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The Booker T-Chris Benoit Best-of-Eight Series

DISCLAIMER: This article represents my point of view about a series of wrestling matches by two performers with tremendous ability in the ring. The article’s angle judges the art rather than the artist. I understand if you cannot separate the two, but I hope you will enjoy my critique nonetheless.

From May 25, 1998 in Evansville, Indiana LIVE on WCW Monday Nitro:

Match 9 (best-of-seven #1): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ***

Summary: Excellent psychology as each wrestler knew his opponent well, and a great story was told. Benoit led the series 1-0.

This match set the tone for their forthcoming battles, and the local crowds’ interests would climb with each encounter.

From May 27, 1998 in Nashville, TN LIVE on Thunder.

Match 4 (best-of-seven #2): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ****

Summary: Better than the Nitro match as the high-flying moves hit paydirt this time. The Nashville faithful got behind Booker T but let Benoit know they were NOT in his corner unlike Evansville. Booker T tied up the series 1-1. Bravo, gentlemen!

I realize we knock Michael Cole for his catchphrase “building momentum;” however, this match specifically accomplished that goal. With the series even, what would they do next?

From May 30, 1998 (taped 5/19) in Portland ME on WCW Saturday Night:

BONUS MATCH (best of seven #3): The “Crippler Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: **

Summary: You can tell this match was out of sequence due to the limited amount of back-and-forth countering. While there is some, it’s not enough to compare to the first two matches in the series. Benoit holds a 2-1 lead with match #4 on Nitro.

At times, it’s appropriate to poke fun at WCW. This is one of those times as their taping schedule got in WCW’s own way. Since the tapping occurs prior to the beginning of the series, it’s not intended to be included. On the other hand, WCW has no choice but to include it as the third match. As it stands, it acts as a DELICIOUS appetizer for the entire series. Anyone else hungry?

But I digress…

From June 1, 1998 in Washington, DC LIVE on WCW Monday Nitro:

Match 7 (best-of-seven #4): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ****

Summary: Fantastic match that kept the DC faithful engaged using psychology, workrate, and high-flying. Booker T has quite a mountain to climb if he’s to win the series.

Did you notice the German suplex from Benoit this time? It only got 2, yet he established the Crippler Crossface as the definitive end to this match.

From June 4, 1998 in Peoria, IL LIVE on Thunder:

Match 1 (best-of-seven #5): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ****

Summary: Another solid match to add to their list. Booker T inches closer as the series stands at 3-2.

It took an external factor in the form of Stevie Ray to derail the Benoit train, but the intensity and the fury of these matches remains unyielding.

From June 8, 1998 in Detroit, MI LIVE on WCW Monday Nitro:

Match 4 (best of seven #6): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ****

Summary: It took good storytelling and solid wrestling to will the Detroit faithful into the match, and these guys pulled it off gracefully.

After the match, Benoit kicks Booker T’s leg out from under him out of spite. He continues to pummel Booker T until Stevie Ray jumps into the ring and pulls him off.

With Nitro on cruise control the night of this match, these guys busted their tails to garner a reaction from the crowd. Also, Booker T broke out a new move—a floatover/sunset flip combo--to win the match. Considering Booker T was 6’3” and 250 lbs., that move appeared rather difficult, yet he pulled it off to even this amazing series. Interestingly, Benoit tried some heel chicanery at the end of the match.

Do I smell an upcoming heel turn and what lies ahead in match #7?

From June 11, 1998 in Buffalo, NY LIVE on Thunder:

Match 3 (best of seven #7): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: ***½

Summary: A great match spoiled by a bogus finish. They can’t end the series this way, can they?

After the match, Bret can’t believe that Benoit ratted him out. Eric Bischoff tells Bret they’re done with their nWo Hollywood scouting trip while Benoit stares them down.

Like the sixth match, Benoit inserted a trio of German suplexes which would become a staple within his arsenal for years following this series. The nWo Hollywood interference was a decent subplot to add intrigue as well as connect it to the long running nWo storyline.

Fortunately for both wrestlers as well as fans, the series was NOT finished.

Later on the same episode of Thunder:

At the entrance, Schiavone interviews Dillon who requests Booker T to join him. As Booker T emerges alongside Stevie Ray, he touts Benoit’s skills as a pro wrestler and demands another match with him. Ask, and you shall receive. Dillon sanctions match #8 at the PPV to become the #1 contender.

Whew! For once, WCW didn’t drop the ball.

From June 14, 1998 in Baltimore, MD at WCW Great American Bash ’98:

Match 1 (best-of-seven #7 8): The “Crippler” Chris Benoit versus Booker T


Rating: *****

Summary: What a fantastic match! Yes, they’ve wrestled eight times (on television) together, but this was their masterpiece. Bravo, gentlemen!

Why is it *****, you ask?

First, countering the belly-to-back suplex by using momentum to land on top was a sensational nod to prior matches where Benoit had been successful. Second, Benoit, knowing that Booker T was dangerous when flying from the top turnbuckle, evaded his cross body block whereas he had been susceptible to a missile dropkick beforehand. Third, Booker T escaped a Crippler Crossface having scouted it properly. Fourth, Benoit thwarted another aerial attack by joining Booker T and taking him down with an impressive superplex.

Fifth, since Benoit was unable to recover quickly enough, he couldn’t successfully pin Booker T. As we know, it added an element of drama to the conflict. Sixth, Booker T escaped a third German suplex knowing Benoit’s strategy. Seventh, Benoit upped the ante by converting a full nelson into an outstanding dragon suplex. Eighth, Benoit showed some intelligence by not falling for another floatover/sunset flip combo and proceeded to flatten him with a short-arm clothesline.

Ninth, Benoit attempted an aerial attack, but Booker T didn’t succumb to it. Tenth, Booker T countered another Benoit staple—snap suplex—with an inside cradle. The numerous callbacks to prior matches leaned tremendously into their psychology and storytelling. Eleventh, stunning Benoit with a leg lariat to the back of Benoit’s head, Booker T established the missile dropkick as his true finisher by conquering Benoit with one like he did during match #5. Hence, with everything stated including a HOT Baltimore crowd following the action from the edge of its seat, I graded the match handsomely with five stars.

Conclusion: This series stands the test of time as a legendary story within both WCW and pro wrestling in general. As history would dictate, each wrestler takes his career to another level following this series. While Booker T ultimately becomes a five-time WCW World champion, Benoit finds his greatest success in the WWF/WWE.

I hope you have enjoyed looking back at one of the positive things WCW accomplished during the Monday Night War era. In case you’re reading this elsewhere, I have a complete history of both Nitro and Thunder on my site for your reading pleasure. Thank you for reading.

Comments? Suggestions? Send them to me at rsg@rockstargary.com and follow me on Twitter (@rockstargary202).

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