In December 2002, Kurt Angle introduced two wrestlers as his “Team Angle.” The young upstarts, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, quickly became embroiled in a stellar feud with Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, and for awhile tag team wrestling mattered in WWE.
Fast forward eight years and the two men have had their own journeys through the company. Haas was released in 2005, returned in 2006 and went through a series of gimmicks before leaving the company in February 2010. Benjamin would go on to win three Intercontinental titles and the U.S. title before being leaving in April 2010. Through it all the two have remained close, so when the opportunity to team up in Ring of Honor came about, they jumped at it.
“It is a chance to get on the indies and see a different side of the business, come to a place with great tag teams and have some fun,” Benjamin explained. “Charlie and I have never not worked together, we have been glue since they put us together. The World’s Greatest Tag Team has never been broken up, we’ve just been in different places at different times. We have always worked together even when he wasn’t with WWE. It is really just fun, that is how I describe my time here.”
SLAM! Wrestling spoke with the pair at WrestleReunion 5 in Los Angeles, the day after a stellar non-title match against The Kings of Wrestling: Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli. It was a rematch from a New York City match in September. Initially a special attraction, the match lead to them joining the company full-time.
“What sold us was the first match with the Kings of Wrestling when I realized how great the ROH fans are and how they welcomed us. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but afterwards I had never seen him so excited after that match. I said to Shelton, ‘Dude, this is something we have to be a part of,’ and he replied, ‘Hell yeah!’ We went ahead and decided we wanted to stick with them,” said Haas.
“We worked with Jim Cornette in OVW, worked with Dave Lagana before, and Cary Silkin is a great owner and he has really bent over backwards for us. It sealed the deal,” Haas continued. “We are just so happy to be in a company that promotes wrestling and tag team wrestling. From the bottom of my heart, I truly believe that ROH has the best tag team wrestling in the world. It is the best division in the world, as is the Heavyweight division and TV championship division. Every wrestler is phenomenal. We love it, we are home and wrestling our style, the way we want to, be who we want to and that is just wrestling. Ring of Honor has given us a platform to showcase our true talents.”
“We are going for the tag team championships. I don’t limit myself to tag team championships, we are the World’s Greatest Tag Team but I am still The Gold Standard. So eventually I am going to be eying the World Championship,” added Benjamin. “Right now our focus, our goal is the tag team championship. The reason we are here is that ROH simply has the best division, it is a company that gives tag team wrestling a prominent spot on the card. I can’t say the same for WWE or TNA. In ROH, tag team wrestling matters so that’s where we are.”
“One of the most important things in professional wrestling is to be remembered. You want to leave a legacy and have stories about you from years ago,” said Benjamin. “For fans to recognize our signature stuff and get amped for it, that says we did our job years ago. Everything we have done has paid off, people remember and appreciate it and still want to see it. For us it is a pat on the back, a boost of confidence, and makes things fun again.”
During the L.A. bout, they tried to execute one of their signature moves, with Hero on the ropes with Haas holding him. When Benjamin went to leapfrog over Haas, Castignoli cut him off which left the crowd groaning in disappointment. To have fans react so strongly to moves they haven’t seen means a lot to both wrestlers.
“It means a lot especially when we get a chance to hit those signature moves, and people go nuts. Sometimes you take it away from them and get cut off, you can’t give the fans everything they want in one match, you have to keep them coming back,” added Haas. “Maybe the next match we will be able to hit it, maybe we won’t. For them to realize what we are setting up for and you hear that excitement, that ‘Here it comes,’ whatever the outcome is it just means a lot for them to remember that.”
After two “dream matches” against the Kings of Wrestling they head into another fantasy bout this Saturday night in Chicago Ridge. They will square off against Jay and Mark Briscoe on Ring of Honor’s Ninth Anniversary Show. The match will be broadcast live on Internet Pay-Per-View. For Haas the match has a lot of history.
“I am really excited about that, we have history me and the Briscoes that goes way back. Me and my brother (Russ) helped break them in when they were in high school and I was tagging with my brother. To see them become one of the greatest tag teams in the world, I am proud of them for how far their career has come and that they have stuck with it. For Shelton and I to work them is really a dream match and we are really looking forward to it. If they are anything like the Kings of Wrestling it is going to be awesome. Every tag team in ROH is awesome so there shouldn’t be anything less than a five-star match with any of those teams.”
Benjamin is looking forward to the match as well.
“Facing the Briscoes will be interesting for me, they seem like a couple of loose cannons. They are very tough guys with a very strong reputation. It seems like every match we are having in Ring of Honor is a dream match for somebody. It should be fun, I expect the same level of intensity from the Briscoes, maybe even more so than the Kings. When you are sitting on the mountaintop it is easy to relax compared to when you are hungry, and the Briscoes are hungry as hell. I think we got our work cut out for us with them.”
Working for ROH also allows Charlie to tour and spend time at home. A dedicated family man, Haas enjoys spending time off the road with his wife, former WWE diva Jackie Gayda, and their three children.
“It is tough on them. I am home more than I was with WWE but gone for longer periods. Thank God I have a strong wife that was in the business and understands that, where most wives would freak out and that would probably be the end of the marriage. She is just a good woman who has stuck by me and supports me, she knows wrestling is how I support the family. Ring of Honor has given me a schedule that lets me do what I need to do to work and still perform at home.”
After some ups and downs in WWE, it’s an opportunity to do what they do best — wrestle — and prove something.
“As far as WWE goes, the overall picture is I had a good run there. I was there 10 years, won many championships and made a lot of money. People know and appreciate what I can do,” said Benjamin. “Just because WWE didn’t use me in a way I would have liked all the time, I still got my point across with the people that matter and that’s the fans. If they appreciate my work that is what matters to me because they are still going to pay to see me and I am still going to go out and kick butt for them every night. Every dog has his day and mine might still be on the horizon.”
Life after WWE can be rough, but both men see a bright future. They are renewed, reenergized, and reborn. Back together everything seems right and the future is bright for The World’s Greatest Tag Team.
“Shelton and I are going to Japan, France, Africa, wrestling all over the world and the country. I also have some shots coming up with Jersey All Pro,” said Haas. “Basically we are either out of the country or with ROH. We are doing single projects in different companies but we are such good friends and have been tagging so long that really, once we get in the ring we flow off each other’s chemistry and perform at a high level and give the fans what they want and really prove why we are the world’s greatest. When you have that moniker you really better be that good in the ring because of you’re not wrestling fans will shit all over you. We want to give them the chance to see the worlds greatest and to prove that we are.”
SHELTON BENJAMIN STORIES
- Aug. 28, 2015: New foes, new challenges is Shelton Benjamin’s mantra
- Sep. 25, 2010: Benjamin, Helms, Grenier, Demolition cook up hot T.O.W. show
- July 11, 2007: Shelton Benjamin hard to faze
Jason Clevett claims to be “The World’s Greatest Reptile Presenter.” An additional attempt to claim “World’s Greatest Wrestling Journalist” was quickly shot down by other staff and websites.