Chris Benoit: A tribute
I cannot believe how a large part of my childhood has been spent in watching the glamorous world of professional wrestling. Awed by the characters and their flashy gimmicks, it was an interesting time when all we used to do in our school vans was discuss about how The Undertaker got buried 20 times, but he still rose from the ashes, or how The Rock would get mauled by Stone Cold Steve Austin. As the adage goes, ‘They were the best of times, they were the worst of times’. If I could rewind time, I’d do it all over again. Then as I got older, I started getting into the technical side of it. I remember all the days when I used to watch Puroresu, a Japanese wrestling style, just to become aware of all the technicalities. I was amazed by the Luchadores equally, and thus, I became a pure wrestling fan. The transition is simple and subtle, yet very different for different people.
Now, that was the time when WWE got interesting. I was intrigued with the whole Brock Lesnar saga. But two particular individuals got my attention more than Lesnar or Taker, and those were these two ‘smaller’ guys, who absolutely tore the house down when they got into the ring. I still remember the 2003 Royal Rumble, when Benoit took on Kurt Angle. After a phenomenal match, I remember Angle walking out, but people weren’t paying attention to him. Instead, a broken down Benoit got up slowly, and got a standing ovation. I felt something I hadn’t before, a sense of great respect for the man who gave it all in the ring. And from then, I became the biggest Benoit fan. The other ‘small’ guy I mentioned was his best friend, Eddie Guerrero. This was the point when Eddie was a fan favourite, with his ‘Lie, Cheat and Steal’ motto echoing everywhere. With all these great characters, wrestling was fun again. Then the best year of wrestling dawned up on us. I remember watching the 2004 Royal Rumble exactly one year after I became a Benoit mark. And here he was, the first entrant. I was rooting for him the entire time. And the impossible happened. Chris Benoit eliminated the Big Show, and the arena erupted. The way J.R ended the Rumble was a truly magical, fairy tale moment.
I’ve said time and again that you need to pay your dues and earn the respect to be called ‘the best’. Here was a guy who was a living, breathing example of that. Whether it be in stampede wrestling, or in Japan, or in ECW or WcW, Benoit earned the respect of the fans. He was always seen as the technical genius who could go out every day and put on the match of the night. The sacrifices he made, all that he gave to the wrestling business made every wrestling fan respect him more than anyone else. And at the same time, Smackdown! saw a change. Lesnar lost the WWE title to Eddie Guerrero and was on his way out of the WWE. So this set up one of the best periods of the WWE for a pure wrestling fan, only followed by CM Punk and Daniel Bryan recently; two small guys who were the best in the business, who won ‘the big one’ after decade of perfecting their skills and travelling all around the World.
I remember the night of Wrestlemania 20. I was excited about Taker’s return and Eddie’s match along with, of course, the main event. And the way the night ended, with J.R screaming at the top of his lungs, almost losing his voice, and the two best friends in the ring shedding tears of joy; it was a fairy tale come true. After two decades of travelling all over the world, the two amigos finally realized their dream to reach the pinnacle of the pro wrestling business. Everything was perfect, the wrestling world rejoiced.
This is what made everything unbearable once it crumbled down. Starting the later part of 2005, everything turned sour. The untimely demise of Eddie left everyone in shock, including his best friend Chris Benoit. But no one would have expected what would happen two years later- the most tragic moment in the history of pro wrestling. I remember waking up one morning, and being a wrestling critic, I was a part of a geeky online wrestling community, which had Benoit’s tribute picture put up. I didn’t quite understand what had happened, and when I read about it, nothing made sense. It felt so unreal; I remember watching RAW that night, with Benoit taking on Lashley. To this day, I still call myself the biggest Benoit fan. A fan of the tremendous worker in the ring, the guy everyone knew, loved, and respected. He left a huge void in the wrestling world, as you can never hear Tazz shouting ‘Wolverines can fly, Cole!’ again. One of the true tragedies of the pro wrestling.