Source: The Ross Report
Recently on The Ross Report, ‘Good Ol J.R.’ Jim Ross welcomed Kevin Sullivan to the show for a two-part interview. Sullivan talked about the Chris Benoit tragedy as well as the departure of Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn from WCW in 2000.
On the topic of the Benoit tragedy, Sullivan, who was often accused of being involved given his prior relationship with Benoit’s wife, Nancy, said he was bothered by the conspiracy theories for a long time. Sullivan admitted to Ross that he could not even go to Nancy’s funeral to pay his respects knowing the media scrutiny would be intense.
“And [the speculation] did bother me for a while, Jim, until I talked to [Nancy’s] mother and she said, ‘I can’t believe that people even think that’ and she made me feel better. The sister made me feel better.”
Sullivan suggested that he was blamed for the tragedy because fans did not want to believe Benoit was a bad person.
“This is how people are so sick and so much of an idol-worship. They were looking for, and I don’t mean this in any bad light, but they were looking for an out because he was a great, great, great, fabulous wrestler. We’ll never know what caused it, but for people to believe something like that, means they believe that the earth is hollow or flat or whatever.”
When asked for his thoughts on Benoit’s son wanting to get into professional wrestling, Sullivan expressed his reservations.
“Well, I think you’ve got to do what you want to do, but I’d hate to think somebody would use the child, he’s not a child obviously anymore, but use [the tragedy] and do something really stupid, like Curt Hennig’s son [Curtis] Axel, right? Maybe he changes his name or whatever.”
According to Sullivan, Ross called him on the day that the news of the incident broke. Ross said he knew that Sullivan was going to go through some hard times following the tragedy. Sullivan said that only Ross and Teddy Long reached out to him to express sympathy following incident.
“That day, you called me at my gym to tell me. You sent me your regards. Only two people reached out to me: you and Teddy Long. Sullivan claimed that Nancy was the one who came up with the Benoit angle in WCW, which saw the two enter into a romantic relationship. Sullivan admitted that he would not have allowed it in retrospect.
“And here’s the thing that was funny. I wasn’t with Nancy for almost a year before that full time, but she came up with the angle and Benoit’s wife was pregnant. And I thought, ‘uh, something’s going to happen’. If I had to do it again, would I do it? No.”
All these years later, Sullivan still struggles to make sense of the tragedy.
“I mean, it’s horrible to lose somebody, but to lose somebody in that way, a grandson, a daughter, a sister, and a son-in-law. I don’t think we’re every going to know. It’s something that still baffles me,” Sullivan admitted. “I mean, it’s a horrible tragedy and I don’t think anybody is going to be able to wrap their heads around it and why.”
With respect to making Benoit WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Sullivan said that he received strong push back on the decision.
“When I made him the world champion, I was actually taller than Chris. And I had him come to my hotel room to tell him I was putting the belt on him. I said, ‘you deserve this’. Everybody told me not to put it on him. You know the story. I said, ‘no, this is his business. This is going to happen.'” Sullivan continued, “JJ [Dillon] asked me not to do it, [as in] put him over. [WCW Senior Vice President] Bill Busch asked me not to put him over. Mike Graham, who was very, very close to him demanded that I not put him over, but I put him over. Even Sid Vicious was reluctant in putting Benoit over.
“When I asked Sid Vicious to give up on the [Crippler] Crossface, to tap out, Sid Vicious, Psycho Sid, Psycho Sid said to me, Sid said to me, ‘I wouldn’t do it for anybody else but you, Kevin.’ He said, ‘I think you’re wrong’ and he said it in front of Chris. He said, ‘I think you’re wrong, but I’ll do it.’ And I said, ‘I appreciate it’ and he went and beat him and the next day he left.”
Sullivan said that Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Saturn wanted to have top spots within WCW, but it was impossible with who was running WCW at the time.
“I put the belt on [Benoit] and I had made Eddie the US champion and I was going to put the tag belts on Saturn and Malenko, but if you look at it, which we talked about before, Jim, they wanted to be on top, but how am I going to get it by the beancounters in the North Tower? These guys making $250 to $300 [thousand per year] and [Kevin] Nash, [Scott] Hall, Goldberg, and [Hulk] Hogan make over $2 million.”
In addition to these topics, Sullivan discussed how he would book Brock Lesnar and he talked about the late great Brian Pillman. To listen to the podcast, click here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Ross Report with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.