25 Years of Rumble Winners – 2004 Chris Benoit

Before I started this Royal Rumble series I talked to Richard about it and he gave me the go ahead. Then after thinking about it and talking about it a bit I went back and asked Richard about this specific Royal Rumble and he gave me the go ahead to write it the way I wanted to. So I am going to write this about Chris Benoit the wrestler who won the 2004 Royal Rumble Match and the year he had following that. Not until the final paragraph will I address the elephant in the room. I’m giving you the chance now to not continue reading, but Chris Benoit was one I loved so much and I’m going to give his wrestling and career through 2004 the respect it deserves.

In the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble PPV Cena and Benoit were low men on Heyman’s totem pole on Smackdown. Cena and Benoit weren’t playing by Heyman’s rules, so they had to participate in a Handicap Match against the Full Blooded Italians to be able to qualify for the Royal Rumble Match. They won the match, but later in the night Benoit insulted Heyman and was shackled with the #1 spot in the Royal Rumble. A couple weeks prior to t Royal Rumble Benoit had to participate in a Mini Royal Rumble against the Full Blooded Italians to keep his spot in the Royal Rumble while Goldberg won a Battle Royal on RAW for the #30 spot. Prior to this Royal Rumble they ran qualifying matches for over a month. A number of participants won matches to get into the Royal Rumble Match while others just announced that they would be in the match and they were in.

The 17th annual Royal Rumble was on January 25th at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On Sunday Night Heat Victoria, with Stevie Richards, defeated Molly Holly. Starting on Royal Rumble Evolution – Flair and Batista defeated the Dudley Boyz to retain their Tag Team Champship in a Tables Match. Rey Mysterio defeated Jamie Noble, with Nidia, to retain his Cruiserweight Championship. Eddie Guerrero defeated his nephew Chavito, with Chavo. Brock defeated Hardcore Holly to retain his WWE Championship. Trip and HBK fought to a draw in a Last Man Standing Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Trip retained his Title in one heck of a match. This one is definitely worth watching!

The Royal Rumble Match started with Benoit and Orton as entrants number one and two. Orton lasted 33:43 only to be eliminated by Foley. Test didn’t show up when it was his turn, #21, to enter the match he didn’t show up. Test was found backstage knocked out. RAW Sheriff SCSA ordered someone to take Test’s place and gave him Test’s spot. This was Foley who had already been having issues with Orton. In the ring Foley attacked Orton. He clotheslined Orton over the top and eliminated himself in the process. Foley and Orton fought after their eliminations and out of the ringside area. Spike Dudley was supposed to be #13, but Kane attacked him before he entered the ring, so he didn’t participate in the match. Big Show entered at #24 and fought with Benoit who had been taking periodic breaks throughout the match. He would lay under the ropes in the lower left hand corner of the ring (as seen on the TV) to regroup and catch his breath. I was impressed with how covertly he hid during the match. My daughter and I were on Benoit watch when re-watched the match so we could see how he lasted through it all. Goldberg entered at #30, the spot he won. Angle eliminated Goldberg in just over two minutes, but not much later Big Show eliminated Angle by sending Angle flying from the ring as Big Show kicked out of an ankle lock. In the end it was down to Benoit and Big Show. They fought and Benoit ended up out on the apron. Benoit locked onto Big Show and pulled him over the top rope and out to the floor. Big Show is almost always hard to eliminate from a Royal Rumble Match, but he helped Benoit by covertly climbing over the ropes as Benoit pulled. Benoit was only the second Royal Rumble winner who started as entrant #1, the first being HBK. Benoit broke Bob Backlund’s longevity record by lasting 1:001:30.

Benoit won a shot to go after the WWE Championship as he was on the Smackdown roster, but he used a loophole and jumped ship to RAW. Benoit is the only Royal Rumble winner to ever do this. Of course a big part of it was to get away from Heyman who was doing everything in his power to make Benoit miserable. On January 26th Benoit was on RAW and challenged Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship when he interrupted an argument between Trip and HBK. On February 9th Trip and Benoit had their contract signing. Trip signed the contract, but before Benoit could sign HBK hit the ring. Trip and HBK had still been feuding and HBK wasn’t done with Trip, so he hit sweet chin music on Benoit and signed the contract himself. The following RAW Sheriff SCSA announced that Trip would be defending his World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat Match. On Smackdown Heyman put on a 15 Man Battle Royal to decide who would be facing Brock for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. Eddie won the match and went on to win the Title, as I stated in the previous article.

