I conducted a phone interview Thursday with WWE star Wade Barrett, who will face WWE champion Randy Orton in the main event of the Survivor Series pay-per-view Sunday.
Less than a year ago you were wrestling in Florida Championship Wrestling. Now you’re main-eventing WWE pay-per-views with the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton. Can you describe what these past nine months or so have been like for you?
It has been obviously a very crazy few months. I think I debuted at the end of January or beginning of February this year on WWE. What most people don’t realize is that for pretty much the best part of a year prior to my debut, I’d actually been out injured in FCW. So I wasn’t even wrestling in FCW, I was out on the injured reserve list. I’d had a very big surgery where I tore my lat muscle off. So I really went from almost doing nothing – I was basically a commentator in FCW for most of that time on the TV show – to going on to WWE TV with just a very few matches sort of as a warm-up after I got back from my injury. So the last two years really, it’s been a huge step up for me. It’s been a great experience. I feel lucky every day that I’m up there at the moment and I’m obviously having a great time. The fact that things have gone so well – one year ago if someone had told me I’d be main-eventing Survivor Series this year with Randy Orton I would never have believed it. But it’s amazing that I’ve got here now and it’s a great feeling. I’m really looking forward to the show.
How have Cena and Orton – two of the biggest star in the business – been to work with?
They’re two very different people. I’d say Cena is probably a lot more approachable than Randy. He’s probably somebody I was able to connect with a lot sooner than I did with Randy. I think their on-air personas are very similar to what they’re like in real life in that respect. Randy’s a lot colder. But both guys have been great to work with. It’s been an incredible experience working with them and I’ve learned a lot just from working with them. They are two of the very best in the industry I wouldn’t say just now but of all time. For someone like me coming in with obviously my lack of experience at the top level, it’s been great to work with the best from the word go. Obviously the better the guy I’m working with the more I’m going to learn, so I’ve been very lucky in that respect.
Speaking of learning from guys, Chris Jericho was your on-screen pro on NXT. Was there any real mentoring going on with Jericho and you behind the scenes?
Yeah, definitely. I’d say to this day he’s probably my first point of contact if I’ve got any questions or stuff that I want to know about in the company or if I want critiques on anything that I’m doing. I’ve got a few people I would go to, including William Regal and Goldust as well – he’s been very helpful. But I’d say Chris Jericho is my No. 1 sort of influence and mentor to this day.
Have you or any of the other guys from NXT who are in The Nexus sensed any resentment in the locker room from guys who have been around for years and not received the super push that you’re getting?
Yeah, one hundred percent. I think we felt it a little more when we first came up for NXT. I think people saw that we were young guys, we’re in good shape and we’ve got a lot of potential. I think a lot of guys before they knew us were certainly worried about us being there, and probably some guys didn’t want us around. But I think over time with our attitudes and our hard work we’ve won a lot of people over. In general now it’s pretty harmonious in the locker room. There’s always going to be one or two guys who feel that they should be getting the push that you’re getting or should be getting the spot that you’ve got, but to be honest with you, they’re definitely in the minority. It’s something that WWE has pretty much stamped out in this day and age. I believe from reading books and hearing stories of the past the politicking and things like that were commonplace, but in general nowadays from what I understand it’s probably the most harmonious locker room it’s ever been.
When NXT first began, who do you view as your biggest threat as far as winning the competition?
I think from Day One I realized that Daniel Bryan was going to be a huge threat, purely based on the fact that I knew the pros were voting – it wasn’t a fan-based system or anything like that – and I knew that the pros all had a lot of respect for Daniel Bryan and what he had accomplished on the independent scene. So I think he had a bit of a head start on the majority of us because the pros had all heard of Daniel Bryan and seen his matches before and they respected him from that point of view. The rest of us were complete nobodies to the pros and as far as they were concerned we were just a bunch of green guys who were just showing up and hoping to do well. So I knew immediately because the pros had that affinity for Daniel Bryan that he was going to be the one that I would have to beat. I think the fact that he got eliminated from the show, from then on I had pretty much no doubt in my mind that I was going to win it.
You came up through the U.K. independent scene. What was it like to go back to Manchester recently as one of the top guys in WWE?
