Home-town welcome for Benoit
By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun
Chris Benoit at the Skyreach Centre in Edmonton Tuesday night. -- Perry Mah, Edmonton Sun
Chris Benoit got his second shot at the WWF title in his hometown. Exactly what the Rabid Wolverine's rabid audience wanted.
The script written and the action about to unfold - a storybook ending was at stake for the Crippler who was primed to take the championship belt from the most notorious of bad guys, Stone Cold Steve Austin, following the controversial conclusion to their matchup on Raw is War at the Calgary Saddledome one night earlier.
After a fiery pyro opening to the first local taping of SmackDown!, Benoit and tag-team partner Chris Jericho bounded down the ramp to cheers usually reserved for slick goals on a sheet of ice. Benoit's show-starting rant paid tribute to Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers, calling Skyreach Centre "the house of champions."
The speech drew a raucous reaction from the soldout crowd of 13,500 who were then treated to the news that their hero would have the chance to lock Austin in the Crippler Crossface for the night's top prize.
"I don't care if it's first match or the last match, I'll work hard," said Benoit before his title shot. "It's not like I've got to step up to the plate and hit harder because I'm in the main event.
"I try to perform at my peak at all times. It's more to do with the passion I have for the business. I really love it, I cherish it. The business has been good to me and I love to be able to go out there and tell a story and walk out there and bring the fans on an emotional ride. I live for that."
No doubt Benoit was even more pumped up for a bout in his old stomping grounds. It showed on his face as he acknowledged the crowd's response to his entrance, his steely face almost breaking into an ear-to-ear grin. The Archbishop O'Leary grad fed off the rowdy mob and put the boots to Stone Cold early and got the Crossface on Austin, who wormed his way to the ropes.
With his supporters chanting his name, Benoit banged on Austin over the announcer's table, then survived an assault from Austin in which the Texas Rattlesnake twice cinched him in the Walls of Jericho.
Benoit blew the crowd away with an unprecedented 10 consecutive suplexes and had Austin down to the Crossface again when McMahon, a special ringside enforcer, intervened only to be thumped with six chairshots by the challenger. But Austin got his revenge, rolling up Benoit for the decision.
"You've yet to prove me wrong," Benoit barked to Austin.
Then to his legion of fans: "I started out in Stampede Wrestling 16 years ago and I've wrestled all over the world but you guys kick (backside)."
* Jericho, with some help from Shane McMahon and an Acid Drop by Spike Dudley, got the pinfall on Kurt Angle ... Kane defended his Intercontinental title with a power bomb on Edge ... Hardcore Holly got the pin in a one-on-one scrap with Buh-Buh Ray Dudley ... In a Hardcore title match, Rhyno survived a garbage-can beating and put Raven through a table to keep the belt ... X-Factor got the win over the Hardys and Eddie Guerrero in a six-man tag.
More Edmonton Smackdown! stories
May 30: The McMahons are on both sides of ring
May 30: The SmackDown! divas