The main event at WMXX was the Triple Threat Match. This was the seventh Title defended at that PPV, the most ever at a WM. The match went back and forth until Benoit locked his signature cripple crossface on HBK. HBK was about to tap when Trip broke it up. Benoit ended up being suplexed through the announce table and most people thought he was out of the match for good. HBK and Trip went back and forth for quite a while until Benoit returned to the match. Benoit countered sweet chin music and sent HBK flying from the ring. Trip then tried a pedigree, but Benoit countered and locked on his cripple crossface. Trip had to tap out. And just to note, this was the WM that Brock faced Goldberg in what was both of their matches in the WWE, just over a year after Brock won the Royal Rumble.

Benoit carried the strap into Backlash where he was supposed to face HBK, but it ended up being another Triple Threat Match. Benoit won this by making HBK tap out to the sharpshooter. Benoit had managed to make both Trip and HBK tap out in the course of two PPV main events. The following night on RAW Benoit and Edge defeated Batista and Flair for the World Tag Team Championship. Edge and Benoit feuded with La Resistance over the World Tag Team Championship while Kane and Benoit feuded over Benoit’s World Heavyweight Championship. Benoit pulled double duty at Bad Blood, and while he retained the World Heavyweight Championship against Kane, he and Edge lost the Tag Team Championship.

In August, at SummerSlam Benoit ended up dropping the World Heavyweight Championship to Orton. Benoit went on to feud with Edge who had turned into a wild and uncontrollable heel. On Taboo Tuesday Edge, Benoit and HBK were in a poll to see who would face Trip for the World Heavyweight Championship (which he’d won from Orton). HBK won the poll which left Benoit and Edge tagging against La Resistance. Edge abandoned Benoit who managed to win the WorldTag Team Championship on his own, but they lost them 13 days later on RAW. Going into Survivor Series Edge and Benoit ended up on opposing teams. Team Orton, with Benoit went over Team Trip, with Edge, but Edge got the pinfall on Benoit after a pedigree. The stip for this match was that the members of the winning team each had a chance at being in control of RAW for one night. On Benoit’s night he booked a Triple Threat Match between himself, Edge and Trip for Trip’s World Heavyweight Championship. Benoit locked on his cripple crossface, but Edge rolled so Benoit’s shoulders were on the mat. The ref counted and Edge tapped out. The match was ruled a draw. The next week VKM vacated the World Heavyweight Championship. Bisch returned to his role as RAW GM and set up an Elimination Chamber Match between Trip, Edge, Benoit, Jericho Orton and Batista. The next week the Special Guest Ref was announced to be HBK. Trip came out of the Chamber the new World Heavyweight Champion.

Benoit had quite the year after winning the Royal Rumble Match. I always forget that it really wasn’t that much after, just over three years, that Benoit killed his family and himself. He had always been one of my favorites. He was my daughter’s favorite wrestler with Eddie coming in a close second and all of that came from her watching her first WM, that being WMXX. When Benoit won his the World Heavyweight Championship and was in the ring in tears with the fans going wild, then turning to find Eddie there, she crumbled. I adopted her not long after that and surprised her by taking her to her only wrestling show, a house show, in Portland (Maine) as Benoit was scheduled to be there. We had a blast. She called me from work in tears the night we found out Benoit had died, but didn’t know the whole story. She was crushed by it all when the truth came out. That sealed it for her. First Eddie, then Benoit, she lost her heart for wrestling. She still humors me and enjoys interesting segments, but she will never be a true wrestling fan again.

I know it’s really hard to remember Benoit’s wrestling work without thinking about the tragedy. Honestly, I have separated Benoit into two men. I think it’s been long enough that hopefully we can remember how great Benoit was as a wrestler and rejoice in all the great moments he gave us in the wrestling ring. Honestly, writing this has been very cathartic for me. I’m glad I did it. I hope it reminds some people about that great year in Benoit’s wonderful career.

KB

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  • mark3man

    Great article Kinda, I agree that this should be done, no one will ever forget what he did to his family but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember the good he did. As a man he should never be honored and its right that he is not part of the four horse men induction. It would be like a site blogging comedy films and not mentioning the naked gun films because of what o.j allegedly did.
    P.s you muddled your years at the start.

