for the U.S. title.
Booker T won the first match at the Survivor Series and then jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Benoit battled back and, with an injury to Booker T, defeated substitute Randy Orton to even the series at 3 matches apiece, only to lose the 7th and deciding match to Orton.
Benoit didn't mourn for long, getting himself back to becoming the number one contender for the U.S. belt and defeating Booker for the title at No Way Out. Benoit's reign lasted onlt until a defeat at the hands of JBL at Wrestlemania XXII.
Following his return from shoulder surgery The Crippler went right back to doing what he does best -- and thatís technically dissecting his opponents in the ring. It did not take Benoit long to get involved in a title picture on Smackdown and this time it was the United States championship that was in his cross-hair.
The Rabid Wolverine targeted loudmouth Ken Kennedy and in Jacksonville, Florida on October 16, 2006 he captured U.S. gold for an impressive fifth time. From there Benoit took on all comers with his usual ferocity, however, one competitor in particular kept pushing Benoit to the limit.
After interfering in several of the championís affairs and severely injuring his left knee in a sneak attack just days before Judgment Day, the stage was set for their 2 out of 3 falls showdown at the May 20th pay-per-view. Benoit fought valiantly, however, the wounded leg was too much to bear and MVP surprisingly scored two consecutive pinfalls to become the new United States champion. On June 11, WWE held a draft lottery, and Chris Benoit was drafted to the ECW brand. In his first ECW match he teamed with CM Punk against Marcus Cor Von and Elijah Burke. On the June 19th edition of ECW on Sci Fi, he defeated Burke to advance to the Vengeance pay per view to battle CM Punk for the vacant ECW title.
On June 23, 2007, Benoit left the house show loop in Texas due to a family emergency. He missed the Vengeance pay-per-view, where he was scheduled to win the ECW World Title, unexpectedly. The next day, he was found dead in his Atlanta home with his wife Nancy and son Daniel. That night's Monday Night Raw was dedicated to his memory.
CHRIS BENOIT STORIES