WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 (lost pre-release build and original cover art of professional wrestling game; 2007)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL due to its discussion of murders and suicide.


Cover art for the game, alleged to have been altered following the Benoit double-murder suicide.

Status: Lost

WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 was a THQ professional wrestling video game released for the sixth and seventh-generation consoles. The fourth within the SmackDown vs Raw series, the game reflected the 2007 WWE season and its main draw was the inaugural inclusion of the ECW brand. However, the game faced delays following the fallout of the Chris Benoit double-murder suicide, which prompted the removal of Benoit-related assets prior to release. The June 2007 issue of GamesMaster also reported that Benoit was to be on the game's cover art, which naturally was altered prior to the game reaching stores.


WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 included such gameplay features as different fighting styles and a struggle submission system.[1][2] The game received mixed to good reviews from critics.[3][4] In summarising the PlayStation 2 and 3 versions, IGN reviewer Greg Miller praised the revised control system, but criticised them for a 24/7 Mode deemed inferior to previous renditions and yet retaining the same flaws as its predecessors.[5][2] These critiques were generally reflected in most sixth and seventh-generation reviews, with concerns that the PlayStation 2 port had become stale.[3][4][5] Outside of control changes, the game added WWE's version of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), which debuted on television on June 13, 2006.[6][1][2]

During development, the 2007 WWE Draft was held on the June 11, 2007 edition of WWE Raw.[7] Two-time World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit was drafted from SmackDown to ECW, having previously worked for the original ECW promotion from 1994—1995.[8][7] Benoit was set to challenge — and beat — CM Punk for the ECW World Championship at the Vengeance: Night of Champions pay-per-view on June 24; the championship had been vacated by Bobby Lashley due to his draft to Raw.[9][10][8][7] According to Punk, the feud would have intensified over time, becoming an especially violent affair by Vengeance.[11]

Benoit unexpectedly no-showed Vengeance, allowing Johnny Nitro to wrestle Punk and win the belt instead.[9][8][10] Concerns emerged regarding Benoit's well-being, especially after his close friend Chavo Guerrero received unusual voice messages and texts from him.[10][8] The following day, police discovered the bodies of Chris, his wife Nancy, and their 7-year-old son Daniel at the Benoit household in Fayetteville, Georgia.[10][8] Upon being informed of the situation, WWE made the three-hour Raw special after Vengeance a tribute show to Benoit and also scrapped a storyline about Mr. McMahon's death.[12][10][7] During the tribute, police confirmed that Benoit had strangled Nancy and Daniel to death during the weekend, before hanging himself.[10][8]

Pre-release build and original cover art

WWE distanced themselves from Benoit as damage control, removing all mentions of him from their official media and editing his matches out of official video releases.[13] WWE instructed THQ and Yuke's to remove all Benoit-related content from WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008, including his playable character and related commentary, crowd signs, and moves.[1][14][15][16][17] Considering Benoit was among WWE's top stars, it was likely he had a significant presence in the original build, particularly featuring in 24/7 Mode angles.[14][15] There were concerns that the removals would force THQ to delay the game beyond November, thus missing out on the lucrative Christmas season.[15][18] The game ultimately made store shelves in November regardless.[2][15]The Cutting Room Floor users found that the only remaining Benoit-related content in the final release was his Crippler Crossface submission hold and a slot for his moves and attributes; both were inaccessible without cheating devices.[15][16]

Benoit was allegedly featured in the game's original cover art.[16][19] English gaming magazine GamesMaster extensively covered the game in its May and June 2007 issues;[19][20] in the latter, which went to press before Benoit's actions became public knowledge, it was reported that he would appear on the front cover.[19][16] Instead, the final cover art features John Cena, The Undertaker, and Bobby Lashley.[15][16] Exactly which wrestler replaced Benoit is unclear, though Atletifo speculated that Lashley was a hasty replacement.[15] Although he'd been drafted to Raw by the game's release, Lashley was ECW's top star before the draft, having had two reigns as ECW Champion.[7] This suggests Lashley was meant to represent ECW on the cover, with Cena and Undertaker synonymous with Raw and SmackDown respectively.[15][17] Hence, Benoit's new ECW connections probably explained his appearance on the original cover.[15] The cover art likely contained the text "ECW INVASION" rather than "FEATURING ECW", as reflected by a logo featured in THQ's unveil of the game.[21]


Little Benoit-related content appeared in WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008's final build.[15][16] However, Reddit user Cinnamon0999 presented forum posts which claim a build demonstrated at a game kiosk actually contained Benoit, even though he should have been removed from the code beforehand.[22] While the claim should be viewed with scepticism, it is possible prototype builds may still exist.[16] However, these and the original cover art are extremely unlikely to publicly surface considering that THQ's assets were acquired by multiple companies following its 2013 bankruptcy, and WWE refuses to promote or reference Benoit where possible.[23][13][16] Some videos and screenshots have claimed to have been from one of the prototype builds, but have since been debunked as either hacked versions or images from WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2007.[16]



Video demonstrating Benoit moves that were hidden from the game (Benoit player model is merely a Create-a-Wrestler).

WrestleGamia summarising the removed Benoit content and rumoured screenshots from pre-release builds.

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Archived THQ press release announcing the game. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 IGN review of the PlayStation 3 port and noting the key changes like the fighting styles. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 Metacritic providing a 71 Metascore for the PlayStation 2 version. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 Metacritic providing a 71 Metascore for the Xbox 360 version. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  5. 5.0 5.1 IGN review of the PlayStation 2 version. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  6. Wrestlezone providing a press release of WWE ECW's launch. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Archived Online World of Wrestling summarising the 2007 WWE Draft. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Pro Wrestling Stories documenting the life and career of Benoit. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 Atletifo documenting the planned Benoit-Punk feud. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 E Wrestling News detailing the timeline of the Benoit double-murder suicide. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  11. Wrestling World reporting on Punk's comments surrounding the scrapped Benoit feud. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  12. Altletifo documenting the Mr. McMahon funeral segments that were scrapped for the Benoit tribute. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  13. 13.0 13.1 Bleacher Report detailing WWE distancing themselves from Benoit. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wrestling Inc reporting on the game being delayed so that Benoit content could be removed. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 15.7 15.8 15.9 Alteifo documenting the cut Benoit content and original cover art. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 r/lostmedia discussing the lost Benoit build and cover art. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  17. 17.0 17.1 The SmackDown Hotel listing all wrestlers who appeared in the game. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  18. PWmania reporting on concerns the game would be delayed beyond November because of the removal of Benoit (report found on Smacktalks). Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Issue 186 of GamesMaster reporting on Benoit being set to appear on the game's cover art. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  20. Issue 185 of GamesMaster which provided a major report on the-then upcoming game. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  21. IGN preview of the game, noting the original logo featured the text "ECW INVASION". Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  22. Xbox Achievements containing a post from a user claiming to have played a Benoit build of the game. Retrieved 21st Oct '23
  23. USA Today reporting on the bankrupt THQ's assets being split to different companies. Retrieved 21st Oct '23