WWE Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story DVD Review

Over the last two years the WWE have released numerous wrestling Videos and DVDs focusing on particular superstars, featuring footage from their extensive video library, which includes footage from WCW and ECW, just to name a few. Earlier this year we saw the release of “Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses” and last year, we also saw the release of the record breaking WWE DVD set entitled “The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection”. So which superstar would be next to have their career jammed packed onto a DVD set, why of course it would be former World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit with “ Hard Knocks – The Chris Benoit Story”.

wwe-hard-knocks-the-chris-benoit-story-dvd-cover

Cert: 15

Length: (VHS) 82 mins (DVD) 360 mins

Benoit is highly regarded as one of the worlds greatest technical wrestlers, trained by the legendary Stu Hart in the Hart family dungeon, and experience from the US, Japan and Europe has gained Benoit this reputation. His career started out in Edmonton, Canada where he first decided to be a pro wrestler. His career then took him to the infamous Hart Family Dungeon and the Stampede wrestling promotion. Benoit has wrestled in just about all the major wrestling promotions, from New Japan Pro Wrestling, to ECW, and from WCW to his current home, World Wrestling Entertainment.

Benoit’s career has been that of an all time great, his matches with the likes of William Regal, Bret Hart and Kurt Angle are some of the worlds greatest matches, and that’s not to mention the superb matches he has had while he wrestled in Japan, with the likes of The Great Sasuke and Jushin Thunder Liger.

Over his historic career Benoit has held many championship belts, including the WCW United States Championship, WCW Heavyweight Championship, WWE Intercontinental Championship, and the biggest and most recent Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship belt, the belt in which he won in spectacular fashion at Wrestlemania XX.

“Hard Knocks – The Chris Benoit Story” tells the story of Benoit’s career, chronicling the important events and matches that have shaped Chris Benoit’s wrestling career and made him who he is today. So with a great career to look back on, would this VHS/DVD release do “The Crippler” any justice? Read On and find out!

Highs and Lows

Like other superstar DVD’s, this DVD was separated into different sections looking at the different stages of Benoit’s career, from his early days, right through to his World Championship victory at Wrestlemania XX. So, without further delay, let the review begin!

The Early Years

The first chapter kicks off with Benoit’s closest family and friends talking about Benoit as a school child, talking about his quiet personality and how well natured he was as a child. Benoit talks about his school years and then moves on to talk about his first live wrestling event in Edmonton where he saw The Dynamite Kid live and decided that he wanted to become just like The Dynamite Kid, so much so, that Benoit and a friend of his shaved their heads bald so they looked like The Dynamite Kid. Benoit then discusses his move into weight lifting and his family and school teachers talk about his dedication to his weight training.

Benoit talks about his first experiences at wrestling events, as he and his friends travelled down to watch shows every weekend in Calgary, he goes onto talk about how they tried to meet the superstars by waiting backstage, setting up seats in the arena and helping set up the ring, all in efforts to try and get closer to the wrestler. Anyway, it had the desired affect, and before long Benoit had been invited in the ring and backstage to, where he finally got to meet some of the superstars he had admired. Benoit tells a story of when he was allowed to go backstage there was one superstar that he wanted to meet so badly but hadn’t, that being his idol, The Dynamite Kid. Benoit tells of how he went to Dynamite’s locker room to meet him and tell him how much he wanted to be like him, Benoit says this gained him some respect amongst his friends and fellow wrestling fans.

Benoit talks about his training with the Hart’s, and he is shown visiting the infamous Hart Family Dungeon. A quite emotional Benoit talks about his experiences and he makes some very emotional and heart warming comments about Stu Hart.

Benoit then talks about his first match in Calgary, and we see some footage of both Dynamite and Benoit focusing on the similarities between the two. Benoit talks about his early stages of his career including his first match in his home town, with comments from his close family regarding seeing their son and brother in action for the first time.

This chapter is excellent, its give the viewer a great insight into who Chris Benoit is, from his days idolising The Dynamite Kid, to his training in the Hart Dungeon. it’s a great way to start the DVD/VHS and certainly is very interesting.

