Christopher Michael Benoit (born May 21, 1967) is a Canadian professional wrestler. He is currently performing on the SmackDown! brand of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he is the reigning United States Champion.
Stampede Wrestling & International Work
After years of training in the legendary Hart family "Dungeon", Chris Benoit began his career in 1985 in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion. His first match was a tag team match on November 22, 1985 in Calgary, Alberta, where he teamed with Rick Patterson to defeat Karl Moffat & Mike Hammer. During his tenure in Stampede, he won several International Tag Team and British Commonwealth titles, and had a singles feud with Johnny Smith that lasted for over a year and resulted in a series of now classic matches. When Stampede closed its doors in 1989, Benoit departed for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Upon arriving in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Benoit spent about a year training in their "New Japan Dojo" before debuting, wearing a mask and assuming the name The Pegasus Kid. The name being a tribute to his wrestling hero the Dynamite Kid. While with NJPW, he came into his own as a performer in matches with luminaries like Jushin Liger, Shinjiro Ohtani, The Black Tiger, and El Samurai. In 1990, he won his first major championship, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, from Jushin Liger. He eventually lost the title (and his mask) back to Liger, forcing him to reinvent himself as Wild Pegasus. He went on to win the Super J Cup Tournament in 1994, defeating Black Tiger, Gedo, and Great Sasuke in the finals, solidifying his status as one of the foremost junior heavyweights in the world.
Benoit eventually left New Japan to compete in Mexico and Germany, where he won a few regional championships including the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship (although this reign is no longer credited). He even had a short run in World Championship Wrestling between 1992 and 1993, but was unsuccessful in gaining any momentum in the company. He did, however, gain some respect from American fans for his battles against the likes of 2 Cold Scorpio, which also attracted the attention of Paul Heyman.
Extreme Championship Wrestling
In 1994, Benoit signed with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). While there, he dropped the "Pegasus" gimmick, becoming The Canadian Crippler, because of his rougher style, and an incident where he took out Rocco Rock with a powerbomb through a table. Coincidentally, after taking up this gimmick, Benoit was involved in a match with Sabu during which Sabu broke his neck. The injury came when Benoit threw Sabu with the intention that he take a face-first "pancake" bump, but Sabu attempted to turn mid-air and take a backdrop bump instead. He did not achieve full rotation and landed almost directly on his neck. The incident was traumatic for Benoit, but Paul Heyman took the opportunity to change Benoit's character even more. He changed him into a ruthless "wrestling machine" with no mercy for his opponents or their bodies. Heyman had him cut long monologue promos to give him the chance to come out of his shell and to express a tough, dark persona.
Benoit and Dean Malenko won the ECW Tag Team Championship from Sabu and The Tazmaniac in February of 1995. After winning, they were initiated into the Triple Threat stable, led by ECW World Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas. The team lost the titles to The Public Enemy that April at ECW's Three Way Dance.
His appearances in ECW caught the attention of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) bookers, which led to Benoit having three tryout matches for them. They intended to bring him in as The Ringmaster (a role that eventually went to Steve Austin), but when he was told that as a WWF competitor he would not be able to work in Japan, he declined a contract. After that, visa problems halted him from continuing to work for ECW, so he returned to Japan.
World Championship Wrestling
New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had a working relationship, and because of their "talent exchange" program Benoit signed with WCW in late 1995/early 1996.
Benoit started out in WCW as a member of the cruiserweight division, having lengthy matches against many of his former rivals in Japan. After impressing higher-ups, he became a member of the reformed Four Horsemen in 1995, alongside Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman. When Pillman abruptly left the company for the WWF, Benoit was placed into his ongoing feud with (booker) Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan booked a feud in which Benoit was having an affair with Sullivan's (real life) wife. Benoit and Nancy were forced to spend time together to make the affair look real, (hold hands in public, share hotel rooms, etc.), they developed feelings for each other and began having a real affair and Nancy wound up leaving Sullivan and WCW in 1997. Because of this, Sullivan and Benoit had a contentious backstage relationship at best and even though Benoit defeated Sullivan in a Retirement match, Benoit believed that Sullivan continued to use his booking authority to "hold him back". Benoit does, however, admit having a certain amount of respect for Sullivan, saying on the DVD Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story that Sullivan never took undue liberties in the ring during their feud, even though he blamed Benoit for breaking up his marriage.
