The SmarK DVD rant for Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story
– I of course have been DYING to get my hands on this DVD (and waiting years for one like it to boot), so believe me, the delay in reviewing it had nothing to do with my desire to see it. Just a lack of funds.
– So we start off in Edmonton, as Benoit and friends talk about his life and stuff. We get some clips of Dynamite Kid, thus explaining his fascination with wrestling. He even shaved his head to emulate DK, because he’s that awesome.
– Onto weightlifting and football in high school, which naturally led to getting involved with wrestling, and the boys from Stampede slowly coaxing Benoit into the ring. Finally, he got to meet Dynamite, and he was on his way.
– He got sucked into the Hart Family zone and trained by Stu, which provides an emotional moment for him.
– First match was a meaningless tag with Rick Patterson against Mike Hammer and Carl Moffat, who later became Jason the Terrible.
– He talks about the evolution of the diving headbutt, as a tribute to DK, and knocking himself silly a few times in the early years. Traveling was cool to him back then (“I’m going to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, YES!”) and he moved up so fast that he was already British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight champion by the time he got back to Edmonton again.
– Next up, Bad News Allen brings him to New Japan, which has Chris marking out. His mother didn’t take it so well, since he’d be away for 6 months at a time. Chris loved the wrestling experience, but he hated Japan and being the low guy on the totem again. But he went back, sucked it up, and created the Pegasus Kid persona to make the best of it. We get a clip of him winning the IWGP title from Jushin Liger. That’s pretty surreal for the WWE DVD.
– Eddie talks about wrestling Benoit for the first time in 1994″¦and getting knocked out by him. Whoops. Eddie and Dean talk about the friendship they formed at the time. Clips of Benoit beating Eddie in the semis and then Great Sasuke in the finals, in a match that was laid out as a tribute to DK v. Tiger Mask.
– Next up, ECW, and some clips of matches with Scorpio. And then the infamous match against Sabu where he broke his neck and earned the name Crippler. Benoit was pretty messed up because of it, but hey, he got a great nickname from it! Well, at least that was Paul E’s way of looking at things.
– We get some clips of Benoit’s promos from that point, which really established his badass image. Benoit and Malenko won the ECW tag titles shortly after, which was his first major title. Unfortunately, he had no work visa, and Paul, Mr. Reliability, wouldn’t come through with one for him, so he stopped coming to Philly.
– He talks about his tryout matches in the WWF (against Adam Bomb, Bob Holly and Owen Hart) and how Vince wouldn’t let him go to Japan, so he went to WCW instead. Soon enough, they started screwing him over too, and pretty soon they wouldn’t let him go back to Japan either.
– So in 1995, he joins the Four Horsemen, and that allows everyone to bitch about WCW’s treatment of them again. You’d think that WWE would pick up on that vibe and do something with the name again.
– And then, one of the great surreal wrestling storylines ever, as Benoit gets into a feud with Kevin Sullivan, steals his wife in real life and in the storyline, and gets drawn into a long conflict with him that would lead to his departure from the company in 2000. The explanation of the feud was a little vague here, however, as he doesn’t want his children finding out about the Nancy deal on a DVD. That’s pretty classy.
– Onto happier things, with the Best of 7 series against Booker. He was apprehensive about finding ways to keep it new each time, but they pulled it off, and made Booker into a singles superstar.
– We skip a couple of years, bringing us to 1999 and Owen Hart’s death. Bret and Benoit have the tribute match, which is awesome and sadly unavailable in full unedited form as of yet, but as Chris notes, it wasn’t intended as a great match, but as something else. Well said.
– Last stop in WCW, as Benoit wrestles Sid for the title at Souled Out in 2000, which was their last gasp at getting him to stay. It was a culmination of all the things he hated about the business and WCW in particular, but he wasn’t happy and wanted to leave. So he did.
– So the Radicalz show up on RAW a couple of months later, and Benoit makes his Wrestlemania debut with 2000, winning the IC title. I still like that match.