New Japan

Benoit starts this chapter off talking about how former WWE Superstar, Bad News Allen had helped him get involved to wrestle in Japan. His mother comments on how hard it was for her when Chris moved to Japan to train for 6 months. Benoit also speaks about how much he hated moving to Japan at first, saying it was a huge culture shock. Benoit comments that he didn’t have the right attitude until he went home one Christmas and spoke to some of the fellow wrestlers in the Stampede territory and he realised the opportunity he had, so on his return to Japan he changed his attitude and outlook on the chance he had been given.

Benoit talks about wrestling under a mask, as the Pegasus Kid saying is was uncomfortable. We then see footage of Benoit’s IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship match against Liger, when Benoit won the championship. Benoit talks about the match and how much it meant to him. The focus then shifts to the ‘94 Super J Cup, with Eddie Guerrero commenting on it was at this show that he and Benoit first met, and it was the start of a life long friendship. Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho also supply comments in this section. The chapters ends with Benoit talking about his victory over The Great Sasuke in the finals on the ‘94 Super J Cup.

I know very little about Japanese wrestling, I did understand Benoit had spent some time in Japan, but I never really knew to what extent and how much success he had over there. This chapter gave me a great insight into Benoit’s time in Japan and is very interesting for someone who hasn‘t seen any of Benoit‘s work in Japan. Even if you have seen a lot of Benoit’s work in Japan, it gives the viewer another great insight into Benoit’s career as he speaks quite personally about his time in Japan. Its also quite nice to see that the WWE got the NJPW footage for this VHS/ DVD.

ECW

Next chapter looks at Benoit’s stint in Paul Heyman’s, Extreme Championship Wrestling. The chapter kicks off with Benoit talking about Too Cold Scorpio, and we see footage of various matches with Benoit and Scorpio. The DVD now moves on to look at the infamous neck injury which Sabu sustained during a match he had with Benoit. Benoit talks about how lifted Sabu up thinking Sabu would land on his front, to pull off the flapjack move, however, Sabu tried to land on his back to make it look like he was back drop, unfortunately Sabu landed on his head, and thus, sustained a broken neck. Benoit talks how Heyman took this injury and created “The Crippler” character for Benoit, but Benoit was concerned about Sabu, and felt very bad that he had injured him. We see footage of some of Benoit’s earlier promo work as “The Crippler”

Moving on Benoit talks about how good it was to have Eddie and Dean Malenko with him in ECW, he states it wasn’t really a political move, more so, it just happened. The DVD looks at when Benoit won his first major championship belt in the US, that being the ECW Tag Team Championship belts, which he won with Dean Malenko. The chapter ends with Benoit discussing his departure from ECW, mentioning that he only left because Paul Heyman hadn’t sorted out a visa for Benoit, and the immigration officials on the Canadian border warned him that if he didn’t have a visa to work in the U.S. he would eventually get stopped and refused entry to the States, so, Benoit didn’t want the to take the risk and left ECW.

Like much of Benoit’s New Japan Pro Wrestling work, his ECW stuff is also quite new to me, so this chapter again was not only very entertaining, but very interesting too, it was very nice to see some of Benoit’s work in ECW, and hear about some of the stories that made Benoit who he is today, although it probably would have been nice to have some comments from Paul. E in there, as he did help Benoit a lot in his career.

WCW

Benoit starts this chapter off by talking about his 3 try out matches with the WWE during the 1995 period, but he didn’t sign with the WWE as he wanted to continue his wrestling in Japan and Vince wanted him to be exclusive to WWE. Benoit mentions that NJPW and WCW had started a working relationship, and that he saw this opportunity and ended up signing with WCW as they allowed him to also work matches in Japan, however, Benoit mentions that his dates in Japan dwindled and dwindled until he was exclusive to WCW. Eddie Guerrero talks about how Benoit was there for him to help him through his own personal problems, and Malenko talks about how close the three were together.

The DVD then shifts focus and looks at The Four Horsemen, and more accurately, Chris Benoit’s induction into the Four Horsemen group, with the late Brian Pillman and Arn Anderson introducing Benoit as a member of the Horsemen. Benoit talks about his time with the group, and along with Arn Anderson and Ric Flair says that the group wasn’t given the opportunity and push that they should have been given.