It was a very strange experience. I was half-expecting the crowd there to be cheering me, being the hometown guy, and I think I got an initial cheer and then that rapidly changed into boos, which I’m far more used to. It was cool going back there. I had my family come and watch me while we were on the tour. On the tour we covered towns like Birmingham, Cardiff, Nottingham, London, and I had various friends and family come and watch me. The last time most of them had come to watch me I was wrestling in front of maybe 200 people in small community centers and things like that with very low budget, low glamour, that sort of thing. So it’s been a huge difference to them. I think they all thought I was pretty crazy when I was wrestling on the independent scene, because I come from a good education background, I had a good career in recruitment going on, so to suddenly step down and being doing independent shows across the U.K, I think they thought I was crazy. But now it’s good to have them see me and see that the hard work and sacrifices all paid off and I’m at the top with WWE now.
You have history with Sheamus and Drew McIntyre. When the three of you were wrestling on the independents together, is making it in WWE something you all talked about? Secondly, would you like to work a program someday with those guys?
I met Sheamus and Drew I think it was in early 2006. We started doing a lot of shows together out in Ireland and across the U.K. The thing about the three of us was that I knew immediately that we were all standout guys, mainly based on our height. We were way bigger than any of the guys in the U.K. and we all looked good, we all worked out, which was quite rare for the U.K. at the time. Most of the independent wrestlers didn’t even lift weights or anything like that, so I knew that we looked like stars compared to everyone else. But I thought the problem at that time was the fact that with WWE there had never been that many foreign guys in the company at any one time. They always tended to have maybe one Englishman like a William Regal or going back further they just had The British Bulldog when I was a kid. So I thought it was going to be very difficult that all three of us would get signed. I thought maybe one of us might get signed and one of us may get a shot with WWE if we were lucky. I certainly never expected all three of us to get there. Sheamus, on the other hand, I remember him talking to us back in probably 2006 when we were still on the independent scene, he was very confident that one day all three of us were going to get there. So he predicted it.
In terms of working a program with those guys, I would love to. The problem is at the moment all three of us are guys that the crowd generally doesn’t like, so I don’t know how many people would want to see a Sheamus versus Wade Barrett match or a Wade Barrett against Drew McIntyre match being that the crowd is going to hate both guys in the match. But I could see one day certainly with Sheamus the fans really getting behind him. He’s got a very unique look and a good style as well. I think one day he’s definitely going to be a crowd favorite, and when that happens, I definitely look to lock horns with him and see where we can go.
You impressed people with your mic skills pretty much from the beginning since you’ve been on WWE television. Is that gift of gab something that just comes naturally for you or is it something that you’ve had to work at over the years?
I think that it’s definitely something that comes quite naturally to me, but it’s mainly due to my background. I’ve done a lot of work with recruitment, which involved me giving sales pitches and things like that and spending a lot of time on the phone selling my services to people. I think my skills on the mic come from that – just the fact that I basically had to pitch to some of the top directors at some of the biggest companies in the U.K. and try to win their business. I learned a speaking style from doing that for years – projecting confidence and being strongly spoken and being able to get my ideas across to a guy like a major director or a financial director of one of the biggest companies in England. You need to sound confident at all times, and I think the fact that I did that certainly helps my microphone style and my promo skills. And also I was the commentator with FCW like I said for a long time while I was out injured in 2009 – I think that helped as well. I was on the mic for three hours every week while we were filming our shows, and I was basically giving an on-the-fly promo for three hours in character. Aside from that, I’ve always had a good voice. I’m lucky that I have a deep, strong voice naturally, and the rest of it I just worked on as far as confidence and projecting myself.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in the business and who gave it to you?
The very best piece of advice I’ve been given I probably can’t tell you because it’s not PG-rated [laughs]. But I suppose Chris Jericho has definitely given me a good piece of advice in that when I started in NXT he told me that I couldn’t just be strong in one area of what I do. I couldn’t just be good on the mic. I needed to be good on the mic; I needed to be good in the ring; I need to be good in my presentation; my ring attire need to look good, my appearance. Everything about me needed to be the best. I couldn’t be weak in any area because you’re only as good as your weakest aspect. So that’s something that I’ve been very conscious of and I know where my weak points are and what I’ve got to work on – and I also know what my strengths are. So that’s probably the best piece of advice that I’ve been given.
Photo courtesy of WWE