– His first main event feud was against Rock, at the mildly infamous Fully Loaded PPV where Benoit, Jericho and Angle were all screwed over by politics (after a speech by Benoit in the previous segment about how politics weren’t as important in the WWE). The power of the video packages shows itself again, as the buildup for the Rock-Benoit match is summed up nicely with a recycled video from 2000. He talks about the great chemistry with Rock.
– Onto Wrestlemania X-7, and the mat-wrestling classic against Angle. It was great, nuff said. This leads into the cage match where he does the diving headbutt off the cage and Angle does the moonsault, and both are promptly forgotten about by the fans. Sadly, he messed up his neck and it led to the surgery that put him on the shelf for a year. Of course, he got to miss the InVasion, so there’s an upside if nothing else.
– In 2002, he’s drafted onto Smackdown with the creation of the brand split, but ironically makes his return on RAW in Edmonton. He does debut on Smackdown, however, and this leads to a title match against Angle at Royal Rumble 2003. And it also ruled, holding up through the entire year as Match of the Year with pretty much everyone.
– We skip the entire year of 2003 (since he didn’t do anything of note anyway) and head to Royal Rumble 2004, where Chris gets stuck with #1 and then wins it.
– On RAW the next night, he jumps to RAW and wins the title from HHH at Wrestlemania XX, which was pretty much my greatest moment as a fan.
– His friends and family talk about him overcoming the odds and naysayers and reaching his goal in life.
– Finger Eleven’s “One Thing” video package closes things out.
An absolutely awesome main feature, much better than the usual fluff that leads up the extras. And speaking of the extras”¦
– IWGP Junior heavyweight title: Jushin Liger v. Pegasus Kid. I’m using the Cole & Tazz commentary here, and I’ll do the Benoit/Malenko commentary on the other Japan match. This from 1990, when Benoit was still very much an underground type of sensation. Pegasus wins a battle of takedowns, but Liger reverses him out of the ring. Back in, Liger flips out of a wristlock and Pegasus does his own into a fireman’s carry. Test of strength allows them to take it to the mat and Liger ties him up with a bow and arrow. Into a camel clutch and a cross-armbreaker, but Pegasus reverses into a backbreaker and grabs a headscissors. Liger pulls him into the Rita Romero Special and bridges him down for two. He wraps up Pegasus and rolls him over for one, but Kid breaks loose and goes to work on the leg, then presses him over the top rope to the floor. Whoa. They brawl outside and Liger gets whipped into the railing as a result. Liger comes back with a pair of dropkicks and a try for a crucifix, but Pegasus falls back with a fallaway slam and goes back to the headscissors. Next up, he goes to a half-crab as Cole and Tazz talk about the significance of Liger’s mask (short version: They don’t know) and Benoit transitions into a bridged Indian death lock. He goes back to the headscissors and locks up the arm so that Liger can’t break, but he opts to release and go up, which allows Liger to slam him off. Liger misses an enzuigiri and Benoit does some quick flipping into a press slam, but he whiffs on a charge and hits the floor. Liger follows with a crazy somersault plancha, killing both guys. HANGTIME, baby! Kid fights back to the apron and springs in with a sunset flip for two. Liger reverses for two. Kid reverses for two. Pegasus tries a slam, but Liger rolls him up for two. They fight for a german, which Kid wins for two. They head up to the top and Benoit gets a superplex, which sets up the diving headbutt. It misses, as it usually does, and Liger hits him with the Koppo Kick for two. Powerbomb gets two. Liger goes up with a swanton bomb for two. That looked pretty painful. Another powerbomb is reversed by Pegasus for two. Liger escapes a tilt-a-whirl, so Pegasus clotheslines him to set up a tombstone piledriver, and finishes with a flying legdrop at 15:00 to win the IWGP title. Felt like it lacked a big finishing sequence, but it was a different time. ****1/4
