Sunday, July 1, 2007

Performer Analysis: Chris Benoit

(Editor’s Note: This retrospective was written long before Benoit’s nightmarish final days.)

The Crippler, student of the famous Hart Family Dungeon, and 20 year veteran. I look forward to his comeback, therefore thought I would dip into his career.

1) Innovation- 7/10-
Benoit grew up watching wrestling and his favorite wrestler was Dynamite Kid, Tom Wellington. Kid was known for his high impact style of wrestling and taking risks that no man should take inside a wrestling ring. Benoit carried that torch into his wrestling career and adopted the same ring style, but has turned it into a twenty year career full of high water marks and classic matches. Dynamite Kid had probably a ten year career with very little American exposure. After Benoit trained in Canada and worked the Stampede promotion, he traveled to Japan, the country where his hero made his name. He couldn’t speak the language, but his intensity told them everything they wanted to know about him. Benoit has made this stiff style so popularized in the States, that now, instead of Dynamite Kid, young up and coming wrestlers model their ring work after Benoit.

2) Conditioning- 7/10-
Benoit learned has always been in top physical condition. In his younger years, he was very lean, but well defined. Since his run in America, he has gained a ton of muscle but his stamina is every bit as good as it ever was. Despite his amazing conditioning, we all now know of Benoit's atrocious behavior and being so steriod addled during much of his US career certainly detracts from his score in this category. From working thirty minute matches regularly in Japan, to working twice or three times a night on WWF PPV’s to going one hour with HHH on RAW or from start to finish in the Royal Rumble, his conditioning is one of the tops in wrestling.

3) Skill- 10/10-
Coming from the Hart Dungeon, wrestling, the root of the sport was priority number one. He learned the basic foundations of the game there and from then on, became a sponge for wrestling and took things from everywhere he went. From Canada to Japan to Mexico to Europe to the US, he has learned almost every style available in the world. The unique thing about Benoit is that as stiff as he works, he sells just as equally stiff. He takes punches that look like he was shot by a cannon. When he gets thrown into a turnbuckle, he puts his face directly into it. Benoit has intensity that may not be matched in wrestling and his sells are great.

4) Psychology- 10/10-
The basic art of wrestling is a fight, a physical struggle where the only thing you’re trying to do is pin a man’s shoulders to the mat for a three count. Benoit shows his anger and fervor and you can tell, he is trying to win, if not that, then at least trying to beat his opponents into submission. He sells body parts great, and knows how to work one with the best of them. He has never forgot anything he has learned in the business and uses his knowledge of the sport to put on the best performances possible.

5) Interviews- 5/10-
Every knight has a chink in his armor and every dragon has a loose scale; promos are Benoit’s. He’s not particularly bad at them, he’s just not that good. He has rarely come up with something very creative or entertaining to say, but when he’s allowed to speak from his heart, he really comes off well. Anytime he’s cut a promo talking about his family, or winning the world title, or going after an opponent he really wants to hurt, he has passion. Benoit doesn’t need goofy, gimmicky interviews or skits to put him over( ala Vince Russo), he needs to do his talking in the ring. But, in this day and age, where everybody has to do mic work, he has tried to learn this part of his craft.

6) Character- 8/10-
Benoit plays almost the same role; an intense brutal individual. When he’s a face, everyone enjoys what he can do to potential heels. When he’s a heel, he just turns up the brutality rating and the fans respond accordingly. He has played both roles, mostly face, and has done them effectively on both fronts.

7) Fans- 8/10-
Casual fans like to watch Benoit for his very physical style in the ring. Pure fans like to watch Benoit for his very physical style in the ring; the difference is pure fans root for the pure wrestler. In that regard, I don’t think you can find a pure fan that doesn’t like Chris Benoit. Many times, that love and admiration has spilled over into WWE, where he has received several standing ovations after matches for great performances.

8) Basics- 10/10-
As I stated earlier, Benoit was trained in the famous Hart Dungeon, where he was presumably stretched by various members of the family. Stu Hart was a submission legend, a hooker who was famous for torturing young hopefuls wanting a shot in the wrestling business. Benoit’s wrestling skills were also honed in the dojo’s of New Japan where he underwent one of the hardest training camps in the world. At the end of it all, we had a professional wrestler who could hold his own with a gold medalist in freestyle wrestling. Benoit’s chops are among the most feared in the business, and his strikes and transitioins are flawless. He is a wrestling machine.

9) Match/ Opponent- 10/10-
When I was a youngster, my cousin and I used to imagine our respective favorites lock it up in the ring: Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels. Well, that match has happened and it was fantastic. And that’s just a match that happened on RAW and no where else. Benoit has turned his short height and smaller stature into a legendary career. He feuded with Jushin Liger in Japan, a friendly rivalry that lasted for many years. In WCW, he had a feud with Kevin Sullivan that was bending the lines between private and professional lives, as Benoit was marrying Sullivan’s ex-wife. But, Sullivan lost a retirement match to Benoit; shows you the respect he earned in his career. His best of seven series with Booker T is still talked about today as the greatest of it’s conception. Moving to WWF, he engaged in brutal and main event feuds with The Rock, Chris Jericho and HHH, while going move for move, hold for hold with arguably the most skilled grappler of our generation, Kurt Angle. They had submission matches, Iron Man matches, Ladder Matches, and Cage Matches in one of WWE’s finest feuds of the last twenty years mainly because it was built on competition.

10) Gutcheck- 10/10-
Benoit is the kind of guy who would break his arm and continue the match. He has suffered numerous injuries during matches and continued: broken necks, ripped flesh, pulled muscles. It was all a necessary evil in gaining the magnificent career he wanted for himself. Benoit may be the last in a generation of wrestlers who are still fans and have the respect he has for the business. He has overcome his size, people telling him he’s too ugly( missing front teeth), can’t speak, can’t entertain and just doesn’t have the marketability to become a superstar in wrestling. Well, he’s either silenced those critics or made them tap out inside the four posts of the wrestling ring.
Final Score: 85
Ranking: Legend
PO: Thumbs Up

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