Moving onto Kevin Sullivan now. Benoit talks about how Sullivan was the booker, and Benoit had problems with him creatively, and this caused a lot of tension between the pair. Benoit says it got to a point where he decided to stand up for himself and against the whole company. We see various clips of Benoit and Sullivan fighting. Benoit mentions that throughout the whole issue, Kevin Sullivan was very professional in the ring and never took advantage of Benoit physically. Benoit mentions that there is a lot more to this story with Sullivan, but he doesn’t want to go into it as he has children from a previous marriage and he’d like to explain it to them first when they are old enough.

The Best Out of Seven Series is now looked at between Benoit and Booker T. Benoit comments on how much he liked working for WCW at this time, but he was hesitant that Booker and he could have seven matches, and still keep things fresh. Booker and Benoit talk about the series and each other.

As the DVD moves on, we are now shown Jim Ross announcing that Owen Hart died in a tragic accident, Benoit talks about how he was wrestling on a WCW house show when news flittered through of Owens’s death. An emotional Benoit speaks of Owen, and how he misses him. The DVD then looks at the memorable Owen Hart Tribute match on WCW Nitro, Benoit talks about how Bret approached him to do the match, and how the match is regarded as a great match, but Benoit says it doesn’t fit into any categories, its just a tribute match for Owen Hart, which is extremely true as the Owen Hart match was one of my all time favourite WCW moments ever.

The focus shifts to Benoit’s WCW Championship victory at the Souled Out PPV in 2000. Benoit talks about how he was fed up with WCW at this point and how he had made this clear with WCW management. Benoit talks about how he was only given the World Championship belt for political reasons, rather than rewarding him for his hard work, he also says he had seen enough guys get stabbed in the back, and he knew that when he won the title it wouldn’t be any different for him, so it was time for him to leave, and this brings the chapter to an end.

Benoit spent quite a few years down in WCW and the WWE had a lot to cram into this chapter, but in my opinion they managed to do it, and do it well. The chapter gives a good insight into some of the major angles and matches that Benoit was involved in during his time in WCW. It was nice to look at the Owen Hart tribute match from Nitro, in what has to be one of WCW greatest and most emotional moments, it was truly good stuff, big thumbs up for this chapter.

WWE

At this point in his career Benoit says he was fed up with the wrestling industry, and upon entering the WWE, he was worried how he would compare to guys like Stone Cold, The Rock and Triple H. Benoit talks about his match at his first Wrestlemania in 2000 when he won the Intercontinental Championship, and how big a deal Wrestlemania was to him. Benoit goes onto talk about how WWE was different than WCW, with the WWE being about opportunities, unlike WCW. Benoit then talks about his feud with The Rock, which culminated in a match at the Fully Loaded PPV. Then the match at Wrestlemania X7 is looked at with Benoit and Angle, Benoit talks about that being an enjoyable match as he and Kurt got to chain wrestle one another, and Benoit speaks highly of Angle.

The Injury

As you may have guessed by the sub title, this chapter looks at Benoit’s injury which he sustained during 2001. He starts off by talking about the pain he was in and how it was over a period of time, and how he was concerned that he would not only hurt himself but possibly hurt people who he was working with in the ring because he couldn’t work correctly. We then see footage of the 2001 King of the Ring, in which Benoit’s injury worsened and he was forced to have surgery. Benoit talks through what was wrong with his neck, and that he had talked to “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff before having the surgery as Orndorff had been through a similar injury. Benoit talks about being drafted to the Smackdown Brand in 2002 as number 3 , which made him realise that he would eventually return from the injury.

The Comeback

Benoit talks about his return to the WWE, on a edition of RAW in May 2002 in his home town of Edmonton, he talks about how great it was to get back into the ring after a year on being on the “shelf”.

Royal Rumble 2003

We see some of the build up to the WWE Championship match between Benoit and Angle, and then we see some of the highlights from the match with Benoit talking about how much he likes working with Angle. We also see the aftermath of the match with Benoit getting a standing ovation from the fans in attendance, after what was truly one of the best WWE Championship matches I have seen.

Royal Rumble 2004

We skip a whole year this time to the 2004 Royal Rumble in which we see Paul Heyman telling Benoit he will be the number 1 entry in the Rumble match. We see footage of Benoit’s victory in the Rumble, with him eliminating Big Show. Benoit talks about how he hadn’t really fought in a match for that amount of time before the Rumble, and it was a big achievement for him to of won the Rumble.

