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Erased! The Tragic Story of Chris Benoit

In 1994, Chris Benoit would join ECW, and begin working with them in between his NJPW tours. Paul Heyman, had been looking to bring the Japanese “strong style” to ECW in order to compliment the edgy renegade promotion’s hardcore style. When guys like Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and of course Chris Benoit arrived in the “Land of Extreme” they immediately brought the legitimacy the brand had been looking for. Benoit’s ECW career got off to kind of a rough start after he severely injured both Rocco Rock and Sabu in his first few matches. However, the genius that is Paul Heyman would turn the negative into a positive and incorporate the injuries into Benoit’s new “Crippler” persona. The move was a huge success, and the “Crippler” moniker would famously follow him throughout the rest of his career. During his time in ECW, Benoit, and his then tag team partner Dean Malenko, would win the ECW Tag Team Titles. It was the first time Benoit had captured championship gold on American soil. The new ECW Tag Team Champions would join forces with ECW World Champion, “The FranchiseShane Douglas, and form the heel stable Triple Threat. Benoit was moving up the card, and had become an essential member of the ECW roster. Paul Heyman had been hoping to mold Benoit into the company’s next top heel, so Benoit was booked to look dominant. Heyman had even planned on making Benoit the ECW World Championship and giving him a long title reign, but plans failed to materialize when Heyman didn’t renew Benoit’s visa in time, bringing his ECW career to a premature end. Benoit’s ECW run was short, but it exposed him to the U.S. market and made him a rising star. After leaving ECW he returned to NJPW and continued to thrive. He eventually became a target of Eric Bischoff and WCW, who had a talent exchange program with NJPW at the time, and were looking to bring some impressive overseas talent in to showcase on Monday Nitro. Thanks to the exchange program, Benoit was signed to WCW in late 1995. It was a move that would change the rest of Benoit’s professional and personal life forever.

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