I remember, back in 1980 at the Edmonton Sales Pavilion, meeting a twelve year old kid named Chris, who was just the biggest Dynamite Kid fan there ever was. And that’s saying something because Dynamite had a lot of fans - and deservedly so!
I happened to be standing right there when Chris met his hero for the first time. He stared down at his feet and blushed but it was easy to see how excited this young man was.
Every week he was there - studying every single move we made in the ring.
So it wasn’t any big surprise when I bumped into Chris when he was eighteen o find that he’d filled and out joined my father’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. He was working as Dynamite Chris Benoit and later as The Pegasus Kid and Wild Pegasus. He earned his stripes in Europe and Japan and amazingly enough he built a reputation every bit as respected as his hero The Dynamite Kid.
In those days I was forever on the road in the WWF and I took every opportunity to recommend not only my brother Owen but I strongly suggested to Vince McMahon that he take a look at this talented little wrestler who wrestled just like Dynamite.
In fact, when the time came for Dynamite to hang up his boots he found Chris and gave them to him, which is a huge honor among wrestlers. Soon enough, Chris began making a name for himself when he surfaced in WCW in ‘93.
Upon my arrival to WCW in ‘97 one of the shining examples of raw talent that impressed me was Chris and soon enough I had the pleasure of locking up with this well muscled pit bull. Much to my relief, and that of serious wrestling fans everywhere, With Chris I finally started to have my first respectable matches in WCW. In fact, the most memorable WCW matches I had were with Chris. At the 1999 Mayhem pay per view in Toronto I won the WCW World Heavyweight Title, from him, for the First Time. But, by far, my most important match of all time, to me personally, was the tribute match Chris and I put on for my brother Owen at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. I chose Chris because he and Owen were very close. They’d started their careers together in both Stampede and Japan and I knew Chris would take the match to heights that would have made Owen proud. And he did. It didn’t surprise me when, just days later, Chris abandoned the sinking WCW ship to make his long overdue WWF debut.
A few weeks ago my heart soared watching Chris defeat both Shawn Michaels and Triple H to become the undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world! Immediately following his victory I was elated to leave him a congratulatory message. Just last night it was nice that Chris finally had the chance to get back to me, having been swept up in a whirlwind that I’m all too familiar with. Just talking to him I couldn’t help but picture that same little kid from Leduc standing in the doorway of the dressing room in Edmonton dreaming of one day being a wrestler. The one thing that stood out long after we hung up the phone was his deep sense of gratitude for the old Stampede Wrestling days. I’ve always felt that I never really did enough for Chris, or at least not as much as I wanted to. As he thanked me I realized that he should probably be thanking his mentor,The Dynamite Kid, who, sadly, is back home in England confined to a wheelchair - for the rest of his life. Chris said he’d love to be able to thank Stu, Davey and Owen - but I told him I’m sure they already know.
I hope that when the WWF returns to Calgary on April 19th fans will all turn out to honor Chris Benoit, our new World Champion - and a true Canadian hero.