Wrestlemania XX

We see footage of Benoit moving to RAW, and the events leading up to the match at Wrestlemania. We then see highlights of the match, with Benoit saying that this one match was the pinnacle of his whole career. Benoit’s family and friends, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho make some special and emotional comments about Benoit’s victory at Wrestlemania XX. The chapter finishes with a fantastic Chris Benoit video package.

Overall the last few chapters regarding Benoit’s time in the WWE were all well put together, and very insightful. They don’t go into as much details on specific subject as they could, and that maybe a good thing, because for quite a lot of 2002 and 2003 Benoit wasn’t really used as well as he should have been, but that doesn’t really matter, overall these chapters are well worth watching and finish the main package off excellently.

DVD Extras

  • Pegasus Kid vs. Jushin Liger

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match (Tokyo, Japan – 19.08.90)
Alternate Commentary: 1. Michael Cole & Tazz. 2. Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko & Todd Grisham

  • Chris Benoit vs. Too Cold Scorpio

WCW Superbrawl (21.04.93)

  • Wild Pegasus Chris Benoit vs. Black Tiger

Super J Cup Tournament Round 2 (Tokyo, Japan – 16.04.94)
Alternate Commentary: 1. Michael Cole & Tazz. 2. Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko & Todd Grisham

  • Wild Pegasus Chris Benoit vs. Great Sasuke

Super J Cup Tournament Final (Tokyo, Japan – 16.04.94)
Alternate Commentary: 1. Michael Cole & Tazz. 2. Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko & Todd Grisham

  • Chris Benoit vs. Sabu

ECW November 2 Remember (05.11.94)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Al Snow

ECW Double Tables (04.02.95)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

WCW Monday Nitro (16.10.95)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan

WCW Great American Bash (16.06.96)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Booker T

Best-of-Seven Finals, Great American Bash (14.06.98)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Bret Hart

Owen Hart Tribute Match, WCW Monday Nitro (04.10.99)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Sid Vicious

World Heavyweight Championship Match, WCW Souled Out (16.01.00)

  • Chris Benoit vs. William Regal

Brian Pillman Tribute Show, (26.05.00)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle

Steel Cage Match, WWE Raw (11.06.01)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle

WWE Championship Match, Royal Rumble (19.01.03)

  • Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels

World Heavyweight Championship Match, Wrestlemania XX (14.03.04)

  • The Neck Injury

WWE Raw (02.07.01)

  • Crossface Collection

WWE Confidential (24.01.04)

  • Raw Magazine Cover Shoot

WWE Confidential (03.04.04)

WOW – These extras are pretty amazing, I can honestly say that there is not one bad match on the list above, well, they are all superb, well the match with Sid is not superb, but still pretty good. The matches from NJPW are great, and the extra commentary is great, with Michael Cole and Tazz being my favourite to listen to. Benoit’s ECW and WCW matches are extremely entertaining, with Al Snow having a great match with Benoit. My favourite match was the Owen Hart tribute match, to see that in full again really made my day, as I hadn’t seen it since it was on TV many years back. One match that I had been looking forward to see was the Benoit vs. Regal match from the 2000 Brian Pillman memorial event, I heard about the match for such a long time, and when I watched it, I can honestly say it didn’t disappoint. All the extra matches and features are well worth watching. Certainly one of the best set of extras on a WWE DVD today.

Overall

You can be as critical as you want about the WWE’s current product, but their home video releases are something else, they are fantastic. To be honest, I didn’t think any DVD set would come close to Ric Flair’s, how wrong I was, this is certainly on par with Flair’s DVD, and if you’re a huge Benoit fan, you might even rate it higher than that.

The main feature has been put together excellently, and really gives the viewer a great insight into the career of Benoit , from the start, to where he is currently at. The main feature is packed with footage from New Japan, ECW, WCW and WWE and makes great viewing, plus comments from all Benoit’s family and friends, plus the man himself, it gives you a closer look at “The Crippler”.

While the VHS version only gets the main feature, DVD viewers get a whole heap of DVD goodness which is fantastic and certainly well worth the money. I would recommend that not only Benoit fans pick this VHS/DVD up, but any wrestling fan should pick it up, because it shows a great insight to a modern day legend, and is full of great wrestling matches.

Points 10/10

Buy it:

UK: £10.99 (VHS) / £24.99 (DVD) / £14.99 (UMD)

USA: $14.95 (VHS) / $22.46 (DVD)

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