  • Wayne

    An absolutely great read

  • Monty

    Nope, doesn’t matter if he cured cancer before the monstrous acts he committed. Everything good carried out previous to those events evaporates. No excuses either. Head trauma, steroids nothing. Inexcusable.

    • Bigbdawg

      Agree 1000% it’s inexcusable all these people who say he should be honored for what he did in his career are sick what if that was your daughter & grandchild that he murdered I bet you wouldn’t want to sit there and watch or even here about him being inducted into the hof

    • Tomas

      This. What Monty Said.
      I'm so tired of the Chris Benoit apologists. He murdered his wife and CHILD and yet they still put him on this pedestal. If he had raped someone or been a child molester, these same people would STILL be like "but he gave so much to wrestling". Pardon my french but, Fuck That! I'm a huge wrestling fan, I spend around a grand a year on wrestling. I have every one of Cornette's Commentary on my mp3 player and i listen to them frequently. I have copies of nearly every shoot video or behind the scenes interview and I get them as soon as they come out. I'm probably the biggest Bryan Danielson mark on the planet – my best friend wants to duct tape my mouth shut because I never shut up about him and I'm always finding new videos of him wrestling around the world, but in spite of all that, you know what? Wrestling ISN'T life. Chris Benoit was a monster. I'm an Agnostic, and even though it means I'd be there too, when I think about people who do things like Benoit did, I hope Hell is real so he can burn forever for what he did. RIP Nancy and Daniel, you deserved better than that piece of trash.

      • Aj

        You lack intelligence! Disrespectful punk!

        • ou812

          Disrespectful? Really? What respect does Benoit deserve?

  • Matt

    the 2004 Rumble is still to this day my favorite Rumble. It had some of the best action and to see Benoit in the amazing wrestling talent to last that long was and still is amazing. It's an Iron Man match with a fresh guy every few minutes. I'm glad you could separate Benoit into two men, I have been doing that since the tragic day. I knew before WWE made the announcement that he'd be forgotten in time and to me, a wrestling fan, that's unfair. The guy accomplished so much in his career and I hope one day, WWE will oversee that horrible day and give the fans his piece of history. Afterall, he was a Four Horsemen, too.

  • Mike

    Whatever happened with Benoit at the end, he was a hell of a talent and one of my fave's also, and nothing he did at the end, to me, does anything to negate or erase the respect I had for his talent and abilities, and the gratitude I feel to him for his years of hard work entertaining me, you, and everyone else.
    I understand why he's pretty much persona non grata within, well, everywhere now, butI want to personally thank both Richard and Kendra for not glossing over history out of fear of moral outrage and trying to pretend Chris never existed.

    "You're only as sick as your secrets
    But the truth shall set you free
    The truth is the truth
    So all you can do is live with it"

  • Skyrim

    I miss Benoit the wrestler, i wish he hadn't done what he'd done, but like you, i've seperated who he was and what he done in real life from his on screen character.

  • Aaron West

    so he should be remembered, it was wrong what beniot did, and it wasnt a good thing, but his wrestling career was simply amazing, he is an inspiration to me (not the last part) i want to be a wrestler because of beniot, he will always be my favourate, and he should be remembered for what he did right, not forgotten because of what he did wrong

  • http://www.wrestlerock.com.au Simon Veitch

    Truly well written Kendra, Benoit was definitely one of my favorite wrestlers growing up as well and I always loved his work. While it's a tragedy he decided to go out the way he did, People should never forget the way he entertained people for so long.

  • snuggle

    I to feel like the wwe and the rest of is needs to begin to respect the wrestler Chris Benoit. I think that it’s dumb for Vince to continue to not only never mention his name, but not show the classic matches that he had. I do think that what Benoit did to his family was horrible but at the end of the day he’s got to answer to God for his final decisions. I don’t say honor him by putting him in the hall of fame, but to show his matches on classics on demand or to mention him wherever they show Orton winning his first world title or a wrestlemania xx moment wouldn’t hurt the company. That my take on the whole thing what happened was very tragic however there was another side to Benoit.

    • ou812

      Go out and buy some old DVDs if you need to see his matches, the WWE is doing the right thing by not seperating benoit into 2 men.

