One of the UK's proudest sons, Stu Bennett is known the word over as Wade Barrett. A multiple-time champion, he not only proved himself as a top-flight entertainer but established an important legacy in the WWE for the British superstars that followed. His debut with the NEXUS set the company on a path which has led to a new era and the reinvention of the WWE brand. Stu, in London filming his soon to be released movie 'Vengeance' made time to sit down with us and discuss his past, present and future. For those film fans however that think he's moved away from wrestling for good , I'm afraid we've got some bad news.... !
Al Snow told us that when transitioning from wrestling to movies was challenging because you have to focus instead of on fans in an arena, to a small camera. How have you found the transition?
It's something that is definitely an issue. I think with someone like Al, he comes from the old school wrestling days where they probably did a lot less camera work. One of the differences between the era that I came up and Al came up in wrestling is that we were very much trained with WWE to work to the camera and not the crowd - which sounds a little bit strange considering you've got these packed arenas but the majority of the time we're working to the camera. So the backstage segments but even when we're out in the arena in front of a camera the way we're trained to work is to the camera because you've got an audience of millions watching at home whereas in the arena it's 15,000 or so. But I would agree with Al even then, you've have to take it down, take everything down a level once you get into movies and make things a lot more subtle, that's for sure.
What will WWE or Wade Barrett fans like about the movie you have coming out?
Well I've actually got two movies coming out. The first is one I shot just over a year ago, it's called Eliminators and I shot that with WWE studios. That was alongside Scott Adkins who's a top British martial artist and James Nunn was the Director. I've just head that's coming out in December. That will be a lot of fun, it's me playing my typical bad guy role. I'm the lead villain in that one and I'm chasing Scott around. It's an action film where I'm a hired hitman who's out to catch and eliminate him. So there's a lot of fight scenes showing off Scott's martial arts and my wrestling skills to a degree, some shoot-outs, some car chases and it's all set in the city of London, so it's a pretty cool backdrop and I think they'll like that one. Then there's the film coming out that I just wrapped in London a few weeks back. It's called Vengeance and I did it through a company called Evolutionary films. I'm playing the lead in that one so it's a bit of a unique situation where you'll get to see me playing the good guy and that one I'm alongside Gary Daniels who again is another top British martial arts guy. It's a similar kind of thing, lots of fight scenes, car chases and shoot-outs. The Director was Ross Boyask, a great guy and I had a lot of fun working with him. That will be out in May. I've got a couple of things in the pipeline to come and I'll keep you updated on my social media.
Have you watched WWE since you left and if so, what are your views on the brand split?
Actually, no I haven't. That's not a knock on WWE but I decided when I left the company that I wanted to take a break from the industry completely and I haven't really been keeping up to date with the programming at all to be honest with you. Through my friends that I've still got over there I'm kind of aware of what's going on and through social media but to be honest I haven't kept up with it since I left and I decided to give myself a complete mental break from wrestling for a while.
That's fair enough but we see you've been teasing a Ring of Honor appearance, you've mentioned Japan elsewhere. Is there a chance we might see you back in either?
Yeah, 100%. I'm going to wrestle again at some point I just got pretty low with it in 2015 and 2016 with WWE. I really wasn't happy with the kind of creative I was being given and I simply wasn't enjoying it anymore and so for that reason I made the decision to move on and do some other things for a while and give myself a break so that hopefully I'd be motivated to get back in the ring. I'd also at some point enjoy doing commentary. So whether my next move in the world of wrestling will be in the ring or on the headsets and doing some commentary I'm not sure, but I'll definitely be back at some point.
That's good to hear! Looking back over your career, what were the high and low points and why?
Well I think the natural thing to say about the high point would be the Nexus. That run was just so much fun. I think if you look especially at the debut night of the Nexus and the kind of reaction we got that night, it was a pretty magical time for us. Especially considering really we were a bunch of unknown guys at that point. So for guys who'd been dreaming about making it in the wrestling world and getting to WWE to go out and go from being complete nobodies to get to being these guys who were rampaging and taking on the world was pretty incredible. So that's always going to be up there as a high point for me. Id says also being the winner of NXT season one. That was a huge pat on the back for me. I'd spent all these years really struggling to make it, living in cockroach infested apartments, being paid very little money, cutting myself off from my friends and my family and moving over the US and that was the moment it really paid off for me. I won season one and got the Raw contract and knew that - OK, all that sacrifice that I made, whatever happens from here, I made it to WWE and I did it. So that was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. In terms of a low point you could take all of 2015 and 2016. I really became kind of burned out with wrestling during that period. The quality of material I was being given wasn't acceptable and I simply wasn't enjoying working there any longer. Unfortunately, any storyline ideas that I put forward were getting shut down and, as a performer, my creative freedom had disappeared. The guys in the locker room know that we're not always going to get the best material but you keep your eyes out for that moment when occasionally you get something really good that will re-motivate and excite you. Once I'd lost my optimism that those moments were coming around, it was a really rough time for me and subsequently a relief when I made the decision to move on and not sign a new contract. So those were dark days but I don't allow that to cloud my WWE experience as a whole. For the most part I had a great time there, it was just those last couple of years that were pretty poor from an artistic point of view.
Make sure to look out for part 2 of our interview coming soon, where Stu talks ribs, Finn Balor and the British wrestling scene...
Above: Royal Ramblings Meets Stu Bennett