When he was 20 years old, WWE superstar Wade Barrett stood 6-foot-6, 160 pounds.
10 years later in 2011, the Englishman’s physique still stands well over six feet – except now, thanks to countless hours in the gym, his one-time skinny frame now weighs in at 260.
Becoming a WWE superstar doesn’t happen overnight but Barrett, who began working independent circuits in 2004, has earned his right of passage rather quickly, consistently working with some of the biggest names in sports entertainment just months after winning the WWE NXT inaugural competition.
From idolizing the British Bulldog as a kid to standing as his own WWE superstar, Green Bay gets a quick double dose of Barrett when WWE SmackDown returns to the Resch Center on February 8. Fans just got a taste of Barrett back in October when he appeared at the Resch Center for Raw, and now with his recent switch to the SmackDown brand, they’ll be getting him again.
Sure he’s dry, and maybe a little too serious at times, but Barrett loosens up in our interview, combining honesty with politeness as he talks about ad-libbing in the ring, the pressures of WWE and NFL football.
P-C: You won the first season of WWE NXT; was it harder for you to win NXT or work in the independent circuits?
Barrett: I think when you’re wrestling in the independent circuit, there’s a lot less spotlight on you. There’s a lot less critique. There’s a lot less riding on what you’re doing. If you’re wrestling on the independent scene and you don’t have a great match, there’s not really anyone criticizing you. There’s not too much pressure, but when you deal with the WWE, it’s a huge thing cause it’s a global show. The world’s watching as they say. … The stock price of WWE will be affected by the amount of views we get and things like that so it’s a lot more important to make sure we perform well with WWE than it ever was for me on the independent scene.
P-C: When it comes to being a heel or a face in the WWE, is it easier to get fans to hate you or like you?
Barrett: I think it purely depends on the individual. I know I’ve always felt more comfortable being an antagonist and on the few occasions in my career when I’ve tried to go out and be the fan favorite, back in my days in the U.K., I just never did a good job with it. I was always very bad at getting the fans to get behind me and cheer for me and clap for me, so I knew very early in my career that I would be a better antagonist than protagonist. … Some guys are better fit for certain roles and I think I’m a better fit as a heel.
P-C: You just visited Green Bay for Raw in October; did you get a chance to look at the city at all?
Barrett: Very, very little chance. Usually we travel so much. We literally will get into the town at 1 a.m. or something like that and we’ll go straight to bed. The next morning, we’ll get up around nine o’ clock, we’ll go and workout and we’re usually at the arena by about one o’ clock, so we get very little time to look around. It’s just constantly on the move, go perform, workout and eat, go back to bed, travel and then you start the whole process all over again. … One of the few downsides about being a performer with WWE is you don’t get that downtime to enjoy the cities around the world and the towns that you go and visit. I’ve been across the United States three or four times already and I’ve had very little chance to see the things that I’d like to see.
P-C: You’re from England, but I noticed on January 16 that you tweeted “Da Bears.” Please don’t tell me you’re a Chicago Bears fan.
Barrett: Oh yeah, I love the Chicago Bears (laughs). Maybe I shouldn’t say that. I see you’re a Green Bay fan, is that right? You guys had a very well fought victory the other day but when I was a kid, when I was about 5 years old, for some reason, very randomly, the NFL became very popular in the U.K. for about 12 months. Everybody was talking about it. It was a big craze at the time and it just so happens it was 1985 when the Bears were the best team, and obviously they had one of the greatest teams in history, so there’s a load of Chicago Bears fans in the U.K. Surely because it became popular for that one year and that’s when the Bears were the top team. … I’ve got no other link to Chicago. I’ve never lived there or anything like that. I’ve never been to Solider Field, although I hope to go there one day.
P-C: Do you have a Super Bowl prediction?
Barrett: I’m very impressed with Aaron Rodgers. I think he’s a great player. I watched him grow since he’s debuted in the league and he’s so on fire at the moment. I think overall, the Steelers are a better team. I think they’ve got a bit more experience than Green Bay, but I think it’s gonna come down to whether Aaron Rodgers performs on the day. If he performs to the best of his ability, I think Green Bay is gonna win. If he has an off day, it’s gonna be the Steelers, so it really all falls into the hands of Aaron Rodgers in my book.
P-C: Speaking of Rodgers, every time he scores, he puts the championship belt around his waist. How do you like that he incorporates the wrestling world into his touchdown celebration?
Barrett: That’s pretty cool. I think it’s cool he’s a fan, that he acknowledges us. There’s a lot of NFL fans in the WWE. … Sometimes when we’re in the locker room before the show, we’ll have games on the TV on a Sunday and things like that. Everyone’s keeping up on the scores during the show. It’s pretty cool that those guys are watching us as well and when we go to various cities around the country, we get a lot of the players who come along and request tickets. I think about three or four months ago, we had the entire offensive line of the Indianapolis Colts at one of our shows. … We’re all big fans of the NFL. It’s nice to see that those guys are fans of the WWE as well.
P-C: You used to be a bare-knuckle boxer and we’ve seen guys like Brock Lesnar successfully leave the squared circle to pursue a career in the octagon. Would you ever give UFC a shot?
Barrett: UFC fighting isn’t really something that I’d be too interested in now. I’m very much focused on my career with WWE. … I’ve got no desires to ever leave WWE until I wanna retire one day when I’m really old. UFC isn’t something that’s ever really appealed to me. … I was always more a fan of boxing than I was of mixed martial arts.
P-C: You have good poise on the microphone; are most of your interviews straight forward or do you find yourself ad-libbing quite often?
Barrett: A lot of the times we’re shoved out in front of the camera and I may be out there talking for 10 minutes straight or doing it back and forth with someone for 10 or 15 minutes. A lot of times you are having to ad-lib. There’s no way anybody can memorize all the stuff we have to come out and say. Generally, I’ll have an idea of what’ I’m gonna say, but in terms of crowd interaction and things like that, sometimes the crowd will be chanting stuff at me, so I’ll want to say something in response to that. Sometimes whoever I’m talking with might throw me a curveball – like John Cena’s very good at ad-libbing. He used to throw a lot of curveballs at me when I was out there talking with him, so I have to be very much reactive to what’s going on around me.
Rapid fire with WWE Superstar Wade Barrett:
What music are you listening to right now?
Barrett: Out of the recent bands that have come out in the last few years, I suppose my favorite one is called The Drums. They’re an American band actually, but they have quite an English sound. They remind me a bit of Joy Division – a more upbeat version of Joy Division.
Most painful move you’ve ever endured?
Barrett: That would probably have to be Justin Gabriel’s 450 splash. It’s a spectacular looking move, but the velocity of him spinning around combined with the fact that he’s jumping 10-feet in the air or whatever it is, makes for a very heavy impact. That’s definitely one of the most painful moves I’ve ever had to take.
Most difficult move you’ve had to pull off?
Barrett: Most difficult move I’ve had to pull off was probably hitting my Wasteland finisher on Mark Henry (laughs). He’s about 450 pounds. He’s a very strange shaped man should we say, and he also doesn’t like being held up in the air so he tends to wiggle around a bit. I think I almost broke my spine when I did that move on him (laughs). That’s definitely the most difficult one I’ve had to pull off. I’m not looking forward to when I have to do it again (laughs).