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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho have grappled their way to the top


By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

I'm a longtime fan of Chris Benoit's talent and find he's better than ever. The dedication to his profession is as ferocious as his steely in-ring persona would indicate. And, from a personal standpoint, as I've gotten to know him over the past year I can say the guy is as genuine as possible.
Edmonton-raised Benoit is intensity in action.


The Edmonton-raised World Wrestling Federation superstar is at the top of his game, having just this week captured the tag-team championship belts with former adversary and fellow Canadian, Chris Jericho, in a tremendous matchup against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Triple H.

Long praised for his ability to combine power and speed in the ring as well as for his tremendous physique, the master of the Crippler Crossface is finally being given the push from mid-card status to main-event competitor, which his local fans will witness Tuesday night at Skyreach Centre in the first Edmonton taping of SmackDown!

Not surprisingly though, the 33-year-old, 229-pounder wants more out of himself.

"It's a good feeling," said Benoit from his home near Atlanta, Georgia, last week. "It's kind of like someone walking up to you and giving you a pat on the back and saying you're doing a great job. But it doesn't stop my drive or my motivation. I'm very critical of myself and my work.

"But I think that's got me to where I am today and I definitely don't want to change that.

"It's a good feeling, but in my heart I still believe I'm got so much more to learn and so many more things to accomplish. In this business you can never stop improving. It's a constant process. You look at this business 15 years ago and look at it today and it's totally different."

There are public and private sides to Benoit's personality but they're not as vastly different as one might expect.

The Rock might be the flashy showman with the cameras glaring at him, but at home he surely doesn't refer to himself in the third person and announce his catchphrases around the house. Benoit, on the other hand, is intensity in action but without any glitz and glam - it just wouldn't suit him. This is one incredibly reserved man off-stage, a quiet guy who prefers to spend time with his kids or go out for a meal rather than revel in his celebrity. On the occasions we've hung out, he can't go for more than 10 minutes without being asked for an autograph, whether he's in an airport or in a packed restaurant.

Heck, a mob of youngsters was waiting for him outside an eatery in Tacoma, Washington, long after a show had concluded on a school night. No problem. He signed everything, posed for pictures and then carried on. The next morning it was the same thing, only this time with staff and servers in the hotel. He's gracious to a fault, even with planes to catch or getting in some much-needed quality time with his three kids.

"I go through my whole day and it seems like I'm an hour late from the time I get up to the time I go to bed," he said.

"You constantly have to adjust but I'm so used to that way of life, it's become a day-to-day way for me. It's part of my lifestyle and I really enjoy it. I'm the kind of guy that if I miss two days in the gym, I'm rotten to be around.

"It's almost as if I'm addicted to working out and eating good. It's become part of my life. I've been on the road now 15 years so it really has become part of my life and it would be really hard for me to change."

His career path having taken him throughout North America, Japan and Europe with every major company (Stampede, ECW, WCW and now the WWF), Chris still appreciates appearing before his Edmonton fans, family and friends.

"It means a little more, being SmackDown! There will be more energy and things happening and I'm excited about bringing that there," said Benoit, who might just be sporting his Oilers jersey as he walks down the ramp.

"Edmonton's always been great to me. Having wrestled for Stu (Hart) and the WWF, I've always got a lot of support from the people there.

"A lot of people ask me what's the difference between being a good guy (babyface) and a bad guy (heel) and, to me, it's as long as you're involved. You can be a good guy or bad guy and sitting on the sidelines. But if you're involved in the middle of an issue, it really makes a difference."

As a sportswriter, we're supposed to remain unbiased about the teams we cover - no cheering in the pressbox is a steadfast rule. Perhaps that's why I enjoy watching Benoit. I'll admit it - I carried on like a fan when he and Y2J hoisted the tag-team straps.

It was a big thrill to be handed an official Benoit "Prove Me Wrong" T-shirt by the man himself and the picture I have of me, the Rabid Wolverine (another of his wrestling nicknames) and the Intercontinental belt is a treasured keepsake.

Now if only the Crippler needed a manager ...


Put Chris Irvine under the spotlight and not a soul would care enough to show up to see what happens.
Winnipegger Jericho knows the value of a 'promo'


Yet when Irvine's performance alter-ego Chris Jericho arrives Tuesday night for WWF SmackDown! at Skyreach Centre, the place will be jammed with Jerichoholics eagerly anticipating the next outrageous bit with the microphone by the 30-year-old native of Winnipeg.

It all started for the WWF star known as Y2J when, as a child, he would charge his parents 25 cents to see him lip-sync Beatles songs.

A star was born.

"People don't pay their money to come see Chris Irvine. They come to see Chris Jericho," said the new tag-team champion (with partner Chris Benoit). "They want to see these kinds of larger-than-life characters and we have to provide that."

Since first setting foot in the WWF three years ago Jericho has been a dynamic force, not only for impressive finishing moves like the Walls of Jericho and the Lionsault, but for his biting sense of humour during interviews and promos.

He's carved everyone from Benoit to Triple H, but it's been his foul-mouthed description of the Billion-Dollar Princess, Stephanie McMahon, that's garnered him the most notoriety. While the nasty dialogue "shocked" McMahon, it drove crowds crazy - exactly what it was intended to do.

"It's just like wrestling itself - a lot of it is just reacting to the fans and listening to how they're reacting to what you're saying and going off that," said Jericho last week from his home in Tampa Bay, Florida. "It's part of being a good interview guy, just interacting with the fans, listening to their reaction and reacting accordingly.

"You have to remember, this is entertainment and you have to entertain the fans if it's a matter of coming up with a catchphrase or telling a joke or putting on a good match. It's all about entertainment and we're sports entertainers. It's very important to get the second part of that in there."

Jericho, the son of former New York Ranger Ted Irvine, has excelled at the entertainer part without the benefit of any scripts. His sarcastic rants are, for the most part, off the cuff and a major reason why he has progressed to elite status.

"The guys who are the biggest entertainers are the biggest stars in the WWF, whether that's as a good guy or a bad guy," said Jericho, who got his first break as a 19-year-old under Stu Hart in Stampede Wrestling before plying his trade in Japan.

"My goal whenever I come into a town is to have people come out excited, because the worst thing that can happen is apathy.

"If I have a promo, sometimes I have an idea of what I want to do. You want to hit on the bullet points and, from there, you go out and just wing a lot of it knowing that you have to mention this and that, and you build your story around those points.

"It's a good way to do it because if you try to memorize something word by word by word and you forget one word, you break the chain and you're left sitting there with nothing to say."

Jericho's gift for gab ties in perfectly with his outlandish appearance completed by his trademark pork-chop sideburns.

"I'm like a Chia pet," he laughed. "You have to drink a lot of Molson Canadian to get them. The underground black market gets it delivered to my door daily."

Jericho, who married his wife Jessica during a brief break in his hectic schedule last year, is anxious to see how his new alliance with Benoit plays out. Just a year ago, the two were involved in a heated rivalry that included a thrilling one-on-one encounter in Edmonton, and now the real-life friends are the No. 1 duo in the business.

"If I'm going to be aligned with anybody it would be him because we have similar styles and backgrounds," said Jericho. "I hope it continues because I think we've only scratched the surface of what we could do."

More on Chris Benoit
More on Chris Jericho




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