In the early 2000s, Shelton Benjamin signed with the World Wrestling Federation instead of pursuing a chance at the Olympics in wrestling. After two years of training at Ohio Valley Wrestling, Benjamin made his debut on WWE television as a member of Team Angle on Smackdown aligning himself with Kurt Angle and Charlie Haas. His first official debut was in September 2002 in a match against Shawn Stasiak on Sunday Night Heat.
My first exposure to Benjamin was when he arrived on Smackdown working with Kurt Angle. His tag team with Charlie Haas quickly became one of my favorite tag teams at the time. Benjamin and Haas were the top heel tag team winning the tag titles after just one month managing to defeat Los Guerreros. They held the titles from February to May where they lost to Eddie Guerrero and Tajiri is a rather underrated ladder match at Judgment Day. The loss would lead to them being fired by Kurt Angle and becoming the World’s Greatest Tag Team on their own.
Despite being fired, Benjamin and Haas regained the tag titles on July 1st and had a good match against Rey Mysterio Jr. and Billy Kidman at WWE Vengeance 2003. Benjamin suffered a knee injury in September when they lost the titles to Los Guerreros. The duo wouldn’t have much success and they would soon split. It was at this time that Benjamin’s career really took off.
On March 22nd, 2004, Benjamin was drafted to RAW and the following week managed to pull off a huge upset when he pinned Triple H live on RAW. The following week, despite all of Evolution being at ringside, Benjamin beat Triple H again on RAW winning by count-out. A month later, Benjamin got a non-title victory over WWE Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton. The victory led to a title match at Bad Blood, but Benjamin was unsuccessful.
After suffering a broken hand, Benjamin returned to action in September and got a disqualification victory over Triple H. He had gotten three victories over Triple H on television. This was and is a rare feat to accomplish in the WWE. It was around this time that I was really enjoying Benjamin’s work and he was becoming one of my favorites on television.
At Taboo Tuesday 2004, Benjamin was voted by viewers to get a title match against WWE Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho. I was able to purchase the event and witnessed Benjamin win his first singles championship. It was one of the few times I remember “marking out” for a moment in pro wrestling.
Benjamin held the WWE Intercontinental Championship for 244 days successfully retaining on pay per view against Christian, Maven, and Chris Jericho. He lost the title to Carlito when he made his debut on RAW. This prompted a lengthy feud between the two on television. The feud actually caused me to sour on Benjamin. I never really enjoyed their singles matches. I recall a Syracuse house show that had them working a match and I just didn’t care for it. It’s odd looking back at that considering I enjoyed both guys. This might have been an example to two guys just not meshing well for me.
The direction that Benjamin went in wasn’t exactly ideal. His “momma” came to RAW and eventually assisted him in matches. Benjamin eventually regained the WWE Intercontinental Championship from Ric Flair. The momma gimmick was apparently a way to mask Benjamin’s lack of charisma. Personally, I thought his in-ring ability more than made up for it. After his momma arriving on RAW, Benjamin became a villain wearing shades and jewelry. He lost the WWE Intercontinental Championship to RVD, but won it back in a short time. At Vengeance 2006, Benjamin lost the title to Johnny Nitro in a three way dance involving Carlito.
By the end of 2006, Benjamin and Charlie Haas reformed World’s Greatest Tag Team. They didn’t have the same success they had in 2003. Their only title match came against the Hardy Boys at WWE One Night Stand 2007 losing a ladder match. By the end of 2007, Benjamin was shifted to ECW where he was known as the Gold Standard. Benjamin dyed his hair gold along with wearing gold tights. At the time, I remember thinking this was a great idea since Benjamin wasn’t being used as a top guy and could excel on ECW programming.
On ECW, Benjamin was the first guy that Kofi Kingston feuded with and was the first man to pin Kofi in his career. However, Benjamin would lose the feud. Shelton found himself drafted to Smackdown in 2008 where he won the WWE United States Championship when he defeated Matt Hardy at the Great American Bash. Shelton held the title for 240 days before losing to MVP. Benjamin was drafted back to ECW and eventually turned face after turning on Zack Ryder. Shelton earned an ECW Heavyweight Championship match against Christian at TLC, but lost a ladder match.
On April 22nd, 2010, Benjamin was released from his contract.
Benjamin would reunite with Charlie Haas and they signed with Ring of Honor in fall of 2010. At the time, I was really excited see Benjamin joining with ROH. I knew that both men were exceptional in the ring and without the restrictions that WWE had, they would be able to flourish in ROH. They made their debut at Glory by Honor IX losing to Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli. They revealed at Final Battle 2010 that they’d be competing in ROH on a regular basis.
They seemingly had a career rebirth since their debut match in ROH, which went very well. On April 1st, 2011, they won their first ROH Tag Team Championship defeating Hero and Castagnoli. They primarily worked with Kings of Wrestling (Hero/Claudio), All Night Express and the Briscoe Brothers. They lost the titles to Briscoe Brothers at Final Battle 2011. They regained the titles at Border Wars 2012 but dropped them to Rhett Titus and Kenny King the following month.
I really enjoyed their matches in ROH as it was probably the time I was most invested in the ROH product (2010-211). Since his departure from ROH he has competed for Pro Wrestling NOAH and NJPW having moderate success in each company.
He was supposed to return to the WWE earlier this year but it was discovered that he had suffered a torn rotator cuff and thus wasn’t signed. However, as of July 2017, Benjamin is reportedly healthy and has signed with WWE. That is based off a report by Pro Wrestling Sheet.
Shelton was scheduled to compete on the Smackdown brand, which I think is the best fit for him. Smackdown isn’t very deep with talent and Benjamin can quickly become an upper mid card to even main event act for the brand in short time. I think matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena, and Chad Gable could make for some fun bouts both on television and pay per view.
What are your thoughts on Shelton Benjamin? Favorite match or memory of his career thus far? Would he be successful in WWE today?
Leave your thoughts below.
Thanks for reading.