In 1998, Benoit had a long feud with Booker T. They fought over the WCW Television Championship until Booker lost the title to Fit Finlay. Booker won a "Best-of-Seven" series which was held between the two to determine a Number One Contender. Both men won three matches in a row (Benoit went up three before Booker caught up) forcing a final match on Monday Nitro. During the match, Bret Hart interjected himself, interfering on behalf of Benoit in an attempt to get him to join the New World Order. Benoit refused to win that way and told the referee what happened, getting himself disqualified. Booker refused that victory, instead opting for an eighth match at the 1998 Great American Bash to see who go on to fight Finlay later that night. Booker won the final match and went on to beat Finlay for the title. This feud significantly elevated both men's careers as singles competitors, and both remained at the top of the midcard afterwards.
In 1999, Benoit teamed with Dean Malenko once again and defeated Curt Hennig and Barry Windham to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship. Later in 1999, he also won the WCW United States Championship before bringing together Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Shane Douglas to form "The Revolution". The Revolution (both kayfabe and legit) were a group of younger wrestlers who felt slighted by WCW management, believing they never gave them the chance to be stars, pushing older, more established wrestlers the top spots instead. Benoit's most notable match of 1999 occurred with Bret Hart on WCW Nitro in October 1999, in Kansas City, Missouri, as a tribute to Owen Hart, who had recently died due to an equipment malfunction.
Benoit was becoming more and more unhappy with WCW management and by January 2000, they made their last try at keeping him, putting the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on him at Souled Out. However, due to disagreements with management and to protest the promotion of Kevin Sullivan to head booker, Benoit left the company the next day alongside his friends Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn, forfeiting his title in the process. Despite the fact that this title win is recorded in wrestling history, Benoit himself rarely recognizes it, preferring his World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania XX in 2004.
World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment
Two weeks after being granted their release from WCW, Benoit, Malenko, Saturn and Guerrero made their WWF TV debuts on the January 31, 2000 episode of RAW is War, coming out of the crowd to attack the New Age Outlaws. They were later dubbed The Radicalz. After the group turned heel, Benoit feuded with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, capturing his first championship in the WWF, the WWF Intercontinental Championship, at WrestleMania 2000.
Benoit and Jericho traded the title in May before Benoit lost it to Rikishi in June. A high-profile feud with The Rock filled out the remainder of 2000. Their feud revolved around Benoit being Shane McMahon's hitman trying to take down The Rock, and forcing him to tap out. In fact, Benoit "won" the WWF title twice during 2000, but both times the decision was reversed by then "Commissioner" Mick Foley and the matches restarted due to Benoit's cheating.
Benoit again won the Intercontinental Title in December 2000, but again lost the belt to Chris Jericho, this time in a ladder match at the 2001 Royal Rumble. He turned face after the other Radicalz kicked him out of the group. Just a few weeks later, he had an altercation with Kurt Angle over who was the better technical wrestler, and had a match against him at WrestleMania X-Seven. The two had a back-and-forth, highly mat-based match which Angle won by holding Benoit's tights for a pinfall. This started a major feud between the two, during which they had a variety of specialty matches. One was an "ultimate submission" match at Backlash 2001, which Benoit won 4-3 at sudden death overtime. That led to a two out of three falls match at Judgment Day 2001, Angle won this encounter due to Edge and Christian's appearance.
