A week or so ago, I posted a blog with a YouTube video embedded which showed the greatest moments from World Wrestling Entertainment at Madison Square Garden. The blog is here -
For those who don't have a weird encyclopedia-like knowledge of professional wrestling like me, the video had events from several famous wrestling events. The Hulk Hogan/Macho Man moment was from the first SummerSlam event in 1988. The Rock/Triple H ladder match moment was from SummerSlam 1998. The Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder spot is from WrestleMania X. The Rock's "Finally..." bit is from WrestleMania XX. Where Steve Austin stuns both Brock Lesnar and Goldberg is also from WrestleMania XX.
With such a wealth of footage to go through, it's hard to get every great Madison Square Garden moment. You have 2 minutes to showcase the best of 30 years. You'll likely miss a few things. There was no mention of the awesome Bret Hart/Owen Hart match from WrestleMania X, for instance. The Steve Austin/Bret Hart match from Survivor Series 1996 wasn't brought up; neither was The Rock's WWE debut at that same event.
You just can't catch everything.
However, there is one moment that is undoubtedly missing from this video. It's not something that the WWE forgot about. There's no way that moment got lost in the vast video library that WWE owns. It was one of the top moments of the last decade, and, arguably, one of the greatest moments in WWE history -
Chris Benoit's celebration with Eddie Guerrero after winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX in 2004.
Of course, we know why that moment wasn't included. Benoit's murder of his wife and son in 2007 has pretty much erased him from WWE's history. His name is included in title lineages, but that's pretty much it. At the most, I've seen a clip of a match that showed a portion of his leg for a couple seconds on WWE television since then.
But, that wasn't always the case.
For people who weren't huge wrestling fans during the '90s, it's hard to put into words how emotional that moment was. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were two of the best wrestlers in the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) promotion during that time period. However, they weren't presented as such to the fans. Politics exist in every aspect of life, and it was very present in that wrestling promotion. They were kept out of the top tier and presented as talented guys, but not "stars."
In 2000, Benoit & Guerrero left WCW and went to WWE. There, they slowly worked their way up the ladder of success. Both overcame obstacles - Guerrero's struggle with alcoholism led to his dismissal from WWE for a while, and Benoit broke his neck and was out of action for a year.
Both were real-life friends. They met while wrestling in Japan during the '80s and went through the ranks of wrestling together. The fans knew this. They were kind of seen as the "everyman" wrestler. Two normal men with extraordinary gifts.
It's hard to describe the amount of respect that people had for both men.
In 2004, they were both finally rewarded for their years of hard work.
Guerrero won the WWE title in February of that year, beating Brock Lesnar. Benoit won the World title the following month, beating Triple H & Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match.
The moment when Benoit wins the title and Guerrero comes to the ring to celebrate with him, it's a genuine outpouring of emotion from fans. It's not often when fans are happy for a wrestler on a personal level. Sure, people are happy that this predetermined part of the script led to this wrestler winning the title, but not very often are people happy that a man won the title because he deserved it.
That was the case with both Guerrero and Benoit.
The moment took on added significance after Guerrero passed away in 2005 from complications related to Heart Disease. The moment closed the show during the "Chris Benoit memorial show" edition of Monday Night Raw, that aired during that frame of time between finding out Benoit was dead and realizing what had actually happened.
It's forever tarnished by what Chris Benoit did one weekend in June, 2007. But, back in 2004, this was one of the greatest moments that I and a lot of other people had ever seen. Not only one of the greatest moments in Madison Square Gardent history, but one of the greatest moments in professional wrestling.