Shelton James Benjamin (July 9, 1975) is an American professional wrestler and former amateur wrestler best known for his tenure in World Wrestling Entertainment. He wrestled for Ring of Honor (ROH) for two years, and currently works for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Benjamin has an amateur wrestling background, including wrestling in high school and at the University of Minnesota. In addition, Benjamin has acted as an assistant coach in amateur wrestling.
He first spent time in Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he held the Southern Tag Team Championship four times. WWE then moved him to the main roster and put him into an alliance with Kurt Angle and Charlie Haas, known as Team Angle (and later the World's Greatest Tag Team). During his tenure with the company, he won the Intercontinental Championship three times, the United States Championship once, and the WWE Tag Team Championship twice with Haas.
Benjamin grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina where he is an amateur wrestler. He began wrestling while in the 10th grade at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.While in high school, Benjamin achieved a 122–10 win-loss record and was a two-time South Carolina state high school heavyweight wrestling champion, earning the title in both 1993 and 1994. Benjamin also was a Junior College National Track Champion in the 100 meter and won the junior college national wrestling heavyweight title in 1996 while attending Lassen Community College in Susanville, California. He was then accepted to attend the University of Minnesota, where he achieved a 36–6 win-loss record. Moreover, while attending the university, Benjamin was a two-time All-American heavyweight wrestler. After graduation, he served as an assistant coach at the University and trained with future OVW tag team partner Brock Lesnar. In 1997, Benjamin went 36–6 with 12 pins and placed sixth in the Big Ten Championship. Instead of trying to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics, Benjamin decided instead to try and pursue a professional wrestling career.
Professional wrestling career
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (1999–2010)
Ohio Valley Wrestling (2000–2002)
Benjamin was offered and accepted a contract from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and was placed in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) as one half of a tag team with Brock Lesnar, who was a wrestling teammate at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Together they were known as the "Minnesota Stretching Crew, " and they held the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship on three occasions. The first two reigns occurred during February and July 2001. They were scripted to win the title for a third time from Rico Constantino and The Prototype on October 29, 2001. After Lesnar was called up to the main roster in November 2001, Benjamin formed a tag team with Redd Dogg Begnaud called "The Dogg Pound" and once again won the OVW Southern Tag Team Title on July 17, 2002. Throughout the remainder of 2002, Benjamin wrestled at several house shows for the main WWE roster and eventually on Sunday Night Heat as a face character.
The World's Greatest Tag Team (2002–2004)
Benjamin was offered a full-time World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) contract in September 2002. He joined WWE's Smackdown brand as a villain on December 26, 2002, forming Team Angle along Charlie Haas, with Olympic gold-medalist wrestler Kurt Angle as their on-screen mentor. Their first official match together in WWE was on the January 2, 2003 edition of Smackdown against Edge and Chris Benoit.
They continued their storyline feud with Benoit until No Way Out, when Benoit teamed with Brock Lesnar to defeat Team Angle. The duo were scripted to win their first WWE Tag Team Championship just a month after their debut by defeating the champions, Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo Guerrero) on February 6, 2003. The two then went on to compete in their first WrestleMania match at WrestleMania XIX, retaining their tag title in a Triple Threat match against Los Guerreros, and Chris Benoit and Rhyno. Team Angle later lost the title to Eddie Guerrero and his new partner Tajiri at Judgment Day in a ladder match. The storyline concluded on the June 12, 2003 Smackdown, when, as part of the scripted events, Angle confronted Benjamin and Haas and fired them from Team Angle. They began referring to themselves as The World's Greatest Tag Team and won the tag title back on the July 3 edition of Smackdown. They lost the title on September 18, after Benjamin suffered a legitimate knee injury during a match against Los Guerreros. Benjamin was sidelined for approximately one month, but the pair competed together again, taking part in a Fatal Four-Way match at WrestleMania XX.
Raw; Intercontinental Champion (2004–2007)
On March 22, 2004, Benjamin was drafted to the WWE Raw brand as part of the 2004 WWE Draft. After arriving, Benjamin quickly became a face character when he scored an upset pinfall victory over Triple H with the help of then World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit. Benjamin then feuded with Triple H, beating him three times in total all: once by pinfall, once by count-out, and once by disqualification. As part of the storyline, Benjamin then feuded with the other members of Triple H's stable Evolution. Benjamin defeated Ric Flair at Backlash and lost to Randy Orton in a WWE Intercontinental Championship match at Bad Blood.
