Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone welcomed Dean Malenko on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast. Malenko is currently signed with AEW as a coach and a producer, but he talked about his time in WCW and the iconic moment when he, Perry Saturn, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero walked on and signed with the WWF.
"Things started going south a little bit after nWo came in and Nash was kind of taking over," Malenko recalled. "We had a conversation between us all. I don't remember if Eddie was in the conversation or not. It was time to move on because politics right the basics. For me and Chris, we knew we had something to fall back on going back to work in Japan. Worst-case scenario, there's nobody that wanted us out there, but we also respected that, and we knew what our limitations were, and we're very confident to work and what we could bring to another organization.
"So it was the night in Cincinnati, Chris is working with Sid Vicious and winning the title. The craziest things, early in the day, we told them we were leaving. They still wanted to give him the title. Still can't figure that out. Probably the craziest booking I've ever heard. And then the other funny part of that story is as we were walking down the hall, it was Bill Banks, who was kind of like the liaison in between Eric running the company at the time, submitted a statement a couple months back. If you don't want to be here, just tell me and you don't have to be here.
"As we were walking this long walk, like Chariots of Fire kind of walk all the way down the hallway to this guy's office, Eddie was running a little bit late and kind of walked in front of us with his bag, there was a match he was getting ready for. He goes, 'where you guys going?' I go, 'we're gonna quit.' I'll just come with you. He had no idea. If you guys are leaving, then I'll leave too."
Schiavone and Malenko talked about how big of a moment that was especially when talking about the rise and fall of WCW. Malenko said that he was operating with a gut instinct at the time and believes he made the right decision since WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon a year later.
"I think it's a big moment for any wrestling organization for four guys leaving all at once. That was a huge deal. Vince thought it was cool. Made the money worth our while, but at the same time, he looked at it like, it takes a lot of balls to do what you guys did to just walk out on a company.
"The irony of the whole thing was I had bad press from my friends like you had guaranteed money, this and that. I said, well, I just trusted my gut instinct," Malenko said. "Almost a year to the day, Vince bought WCW. That could have been me lagging behind. So when you look back, the four of us look like the four Einstein's, extremely intelligent guys that knew exactly what they were doing."
Malenko remembers finding out about Guerrero's death from Fit Finlay. He said that even after so much time has passed, it still feels fresh because of how close he was with Guerrero.
"I remember being in the Marriott hotel in downtown Minneapolis when Fit Finlay was downstairs. Walked out of the building, I've known Fit for many years, and he didn't even have to say anything. I just go something's wrong. He goes Eddie passed last night, and I couldn't say anything. I was just in shock just total shock," Malenko said. "Yeah, 15-16 years ago, and it's still sometimes fresh. Such a funny guy, a great guy. An impactful person that's spent a lot of time around my wife and my kids."
Malenko told a story of a live event he and Guerrero worked. He said that Guerrero got made at the crowd for reacting to a topless woman in the crowd rather than on their match.
"We were in Rochester, NY. It was a live event, and we were having a match. We did something, and I fell on top of him. We landed on the mat, and people were going crazy. They're standing and cheering. I go, 'Eddie, they're really loving it,' and he's like, 'man, that was great. You know what we did?' I go, 'I don't know.' There's a girl in the top row with no bra on. That's why they're all going crazy. So it wasn't us. He got hot and tried to jump the rail. He was mad because she was taking our thunder."
Dark Side of the Ring focused on the Benoit tragedy, and Chris Jericho praised the documentary for telling the story right. Malenko was one of the people interviewed in the documentary, and he talks about why he feels guilty about the tragedy.
"I lost two friends in a two-year time span. At Eddie's funeral I spoke. I said he's my road wife. Eddie knew everything. The music I like, the clothes I liked [and] what made me tick, and vice versa with him and Chris. That was hard both for totally different reasons. Chris is just hard to wrap my head around it. Part of me feels guilty sometimes because I miss him, and he's a great in-ring performer. I feel guilty for what he did. Maybe I shouldn't feel that way, but I know in the back of my mind that wasn't the guy that I knew for 15 years."
If you use any quotes in this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.