In response to the tragic circumstances surrounding the recent death of Chris Benoit, his wife and son, this week we are rewinding to commemorate the incredible career of the Canadian Crippler – a man who was an incredible ring technician to watch, an inspiration to all those he worked with and one of the greatest wrestlers to grace the modern day ring. The match that we are rewinding back to this week was a part of WWE Armageddon 2002, where Benoit took on another fallen professional wrestling legend, and one of Benoit's greatest friends… Eddie Guerrero.
The match was opened with a comment by Tazz that said it all, "this one here is going to be one for the ages, in my opinion these are two of the best ever in between those ropes". After some very low-key ring entrances by both Benoit and Guerrero, they left the showboating and entertaining to be done in the squared circle as the two would engage in a series of very traditional hold and counter hold wrestling, with the odd chop, eye gouge and flying back drop warming both superstars into the match. There was nothing phenomenal about the moves that were being executed, but rather the intensity that the two were bringing to the match. They were two wrestling traditionalists who weren't out to be fancy, but out to wrestle hard and fair in the true nature of the 'sport'.
After Guerrero launched at the Crippler with some high risk offence, he followed it up by some heavy submission work on the legs of Benoit, putting Benoit out of action for most of the match until a resurgent comeback by the Rabid Wolverine saw Latino Heat bear the brunt of a tirade of German Suplexes before giving the Canadian a taste of his own medicine by hitting him with some German Suplexes of his own leaving Benoit motionless in the ring, only to get hit with Guerrero's trademark Frog Splash. It wouldn't be enough to keep the Wolverine out of the match as Benoit kicked out after a two-count only to be tackled outside of the ring by a frustrated Eddie Guerrero. After realising that the Frog Splash wasn't going to put Benoit away, Eddie called in some help from his nephew and fellow tag team champion Chavo who would knock the lights back out of a recovering Crippler by smashing him with his tag team title belt.
However, Guerrero's attempt to lie, cheat and steal his way to another victory would not be so easy against his long-time ally and wrestling partner as Benoit would kick out of yet another pinfall attempt, prompting Eddie to lock the Wolverine into his 'Lasso from El Paso' submission hold. Yet again Chris Benoit would fight his way out of trouble, breaking the hold and going at Latino Heat with a horde of chops and a Powerbomb, setting up the Mexican born wrestler for the Crippler's hard hitting flying headbutt from the top rope. After fighting off both members of Los Guerrero's on his way to the top turnbuckle, Benoit hit the flying headbutt, only to find himself moments later once again in the Lasso from El Paso. In a move of pure intensity and technical genious, Benoit countered the Lasso into his signature Crippler Crossface. As Guerrero scrambled towards the ropes, Benoit quickly flipped the two of them back away from the ropes, still having Eddie firmly locked in his submission finisher. With nowhere to go and Benoit enforcing a relentless grip on the devastating hold, Latino heat could do nothing but tap out to the Canadian Crippler.
The Outlaw's Opinion
The deaths of both these gentlemen is not only heartbreaking because families have lost loved ones, friends have lost comrades and wrestling fans have lost heroes, entertainers and mentors but because the passing of these two wrestling legends exemplifies the end of an era in professional wrestling. Both Benoit and Guerrero were part of a now dying legacy that encapsulated superstars such as Bret and Owen Hart, Chris Jericho, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Dean Malenko, Mick Foley, Sean Waltman, The Undertaker and Sting – a legacy of wrestling traditionalists exercising their craft in the modern era. When Benoit and Guerrero were fighting to be counted in the professional wrestling business their concern was not whether they were deemed 'marketable' or if their 'image' was ok, it was about raw talent, raw passion and raw intensity when they stepped through the ropes. They busted their behinds getting to the elite level in the business and staying there… they were wrestlers, professionals, experts. They didn't reduce themselves to eating worms or acting like retards to make it in the business, they just relied on how damn good they were between bell rings.
Instead of being like John Cena and using in-ring intensity as a gimmick, maybe some of the modern day superstars should take a page out of the Benoit book and start really making an impact INSIDE the ring as well as entertaining outside of it (yes, I'm looking straight at you MVP). The new punk kids holding gold in this business should be forced to work for it, bleed for it, sweat for it and sacrifice for it like these legends have and then they might deserve the same respect I believe that Benoit and Guerrero (among others of their kind), as wrestlers, are entitled.
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