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Technically Speaking - wrestler and sports entertainer Chris Benoit

Wrestling Digest, Dec, 2000 by Stephanie Levitt

Once considered strictly a wrestler, Chris Benoit is becoming a sports entertainer in the WWF

YOU WONT FIND MANY WRESTLING fans who would refute that Chris Benoit is one of the finest technical wrestlers ever to grace the squared circle.

But when Benoit left WCW for the WWF in January 2000, some wondered how his style would mesh with the WWF's brand of sports entertainment. In his first seven months in the WWF, Benoit has shown that not only is he skilled technically, he is adaptable as well. He has captured the WWF Intercontinental title multiple times, and he has displayed his potential as a sadistic heel by aligning with Shane McMahon.

In the following interview, Benoit discusses, among other things, his departure from WCW, his thoughts on sports entertainment vs. wrestling skill, and what means more to him than money.

WRESTLING DIGEST: You recently welcomed a third child into your family. What's it like being a dad with the intense schedule of the WWF?

CHRIS BENOIT: I have been in the business for 14 years. It is really nothing new. I have grown accustomed to this way of life. Without a doubt, the schedule in the WWF is much more demanding than that of WCW, but it is much more rewarding. I used to wrestle in Japan, and I would go over there for three or four weeks, come home for a couple weeks and go to Mexico for three or four more. I am very used to this lifestyle, and my family is, too.

WD: Rumors circulated that you left WCW because you refused to work with Kevin Sullivan, the head booker at the time. Is this true?

CB: I couldn't say that was the sole reason. It would be too easy to point the finger at Sullivan and say he was the reason WCW failed, and he is the reason I left. He certainly was part of the reason, but not the entire reason. There have been other guys who have had problems with Sullivan. Without a doubt, my problems were much deeper rooted than many of the other guys', as mine were personal as well as professional. I just had no respect for the man, and I still feel the same way about him today. Really, that is a thing of the past, and I have moved on. I have made a better career for myself with the move. I am much happier with my personal life and my business life.

WD: How do you respond to the bulk of the people in your profession who regard themselves as "sports entertainers" as opposed to "wrestlers?"

CB: I agree with them to a certain extent. I, too, am a sports entertainer. But it is still wrestling and still very physical. I seldom walk out of the ring without an injury--a bruise, a sprained ankle, whatever. At the end of every match, I walk out with some sort of new ache or pain. That comes with my job. When I am out there, I give 100%. I give my body to the match, to my opponent and to the people I am performing in front of. It is a sport, but like all sports, it is also entertainment.

WD: When some fans chant "boring, boring" in a match that features technical wrestling--such as a performer getting his opponent in a hold for 20 to 30 seconds--does it bother you?

CB: No, not really. I have noticed in the WWF, with the [match consultants] like Pat Patterson and Jerry Brisco, that there is a drastic difference between these guys and the [match consultants] I worked for in WCW. They have been able to change with the times. If you sit down and talk with a guy like Patterson about finishes and keeping a match interesting, he'll be right on. He has been able to with the times, and he is even a traditionalist than I am. The WWF is successful because it has been able to roll with the changes.

WD: Have you forsaken your technical wrestling style to fit in sports entertainment of the WWF?

CB: I don't think I have at all. I go into the ring and still have the same thought process. I may not have the same amount of time to put into a normal match, but, luckily, I get a chance to really wrestle at the pay-per-views. There, I am given the same amount of time to wrestle that I had when I was working for any of the other federations. I have always had the same mindset any time I have entered the ring, both when I was perceived as a wrestler and now as a sports entertainer.

WD: What has been the biggest difference between working for WCW and working for the WWF?

CB: A big part of it has to be the team concept and the show of appreciation the WWF gives its wrestlers. To have Vince McMahon walk up to me and shake my hand and pat me on the back means more than money can buy. It doesn't cost anything, and it does a lot for morale. It is more of a family atmosphere, and there is more teamwork than there was in WCW. In WCW, you never felt you were part of a team or that you were contributing. It was almost as if they were disrespecting you. To have a man of McMahon's stature know everyone's name in the dressing room, and to be able to approach him, says a lot about the company and a lot about the man. That goes from Vince to the entire company. You just feel so much more appreciated here.


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