During a match with Garrison Cade on WWE Heat, Benjamin punched Cade's knee brace, legitimately breaking his hand in the process and briefly taking him out of action. Benjamin returned in the fall of 2004 and was chosen by the fans to compete for the Intercontinental Championship in a match against then-champion Chris Jericho at Taboo Tuesday. Benjamin was scripted to win the match, giving him his first singles title in the company. During his reign as Intercontinental Champion, Benjamin retained the title against challengers such as Christian at Survivor Series, Maven at New Year's Revolution, and Chris Jericho at Backlash. Benjamin lost the title to Carlito when he debuted on Raw during the June 20, 2005 episode, ending the longest Intercontinental Championship reign of the decade.
Benjamin's next storyline began on the December 5, 2005 edition of Raw, when Shawn Michaels was scripted to give Benjamin a speech to get him "psyched" for their tag match together later in the night. As a part of the scripted ending to the match, Michaels was preparing to finish the match when Benjamin tagged himself in and missed a crossbody, allowing Carlito to pin Benjamin. Benjamin was then depicted as having a "losing streak" over the next several weeks, which led to Benjamin's noisy, scolding, and domineering "Momma" (played by comedian/actress Thea Vidale) coming to Raw to confront Benjamin. Momma slapped and yelled at Benjamin anytime he lost a match. Before long, she assisted Benjamin in his matches, often interfering on his behalf. This led to Benjamin once again becoming a villain. In 2006, Benjamin had a staged on-screen rivalry with then-Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair. On the February 20 edition of Raw, Benjamin defeated Flair to regain the Intercontinental Championship after Momma faked a heart problem, causing enough of a distraction to allow Benjamin to cheat and win the title. Benjamin continued to feud with Flair, but Momma no longer accompanied him to ringside. As part of the scripted events, Benjamin stated that she was undergoing heart surgery in the hospital and that he held Flair responsible.
Benjamin competed in the second Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 22. Benjamin then had an on-screen rivalry with the winner of that match, Rob Van Dam, in an attempt to take Van Dam's Money in the Bank contract. During this time, Benjamin emphasized his new villainous persona with a new gimmick: wearing shades, jewelry, and occasional colored shirts while entering the ring. At one point, Benjamin was defeated by his former tag team partner, the returning Charlie Haas, during an episode of Raw. A predetermined stipulation added to this loss meant that Benjamin had to defend the Intercontinental Title in the same match as his shot at Van Dam's contract, meaning at Backlash it would be a "Winner Takes All" match. Rob Van Dam won at Backlash and became Intercontinental Champion. Benjamin regained the title from Rob Van Dam in a Tornado Tag Team match, pitting Benjamin, Triple H and Chris Masters against Van Dam and WWE Champion John Cena; both the WWE Championship and WWE Intercontinental Championship could be won by whoever pinned the appropriate champion. After Triple H Pedigreed Van Dam, he turned his attention to John Cena and went for the pin on the WWE Champion. Benjamin got to Van Dam first, picking up the pin and his third Intercontinental Championship. Subsequently, Benjamin feuded with Carlito and others for his Intercontinental Championship before losing the title to Johnny Nitro in a Triple Threat match also involving Carlito at Vengeance.
During December 2006, Benjamin's former tag team partner Charlie Haas came out to celebrate with Benjamin after he defeated Super Crazy. The World's Greatest Tag Team was officially reunited when they defeated The Highlanders on the December 11, 2006 episode of Raw. The duo feuded with Cryme Tyme and competed mainly on Heat.
The Gold Standard (2007–2010)
On the November 20, 2007 airing of ECW on Sci Fi, Elijah Burke introduced Benjamin as the newest ECW superstar. Benjamin, who had dyed his hair blond before leaving Raw, began wearing gold wrestling attire and referring to himself as "The Gold Standard". On ECW, Benjamin began once again receiving more airtime and higher profile matches, defeating Tommy Dreamer in his debut. Benjamin then qualified for the Royal Rumble match and won an over the top rope preview. Benjamin appeared in the Rumble match, entering at number 17, but was eliminated by Shawn Michaels. He suffered his first loss since coming to ECW to Kane by count-out, on the January 29, 2008 edition of ECW on Sci Fi. On the February 22 edition of SmackDown!, Benjamin defeated Jimmy Wang Yang in a qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXIV, which was won by CM Punk. After WrestleMania, Benjamin briefly feuded with Punk, before he began an on-screen rivalry with Kofi Kingston, who defeated Benjamin on the April 22 edition of ECW. On ECW's 100th episode, however, Benjamin defeated Kingston, thus ending the latter's undefeated streak. To end the feud, Kingston then defeated Benjamin in an ECW Extreme Rules match.
