Okay, before his Pater Familicide, it's hard to deny that Chris Benoit was an AWESOME wrestler. Without excusing or condoning the events at the end of his life, here are some of the awesome moments of his career;
Benoit's victory and post-match celebration with Eddie Guerrero at WrestleMania 20 is the prime example. Certainly helped by the fact that it was probably the best match of the year, and one of the best of Benoit's career. Plus, if you were to tell a WrestleCrap board member that Chris Benoit would cleanly beat Triple H and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XX back in 2003, he would've died of laughter.
His Royal Rumble win in 2004, starting at #1, lasting 61 minutes, 30 seconds and eliminating the biggest people in the match: Mark Henry, Bradshaw, Rhyno, Matt Morgan, A-Train and finally The Big Show. He could not have been made to look like a bigger badass in that match.
Not to mention that the 2004 Royal Rumble Match is considered the greatest Rumble Match of all time, and even received a 5 star rating from wrestling critics J.D. Dunn and Scott Keith.
There's more - the night before at Judgement Day, Benoit wrestled a two-out-of-three falls match with Kurt Angleand took part in a Tag Team Turmoil match later that night; then he wrestled the tag title match on RAW; and the next night at the SmackDown! tapings, due to Triple H's Game-Breaking Injury mentioned above, Benoit took part in a TLC match as well. Which is the match where he broke his neck.
Bad Blood 2004 saw Chris (the reigning World Heavyweight Champipn at the time) team up with fellow Canadian Edge to challenge La Resistance for the World Tag Team Championship. After winning by disqualification (in which a title cannot change hands), Kane (the no. 1 contender for the World Title who would face Benoit later that same night) brutally attacks both Benoit and Edge. Despite which, he manages to defeat Kane later that night, winning his second match of the night.
Back when he was in WCW after a loss he cut a promo, whether a shoot or a work it still needed to be said.
"There's a group of us who are sick of the politics back there! Who are sick and tired of the guys who monopolize the top spots in this industry!"
Just before Benoit left WCW for WWE he was booked to win the World Heavyweight Title at Souled Out 2000 as an incentive to get him to stay. Since he wanted to leave because of Kevin Sullivan being put back on the booking team, Benoit wasn't satisfied. Popular lore says that the morning after winning the WCW World Title, Benoit went into the office of Bill Busch (then executive producer of WCW Monday Nitro,) asked for his release, took the belt, and dropped it into Busch's trash can! Would anyone else have the level of balls it took to say you wanted out with a statement like that?
His greatness is Older than You Think: a good CMOA candidate came during the Super J Cup in April 1994. A short history for you: New Japan Pro Wrestling (The company Benoit was working for at the time) was in doubt as to whether light-heavyweights could draw money, but they agreed to host a one-night tournament as a test. If it went well, they'd continue to wrestle in NJPW. If not, they'd be pushed to the undercard, if not cut entirely. Fast forward to the finals of the tournament, where Benoit finds himself against The Great Sasuke, a man he cannot communicate with, is openly hostile to foreigners, doesn't even work for NJPW, and has just come off a grueling 20 minute war against NJPW's ace, Jushin Liger. With the fate of his division resting on his shoulders, Benoit and Sasuke create a 5 star classic that steals the show on what has been called the best single night in the history of pro wrestling by a number of critics. It should go without saying that Benoit was victorious.
Then there was the time where after he and Perry Saturn lost he called out the cliques backstage who monopolize the top spots, sick and tired of the politics.
His 2003 Royal Rumble Match against Kurt Angle. The match itself was good, but the CMOA was the standing ovation he received after he LOST the match.
Furthermore, both wrestlers were heels at the time, and heel vs. heel matches usually don't get much of a reaction from crowds, much less a standing ovation.