– Chris Benoit v. 2 Cold Scorpio. This is from Superbrawl III in 1993, and Jesse Ventura’s commentary has been edited out for legal reasons. They fight over a lockup to start and Benoit elbows him down, then hits him with a snap suplex and starts throwing chops. Scorp hits him with a cross body and a pair of high kicks that put Benoit on the floor, however. He takes a breather and comes back in to work the arm, and they do a wristlock reversal sequence. Scorpio flips out of it and takes him down, working a hammerlock. Benoit escapes and they do another reversal sequence, ending with Scorpio armdragging him out of the ring. Back in for a test of strength, as Benoit does the bridge spot, as does Scorpio, and they do a lucha-esque kip-up-and-flip-down sequence that leads to Scorpio dropkicking him into an armbar. That was sweet. Scorp legdrops the arm and bars it, and they do another reversal sequence, but Benoit misses a legdrop and gets superkicked for his troubles. Back to the armdrag on Scorpio’s part, as he takes Benoit back to the mat with an armbar. They counter each other and this time Benoit ducks a spinkick and flattens him. Clothesline follows and Chris works a backbreaker as a submission hold, then takes him over and chinlocks him. He suplexes him onto the top rope and stomps away, and gets two. Back to the chinlock, but Scorpio escapes, so Benoit catches him with a spinebuster, into a Liontamer (Walls of Jericho). Back to the chinlock. They head up and Benoit brings him down with a backdrop superplex, but he lands wrong and both are out. Benoit gets two, however. Russian legsweep gets two. Scorpio counters a slam attempt for two. Benoit comes back with a powerbomb for two. Another one is countered into a rollup by Scorpio, but he messes up and they roll into the ropes instead. Benoit misses a charge and Scorpio gets an enzuigiri and a clothesline, after missing a pair of spinkicks. Benoit backs off and Scorpio chases him into the corner, then follows with a spinning corner splash. He goes up with a twisting splash for two. Benoit counters a victory roll by dropping him on his face, and goes up with a flying legdrop for two. Scorp with a small package for two, and a rollup for the pin at 18:18, which is 19:59 in bizarre WCW-time world. I found this a bit slow, but with some nice near-falls. ***
– Super J Cup semi-finals: Black Tiger v. Chris Benoit. Black Tiger was Eddie Guerrero’s persona in Japan. I’m going with the Grisham/Benoit/Malenko commentary this time around. They trade wristlocks and Benoit takes Tiger down and goes for the leg, but Tiger reverses. He uses the face rake to escape and slingshots in to set up a backdrop suplex for two. He goes to a headscissors, but Benoit escapes and comes back with an inverted suplex. They reverse into a Benoit clothesline as Grisham’s comments get more asinine, and Benoit backdrops Tiger. Running knee and german suplex get two. Powerbomb gets two. Snap suplex gets two. He takes Tiger down with a headscissors, but Tiger reverses to a rollup for two. Rana and german suplex get two for Black Tiger. He goes to a rear chinlock, into a blockbuster slam. To the top, but he whiffs on a missile dropkick and Benoit takes advantage with a backdrop suplex for two. Benoit holds him down with a knucklelock, but Tiger rolls out and springs into a rana for two. Another rana, this time from the top, gets two. Brainbuster and Tiger goes up for a DDT, but Benoit tosses him off and puts him on top, which Tiger blocks. He comes off with a high cross, but Benoit catches him with an armdrag and gets the pin at 10:20. Felt a bit sterile, actually. ***
– Super J Cup Finals: Great Sasuke v. Chris Benoit. Back to Cole and Tazz on commentary, as Tazz admits to being biased against Sasuke. Cole is actually pretty funny, making fun of the ring announcer. They reverse off a wristlock to start as Cole gets ANOTHER funny dig in, this one on Malenko. What’s this world coming to? Benoit goes for the leg, but Sasuke kicks him off and it’s a stalemate. Benoit grabs an armbar and starts throwing chops in the corner, but Sasuke does the running flip out of the corner and kicks him down and out. He fakes a highspot and Benoit backs off. Back in, Benoit takes him down with a headscissors, but