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Benoit inspired by the Dynamite Kid
Crippler adopts idol's high-risk style



DOUG LUNNEY -- Winnipeg Sun

 Chris Benoit was 12 years old when he saw the Dynamite Kid perform at the Pavilion in Edmonton, and from that day on he wanted to be a pro wrestler.

 "I just idolized him," Benoit, born in Montreal and raised in Edmonton, recalled yesterday after signing autographs at the Winnipeg Arena. "We had backyard wrestling matches or I would be in my room, kicking my bed, trying to clone him.

 "I remember how he and Bret (Hart) stood out above everyone else."

 Benoit, the Canadian Crippler, will face Hart at the Arena on Feb. 26 in World Championship Wrestling's Winnipeg debut.

 The Dynamite Kid's days in the ring, however, are over. At 40, Tom Billington (his real name) lives in his native England, confined to a wheelchair due to the toll his career took on his body.

 Benoit has done a remarkable job in mimicking the Dynamite Kid's high-risk style. He's even packed his 5-foot-10 frame with 220 pounds of rock-hard muscle, much like Billington did. At 32 he's arguably the best entertainer in the business, whether he's against a technician like Hart or a chair-smashing brawler like Brian Knobs.

 His friends Brian Pillman and Owen Hart have died in the prime of their lives and careers, but Benoit said he can't be concerned about the dangerous lifestyle.

 "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen," he said.

 Wrestlers have discussed holding a match to raise funds for Billington, who has given so much to a profession that doesn't offer pensions.

 "It's all up to Tommy whether he wants to do it," said Benoit, a divorced father of two children who lives in Atlanta. "He's definitely got a lot of friends who are willing to help him."

 Benoit learned his trade from Stu Hart in the infamous "dungeon" -- a gym in the Hart's Calgary home.

 "It was barbaric," Benoit said. "I'm glad when I came in Stu wasn't in his prime, but he could still take you down and make you scream."

 DIDN'T PROMOTE CANADIANS

 Benoit is thrilled new WCW management has opted to host shows in Canada. Former boss Eric Bischoff didn't promote Canadians such as himself, Winnipeg's Chris Jericho and Bret Hart in their homeland, Benoit said.

 "Nor did (Bischoff) ever take advantage of having Bret Hart as an employee," Benoit said. "All you saw was Bret sitting in the background of a Hogan interview ... Bret was the hottest thing in wrestling at the time."

 Benoit's cheques are signed by Ted Turner, but he's never met the billionaire media mogul.

 "I was walking out of an Atlanta Hawks game and we nearly walked into one another, nose to nose, but he never comes to wrestling," Benoit said.

More on Chris Benoit