In May 2001, Benoit would later team with his old rival, Chris Jericho, to defeat Triple H and WWF Champion Steve Austin in a match for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The same week, Vince McMahon booked the new champions in a TLC Match on SmackDown! against the masters of the match: Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and the Dudley Boyz. This was the first TLC match to be shown on network television, and Jericho and Benoit retained the titles. They held them for another month before losing to the Dudley Boyz. Benoit and Angle met again in a now famous steel cage match on RAW in June, which Steve Austin prevented Benoit from winning before attacking him with a chair.
At King of the Ring, in a match with Steve Austin and Chris Jericho, Austin took advantage of the fierce fighting between the two opponents to retain the WWF Championship. More significantly, Benoit aggravated a neck injury while delivering a top-rope back suplex. Benoit underwent major neck surgery to repair a ruptured disc which had fragmented into his spinal column. Bone spurs came about after years of aggravation and the usual wear and tear, requiring a spinal fusion. The back suplex mentioned is now shown in the warning video attached to every WWE DVD, along with Benoit saying, "I ruptured a disc, which fragmented into my spinal column".
During the first WWE Draft, he was picked by Vince McMahon third to be part of the new SmackDown! roster, although still on the injured list. However, when he returned, he did so as a member of the RAW roster, where he would feud with Steve Austin briefly. He and Eddie Guerrero were then moved to SmackDown during a storyline "open season" on wrestler contracts, with Benoit bringing his newly won Intercontinental championship with him. Rob Van Dam defeated Benoit at SummerSlam 2002 and returned the title to RAW.
After returning to SmackDown! in October, he was crowned the first winner of the WWE Tag Team Championship, alongside foe and partner Kurt Angle. They both turned face again by betraying Los Guerreros. The two made an impressive combination, but could not stand each other.
Angle won his third WWE Championship from The Big Show at Armageddon 2002, and Benoit faced him for the title at the 2003 Royal Rumble. Although Benoit lost the match, he received a standing ovation for his efforts after a very outstanding match. Benoit joined to the tag team ranks, teaming with the returning Rhyno. At WrestleMania XIX, the WWE Tag Team Champions, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, put their belts on the line against Benoit and his partner Rhyno and Los Guerreros in a triple threat tag team match. Team Angle retained by Shelton Benjamin pinning Chavo Guerrero.
Benoit stayed at the middle of the card for the next few months, feuding with John Cena and the Full Blooded Italians, teaming with Rhyno occasionally. In June 2003, the WWE United States Championship was reactivated, and Benoit participated in the tournament for the belt, first beating Rhyno, then Matt Hardy in the second round, but losing the final to Eddie Guerrero at Vengeance 2003. The two feuded over the title for the next month, and Benoit's popularity ascended to an all-time high. He defeated the likes of A-Train, The Big Show, and Brock Lesnar by submission. General Manager Paul Heyman began a vendetta against Benoit along with Lesnar, preventing him from gaining a shot at Lesnar's WWE Title. When Benoit won a qualifying match for the 2004 Royal Rumble against the Full Blooded Italians in a Gauntlet Match, Heyman named him as the number one entry, but Benoit swore victory.
On January 25, 2004, Benoit delivered. He won the 2004 Royal Rumble by last eliminating Big Show, and thus earned a WWE Championship title shot at WrestleMania XX. As a result of the long-standing Royal Rumble tradition that the winner receives a shot at the world champion at WrestleMania. Many people thought that Benoit would challenge for the WWE Championship, but Benoit realized that he could never win the title because of Heyman's foul vendetta against him. As a result, Benoit exploited a "loophole" in the rules and challenged World Heavyweight Champion Triple H. This "loophole" clause has become standard storyline practice, with the Royal Rumble winner being free to choose which title he will challenge for.
With this win, Benoit became one of only two men to enter at #1 and win the Royal Rumble (Shawn Michaels being the first) and he set the record for time in a Rumble match with 1:01:34, surpassing Bob Backlund's record of 1:01:15. However, this record would be surpassed by Rey Mysterio two years later at the Royal Rumble 2006 (Mysterio entered at #2 and lasted 1:02:15).