Sasuke reverses to a surfboard and a bow-and-arrow. Benoit fights up, so Sasuke armdrags him down and it’s another stalemate. Criss-cross and Benoit kills him with a clothesline, and a perfect german suplex for two. Sasuke comes back with a leg lariat and a legdrop for two. He keylocks the arm and works for a cross-armbreaker, but Benoit powers up. Sasuke armdrags him down, so Benoit catches him with another clothesline and then suplexes him on the top rope. Sasuke won’t go down, so Benoit springboards with an elbow that takes him down to the floor in a nice bump. Back in, Benoit gets the dragon suplex for two. I miss that move. Benoit goes up and gets the diving headbutt for two. Powerbomb gets two. He gets the Sharpshooter, but releases quickly and opts for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker instead, for two. Benoit whiffs on a dropkick, but escapes a backbreaker, only to get clotheslined by Sasuke. Benoit recovers with another vicious german suplex, however, and gets two. Another dragon suplex is countered by Sasuke, but Benoit falls on top for two. Sasuke comes out of the corner with a high cross and a spinkick, and Benoit bails, so Sasuke follows with the SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP~! Back in, Sasuke hits him with another spinkick and another german suplex, for two. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. To the top again, but he puts the miss in missile dropkick and it’s comeback time for Benoit. Sasuke bails to the apron, but Benoit tries to suplex him, so he reverses and they both hit the floor on a crazy bump. A dropkick puts Benoit back on the floor, and Sasuke follows him out with a missile dropkick, to the FLOOR. Back in, Sasuke kicks him in the head and follows with a corkscrew moonsault for two. Sasuke pushes his luck and goes up again, so Benoit follows and knocks him down. A top rope gut wrench finishes at 18:45, as Benoit wins the 94 Super J Cup. A flawless classic that still gets the heart pumping today, 10 years later. *****
– Chris Benoit v. Sabu. OK, off to ECW now, (and there’s an Easter Egg to be found if you hit the left arrow while selecting this match), with November 2 Remember 94 and Sabu’s broken neck. Benoit gets a quick running knee and suplexes him on the top, then hits him with the fatal throw where Sabu lands on his head. Sick stuff.
– Chris Benoit v. Al Snow. This one had quite the reputation at the time, and helped to make Benoit’s name. They fight over a wristlock to start, and Benoit takes him down. They do the test of strength and Snow bridges, and then Benoit does as well. Benoit takes him down for two, and they do the pinfall reversals until Benoit legwhips him down. They slug it out, won by Benoit, but Snow gets a superkick and Benoit backs off. They trade hammerlocks and Benoit throws some NASTY chops in the corner and Snow does a Flair Flip, but Benoit clotheslines him off the apron. Snow comes flying back in with a springboard dropkick, however, and it’s ON. High kicks and a back kick put Benoit on the floor, and he regroups out there. Back in, Benoit suplexes him on the top rope, but Snow goes up and whiffs on a missile dropkick. Benoit hits him with a german suplex for two. Clothesline and Benoit slams him, then hits him with a running elbow. He whips Snow into the corner, with authority as they say, and a backdrop suplex gets two. Snow counters a slam attempt for two, but Benoit stomps him down again. Benoit goes up with the diving headbutt, but only gets two. Powerbomb gets two. They slug it out and Benoit snaps off a suplex, and stalls for a bit. Been a lot of thing going on here. German suplex gets two. He goes for a dragon suplex, but Snow counters to a wheelbarrow suplex and makes the comeback with a release german suplex. Clothesline and Snow stomps away in the corner and chokes him down, then follows with a backdrop and superkick for two. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Benoit comes back with his own release german, but Benoit kills him dead with the dragon suplex at 14:36. I don’t think this holds up very well, with too much stalling and dead spots because of what I think was an injury to Snow partway through the match. ***1/2