WWE Superstar Wade Barrett talks to Neil Docking ahead of WWE’s UK Tour next month.
I understand you’ve been back in England for a few weeks now, can you tell us why that is?
“I’ve been back sorting out a new Visa at the moment, we’ve had a couple of delays on that. I actually went and watched Preston North End a few weeks ago, I went and watched them play away at Walsall and met the manager and the players, which was pretty cool. I’ve been back for about four weeks.”
When we spoke earlier this year you said you were pleased with the appointment of manager Simon Grayson and that you thought he would do well, but did you expect them to start the season this well?
“To be unbeaten nine games in, it was pretty incredible. I think with Preston’s background in play-offs, I’ve seen us lose enough times, so I think we need to make that push for automatic promotion.
“Kevin Davies is fantastic, what a difference he has made, just that little bit of experience and quality he has got. He’s a former England player, and spent most of his career playing at the very top level, so for Preston to even get the chance to sign a guy like that is incredible. You’ve got to say the manager and the chairman have done an incredible job in setting that up and bringing him in and convincing him to come to North End in the first place, when I know he had a lot of other options in higher divisions than Preston.”
So what else have you been doing during your time back home, have you had the chance to see your family and friends?
“Yeah seeing my family, doing a little bit of this media stuff, fingers crossed getting this Visa sorted soon, which has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for us. I was supposed to be going on tour to Abu Dhabi but I’m going to get taken off that. The Embassy every year seems to increase their security further and further. The last time I came back it took about two weeks to process and so far it has taken double, it’s not really problems, they’re just really slow at processing them.”
Is that why we haven’t seen so much of you on television? Has it impacted on your appearances for WWE?
“Yeah I was supposed to be back in the States two weeks ago and I think the Night of Champions pay-per-view I was supposed to be away for, but I also missed Battleground. It’s very difficult for me to do anything at the moment, being without a passport. Fingers crossed it gets cleared up in the next few days.”
I presume you will be back here though for WWE’s UK tour in November, the live recording of Raw and Smackdown in Manchester?
“Yeah I’m definitely going to be on those shows, we’ve got Manchester I think on the 11th and 12th, our two TV tapings, so I’m very excited to be a part of that. It’s always good for me to come back to the North West, with that being my part of the world.
“I know we’re trying our best to get the Preston North End first team along for the shows, which would be really cool. I know a few of the lads are fans and they’re planning a team night-out or something like that. They need to check their schedules first but I want to give them a good night-out, like they gave me a good day out in Walsall. I can repay the favour now.”
We spoke back in March, just before WrestleMania 29. At the time you were the WWE Intercontinental Champion and we were talking about the possibility of you facing Sheamus on the show. In the end you took on The Miz as part of the pre-show. Were you disappointed not to make the full card, and what’s it like being part of the pre-show?
“The pre-show is pretty big, that’s kind of viewed as the final chance to get people to buy WrestleMania. Obviously if you perform well on the pre-show, people see it and enjoy it they are more likely then to go ahead and order WrestleMania, which comes right after it. The pre-show they put out free as a little taster to really try and hook people to buy the main show afterwards. So it’s seen in the company as a very important spot on the card. That’s certainly not a demotion or anything like that in that sense, however, from my point of view I always want to be on WrestleMania, because it’s our biggest show of the year.
“Obviously you get a lot of guys coming back from the past, like Chris Jericho, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Triple H and The Undertaker, so the spots on the card tend to fill up very quickly when you’ve got guys like that who aren’t normally around on the show come back and take spots on the card. For me personally that is very disappointing that I missed out on that, but it just kind of fuels me more to make sure I’m on next year’s show.”
Despite that disappointment, I imagine the crowd were very excited at that stage to see the pre-show.
“Yeah exactly. I think that’s the biggest crowd I’ve wrestled in front of. I’ve wrestled in two WrestleManias now - the one this time I think was an 80,000 crowd in a huge stadium out in the States. So just that experience itself, forgetting about the fact it’s WrestleMania and there are cameras there, just going out there and wrestling in front of a packed NFL stadium with 80,000 screaming fans who are all losing their minds is a great experience and something I will never forget.”
You lost the title to The Miz by submission, so maybe it wasn’t quite ‘the WrestleMania moment’ you were looking for, but the next night on Raw in New Jersey you experienced something very special when you regained the belt.
“Yeah it was pretty cool to get that back so quickly, first of all against a guy like The Miz who is very experienced and a good performer. But the crowd that night were very unique and I think one of the cool things about the crowd is because so many Brits come over to watch WrestleMania, a lot of them stay the next night and watch the Raw TV show too.
“Basically you went from an 80,000 crowd with maybe 10 per cent of it being Brits, to the next night we’re in a 15,000 crowd in a smaller area, but probably half the crowd were British, so I was kind of the popular guy that night and everyone was cheering for me, which is pretty unique in the States where I’m normally booed.
“It’s always great for me to wrestle in front of those UK audiences and I love them, whether they’re out in the States following us around or back here in the UK on the forthcoming tour. It’s always a huge highlight for me getting to wrestle in front of them.”
I have to say I’ve never seen an episode of Raw like it, it was absolutely crazy from start to finish. There were even chants of ‘Wade Barrett’s barmy army’.