Though the match was originally intended to be a one-on-one match, Shawn Michaels, whose Last Man Standing match against Triple H at the Royal Rumble for the World Heavyweight Championship ended in a draw, thought that he deserved to be in the main event. When it was time for Benoit to sign the contract putting himself in the main event, Michaels superkicked him and signed his name on the contract, which eventually resulted in a Triple Threat Match between Michaels, Benoit, and the champion, Triple H.
Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero celebrate after Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXOn March 14, 2004, at WrestleMania XX, in what is considered by many to be one of the most memorable moments in WWE history, Chris Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship by forcing Triple H to tap out to his signature submission move, the Crippler Crossface. It marked the first time the main event of a WrestleMania ended in submission (it happened again at WrestleMania 22). After the match, an emotional Benoit celebrated his win with the then reigning WWE Champion, and best friend Eddie Guerrero. Four years after they came to the WWE together, they stood in the ring at Madison Square Garden, both of them world champions.
It is considered as the biggest win of Benoit's 19 year career, as he won his first official World Championship in the main event of the biggest show of the year (it would, in fact, be voted the 2004 PWI Match of the Year, only the sixth WrestleMania main event to receive this honor).
This was Benoit's second World Heavyweight Title reign in any promotion after a series of controversially reversed decisions in both WWE and WCW. The rematch, which was billed as a "Final Encounter" by Eric Bischoff was held at Backlash 2004 in Benoit's hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This match was a triple threat match, which also involved Triple H and Shawn Michaels. It was Michaels who ended up submitting to Benoit's sharpshooter, allowing Benoit to retain his title, once again proving he was worthy of the main event. The next night in Calgary, he and Edge won the World Tag Team titles from Batista and Ric Flair, making Benoit a double champion.
On August 15, 2004, Chris Benoit was defeated by Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. His reign lasted 5 months, and he gained 7 straight pay-per-view victories. Benoit then feuded with Edge leading to Taboo Tuesday where Chris Benoit, Edge, and Shawn Michaels were all put into a poll to see who would face Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title that night. Michaels received the most votes and as a result, Edge and Benoit were forced to team up to face the then tag team champions, La Résistance, in the same night. However, Edge didn't show up for the match and Benoit was forced to take on both members of La Resistance by himself. He still managed to win the World Tag Team titles despite Edge's absence. At Survivor Series 2004, Benoit sided with Randy Orton's team while Edge teamed with Triple H's team, and while Edge was able to pin Benoit after a Pedigree, Orton's team won.
The feud between Chris Benoit and Edge came to a strong point at New Years Revolution, as both displayed a valiant effort to try to win the World title they vacated themselves. The feud stopped abruptly, as Edge feuded with Shawn Michaels, and Benoit entered the Royal Rumble. The two then continued to have matches in the following weeks until the two of them, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Kane, and Christian were placed in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 21. Edge won the match by knocking Benoit off the ladder. The feud finally culminated in a Last Man Standing Match at Backlash 2005. Edge won with a brick shot to the back of Benoit's head.
On June 9, 2005, Benoit returned to SmackDown! after being the first man selected by the Smackdown side in the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery, and participated in an ECW-style revolution against the SmackDown! heels. Benoit appeared at One Night Stand 2005, defeating Eddie Guerrero. At the end of the night he delivered a flying headbutt to his former WCW boss and former RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff.
On July 24, 2005 at The Great American Bash 2005, Benoit failed to win the WWE United States Championship from Orlando Jordan, but he faced him in a rematch at SummerSlam 2005. Benoit defeated Jordan in 25 seconds with the Crippler Crossface to win the title. On the next two editions of SmackDown!, Benoit defeated Jordan by submission in 23.4 seconds and 22.5 seconds. Two weeks later, Benoit defeated Jordan by submission in 49.8 seconds. Benoit then started wrestling Booker T in some friendly competitions, but it was all a ploy, as Booker and his wife, Sharmell, cheated Benoit out of the US title on an episode of Smackdown!.
