A new Gold Standard?
Arguably, Michael Phelps will forever be associated as the face of 2008's Summer Olympic Games. Winning an unprecedented eight gold medals, Phelps has broken the record of seven set by swimmer Mark Spitz at the 1972 Olympics, and been anointed globally by media markets as the "New Gold Standard" -- a distinction that has incurred the ire of SmackDown's "Gold Standard," United States Champion Shelton Benjamin.
"I will give Michael Phelps his due as an Olympic swimmer," Benjamin told WWE.com yesterday, five days after Phelps earned his eighth gold medal. "But as a total athlete, a total performer and a total champion, there is only one [Gold Standard]. And make no mistake, that person is Shelton Benjamin.
"Michael Phelps is a paper champion," he added, "because by this time next year, Shelton Benjamin will still be in the news. Michael Phelps will be dust in the wind. Five years from now, people will still remember my name."
Phelps is not alone in the WWE Gold Standard's criticism. Benjamin saved his more disparaging remarks for the media, for bestowing his moniker on the 16-time Olympic medalist (14 gold and two bronze).
"The media should be focusing on me as the Gold Standard," he insisted. "I am the United States Champion. I've been the Intercontinental Champion three times. I've been the WWE Tag Team Champion twice. And how long do you think it's going to be before I am WWE Champion? I'm the story. I'm not some momma's boy like Phelps. Who conducts an interview with their mom, anyway?"
Unlike Mark Spitz, who has been comparing his past accomplishments to Phelps' current victories, Benjamin is certain that he would dominate Phelps both in the pool and within the squared circle.
"In one-on-one competition -- Shelton Benjamin, the true Gold Standard, versus Michael Phelps -- I would win!" the United States Champion vigorously declared. "If we were playing golf, I'd win. If we had a drinking contest, I'd win. Football, basketball, mixed martial arts, Nintendo … you name it, I'd beat him. Why? Because I am the Gold Standard, period."
Benjamin is "preparing to rewrite the standard" tonight on SmackDown, by competing in a WWE Championship Scramble Qualifying Match to earn an opportunity to face Triple H for the WWE Championship at Unforgiven. And as usual, he's not shy when it comes to speaking of his chances of adding more gold to his hefty collection.
"Anything I set my mind to do, I do it. Michael Phelps set his mind to swimming and he beat everybody -- everybody but me! As the true Gold Standard, my chances are astronomical. It's almost a foregone conclusion that without a shadow of doubt, the Gold Standard will hit paydirt. I will go on to Unforgiven after winning the Championship Scramble qualifier, and I will become the WWE Champion. That is guaranteed. There ain't no stopping me, now or ever."
Can Shelton Benjamin re-take the Gold Standard nickname "usurped" by Michael Phelps? Can he dig deep during the Championship Scramble Qualifying Match and strike gold once more at Unforgiven? Watch SmackDown on The CW Network tonight at 8/7 CT.