Retro column from 2004: Reaction to Chris Benoit’s Royal Rumble victory

The following column was published by Jim Forzese on in January of 2004…

Toothless Progression

Every Internet wrestling fan alike is overjoyed as their champion has finally done the impossible; he has convinced WWE to give him a push. This should keep the fire burning on a long and overdone debate as to whom is the better of drawing champion the work rate guru or the sports-entertainer. Benoit will be going on to the “big dance” WrestleMania XX at MSG in NYC and go for the World heavyweight championship. I think that WWE should reward Benoit for all that he has given to the world of pro wrestling just as they did with Mick Foley. My doubts will be in how Benoit is received by the wrestling community as champion (under whelming response on Raw) because of his lack of charisma and promo ability. Two vitals in the new age of professional wrestling champion. To say that Foley’s promo on Raw gave me goose bumps is an understatement.

Benoit can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the ring and put on a five star performance. Benoit could make a mop wrestle for an hour and pull out four stars but the job of champion is far greater than that. Benoit needs to carry the company on his shoulders and be entertaining in the process out side of the squared circle. Benoit standing next to Kane, Goldberg, Batista, and HHH will make his size obvious but that should not be a problem. The problem lies with the ability to match promos with the likes of HHH, Rock, Austin, and even Orton or Flair.Benoit will not fair well with any of those wrestlers so maybe Benoit should get himself a valet now that he is the “man”. Something to show that WWE is very serious about making Benoit well rounded. WWE needs mainstream attention with their champions and Benoit won’t be able to handle the talk circuit as he is currently.

I am somewhat disappointed in the Royal Rumble match however and it has nothing to do with the winner. I am glad that Benoit won but I am disappointed in his win as well. Let me explain, I respect Benoit and all his talent and I admire what he has done for the business. I don’t care about work rate but I love a great wrestling match and Benoit seems to give them in abundance. I was fortunate enough to see his Royal Rumble match against Angle live last year so I know what Benoit can do to the live audience when he is on top of his game. My disappointment is two fold, first like Vince said I pretty much knew through the Internet that Benoit was going to win. Even though I “marked out” for it when it happened, it still felt a little anti-climactic to me when it happened. I love the element of surprise so I never read spoilers ever!

Secondly there were so many different paths that could have been taken instead of this one, which would have swerved even the ‘insiders’ who knew for sure that Benoit was going to win. WWE could have had Benoit lose the Rumble by being the last man eliminated and continued his quest to win the ‘big one’. All night the tag-line was that Benoit could not win the big event and by now doing it, Benoit almost appears to be a shoe in to win the title at WM XX.If Benoit lost it would have made fans and announcers alike question his ability to win the big one so that when he did, It would be a gala event for Benoit, (not that it still won’t be). The Rumble then could have produced a different winner that would have helped propel someone else to the top as well. This idea could have had two new pushes instead of the one everyone was expecting.

Benoit and say RVD, since they were in Philly, could have both come out of the Rumble as real strong title contenders and WWE could have pushed them hard to WrestleMania and, at the same time given the fans serious hope that things are changing in the direction that the company is going. Again like I said I am far from unhappy but there was other avenues that WWE could have gone which would have made even the most inside fan wrong in their prediction of the Rumble winner. Fans are ecstatic to say the least with Benoit as the winner but what happens if he fails as a drawing champion? I just hope that fans are prepared for that very thing to happen. Not saying that WWE will cut the legs out from under Benoit because that is just stupid business but how many times has the WWE given in to fan pressure and those same fans then don’t support their own choice because now he is no longer the underdog?

Vince is in the drivers seat here because either Benoit will be huge money for WWE because Vince is giving the fans what they want or Vince gets to stick it up our Asses. Vince has the ability to say that he has listened to and given the fans what they have been asking for- for years now. Vince will expect us to support Benoit in droves by ordering PPV’s, watching Raw and Smackddown, going to house shows, and buying Benoit merchandise. Vince will rake it in with what he hopes is a draw that rivals the Rock or Foley, a real people’s champion if you will. On the flip side if we the fans don’t support Benoit in any of those capacities mentioned then Vince gets to tuck it to us by saying that we don’t embrace anything that we ask for and so therefore why should he continue to listen to our demands?

I just hope that once Vince gives us Benoit as the heavyweight champion that we the fans don’t move on and say that we are bored with him now and why is the WWE still misusing RVD, Booker T, and Eddy. You may be cynical of my suggesting this but stranger things have happened so I just want to remind everyone that once we get it lets support the hell out of it. Vince I am sure is looking at this both as a great move on his part and that of a skeptic because there is a tendency by the wrestling fan to be very fickle. Benoit needs to bring back the wrestling purist style fan that maybe has waned from watching WWE because of the sports-entertainment aspect of the business. Benoit is the alternative to what Goldberg and Rock are but is not different from Angle and Lesner and neither have done huge business for WWE yet.

Bottom line:

The road to Wrestlemania is now upon us so it’s time to show support on what we as fans would like to see and usher in a change for the year of 2004.We said goodbye to Kevin Nash and soon will be saying goodbye to Goldberg.2004 should be the year of Benoit, Orton, Cena, and Jericho. Maybe it’s one year late but Benoit’s time is officially upon us so let’s see what else WWE has in store for us. The Royal Rumble was a middle of the road PPV but it should have made just about all watching extremely happy. I again will say though that work rate vs. entertainer will be very prevalent now as WWE sees if someone that is a pure wrestler without the gift of talk will be able to turn around a company in need of a big draw.

Benoit has earned this opportunity more than most others in the company so I am happy to see his hard work rewareded. Again on the flip side if he fails as champion then fans must accept what most are fearful of with Benoit being champion in the first place. Fans cannot simply blame WWE and say that WWE once again did not properly use Benoit as champion because Benoit should be able to work solid programs with anyone in the ring. If Benoit is made to look weak on the mic well then that’s not entirely WWE’s fault. Again a valet for Benoit would be best suited for him right now if Benoit is going to challenge HHH because HHH will make Benoit seem inferior if Benoit can’t hang with him during promos.

Congrats to Chris Benoit as he travels the road to WrestleMania.I am curious of the timing however. Could Benoit be getting the title as Bret Hart is rumored to reappear on WWE TV at WrestleMania XX? Maybe another olive branch extended the Hit man’s way? It’s time for the Canadian crippler, its time for the rabid wolverine, but more than all that its time for toothless progression, prove me wrong. Until next time that’s just my view.

Jim Forzese