As part of the 2008 Supplemental Draft, Benjamin was drafted to the SmackDown! brand. On the July 11, 2008 airing of SmackDown!, Benjamin defeated United States Champion Matt Hardy in a non-title match, earning himself a future title shot. At The Great American Bash, Benjamin once again defeated Hardy to win the United States Championship. Throughout his reign as champion, he retained the title several times against competitors such as R-Truth and Hurricane Helms. On the 500th episode of SmackDown!, on March 20, 2009 Benjamin lost his United States Championship to Montel Vontavious Porter, ending Benjamin's reign at 243 days. Benjamin then participated in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXV, but failed to win as CM Punk won the match for the second year in a row. On June 29, 2009, Benjamin was traded back to the ECW brand. The following night, Benjamin returned to the brand in a losing effort to the debuting Yoshi Tatsu. However, he would defeat Tatsu in a rematch the following week on ECW. After a tag team match, Benjamin was attacked by his partner Sheamus after Benjamin was pinned. Over the following weeks, Benjamin and Sheamus began feuding with and traded wins against each other on ECW and Superstars, resulting in Benjamin becoming a face character. The feud lasted until Sheamus was moved to the Raw brand on October 26. The next night on ECW, Benjamin lost to Sheamus in Sheamus' final match on the brand. Benjamin wrestled Christian at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs for the ECW Championship in a Ladder Match, but came up on the losing end. On the final episode of ECW on Syfy, Benjamin formed an alliance with Vladimir Kozlov. Together, they defeated three members of the ECW roster: Vance Archer, Caylen Croft and Trent Barreta. On the February 26th edition of Smackdown, Shelton Benjamin debuted, once again qualifying for the Money in The Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 26, beating CM Punk. However Benjamin failed to win the Ladder match. He defeated the returning Joey Mercury in his last match at the SmackDown tapings on April 20 in a dark match. On April 22, 2010, Benjamin was released from his WWE contract, along with Jimmy Wang Yang, Kung Fu Naki, Slam Master J and WWE Divas Mickie James and Katie Lea Burchill.
Independent circuit (2010–present)
Benjamin made his independent circuit return on July 24, 2010, in San Diego, California against Scorpio Sky. On July 31, 2010, during the World Wrestling Council's "La Revolución" show in Puerto Rico Benjamin defeated Ray González to win the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship. At Crossfire, 27 November, Benjamin lost the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship to Carlito.
In November 2010 Benjamin competed for American Wrestling Rampage. He made his debut on November 10 with Haas faced La Résistance. During his tour with AWR he Defeated Shawn Daivari in a steel cage match. He also had tag team matches with Haas taking on Booker T and Scott Steiner On March 8, 2011, Benjamin wrestled in a dark match prior to the SmackDown tapings in Houston, Texas, defeating Curt Hawkins. On March 9, 2011 Shelton Benjamin won the MWF Heavyweight Championship and lost it on June 4, 2011.
At JAPW 18th Anniversary Show, Haas, Benjamin and Angle reunited first time in 11 years. In the main event, Benjamin and Haas defeated Chris Sabin and Teddy Hart.
Ring of Honor (2010–2013)
On September 11, 2010, at Glory By Honor IX, Benjamin and Charlie Haas made their Ring of Honor debuts in a match, where they were defeated by The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli).