  • Karl

    I will always remember Chris Benoit as the wrestler. There are no justifications for what Chris Benoit the man did but we all need to stop remembering him for that and only think about his accomplishments. One of the greatest technical wrestlers along with Kurt Angle and now Bryan Danielson. Grear edition KB.

  • Dom

    Who?

  • Ego Trip

    Kendra-that was a very well written piece. I think you successfully separated Chris Benoit the wrestler from the Chris Benoit that performed tragic actions. I myself was also a Benoit fan. Thank you for your eloquent words.

  • Mair

    I love All the articles you guys write no doubt in my mind this is the best so far thank you for writing such a marvellous pieces on who I too think was such an amazing wrestler that he should be remembered in some way. Thank you again x

  • Eagle

    I have also made Benoit in to two men, I can say Benoit the wrestler is and will always be in my top five wrestlers. Great article as well by the way really enjoyed it!

  • nicklc182

    *2004

  • Patrick_Peralta

    my feelings toward what happen in the end hasn't changed and he ruined his career as far as I'm concerned and I don't care about him anymore.

    • kbunyon

      Obviously you care in some way or you wouldn't be here saying something so bold about it. Yes, I'm pushing you to delve deeper, but think we know each other well enough for me to do so.

      KB

  • MsMojoRisin

    Im glad you wrote this and i agree, benoit was one of the best wrestlers of my generation im sad at how the tragedy tarnished his amazing wrestling career.

  • Jman72485

    Benoit was a hell of a wrestler and a pretty good entertainer. Just sucks how he passed away

  • Raaqim

    Great Piece of Work Kendra. In the first paragraph, you mention 2003 twice. I think that should be 2004 :)

    • kbunyon

      Thanks for mentioning it and has been fixed. I'm a bit mind boggled writing all of these, but this is the one that really got my emotions crashing around.

      KB

  • Raaqim

    Great Piece of Work Kendra. In the first paragraph, you mention 2003 twice. I think that should be 2004 :)

  • Jimmy

    That last paragraph is disgusting, it’s like glamourising hitler for having German unemployment at a record low but his great record is tarnished by the second world war, steroids, brain damage or whatever it’s no excuse for being a mass murderer.

    • kbunyon

      Everyone is allowed to his or her opinion.

      I really tried to separate Benoit the wrestler from Benoit the monster. In the end that's what he was, a monster. I tried not to take anything away from him family in what I wrote, but these articles are about a specific year in certain wrestler's lives. Benoit won the Rumble, so I wrote about that year in his career. Honestly, it was terribly hard to write, but as I have learned here on WNW, you can't please everyone. I'm sorry you feel that way, but I put my heart into all these articles and put my true feelings out there.

      KB

  • Dave Barton

    It took me a long time to be able to watch his matches again. I was just terribly confused & devastated that a favorite of mine (who no one had ever said a bad thing about) seemingly lost his mind that tragic weekend.

    • kbunyon

      The one I need to re-watch is Benoit's match with Bret Hart. Bret's return to the ring after the passing of Owen. Bret was told to pick his opponent and it was Benoit because of how close they all were prior to the tragedy.

      In the ring they wrestle, then hug, then wrestle. The tears flowed and the emotion ran freely. It was a beautiful match and on I think I can actually go back and watch now that I got so much of my chest here.

      KB

  • Zach

    He was such an amzing wrestler, but it is hard to separate the man in the ring, from the man who did what he did. It is such a bittersweet thing.

  • kevin

    Well done kendra. Bentiot a great talent in the ring a huge asshole as a man, father, and human being.

  • kevin

    Sorry had a miss spell Benoit

  • Hawk

    Benoit won in 2004. This woman keeps messing up her facts. First she calls Austin "Stone Cole" and now this.

    • kbunyon

      Typos happen. Sorry I'm not perfect like yourself.

      KB

  • Bault16

    Yeah, he’s still a cold blooded murderer

  • Jon

    Benoit won the 2004 rumble match lesnar won 2003.

    • kbunyon

      Sorry about the typos, been writing about a lot of Royal Rumbles and my brain is slow to catch up with each next article. They have been fixed.

