Chris Benoit Interview

It was NZPWI’s privilege on Friday December 9 to have the opportunity to speak with the legendary WWE superstar, Chris Benoit.

Chris Benoit has a reputation as one of the all-time greats in the industry. Throughout his career, he has maintained outstanding integrity as a performer and in the locker room. His talent as a technical wrestler compares to that of Kurt Angle and Bret Hart, whom Chris speaks of as one of his favourite opponents.

Chris spoke to NZPWI’s Kirsty Quested about his plans for Booker T and the US Championship, his definition of a “technical wrestler”, and his sorrow over the loss of his best friend, Eddie Guerrero.

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Throughout professional wrestling’s history, few performers have managed to achieve the kind of success as my guest today. He has held titles in companies across the globe, including the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He is widely regarded as one of the best technical wrestlers of all time; he is the Crippler, Chris Benoit.

Kirsty Quested: Hi Chris, how’re you doing?

Chris Benoit: Good, how’re you doing?

You’re having a busy day.

Yeah, very busy, I apologise.

That’s fine, it’s no problem.

How are you enjoying being back on SmackDown?

I’m enjoying it a lot, you know, different level of competition, and the different competition itself. I get to step into the ring with the likes of Booker T again, with JBL… it’s just changed the competitiveness all across the board.

RAW Action, Reno, NV October 18, 2005 Photo: Craig AMbrosioSpeaking of Booker T, you’re in the middle of another Best of 7 series of matches with him, which is actually the second time that the two of you have done this. On the Hard Knocks DVD, you said that it had been tough coming up with seven individual matches. Are you concerned about that this time round?

No, I’m not. Booker T is obviously seasoned so much since the last time we’ve done it, as have myself, so it’s been quite challenging, you know, competitively, in a competitive way, to step into the ring and wrestle him. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, and I like the competitiveness that Booker T brings to the table.

So, apart from the US Championship, what are you hoping to get out of it?

Well, you know obviously the US Championship, and I want to be able to have a series of matches that the fans will be talking about years from now as they did in our Best of 7 series back in WCW at the time, but I want fans to be able to look back years from now and be able to talk about it in a very positive way.

The SmackDown roster has been sadly – very sadly – depleted over recent months. Has this put additional pressure on you as a headliner for that brand?

I don’t think it does. I think – I don’t see it as pressure, I see it as a challenge. And I really enjoy that, you know as I said, that part of the industry, that’s the part that I really enjoy, the challenges of stepping into the ring with… you know, one day you’re facing a guy who’s just a high flier and very quick, and the next day you’re facing a who’s just a giant, and a monster – it’s part of the challenges that I enjoy.

So I don’t feel added pressure, I feel it as a challenge.

Bret Hart said on Byte This recently that you could have woken him at four in the morning to have a match with Chris Benoit. How do you look back on the few matches that you had with Bret Hart?

Oh… wow. You know, there were… they all meant so much to me, especially the one at Kemper Arena, with Bret, that was a tribute to Owen, it just meant so much to me, to be able to step into that ring, and do that in honour of Owen.

But all my matches that I’ve had with Bret are very memorable because I grew up watching, I spent a lot of time watching Bret as a teenager, you know, watching him in Stampede Wrestling when I was, my years growing up dreaming about becoming a wrestler, I used to go every Saturday to the Pavilion at Edmonton and watch Bret wrestle, so it’s truly an honour to be able to step into the ring with him and wrestle him.

SmackDown Action, San Antonio, TX. October 11, 2005 Photo: David GunnYou and Bret have been described as two of the best technical wrestlers of all time. What to you defines a technical wrestler?

Someone that could go in there and not have to rely on swinging a chair or swinging a barbed wire baseball bat or… someone who could go in there and have a wrestling match without throwing a punch or without throwing a kick, you know, just wrestling on the mat and telling a good story, and keeping the people captivated while doing it at the same time.

Are there any matches that you’ve had that you look back on that you would count as defining moments in your career?

WrestleMania 20. Against Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

Yeah, for sure.

That was a defining moment in my career.

Is there anyone out there, retired or active, that you’d love to step into the ring with, that you haven’t yet?

Oh, there’s a ton of guys that are retired, you know I think back to all the wrestlers that have paved the way, paved the road for us to be where we’re at right now. You know, there’s a ton of them. I mean, I could go on and on and on.

You don’t have one actual dream match?

Oh, I’d love to wrestle the original Tiger Mask. I think that’d be great. Buddy Rogers, ah, I’d love to wrestle Pat Patterson in his heyday. You know, I could just go on and on and on and on.

Hahah… ok, well for the people that you have been in the ring with, who have been some of your favourite opponents to date?

Uh… they all are. I enjoy every match that I have, really. Part of the reason why I started wrestling was because of the competitiveness, because of the challenges that you face once you step into that ring. It’s just the unknown. I mean, I’ve got guys that I’ve got better chemistry with, but I enjoy doing it, I enjoy, I love what I do. So every time that I’m in that ring, I’m doing something that I love doing.

Who’d be someone that you’d say you had great chemistry with?

Well, there’s a lot. Triple H. Chris Jericho. Booker T. Bret Hart. You know, there’s a number of wrestlers… Ric Flair.

Yep.

It’s a long list. Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Dave Finlay. Negro Casas. I’m naming some of the names from around the world now.

Yeah, yeah.

I’ve wrestled, I’ve been fortunate enough to wrestle around the world.

Speaking of wrestling all around the world, and you have been in a lot of promotions, a lot of companies, which one would you say has been the best to prepare you for your career in WWE?

