By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
You won't see this match on any WWE.com list ranking the greatest WrestleMania main events of all-time, no matter how much it deserves to be on there. Thankfully, this isn't WWE.com, nor is this to place to comment on Chris Benoit as a person or the terrible tragedy that ended his life and his family's lives. Rather, this post will be looking at the amazing ascent of one of the greatest wrestlers to ever compete for WWE, a man who fulfilled a dream at WrestleMania 20 when he won the World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat match against Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
But before we get there, let's look back at the events that led us to that point. The seeds had been planted for Benoit winning the 2004 Royal Rumble weeks ahead of time, so even though it didn't come as a major surprise, it was still a remarkable moment and a major deal. WWE was finally going to give someone that Kevin Nash would have called a "vanilla midget" years earlier a chance to headline WrestleMania for the world title. Then why was Michaels involved? Did officials not think that singles match between Benoit and HHH would sell on its own?
I don't know if we'll ever know the answer to that question, but nevertheless, Michaels was a welcomed addition to the match. Triple H and Benoit would have ripped it up in the main event regardless, but throwing The Heartbreak Kid into the mix was certainly a bonus. He was Mr. WrestleMania after all, and the interaction he and Benoit would have was bound to be excellent. Plus, he and Triple H had been feuding for close to two years by that point, so it was the perfect storm set to culminate at WrestleMania 20.
Sure, Benoit had every right to be mad about not getting his rightful one-on-one match for the prestigious prize, but instead, he used that as motivation to prove himself with the odds stacked against him. Michaels wasn't an afterthought, either, and he was hungry for his first world championship in over a year. As for Triple H, he dominated the competition on Raw for a year and a half, but simultaneously going up against Benoit and Michaels was going to be his biggest challenge to date.
With all those factors in mind, it's hard not to enjoy this marvelous match, regardless of what your feelings are toward Benoit. I remember watching WrestleMania 20 in its entirety for the first time two years ago and as draining of an experience as it was (those five hours were grueling), it was well worth it for this main event match alone. Triple Threat matches tend to be hit or miss depending on the dynamic of the three men involved, and in the first ever Triple Threat WrestleMania main event, HHH, HBK and Benoit definitely did not disappoint.
There are simply so many spectacular spots that it's hard to keep up with them all, but that's not to say the match had too quick of a pace. When it came down to two of the men in the match, they found instant chemistry and contested a fantastic mini-match together. That would build toward the spots with all three men, which were worthy of being called "WrestleMania moments." Triple H preventing Michaels from tapping out to the Crippler Crossface by holding HBK's hand was a thing of beauty, as was the former D-Generation X teammates reuniting for a split second to put Benoit through a commentary table at ringside.
The Canadian Kid recovered in time to stop a pinfall attempt from Michaels following a sctinllating Sweet Chin Music, though he hit another one on Benoit while he had HHH locked in the Sharpshooter. Once HBK was taken out of the equation, Benoit locked in the Crippler Crossface on The Game, and although it took time, the pain was too much for Triple H to endure and he ultimately submitted. Benoit was joined by dear friend Eddie Guerrero, the then-WWE Champion, during his championship celebration in one of the most emotional endings in 'Mania history.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #24: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk, WrestleMania 27"