      KB

  • jayson

    You are right in some ways he was a great wrestler – but your last paragraph is inaccurate – he isn't 2 different people – he is the same person – what he did to his wife and child was frankly unforgivable in anyway. If he wanted to die he should have just killed himself. Avoiding what this person did by sugar coating MURDER is not appropriate. Would you forgive John Wayne Gacey for murdering and molesting people? Never – so what is the difference with Chris Benoit – he MURDERED 2 people (one being a child). Again Chris Benoit WAS a great wrestler but he also was a BAD person who should not be idolized in any way. The murder IS a part of his career and should be remembered.

  • Chris_Storm

    Good work.

    • kbunyon

      Thanks Chris, that means a lot.

      KB

  • Wwe4L76

    BENOIT = BEST WRESTLER EVER!!!

    • ou812

      Certainly not the greatest husband and father ever but since his in-ring work was great then that makes it all better, right?

  • stoney

    It's a shame that the homicide/suicide has overshadowed his legendary career

    • ou812

      Yeah, its a shame his family got in the way of his fame.

  • Mike

    It sucks!!!!! That WM was the greatest and I think it was the start of the end of the Attitude era! Being a wrestling fan since a kid and being a adult and watching Eddie and Chris for years in WWE,WCW and small stints in ECW waching week in and week out I was verry attached to both wrestlers! Waching them at the end together both as the top 2 champions at the top event! I was crying to be honest! This was probly my favorit moment ever in wrestling history!!!!! It does REALY suck that we can never enjoy it again without a dark clowed over it! For as much of a passion that Chris had for the bisness he shure mested thing up!!!! And now we have a lesser watered down product! Thanks Chris…..

  • Clint

    Benoit should never be honored but he should never be forgotten because he did help make the business into what it is today, and if they did that they do now, this might not have ever happened and maybe many other wrestlers would still be alive

  • sforester

    I should really not say anything on the matter, but I feel the need to. This isn't the Blitz (my usual way of referring to myself) talking, this is Shawn Forester (the real me). I find it…. disturbing… that people can bash a man whose misdeeds are alleged at best and think that their own misdeeds aren't as harmful as it relates to impact on others. The Benoit situation was not fully investigated and with all the question marks, it is not right to label the man as a cold-blooded murderer. That is not to say, however, that he didn't have problems or that he wasn't capable of doing the murders. All I can truly say is that his professional wrestling career affected him in ways that we can never truly imagine or ever know and that we should not be satisfied with anything less than a full, legitimate investigation of the evidence. I followed the initial investigation and it was a kangaroo court at best.

    Therefore, I say this: Chris Benoit lived up to his self-professed moniker of "the best damn technical wrestler" and pioneered a revolution both inside and outside the ring. His life brought forward the deeper look into concussions and head trauma. He brought technical wrestling back to the forefront in a showman's sport. Does he deserve the honor of a Ric Flair or a Shawn Michaels or a Bret Hart? That's not for me to say, nor is it for any of you reading this.

    • kbunyon

      Shawn, thanks for stepping up and putting in your two cents which are always valuable to me. I knew this would be a tough one to write and that it would get people talking, but I didn't expect all this. I guess I should have expected it for how polarized people are on Benoit.

      KB

      • sforester

        Not a problem Ken. Anything with Benoit is tough to write as there are always going to be those who are classless and disrespectful of both the deceased and the writers. Example: Look no further than the incident at Duane Gill's wrestling school.

        • MsMojoRisin

          i agree with shawn in this one americas people hell all peoole take one bad mistake and mold that one person as a mistake like with benoit, hes not known as the best technical wrestler anymore hes known as a murderer and if i remember correctly in the bible it says you shall not judge only god can so if thats the case wouldnt all these people be sinners for judging benoit?? Dont judge somebody without judging yourself first :)

  • Streamz

    Benoit robbed his family of their lives. Whilst that's unforgivable, let's not let him rob us of our nostalgia for some of the best moments in WWE history as well.

  • rkogirl22

    Your article gave me chills. I was a big fan of wrestling when I was little but as I grew into a teenage girl I lost intrest in the attitude era, but as a adult I beagn to watch it again and I instantly fell in love with Chris Benoit. This was a very touching article on him and on your daughter, and I like how you said you think of him in 2 ways thats a great way to look at it. Thank you your article really inspired me.

  • Jason

    I was there in Philadelphia. Great event that night!