December 26, 2005
Chris Benoit vs. William Regal (7/12/05)
Shown on Velocity July 16, 2005
On May 25, 2000, Chris Benoit wrestled Steve Regal at the 2000 Brian Pillman Memorial in Cincinnati, OH.
Benoit, then WWF Intercontinental Champion, won the match with the Crippler Crossface at 12:45. But the story coming out of the contest was not Benoit’s victory but rather Regal’s performance in defeat. After a lengthy battle with addiction, his wrestling clinic with Benoit made it known to the world that Regal was back in top form.
For several years the match existed in only fan cam form. Despite that, its legend grew and it became widely regarded as one of the top matches in recent memory.
Fast forward 5 years:
Chris Benoit is a former World Heavyweight Champion. After returning to the ring in 2002 following neck surgery, Benoit finally accomplished his ultimate goal at WrestleMania XX. He defended against all comers following the championship win, from Triple H to Shawn Michaels to Kane to Randy Orton and even Eugene.
In the fall of 04 Benoit was noticeably moved down the roster, despite his consistency in the ring and ability to connect with the crowd. After several months stuck in limbo, he was sent from Raw to Smackdown as the #1 draft pick. He made his return to Smackdown, following an 18-month absence, on June 7, 2005. With the move came a new set of opponents and a new mix of potential matches. Some of the potential opponents for Benoit would be new, others would be well known.
William (formerly Steve) Regal was also drafted from Raw to Smackdown that same month. Though not as successful as Benoit inside the ring, Regal consistently drew crowd reactions despite having very little weekly TV time. His stints as European, Intercontinental, and Tag Team Champion, as well as his time spent as WWF Commissioner, were fresh on the minds of the fans.
In 5 years time he went from a forgotten WCW star of the 90s to an established WWE star of the new millennium. And his willingness to go all out to put an angle over (i.e. being the first member of the Mr. McMahon “Kiss My Ass” Club) made him a favorite in the office.
It was only a matter of time before these former ring rivals met once more. It would happen on July 12, 2005 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass as part of a Velocity taping.
At the time the match was televised, the Great American Bash was just a week away and Benoit would be challenging Orlando Jordan for the United States Title. But he would need to go through Regal first.
Regal, a tweener at this point due to his anti-ECW stance prior to One Night Stand, comes out first to a warm reception. Though he doesn’t slap hands, he does acknowledge the applause.
Benoit’s music hits and the crowd pops. Many of the 3,000 fans in attendance are on their feet in appreciation for the Rabid Wolverine.
There is a brief “Benoit” chant as the two men cautiously circle one another and lock up. A power struggle takes both men down to their knees and Regal is eventually pushed into the corner before the break.
Regal with a headlock which Benoit attempts to power out of. Josh Matthews puts over Regal as a bar room brawler and Benoit a technical genius as the Crippler reverses the headlock into a top wrist lock. Regal flips out of it and uses two snap mares but Benoit reapplies the hold. Regal attempts an arm drag but Benoit again reapplies the wrist lock.
Regal eventually reverses into his own hold but Benoit counters and throws Regal down shoulder-first, with the former Lord Steven yelling in pain as he hits the mat.
Regal dominates a test of strength with Benoit bridging back to avoid having his shoulders down to the mat. Regal slams a knee across the ribs and pushes down to add to the leverage but Benoit comes back to his feet and dominates the power struggle.
Regal bridges, attempts a headscissors, lands several kicks to the skull, and then gets back to his feet. William lands a stiff headbutt but Benoit fights back with his own, stunning Regal. Benoit uses a monkey flip out of the test of strength but Regal quickly locks on a body scissors around the Crippler’s ribs.
Before Regal can apply much pressure, Benoit throws in a series of stiff right hands to the point where his opponent releases the hold. At this point, Regal is shown with a busted head, the apparent result of Benoit’s headbutt moments earlier.
“Benoit, like a shark now smelling blood” – Josh Matthews as Chris Benoit takes advantage of Regal’s cut forehead
The Crippler lands a knee to the head as the blood begins to pour down Regal's face. Benoit with a go behind that Regal reverses. Benoit counters and lands a release dragon suplex, a former offensive trademark.
Both men are down and struggling to get to their feet. Benoit staggers to his feet first and rams Regal back-first into the corner. A single chop drops Regal to the mat. A stiff knee to the forehead follows.
Benoit with a waist lock that Regal blocks at first but eventually falls victim to a release German suplex. Both men are again down and the crowd chants along as the referee gives the standing 10-count.
This time it’s Regal who gets to his feet first and lands a stiff knee to the head of Benoit. Regal grinds his forearm into Benoit’s face and gains a near fall at around 9 minutes removed.
Regal tries four more times in quick succession to gain a pin but scores only a 2-count each time. William then applies an arm bar. Benoit attempts to slither out and ends up chest-down on the mat, with Regal then attempting the Regal Stretch. The Canadian Crippler grabs the ropes before the hold can be fully applied.
A high kick to the back by Regal keeps Benoit stunned enough for him to apply a chicken wing. The chicken wing turns into a surfboard and Regal pulls back on the neck until it almost becomes a modified dragon sleeper.
Benoit is shown going for Regal’s leg but Regal counters with a roll up for a near fall. Regal connects with a kick to the midsection and then powers Benoit over with a backslide for another 2-count.
Benoit quickly gets a double leg pick up and locks on the Sharpshooter as the crowd stands in anticipation. The referee repeatedly asks if Regal wants to submit and the match is seemingly over but a bloody Regal crawls over toward the bottom rope. Just before he reaches the rope, Benoit pulls him back into the center of the ring.
Regal, screaming in pain, eventually grabs the bottom rope and has the hold released after spending more than 45 seconds in the Sharpshooter.
Regal gets to his feet and gingerly lands a series of kicks before throwing Benoit to the mat. A near fall follows and Regal locks on a headlock. Regal lands a forearm and attempts a butterfly suplex, which Benoit is able to block and reverse into a backdrop slam.
Before Benoit can take advantage of the opening, Regal hooks his opponent and again tries for the butterfly, landing a number of knees to the head as added insurance before dropping Benoit with the move. Five near falls follow in quick succession.
Regal lands a standing dropkick but again cannot put Benoit down for 3. The former blue blood attempts a tombstone piledriver but Benoit leverages out and reverses the move into his own. After taking a brief moment to catch his breath, Benoit jumps on his opening and locks on the Crippler Crossface.
Regal lasted more than 45 seconds in the Sharpshooter but it takes only a second or two in the Crossface for Benoit to gain the submission.
A fantastic contest. The stiff offense is very similar to the Bret Hart / Benoit match from Kansas City. Moves such as punches, chops, and headbutts, which occur on a daily basis within WWE, are treated very realistically in this match due to the great selling from both men. How many times does Ric Flair throw 4 or 5 chops in the corner? Plenty. How many times has a single chop dropped someone to the mat? Not too often. And from those who use standing headbutts, how often does it lead to blood? Rarely.
Another aspect of the match that I love is the quick succession of pin attempts from Regal. He gains a near fall but then stays on his dazed opponent and makes cover after cover in hopes of catching Benoit off guard. It’s that added slice of realism which goes a long way in making a match exciting and memorable.
From bell to bell, commercials included, the bout lasted 18:57.
Not bad for Velocity.