Hack-Man Pro-Wrestling Chris Benoit interview

Last updated 18 August 2004

Question: Growing up, who were some of your biggest influences?

Chris Benoit: I patterned myself so much after the Dynamite Kid. I mean when I was in junior high, I was shaving my head whenever he'd shave his head. I tried to emulate him so much. Looking back now, I kinda laugh about it, but that's how big of a fan I was. Back then, he was a part of group called Foley's Army, with a man named John Foley as the manager, and believe me, in my own world, I was also in Foley's Army.

Question: At what age/moment did you know you wanted to be a professional wrestler?

Chris Benoit: I've always been a fan of wrestling. I remember watching my first wrestling match when I was 3 years old. It was Andre the Giant against three other guys, just throwing them around. I started attending matches when I was about 11 or 12. My dad and my grandfather used to take me to the old Pavilion in Edmonton to watch Stampede Wrestling, and it was the first time that I really laid eyes on the Dynamite Kid. I used to love watching him wrestle Bret [Hart], Davey Boy [Smith], Bad News Allen (Brown) and the Cobra in some real memorable matches. It was just the way he carried himself in the ring, his poise, his confidence, and his ability. He was just so mechanical with everything he did. It was like he never wasted a move. He just went into the ring, kicked butt and asked questions later. So, from that time on, I realized that that was what I wanted to be, and I've been a lifelong fan since.

Question: How did you hook up with Stu Hart?

Chris Benoit: When I first started training, I started going to the matches and eventually got to know the people in Edmonton who would set up the ring and set up the chairs. I eventually started setting up the chairs with them, then setting up the ring with them. And then after we got the ring set up, we'd get in the ring and start horsing around. Eventually they started introducing me to the wrestlers, and slowly but surely I started talking to them and when I was about 17, I finally got the opportunity to talk to Stu Hart. He asked me if I was interested in wrestling, and I told him that it was my lifelong dream. So he invited me down to Calgary to train. So I'd finish up high school on a Friday, go to the bus station, take a Greyhound down to Calgary, and started training over the weekend. Then on Sunday night, I'd get back on the bus and head back up to Edmonton so that I could go back to school. I did this every weekend until the summer came.

Question: Who else trained with you in Canada?

Chris Benoit: There wasn't ever really a class. I mean there were guys coming in and guys going out all the time. I got to spend a lot of time training with a Japanese wrestler named Mr. Hito, and another wrestler named Mike Hanna, and I got to fool around with Owen Hart. There were just a lot of people coming in and going out, and I chuckle sometimes thinking back on some of the guys who came in. There would be guys who were like 6 foot 5, 280 pounds, strong as an ox, bragging I can do this stuff.' Then Stu would call them down to the basement, and all of a sudden these guys were whimpering like little school kids. It was educational, but also an awakening at the same time, because people were walking around talking about how easy it is, and that, but when you're watching and you see somebody in there that does make it look easy, that's because they're that good. It's a true craft, and that's the way I was taught: to respect it and to never stop learning. And that's one thing Stu passed on to me.

Question: Tell us about your first match. Where was it? Who was it against?

Chris Benoit: I was 18. It was me and Rick Patterson against Mike Hammer and Carl Moffit.

Question: What did your family think of you wanting to become a professional wrestler?

Chris Benoit: They encouraged me all the way. They were fans, but I think more so they saw how much of a fan I was. I mean my family was into it as well, but I think they really just enjoyed watching me enjoy myself.

Question: When your career started, what was your ultimate goal? Was it WWE?

Chris Benoit: Back when I was breaking in, the only wrestling show that I'd ever seen had been Stampede Wrestling, because we didn't get WWE on TV there at the time. So to me, it was the biggest thing in the world to wrestle for Stampede.

Question: Looking back now, who do you think provided you with most of the wrestling knowledge you have today?

Chris Benoit: Stu Hart. He'd show us tough love by stretching us in the basement. At the time, I did most of my training in the ring with the young Harts, Mr. Hito, Mike Hanna and others, and after we got done with that, Stu would drag us down to the basement and wrap us up like pretzels until our eyes were ready to pop out of your head. And I loved it. Stu taught about respect and dignity, and he never took advantage of me. I mean he tried to, because wanted to see if I was cut from the right kind of cloth and if I could take punishment, but Stu always treated everyone the same. Some people made it through and some people didn't. I respect that, because I think that it's a shame sometimes to see some people that get in, and it happens, that don't really belong, and once they've been in for a while, they decide that it wasn't really for them. I feel that all of that should all be predetermined in their training.

Question: How did you end up going to Japan?

Chris Benoit: I got introduced to Japan through Bad News Brown, who wrestled in WWE, and a guy named Tokyo Joe, who did a lot of work as an agent for the company New Japan. He once wrestled in Calgary and lives in Calgary now. Both of them arranged for me to go over there and train when I was 19 years old.

Question: Tell us a little bit about getting started in Japan?