Benjamin and Haas returned to ROH at the Ring of Honor Wrestling television tapings on December 9, where they defeated the Bravado Brothers. The following day, at the second set of television tapings, they defeated the All-Night Express of Kenny King and Rhett Titus, and participated in an eight-man tag team match, teaming with the Briscoe Brothers against the Kings of Wrestling and the All-Night Xpress, which ended in a no contest. On December 18 at the Final Battle 2010 pay-per-view Benjamin and Haas announced that in 2011 they would be wrestling regularly for Ring of Honor. At the following pay-per-view, 9th Anniversary Show, on February 26, 2011, Benjamin and Haas defeated the Briscoe Brothers in the main event of the evening to earn another shot at the Kings of Wrestling and the ROH World Tag Team Championship. On April 1 at Honor Takes Center Stage, Benjamin and Haas defeated the Kings of Wrestling for the ROH World Tag Team Championship. On June 26 at Best in the World 2011, Benjamin and Haas successfully defended the ROH World Tag Team Championship in a four-way match against the Briscoe Brothers, the Kings of Wrestling and the All Night Express. The following day ROH announced that both Benjamin and Haas had signed contracts with the promotion. On December 23, at Final Battle 2011, Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team lost the ROH World Tag Team Championship to the Briscoe Brothers. On May 12, 2012, at Border Wars, Benjamin and Haas regained the ROH World Tag Team Championship from the Briscoe Brothers. On June 24 at Best in the World 2012, Benjamin and Haas lost the title to Kenny King and Rhett Titus.
In early August, ROH, in storyline, suspended Benjamin for attacking Titus and several ROH officials with a steel chair. The suspension was used to explain Benjamin's absence from ROH, while he was working in Japan. Benjamin returned on September 15 at Death Before Dishonor X: State of Emergency, accompanying Charlie Haas and Rhett Titus during their tag team championship tournament matches. On December 16 at Final Battle 2012: Doomsday, Benjamin and Haas defeated Titus and B.J. Whitmer in a Street Fight. The following day it was reported that Benjamin had requested and received a release from his ROH contract. Benjamin made one more appearance for ROH on February 2, 2013, when Haas turned on him during an ROH World Tag Team Championship match against the Briscoe Brothers. Benjamin was scheduled to face Haas on April 5 at Supercard of Honor VII, but after Haas had parted ways with the promotion, he was replaced by Mike Bennett, who went on to defeat Benjamin.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (2012-present)
On December 9, 2011, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced that Benjamin would be joining MVP for a tag match against Masato Tanaka and Yujiro Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2012. Benjamin and MVP were victorious in the match, after MVP submitted Takahashi. Benjamin returned to New Japan on June 16 at Dominion 6.16, where he and MVP defeated Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga in a tag team match, with Benjamin pinning Tonga for the win. On July 8, New Japan announced Benjamin as a participant in the 2012 G1 Climax tournament. Benjamin returned to the promotion on July 29 at Last Rebellion, where he, Karl Anderson, MVP and Rush defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Taichi and Taka Michinoku) in an eight man tag team match, with Benjamin pinning Taichi for the win. In the following month's G1 Climax tournament, Benjamin ended up winning four out of his eight matches, failing to advance to the finals. On November 11, New Japan announced that Benjamin would return to take part in the 2012 World Tag League, where he would be teaming with MVP under the tag team name "Black Dynamite". Benjamin and MVP finished their tournament on December 1 with a record of three wins, one over the reigning IWGP Tag Team Champions K.E.S. (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. and Lance Archer), and three losses, failing to advance from their block. On December 2, the final day of the tournament, Benjamin got into a brawl with Masato Tanaka, which led to New Japan the following day naming him the number one contender to Tanaka's NEVER Openweight Championship. On January 4, 2013, at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome, Benjamin unsuccessfully challenged Tanaka for his title.
Benjamin returned to New Japan on April 20, now working as a member of the villainous Suzuki-gun, teaming with the stable's leader Minoru Suzuki in a main event tag team match, where they defeated Kazuchika Okada and Shinsuke Nakamura. On the following tour, Benjamin worked under the ring name "Shelton X Benjamin", playing off the fact that prior to him being revealed as the newest member of Suzuki-gun, Suzuki's partner had been billed simply as "X". On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, Benjamin unsuccessfully challenged Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Benjamin returned to New Japan on June 22 at Dominion 6.22, where he and Minoru Suzuki defeated Shinsuke Nakamura and Tomohiro Ishii in a tag team match, with Benjamin pinning Nakamura for the win. From August 1 to 11, Benjamin took part in the 2013 G1 Climax, where he finished with a record of five wins and four losses, narrowly missing advancement from his block. On September 29 at Destruction, Benjamin received another shot at the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, but was again defeated by Shinsuke Nakamura. From November 24 to December 7, Benjamin and Suzuki took part in the 2013 World Tag League, where they finished with a record of three wins and three losses, with a loss against Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano on the final day costing them a spot in the semifinals. Benjamin returned to New Japan on January 4, 2014, at Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome, where he and Suzuki were defeated by The Great Muta and Toru Yano in a tag team match. On March 15, Benjamin entered the 2014 New Japan Cup, defeating Yujiro Takahashi in his first round match. On March 22, Benjamin defeated Katsuyori Shibata to advance to the semifinals of the tournament. The following day, Benjamin was eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals by Bad Luck Fale. From July 21 to August 8, Benjamin took part in the 2014 G1 Climax, where he finished tied fifth in his block with a record of five wins and five losses.
