After the controversy surrounding Chris Benoit's death in 2007, his name has become taboo in the pro wrestling world. While reviewing WCW Souled Out 2000 on the 83 Weeks podcast, Eric Bischoff discussed the main event featuring Benoit and Sid Vicious for the vacant WCW World TItle.
While Souled Out was a show he was not a part of, Eric was asked about his opinions of Benoit. In his brief time together with him, Eric stated that he had no issues with Benoit, as they had a great working relationship to start.
"It started out being very respectful. I was completely blunt," Bischoff stated. "When he and Eddie (Guerrero) and Dean (Malenko) came to my office the very first time I laid out exactly what my expectations were, I laid out exactly what I was going to pay them. I didn't try hard to sell them; I was as honest as I could possibly be, and they were as well. I think that kind of set the tone for the majority of our relationship. As time went on and things got more emotional it got more typical, especially with Eddie, who was the spokesperson of the group. Chris was quiet, he was that guy that would stand in the back and he was thinking and listening and he was making his own judgments. I never had a lot of confrontations with Chris; he wasn't a confrontational guy. If he had an issue, he would come to me in a very respectful, almost subdued tone and politely asked if there was time to address whatever he had an issue with, and I would. Our discourse was very professional and for the most part constructive. I enjoyed working with Chris."
One of the reasons Benoit was so beloved by the wrestling world at the time was his work ethic. The former WWE World Heavyweight Champion had classic matches with the likes of Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero. Eric saw the same thing as everyone else did with Benoit.
"I love people who are hyper-professional, which Chris was," Eric continued. "He was so good, he was a master of his art. He was extremely knowledgeable in psychology and understood the need and value of it. Chris had the diversity to be a big star in Japan, which is something I had a ton of respect for. Chris, Eddie and Dean had the ability to work both of those styles at the highest level. I don't know if he respected me or if he didn't but at least he acted like he did. It made our process, no matter how difficult the subject matter, pretty easy. Obviously, he had issues that none of us knew about. I feel horrible about it. Prior to that, I held Chris in a very high seat."
Once the Benoit tragedy took place, WWE immediately cut all ties with the Benoit name, never mentioning anything related to him on television. His matches are all over the internet and the WWE Network, however. For Bischoff, he loves when a match is put together smoothly. Like a movie, he watches a match to break down if all of the boxes were checked. Benoit was the one guy where he could check off all of the boxes.
"The sad way his life ended, that doesn't really come into my mind when I watch matches like this (against Sid). I'm really breaking it down in terms of its execution," Eric went on to say. "When you see a move like Chris spinning and taking Sid down, that just looks believable, so crisp, so real. There was nothing ever fake or implausible about a Chris Benoit match. Everything looked so believable, which to me is the highest compliment you can pay any talent. I'm watching a guy my height in there with a guy as huge as Sid Vicious and unlike the Kevin Nash v. Terry Funk bout from earlier, here you have a size discrepancy but I'm believing this. I'm allowing myself to believe it, primarily because of Chris, taking nothing away from Sid. If this wasn't the best match Sid has ever had, it has to be the top five.
"Regardless of how horrible his life had ended and the damage that he did, we're talking about two separate things," Eric stated. "If you're talking about technical ability and the mastery of the art form of this industry that we all love, I separate it from what we know happened. You look at a lot of actors, actresses and musicians. Surely they were flawed, they hurt a lot of people, they may have ended their lives prematurely, they did horrible things to themselves and others too. You can't take away from what they achieved as artists. That's how I look at Chris Benoit matches."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.