Chris Benoit appeared on RAW on November 14, 2005 for Guerrero's tribute show hosted by both RAW and SmackDown! superstars. Benoit was devastated at the loss of his best friend and was very emotional during a series of video testimonials, where he said that he loved Eddie and will never forget him, eventually breaking down on camera. The same week on SmackDown! (taped on the same night as RAW), Benoit defeated Triple H in a tribute match to his fallen friend. Following the contest, Benoit, Helmsley, and Dean Malenko all assembled in the ring and pointed to the sky in salute of Guerrero.
After controversy surrounding a US title defense against Booker T, Theodore Long set up a "Best of Seven" series between the two. Booker T won three times in a row, due largely to his wife's interference, and Chris Benoit faced elimination in the series. Benoit won the fourth match to stay alive, but Booker T then suffered a legitimate groin injury. Randy Orton was chosen as a stand-in, and Benoit defeated Orton twice by disqualification. However, in the 7th and final match, Orton defeated Benoit with the help of Booker T, Sharmell, and Orlando Jordan, and Booker T captured the US title. Benoit feuded with a Orton for a short time. The feud between Benoit and Booker stayed alive, and Benoit ended up eliminating Booker at the 2006 Royal Rumble. Benoit was given one last chance at the US title at No Way Out 2006. He won the title by making Booker submit to the Crippler Crossface, ending the feud.
The next week on Smackdown!, Benoit (kayfabe) broke JBLs hand (JBL actually needed surgery to remove a cyst). Benoit then faced JBL at WrestleMania 22 for the U.S. title, only to lose the match and the title when JBL reversed a Crippler Crossface into a cradle, illegally using the ropes for leverage. Benoit used his rematch clause a week later in a steel cage match on SmackDown!, but JBL again won.
Benoit entered the 2006 King Of The Ring tournament, only to be defeated by Finlay in the opening round. At Judgment Day 2006 Benoit gained some revenge by defeating Finlay with the Crippler Crossface in a grudge match. On the following edition of SmackDown!, Mark Henry attacked Benoit during a match, giving him back and rib injuries. Benoit then announced a sabbatical to heal nagging shoulder injuries. On October 8, Benoit made his return at No Mercy, defeating Sir William Regal by submission in a surprise match. Later that week, he won his third United States Championship from Mr. Kennedy also by submission.
Benoit then engaged in a feud with Chavo and Vickie Guerrero. He wanted answers from the Guerreros for their rash behaviour towards Rey Mysterio, but was avoided by the two and was eventually assaulted. Benoit retained his United States Championship at Survivor Series 2006 and Armageddon 2006, both times defeating Chavo Guerrero.
After defeating Guerrero, Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) claimed that he was the best man to hold the US title, so he challenged Benoit for the title at WrestleMania 23, where Benoit retained. Their rivalry continued with similar results again at Backlash. At Judgment Day, however, MVP gained the upperhand and the title in a two-out-of-three falls match.
On the June 11 edition of RAW, Benoit was drafted from SmackDown! to ECW as part of the 2007 WWE Draft, after losing a match to Bobby Lashley. Benoit won his ECW debut match teaming up with CM Punk and defeating Elijah Burke and Marcus Cor Von by disqualfication. With Lashley's draft to RAW, the ECW World Championship was vacated.
On June 19, 2007, Benoit wrestled his last (WWE) match defeating Elijah Burke to be a contender for the vacated Championship and was going to face fellow contender CM Punk at Vengeance. However, Chris Benoit was absent due to a family emergency. His replacement, Johnny Nitro went on to become ECW World Champion.
Christopher Michael Benoit (May 21, 1967 - June 25, 2007) was a Canadian professional wrestler who performed in Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and World Wrestling Entertainment.
On June 25, 2007, Benoit was found dead in his home, along with his wife, Nancy and his son, Daniel.
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