“Yeah I think for the first time the star of the show was actually the crowd that day, they were fantastic. It was like an English football crowd!”
In the month after that you feuded with The Miz, and at the time the immensely popular Fandango, who was riding a wave after WrestleMania. You were building to a triple threat match at the PayBack pay-per-view, but then Fandango suffered a serious injury, a concussion, which meant he couldn’t compete at the event. He was replaced by Curtis Axel, who won the title from you. It was an innovative finish, as The Miz had you in a figure-four leglock, and Axel pinned your shoulders, but were you disappointed your Intercontinental Title reign was so short-lived?
“I was disappointed in a way, it’s always disappointing to lose a match and lose your title, however, that was the third time I had held the Intercontinental Championship, and for me the big one I’m after is definitely the World Heavyweight Championship. As far as I was concerned you know I had lost that title and that was a disappointment, but to me I’ve always had bigger plans and bigger goals anyway, so that in my opinion was the opportunity to kind of move away from that area of the show, and try and move back towards a main event spot in the WWE.”
You did exactly that, as in July we saw you take part in the Money In The Bank ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship. That was a stunning match I thought, and probably for my money the best match of the night. I know a lot of people said it really stole the show, even though it was the opening bout. Did you enjoy that?
“Yeah it was really cool. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking Money In The Bank ladder matches are all about the stunts, whereas while that is a huge part of it and obviously we put some of that in there, but for me wrestling is all about storylines. Whether it’s the scripted acting we do, or the stuff you see in the ring, you can tell stories drive the match.
“I think in terms of Money In The Bank ladder matches, if you look through history, the story that the group of us told in that match this year, was probably the best that’s ever been told in one of those matches. We told the story of two friends, Cody Rhodes and Damian Sandow, and a betrayal. If you watch that match I think there was a great storyline even looking past all the stunts and I think that’s what made that match so successful, the eight of us working together and making that storyline work. It’s always great to come to the locker room afterwards when everyone was patting us on the back and telling us how good it was, and obviously hearing the crowd reaction, it’s great for us as performers that we came up with this plan and goal and it paid off and worked.”
I’ve been watching wrestling for a lot longer than it’s probably reasonable for a 31-year-old man to admit...
“You and me both!”
...but the ending of that match threw me. I love it when it catches you by surprise, and I must admit, I had totally forgotten about Sandow as Cody was climbing the ladder.
“I think the longer you watch wrestling the harder it is to impress you as a fan. I see that myself, I can get a little jaded watching it sometimes because I can see three or four steps ahead, obviously with me being involved in the industry even more strongly for me I see those things, but it’s always great when we manage to do something that kind of tricks and swerves everybody, especially the guys who have been watching for years and years and kind of know how things work. So it’s great when we can pull that off and that usually results in some pretty good programming.”
After Money In The Bank we briefly saw you feud with Daniel Bryan, your old NXT adversary, and he shaved your beard off on Raw. Are you happy with your new look?
“It was a new look for about three weeks, then it all grew back. It’s back in business! It’s actually the longest it’s ever been now, I kind of made a rule that when I came back to the UK I wasn’t going to shave it until I got back to the States, and I wasn’t quite expecting to be back this long. It’s getting pretty long, I’m slowly catching Daniel Bryan’s beard up at this point! Before I get back on TV I think I’ll have to trim it down a little.
“I didn’t like it at all, it made me look about 10 years younger, which I think a lot of people like, but when you’re meant to be a big scary wrestler it doesn’t work to well!”
After that segment you had another impressive match with Daniel Bryan on Smackdown. Do you enjoy facing him and what do you make of his rapid rise this summer and boom in popularity?
“Well I’ve been with Daniel Bryan from the start, we both started off on the NXT show together and we’ve always got along pretty well outside of the ring.
“Obviously I’ve got a lot of respect for his abilities in the ring, he’s a very unique character and being a smaller guy it can sometimes be tougher for a lot of people to get involved in WWE, but he’s certainly doing great, he’s got a very unique set of skills in the ring and I think he connects with a lot of the audience just by looking different - his underdog look, people want to pull for him. He’s done great and certainly it’s always good to step in the ring with a guy like that.
“I like to vary my opponents. I love facing different sizes and shapes, Big Show is somebody I enjoy getting in the ring with, he’s seven foot tall and 500 pounds, Daniel Bryan is on the opposite end of that scale being one of the smaller guys. For me I just like getting in with the best guys out there, guys like that who are going to test me and help me improve and bring out the best in me. It’s a pleasure to step in the ring with him.”
We’ve seen a lot of changes to your character, your music and your look over the last 18 months - do you think you have settled on a direction now, or can we expect more changes before the year is out?
“I think I’m always looking to change and develop and I think you’ve got to do that just to keep fans interested, because they can kind of get pretty bored of the same thing over and over again. There’s not many people who can really get away with not evolving and changing and giving different things constantly.
“A lot of it comes from our creative staff and our writers and what they’re needing at the time, they might have a specific need for a certain type of character they want me to fill, and that’s why I might have to take a slightly different creative direction from what I’m doing at the moment. But for me I’m always looking to evolve and change and keep things fresh, so we’ll just have to see where that goes.”