Benjamin returned to New Japan on January 4, 2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome, where he, Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer and Takashi Iizuka were defeated by Naomichi Marufuji, Toru Yano and TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste) in an eight-man tag team match. On January 10, Benjamin, along with the rest of Suzuki-gun, took part in a major storyline, where the stable invaded a Pro Wrestling Noah show, attacking Marufuji and TMDK. Benjamin made his in-ring debut for Noah on January 12, when he, Suzuki, Taichi and Michinoku defeated Marufuji, Atsushi Kotoge, Muhammad Yone and Taiji Ishimori in an eight-man tag team match. Over the next weeks, Benjamin worked all Noah events, while starting a feud with Takashi Sugiura due to him also having a background in amateur wrestling.
Global Force Wrestling (2015)
On May 15, 2015, Global Force Wrestling (GFW) announced Benjamin as part of their roster.
Pro Wrestling Noah (2015–2016)
On January 10, 2015, Benjamin, along with the rest of Suzuki-gun, took part in a major storyline, where the stable invaded a Pro Wrestling Noah show, attacking Marufuji and TMDK. Benjamin made his in-ring debut for Noah on January 12, when he, Suzuki, Taichi and Michinoku defeated Marufuji, Atsushi Kotoge, Muhammad Yone and Taiji Ishimori in an eight-man tag team match. Over the next few weeks, Benjamin worked all Noah events, while starting a feud with Takashi Sugiura due to him also having a background in amateur wrestling. Benjamin and Sugiura finally met in a grudge match on July 18, where Sugiura was victorious. In November, Benjamin made it to the finals of Noah's premier singles tournament, the Global League Tournament, but was defeated there by Naomichi Marufuji. On June 12, 2016, Benjamin unsuccessfully challenged Go Shiozaki for Noah's top title, the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
Withdrawal of return to WWE (2016)
On the July 26, 2016 episode of SmackDown, a vignette aired promoting Benjamin's WWE return. However, on August 7, Benjamin announced that his return had been put on hold due to a torn rotator cuff, which required surgery.
Benjamin is an avid video gamer, winning WWE's THQ Superstar Challenge, a video game tournament that takes place every year during WrestleMania weekend, four years in a row before retiring in 2007. He spends time every day playing. Benjamin is also proficient in art, creating comic book level work and paying close attention to detail. He almost considered a career in the field.
- Finishing moves
- 450° splash – OVW 2000–2002
- Dragon whip / Money Clip / Shell Shocka – 2003; used as a regular move from 2004–present
- Paydirt (Leaping reverse STO) – 2007–present
- Superkick – 2003–2006
- T-Bone Suplex (Exploder suplex lifted and twisted into a modified powerslam pin) – 2005–present used as a regular move from 2007
- Signature moves
- "The Gold Standard"
- "Mr. Money in the Bank" (MWF)
- "The World's Greatest Athlete" (MWF)
- Entrance themes
- "Medal" by Jim Johnston (WWE; 2002–2004; used while a part of Team Angle)
- "Ain't No Stoppin' Me" by Lou$tar (WWE; 2004–2008)
- "Ain't No Stoppin' Me (Remix)" by Axel (WWE; 2008–2010; 2016-present)
- "T.N.T." by AC/DC (ROH; 2010–2013; used while teaming with Charlie Haas)
- "Gold Standard" by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW; 2012-2013)
- "X" by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW; 2013–2016)
Championships and accomplishments
- Black Athlete Sports Network
- African – American Wrestler of the Year (2005)
- Ohio Valley Wrestling
- MWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Wrestling Entertainment