As previously noted here on Wrestling Inc., New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Shelton Benjamin was Chris Jericho's guest on Talk Is Jericho recently. Benjamin talked about working a one-shot dark match for WWE in 2011, his OVW class, his WWE debut, and who would win in a shoot fight between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle.
According to Benjamin, the last time he worked for WWE was in 2011, as he worked a dark match in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Initially, Benjamin only went to the event to visit his friend, the Big Show.
"Honestly, me and Big Show are really good friends and he basically kept hounding me like, 'come on! Come down [and] say hello to your boy,'" Benjamin claimed. "I was just about to leave and someone said, 'hey Shelton, Johnny Ace [former WWE Senior Vice President of Talent Operations, John Laurinaitis] is looking for you.' I was like, 'okay,' and [Laurinaitis] was like, 'hey, do you feel like doing the dark match?'. I'm like, 'sure, but I've got to go home and get my stuff'".
Benjamin agreed to work the surprise dark match against Brian Myers, Curt Hawkins in WWE, because Laurinaitis said that there was some interest in bringing Benjamin back to the company at the time. Benjamin stated that he had to drive home to North Houston during rush hour to get his wrestling gear and returned to the arena just as his entrance music hit.
Benjamin believes his OVW class, which included Batista, Randy Orton, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar, was the best class of all time.
"I consider our class to be the greatest class, period." Benjamin continued, "we had just a stacked class and I think what sets our class apart from most classes today [was that] no one had been called up [to WWE]. I think Bull Buchanan was the first guy that got called up while I was there. And because no one had been called up, our thinking was, we've all got to be good because, at the time, there was FCW, there was Deep South [Wrestling], and us, so we wanted the WWE, if anytime they pulled out of our pool of talent, we wanted them to be impressed, so they'd keep coming back to this well. So we all became genuine friends. I mean, we got in there, we pretty much came there early all the time. After class was over, everyone stayed just to get in reps with each other."
Although Benjamin indicated that none of them knew just how good they were at the time, he knew that Cena and Lesnar were standout talents.
"[Cena] was one guy that we all knew, 'okay, when he gets called up, he's going to be something special' and once he got called up, they started with the rap [gimmick] and I was like, 'still, people, they don't know what they have. Wait till we get away from this whole rap thing and he really starts to open up' and we had no idea we were looking at basically our generation's [Hulk] Hogan. Brock, obviously, just the way he looked, we figured he was going to be a star."
Benjamin met Lesnar at an amateur wrestling tournament in 1997 and Lesnar was brought in to replace Benjamin on the wrestling squad after Benjamin left the University of Minnesota. Benjamin went on to act as one of Lesnar's wrestling coaches.
"I like to say 'coaching,' but I coached him for about two or three months. After that, I was just straight wrestling him because he was such a sponge. Brock's a modern day gladiator. He likes hard work. He likes early [mornings]. He's a farm boy. He loves working hard and he was so strong even then, like, I was an All-American wrestler and I'm thinking, 'okay, he's big. I've wrestled guys like that before.' The first time I shot him, Brock, all he did was thrust his hips and I went flying backwards."
Benjamin admitted to Jericho that debuting with Team Angle was best time of his life.
"Honestly, that was the time of my life. I couldn't wait to get to work during that time and I tell everyone 'while they brought Brock in as the monster who was destroying everybody, me and Charlie [Haas] were the first people to make the monster sell.'" Benjamin continued, "that was an exciting time. We were riding in a big crew. We'd get two [Chevrolet] Suburbans and it would be me, Charlie, Nidia, Rey Mysterio, Rikishi, Chuck Palumbo, Dawn Marie, and, I mean, we caravanned everywhere! So for me, again, that was the best, most fun time. Everything was new."
Given his longstanding relationship with Lesnar, having worked closely with Angle, and having achieved success as an amateur wrestler in his own right, Benjamin is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the question of who would win in a shoot fight between Lesnar and Angle. In Benjamin's opinion, Angle would win easily.
"Kurt [would win] hands down. Hands down. When I had watched them go, because they've gone a few times at house shows, I'm very familiar with Brock [and] I've never, ever, ever seen anyone move Brock the way Kurt did. There's a huge difference between [being an] Olympic champion and [a] collegiate champion. I mean, it's almost the difference between a collegiate champion and a high school champion."
To check out this episode of Talk Is Jericho, click here.
Source: Talk Is Jericho