They all have. In terms of preparing me for WWE, all of them contributed a little piece of who I am today. Because they all had their unique style, like I’d go over to Germany and wrestle for Otto (Wanz, of Catch Wrestling Association), in a lot of European style there, then I’d go to Japan, which was strictly Japanese style, then I’d go down to Mexico, that’s an entirely different style in itself, and it took a little piece of each pie and put them all together, you know ECW fits into that as well.

Speaking of ECW, you know, it was known for it’s violent, bloody style and rabid fans; did you ever feel intimidated in that environment?

Hahaha! No, not at all. And that’s what made myself, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero different, is we went there and we wrestled. Everyone else, you know, just about the whole show were about going through the tables and hitting someone over the head with a garbage can or hitting someone with a baseball bat, and we’d go in there and just have straight wrestling matches, pretty well. That’s what made us so different.

Many of us know the infamous story of how you got the name of the Crippler, but how did the name the Rabid Wolverine come about?

I’m not sure how that came about, um… I remember JR started calling me the Wolverine on TV, and I think it just stuck, because of my tenacity and my aggressiveness, and the fact that I’m not the biggest man in the world, but I’ve never let my size be a hindrance.

Yeah? It’s nothing to do with Wolverine from the X-Men?

Perhaps, I don’t know. Maybe you should ask JR.

Hahah…

Chris, I know that I speak for all New Zealand fans when I say how saddened we were to hear about Eddie Guerrero. On behalf of all New Zealand fans I’d like to pass on our condolences for your loss.

Thank you. Thank you.

WWE have been giving us so many great Eddie Guerrero moments to look back on. Watching you and Eddie in the ring at WrestleMania 20 is one of my favourites, that gets me every time. What are some of your best memories of Eddie?

Wow. You know, I’ve got so many, because we shared so much, and after I came back from Phoenix, from the service, we went right over to Europe and finished up the tour over there, and when I got home, my wife gave me a diary, and in it I’ve been writing letters to Eddie. Talking about different times that I remember and stuff. There’s just so much. You know, and hopefully, by the time I get it done I’m going to offer it to someone in his family if they want to read it, if they choose to read it, if they choose not to it’s going to go up in a special place for me, but… there’s just so many, but that moment at WrestleMania 20 characterises our relationship so much, because you could tell, you know… Eddie in the ring, and just… you could see the pride that he had on his face…

For sure.

… for me, and he was so encouraging, like he was just telling me “Yes Chris, we did it, we did it, we did it, you did it,” you know and he did, he just kept saying that, and I’ll never forget that, because that’s how our relationship was, Eddie was a very encouraging person and very, very positive, I mean he gave me a different perspective when my perspective wasn’t right, you know, if I was feeling down he’d give me something to look up to, or if I was going through something personal he’d give me something that would… he’d give me a ray of sunshine. You know, he was always just there for me…

Yeah…

… and it’s hard to describe, a lot of people say “well you guys were like brothers,” and I’m like “No. No, it was deeper than that.” And it was, I can’t explain it. It’s hard to choose the right words you know… I could tell you that I truly loved him. Loved him as a human being, loved him as a person. He was a very special person in my life, that has made a huge impact, and that’ll never… it’s a big part of who I am. Eddie Guerrero is a big part of who I am.

Yeah, yeah. I was part of a conference call with Christian Cage yesterday and he said that everything that people have been saying about Eddie is absolutely true, that he just had a heart of gold.

He did. He truly did. And he had his moments… I’m laughing because off the top of my head I think of, we were doing a non-televised event one night in Winnipeg, and some fan was drinking and threw a beer at Eddie, and Eddie got mad and turned around and slapped him, and afterwards, after Eddie got back from the ring, he was in the back and he was feeling so bad, I mean he was kicking himself so hard, I said “Eddie, what’s the matter, what are you doing,” he goes “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that, I didn’t meant to hurt him,” and I’m like “Eddie, the guy was belligerent and threw a beer at you, you earned the right to do that,” but he just felt so bad about it, and that’s the kind of guy Eddie was, it’s like he always… you know, he never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings, and he always wanted people to feel good and he always went out of his way to accommodate people. He did so many good things, he was such a kind-hearted person. Out of all the people I know, to choose one guy to say “well, he never intended any harm at all,” you know Eddie Guerrero would definitely be that guy.

Yeah… he is going to be very sadly missed by everyone, every wrestling fan around the globe, I know that for sure.

On a slightly more positive note, New Zealand fans have been really looking forward to seeing SmackDown out here in March. Have you been out to New Zealand before.

No, I’ve never been, I’m looking forward to it, I’ve been to Australia but never to New Zealand.

Yeah, you’re looking forward to coming out here?

Oh yeah. I’m really psyched. Looking very forward to coming.

For many New Zealand fans, you know this will be their first WWE show. What can they expect from a WWE live event?

Everything. Everything. There’s… you know it’s a complete package. Wherever WWE comes to, to your country or to your town or to your city or wherever we come, because we’ve got the Divas, we’ve got the technical wrestlers, we’ve got the hardcore wrestlers, we’ve got the high fliers, we’ve got the giants, we have a bit of everything. So it’s a complete package.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today, we really appreciate it, and we just, we’re very much looking forward to seeing you out here in March.

You’re very welcome, and on a… I want to thank the fans of New Zealand for their condolences in terms of Eddie because it was… it’s a very difficult situation but I want to thank them for their condolences.

Well I can tell you that all our hearts go out to Eddie and his family and all his friends… yeah, so…

All the best for Armageddon, and for that US Championship, and we’re looking forward to seeing you out here in March Chris, thanks very much.

I appreciate that, thank you.