#11 – Shawn Michaels v. Chris Benoit v. Triple H (c) in a Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
WWE WrestleMania XX
March 14, 2004
Hands down this will be the most controversial entry on this list.
Since Chris Benoit killed his wife, his son and then himself over three and a half years ago, the man formerly known as “The Canadian Crippler” has become a huge black eye on the already seedy world of professional wrestling. He has been all but stricken from World Wrestling Entertainment history (the company that owns the majority of his televised career) except the most bare of facts and figures.
To this day fans argue about Benoit’s “legacy” in the wrestling industry and whether he should continue to be acknowledged at all or whether he should be stricken completely from the record. Personally I have not been able to or not wanted to watch a match that wholeheartedly featured Benoit since his death. Watching and enjoying pro wrestling can be trivial enough as it is and watching a match featuring Benoit in the main role further displays that trivialness and completely takes me out of the match and the enjoyment I get from watching wrestling.
Personally I don’t believe he should be promoted or exalted in any way, but like a controversial athlete or actor his name should be brought up when mentioning stats or past performances in a historical sense.
When I originally did a Top Moments of WrestleMania countdown two years ago, I omitted Benoit’s World Title victory celebration with Eddie Guerrero from WrestleMania XX. And here was my reasoning:
I don’t want to further cheat the list by including a series of “Honorable Mentions,” but I do want to make mention of one event that I did omit from the list, and that is the main event of WrestleMania XX.
For years Chris Benoit was a big hero to legions of wrestling fans for his incredible in-ring skills and ability to not only make it look “real” inside the ring, but also make it look easy. But because he was fairly small by wrestling’s main event star standards (under 6 foot tall and about 220 lbs.) he never really broke out in the industry. WrestleMania XX in March 2004 was his shining moment as he beat two of WWE’s biggest stars ever (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) to win his one and only World Heavyweight Championship. With that victory he joined his real-life best friend and fellow “little guy” Eddie Guerrero as the two reigning World Champions in WWE at the time. The end of WrestleMania XX was a great image of Benoit and Guerrero celebrating mid-ring amidst a confetti shower, validating the plight of a lot of smaller stature wrestlers who never thought they would catch a main event break in the industry. It was a moment for the fans and for many of the wrestlers themselves.
Unfortunately that moment is forever marred by Guerrero’s death in November 2005 and the subsequent Benoit tragedy in 2007.
But now with two more years of time tacked onto things, I wanted to include the match between Benoit, Michaels and Triple H that main evented the 20th edition of WrestleMania, in the company’s home base of Madison Square Garden. While virtually all my enjoyment and emotional attachment to this match has been lost over the years, I feel it was necessary to include the match from a historical perspective.
From a strictly performance based perspective; the match is something to behold. Three of the best pure wrestlers in the company at the time put together a truly amazing in ring performance. All three men gave it there all, including the traditional blood (from Michaels), sweat (from all three) and tears (from Benoit). They trusted each other and were given the chance to proverbially “carry the ball” at the company’s most important show of the year. Ultimately Benoit was victorious in a class tale of the underdog overcoming the odds.
It was a beautiful story that is forever marred and ruined by the actions of Benoit. It is a match that is no longer revered or remembered. Does it deserve induction in this list? Probably not. But this all personal opinion combined with history in order to create discussion and hype for the upcoming WrestleMania. If I omitted this match plenty of others (such as Savage-Flair, Michaels-McMahon or Undertaker-Batista) could have easily made the list but I felt it was necessary to include, historically speaking.