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Superstar Sleeze

[2004-05-03-WWE-Raw] Chris Benoit vs Shawn Michaels

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World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit vs Shawn Michaels - RAW 5/3/04

Where the flying fuck did this match come from??? This was absolutely terrific! I think I may need to rewatch again because I cant believed how much I liked it. I am talking like "Best WWE match ever" contention after seeing it for the first time since I originally saw it. Shawn Michaels haters be damned. He fucking brought it in this match. This was his best offensive performance since the AWA. He knew he was going up against Benoit and just laid all his shit in and really brought to Benoit. I thought this was one of Benoit's all-time best selling performances. I really cant think of a better Benoit match in North America, but I have seen only a smattering of his matches since their original airing. For HBK, I think only Wrestlemania 25 or one of the Cena matches (I cant remember, which one I like a lot) can compete with this in terms of his post-comeback. I can't say enough how good I thought this was having just watched it.

Stone Cold says you can tell how great a match will be based on they lock it up and it was ferocious lock up. You expect that out of Benoit, but when I saw HBK lock up like that I knew the muthafucka meant business. They established right from the get go how serious Michaels was taking this as he went chop for chop with the heavy-handed Benoit. I liked Michaels keeping Benoit grounded early. It is exactly the perfect strategy against Benoit to sap that energy. Once Benoit got a head of steam, he crushed Michaels. If you let Benoit create movement, he will win and he is pouring it on snap suplex and backbreaker. Michaels actually uses a slugfest to hit his flying Burrito/kip up. Ballsy. Benoit teases the Crippler Crossface. I love the early finish run tease. Coming back from commercial, Benoit takes a hard, hard back bump into the turnbuckle. PITCH PERFECT SELLING! Awesome! Awesome. He takes a back body drop and is now in the ab stretch. Michaels works the back like a champ. I have never seen Michaels work such a great heat segment. He was laying those knees in and another whip into the turnbuckle. I loved Benoit busting a barrage of quick nearfalls for his hope spot. It was ballsy with the more "likeable" and "charismatic" also "weaker on offense"Shawn Michaels playing de facto heel against his polar opposite. It worked great! Michaels hits a wicked clothesline. Who is this man??? Top rope elbow and he is tuning up the band. Rolling Germans counter and when he sees HBK stirring it is a fourth one for good measure, but still misses the diving headbutt. Michaels going for the cover there was the right move, but only gets two. He goes back on top and Benoit unleashes a crazy onslaught of chops that Michaels sells so fucking well. This was just awesome to watch. Suplex to the floor! I am such a mark for that. Michaels nails a moonsault from the top to the floor, probably his best ever! They tease the double countout and when they both get up, Michaels shoves him into the post and busts Benoit open. Blood! Shawn hits a wicked dropkick. This is Shawn working like he is in All Japan. Michaels returns to the back and goes Liontamer, but too close to the ropes. Benoit reverses an Irish Whip (to send his back into the turnbuckles for a 3rd time) and in total desperation goes for his one bomb the Crippler Crossface, but he is too close to the ropes. Now Michaels feeling the desperation that he may be losing his grasp on the match and basically choking goes for Sweet Chin Music, but Benoit catches the foot looks Sharpshooter! If that was the finish, I think I would have gone the full monty, but when Benoit kicks him off there is a ref bump. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music, but HHH pedigrees him to mar the match. Benoit gets a tainted victory.

Tremendous match. I cant praise Shawn's offense enough in this match. He went after this one and worked the best heat segment of his life. The finish stretch starting with the elbow drop was perfectly worked. Benoit was trying to avoid Sweet Chin Music at all costs, but was in too much of a hole to climb out of and then being ran into the post made it seemed insurmountable. I loved that his first move upon regaining the advantage was to apply the Crossface. It was avoid the Superkick and apply a finishing hold down the stretch for Benoit that was perfect strategy. Michaels was looking for finishing hold targetting the back or his bang bang Sweet Chin Music. Benoit's selling was off the charts good. Honestly, besides the finish I cant find much wrong with this match. Best WWE match of the 00s so far. ****3/4

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Upon rewatch, absolutely fantastic match. Better than I remembered. In totality, its probably the best comeback Shawn match. It is near flawless, and without the smoz finish we're talking really close to 5 snowflakes. Will expound later, but excellent match. Really think it bodes well for the late era Shawn not being worthless argument. His offense is really snug and laid in (helps that Benoit was selling his ass off, amazing job by Chris, makes you kind of miss him, as a wrestler, and nothing else)
Think a match like this in comparison to the modern WWE epic, which Shawn helped popularize and bastardize, is night and day. The way everything progressively builds is perfect and you could have this match in any era any country at any time and it'll hold up. When it finally gets to near finisher territory it's believable and feels right, but this is also a match where vertical suplexes looked like 3 counts if not for rope breaks. Just really really well done and an absolute hidden gem.

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This was great. Exactly what you can expect from these two. Shawn tones down the melodramatic fluff and puts on a world title classic with Benoit. This was technically sound, with bucket loads of intensity. Shawn has to bust out the big guns for this one, with him getting a nearfall with a Teardrop Suplex and damn near wiping out Benoit with his standing moonsault to the outside. I didn't mind the screwy finish, which saw Triple H lays out Shawn with a Pedigree when the referee was down. Trips looked like the smuggest asshole ever during his run-in. ★★★★½

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