I remember, in 1980 at the Edmonton Sales Pavilion, meeting a 12-year-old kid named Chris Benoit, who was just the biggest Dynamite Kid fan there ever was. And that's saying something because Dynamite had a lot of fans, deservedly so.
I happened to be standing there when Benoit met his hero for the first time. He stared down at his feet and blushed but it was easy to see how excited this young man was.
Every week he was there, studying every move we made in the ring. So when I bumped into Benoit when he was 18, it wasn't any big surprise to discover he'd filled out and joined my father's Stampede Wrestling promotion.
He earned his stripes in Europe and Japan and, amazingly enough, he built a reputation every bit as respected as his hero, The Dynamite Kid.
In those days, I was forever on the road in the WWF and I took every opportunity to recommend my brother Owen and Benoit to Vince McMahon.
In fact, when the time came for Dynamite to hang up his boots, he found Benoit and gave them to him, which is a huge honour among wrestlers.
Benoit began making a name for himself when he surfaced in WCW in 1993.
Upon my arrival to WCW in 1997, Benoit impressed me with his raw talent and soon enough I had the pleasure of battling with this well-muscled pit bull.
A few weeks ago, my heart soared watching Benoit defeat both Shawn Michaels and Triple H to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Immediately following his victory, I left him a congratulatory message. Just last night, Benoit had the chance to get back to me. In talking to him, I couldn't help but picture that same little kid from Leduc standing in the doorway of the dressing room in Edmonton, dreaming of one day being a wrestler.
The one thing that stood out long after we hung up the phone was his deep sense of gratitude for the old Stampede Wrestling days. I've always felt I never did enough for him, or at least not as much as I wanted to.
As he thanked me, I realized he should probably be thanking his mentor, The Dynamite Kid, who is back home in England confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Benoit said he'd love to thank Stu, Davey Boy Smith and Owen but I told him I'm sure they already know.
I hope when the WWE returns to Calgary April 19 fans will all turn out to honour Benoit, the new world champion and a true Canadian hero.
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