Chris Benoit: After I left Stampede, I went over to Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling. I stayed over there for a full year and trained at their dojo, with their wrestlers. After I spent a year there, they sent me back to Calgary for about a year and a half, and then brought me back as a masked wrestler by the name of Pegasus Kid. They came up with that.

Question: What were some of the most important things you learned while in Japan?

Chris Benoit: I would say the discipline. The way that it was structured really taught you about respecting and appreciating everything. The way they have things over there - working out during the day, then having the matches at night - really forced you to learn. We were at ringside the whole time for shows. So I learned so much from being right there in the front row for a lot of great matches.

Question: What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment while competing in Japan?

Chris Benoit: One of them would have to be completing my year with the training over there. The other one would be winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from Jushin Thunder Liger.

Question: From Japan you went to ECW. While there, you competed in a match where you broke Sabu's neck. Do you still think about that while you compete today?

Chris Benoit: No. At the time, it bothered me a lot, but it doesn't now. I did something that is in the past, and it doesn't come across my mind. It was something that happened many years ago, and from that was born "The Crippler".

Question: What would you say ECW taught you most about professional wrestling?

Chris Benoit: You learn a bit off of every thing and everyone. Every match I walk away from, I learn something because the business in constantly evolving. Anyone who walks away from a match, even if it was a bad match, and says they didn't learn something, they don't have the right frame of mind. You learn so much from each and every place. So if you ask me 'what did you learn the most?,' I learned so much at that point that I can't pinpoint just one thing that stands out the most.

Question: You explained in detail on your new DVD why you left ECW. Would you rather have stayed?

Chris Benoit: ECW wasn't my main source of income then. They flied my in once and a while. To me, it was Japan because they were bringing me in on just about every tour there. In between tours, I would go and wrestle for ECW, which was a great experience at the time, but I was wrestling a lot for Japan. It wasn't as if one thing soured and it was a 180 degree turn. It wasn't like that. I wasn't there for every show.

Question: What was your biggest highlight in WCW?

Chris Benoit: The high points were every time I was in the ring, because no matter all of the crap that was going on around us, every time I got in the ring, no one could touch that, no one could take away my creativity and no one could take away what I did. In the ring, no one could put me on a leash. Every time I was in the ring, I felt fulfilled, because I truly love what I do.

Question: What was your lowest point in WCW?

Chris Benoit: The bad parts were walking out of that ring and dealing with all of the bull of all the politics. There was so much crap going on, and it was blatant crap, just blatant horse spit, and at times I hated going to work. I did not want to get on that plane and go to work, I didn't want to get in that car and go there. But once I got there, and I got in the ring. In a way it was like that 10-15 minutes or half an hour in the ring, I'm in my own world, but once I stepped outside of that, I was very unhappy.

Question: How much did being a member of the Four Horsemen mean to you?

Chris Benoit: It was a great experience. Here in WCW you have Ric Flair and Arn Anderson come up to you with this idea. It's like 'Me? You want me to be a part of that?' It was really heavy. It was a great experience. To actually get to know them, and be with them, and pick their minds. What more can you ask for? It's everyone's dream.

Question: What did wrestling Bret Hart at the Owen Hart Memorial Show mean to you?

Chris Benoit: It meant a lot, on a personal level, just because of the fact that I spent some time with Owen, breaking into the business, as well as in Japan, Mexico, and Germany. Owen and I were pretty close at one time - we traveled the highways of Western Canada together for a number of years, and spent a lot of time together. So it meant a lot to be able to have that match, and it's something I'm still very proud of.

Question: Was WCW's backstage politicking as bad as most people say?

Chris Benoit: It's funny that people still ask that question, but yes. I'm sure you've heard it from each and every one [of the former WCW stars] that it was horrendous. I've never experienced anything like that, and it got to the point where I asked myself 'How can anyone run a business like this?' Inevitably, my perception was right, because it went out of business due to the way it was run. But in hindsight, it was a good experience, because I learned a lot - a lot of what not to do in this industry.

Question: Is Eric Bischoff the same person today as he was then?

Chris Benoit: I don't know. I try not to affiliate with him that much right now.

Question: In your last match with WCW, you defeated Sid for the WCW Championship. Later on, WCW declared that the title change never happened. In your mind, were you ever WCW Champion?

Chris Benoit: It was a tarnished victory, considering all the politics and all the bull that was going on behind the scenes. It was a stale moment for me in my career. Here you're looking at a kid who just won the World Heavyweight Championship for WCW and I'm describing it as a very stale victory, as a very stale part of my career. So that gives you an idea of how I was and how I felt emotionally about the company, about being there, about all the strings that were attached and all the sh*t that was going on. For so long they dangled that golden carrot in front of me and it's like I finally get it and it was rotten.

Question: You talk about why you left WCW on your DVD, but you never really said whether it was a move that you, Eddie, Dean and Saturn all had agreed on prior to leaving. Was that the case? Or was it just coincidence that you left at the same time?

