This review was commissioned by snowboiiii over on my Ko-fi account.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been commissioned to write about Chris Benoit, but it is the first time that I will be doing so glowingly. As such, just for pure transparency, I’m going to throw in a bunch of the classic disclaimers you’ve all seen for close to two decades now. Endorsement of work is not an endorsement of character, I totally understand how the reality of things might ruin and color people’s critical thoughts on this work, etc. If you hate this match and all Chris Benoit matches because he’s a piece of shit, you’re not at all wrong for doing so.

With that out of the way though, it’s such a great Chris Benoit performance.

I generally like Edge from this mid to late 2000s time period up until his initial retirement, but he’s mostly a passenger here as Chris Benoit puts in the goddamn work here. This comes the night after WrestleMania 21 where both these men wrestled in the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match, and Benoit’s arm got busted up in that match which Edge exploited to climb up and win the briefcase. So, we get Benoit here the night after with his arm bandaged up and it being basically useless for most of this.

Even with the bad arm though, I love how much the nail the dynamic of these two early on. Edge is obviously opportunistic enough to want to go for the arm immediately, but even just crashing up against a one-armed Chris Benoit is a difficult feat. There’s actually room for an honest to God babyface shine here in spite of the injury being present the whole way through. Edge wants to take advantage but Benoit makes him earn that shit. Even with constant stops in his momentum, having to roll out to take a breather, Benoit just hits so hard and is so damn proficient that it’s a full five minutes or so into the bout before Edge finally catches him in the right place to yank the arm over the top rope.

Edge’s arm work is focused but not entirely thrilling, to be sure. What makes it thrilling is Benoit. He is so goddamn sympathetic here, expressive and pained at basically every turn. He’s working some absolute magic with his application of the Steamboat rule, always fighting for these brief breaks in Edge’s control before either his arm gives out or Edge sneaks his way back into the advantage. One of the best illustrations of how well Benoit sells this arm comes from his attempt to hit the German Suplex hat trick. He succeeds, yes, but he’s unable to maintain the grip between suplexes which makes it far more labored and delayed than usual. Even in his comebacks, he’s eating massive amounts of shit and harming himself just to make headway. When he gets the Shaprshooter on, he’s never able to really lean back with all his weight because his arm can’t support Edge’s legs and the hold’s loose enough to let the latter reach the ropes.

It just works so goddamn well. This broken, busted up babyface finding all their tools limited because they’re just too proud to give when they’re down.

And it pays off for Benoit too. In the face of all his offense being weakened and limited by the bad arm, he takes advantage of a single mistake by dodging Edge’s spear and rolling him up for the win. Three seconds is all you need in this game.

It’s a really great match. It’d be easy to describe the limb work and selling as “nerdbait” here if it wasn’t also so goddamn earnest. Benoit’s selling never comes off like it’s trying to win points, it just looks like it hurts a whole fucking lot.

Rating: ****

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