Chris Benoit: Initially, there were about 18-21 of us, if I remember correctly, and we all went in, and agreed that we had an issue and wanted to talk about it. But when it came time to go in and talk to the president of the company, only 12 of us ended up going in there, and when we walked out, and our backs were against the wall, and we had to decide to go left or go right, only four of us that stepped up to that plate and hit that ball. It just boiled down to Eddie, Dean, Saturn and myself. It really taught me a lesson that people talk, and proclaim, but when it comes time to get stuff done, you really can't depend on a lot of people that much.

Question: In front of the cameras, Dean, Eddie, Saturn and you appeared to be close friends. Was this the case away from the ring?

Chris Benoit: Yes, we were all very close.

Question: Was there anybody in particular that you felt you were leaving behind in WCW when you decided to leave?

Chris Benoit: No, we all made up our minds, and we all talked. Also, it wasn't that it was a cliquish thing, or the four of us against everyone else. Everyone was very unhappy there, and there was a lot of talk in the locker room. So nobody was left out, anyone was welcome to come with us.

Question: Were you confident you were making the right decision when you decided to leave?

Chris Benoit: I was confident in myself, because I knew I needed a change. I was at the breaking point, emotionally, and mentally. I'd just had enough, and I was fed up with wrestling. I was fed up with the industry, and I was fed up with doing something that I love doing, so I knew something was drastically wrong.

Question: How were you received in the WWE locker room?

Chris Benoit: Great, it was a very good atmosphere, and people kept coming up to me and saying, 'relax a bit, this is a WWE family.' And I thought to myself that it was all bull because I'd just spent years experiencing the most dysfunctional family that I'd ever been around, so it took a while. But after a couple of months, I realized that it was a family. WCW was a corporation, and you were nothing but a number, and you felt like you were nothing but a number, whereas in WWE, it's a family-run business, and it is family.

Question: Looking back, do you feel that the Radicalz made a major impact on the history of professional wrestling?

Chris Benoit: We made an impact, and whether it was major or not is up to one's perception. It was major in my eyes, because it sure made a big change in my life. People watch matches, and say something was a good match, while others disagree, and say it wasn't too good of a match, so it's all in one's perception.

Question: Many feel that the year 2004 was your greatest professionally. What are your thoughts on this?

Chris Benoit: It's very complimentary that people are thinking that. It's very rewarding to have wrestled for all of these years, and put my heart and soul into it, and to be at a level, where people feel I've reached my peak is a great compliment.

Question: In your opinion, was your match at WrestleMania XX the highlight of your career?

Chris Benoit: For sure. Here I am winning the World Heavyweight Championship and being the first one to make Triple H tap out, in the middle of Madison Square Garden, in New York City, at the biggest venue in the world, and possibly the biggest show in the history of the company. It was definitely my greatest moment.

Question: When it's all said and done, where do you think this title reign will live in the history of WWE?

Chris Benoit: I don't know, I guess that's up to the fans, and my peers to dictate. I'm not the one to dictate that, and I would never want to. People always ask me how I'd like to be remembered, but I don't want to dictate that. Let the fans choose where I fall, that's what I want.

Question: It's been said that it takes a special kind of person to represent the company as its champion, meaning that it can be very draining both physically and mentally. Have you felt any ill-effects of being on top?

Chris Benoit: Ill-effects? No. It's been a lot more demanding - personally, physically, emotionally, mentally. But calling them ill-effects would be a wrong description. It's been a great ride and a great learning experience.

Question: What can fans expect out of Chris Benoit in the second half of 2004?

Chris Benoit: I don't know. I don't have any expectations of myself, except to go out there, and do the best that I can do, and be the best that I can be. So many interesting things can happen. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. No one does, and that's the way I look at life. I've been doing this for 18 years, and I've seen a lot, and been to a lot of places, so I've witnessed a lot, and had a lot of friends pass away very suddenly. So I try to be happy with each day that I have, and be happy with each day that I have - enjoy the moment. I do my best to live today and be happy.

Question: Who do you think is the next Chris Benoit? Who do you think has paid his dues and deserves a shot at the top?

Chris Benoit: I hate hearing about 'paying your dues.' That really bothers me. I'm not of that train of thought. To me, anyone who has talent, ability, drive, desire, and passion for what we do, is deserving. It's not about paying dues. Some people are gifted, and it comes naturally to them, while others have to bust their butt a lot harder to get there. That's just the way it is.

Question: When Chris Benoit hangs up his boots for good, what will his legacy be? What will the next generation be saying about Chris Benoit?

Chris Benoit: Again, the people will dictate my legacy, and my peers will dictate my legacy. I'm not going to do that. Let them decide, because it's them who paid their hard-earned money to come out and watch me, and buy pay-per-views, DVDs, shirts, and hats. They are the fans that I go out there and do what I love to do for. So they can dictate all of that.

This interview originally appeared at http://spotlight.wwe.com/benoit/qa.html