In the first part of our exclusive interview with Stu Bennet aka Wade Barratt, we learned that not only does he have one but two films on the horizon and that there's a chance he could return to sports entertainment in the commentary booth! In this, our second part, we get his views on the British wrestling scene, on Finn Balor and how WWE changed around him whilst he was there. Insightful, expressive and amusing, Stu is a man you want to listen to. Make sure to follow him on Twitter and his other social media channels. One things for certain, this great man will continue entertaining us for a long time to come.
How did WWE change over the years you were there?
I think the biggest change is probably the development of NXT and the shift of focus on the style of wrestling and programming. When I first went up there it was very much focussed on storylines and characters whereas now I think it's a lot more focussed on the in-ring aspect and the athleticism. What motivated me to watch wrestling as a kid and subsequently to be involved in it, was more the showbiz, the storylines and the drama. Of course I love the in-ring stuff too, but to me that was just one part of it and not the whole deal.
What's the best rib [practical joke] that you played on someone or they played on you?
You know what, most of the things we did I wouldn't want to talk about publicly. I'd say the best one played on me was played on all of the Nexus guys. After we debuted, we had to wear those yellow Nexus armbands with the yellow 'N' on. That was our calling card and whenever you saw me or the seven of us standing next to each other at ringside it looked pretty imposing, there was a sinister threat to it. But Vince decided that he wanted to kind of blur the lines between Kayfabe and real life and he told all seven of us that, no matter where we were, we had to wear them. So we had to wear these over our suits for probably 3 of 4 months. He had us travelling around, going through airports with these Nexus armbands on because he said we had to. We'd have people approach us and ask what it was all about, so we'd have to explain - "we're a wrestling group". Everywhere we went we'd end up being stopped every twenty yards just so we could explain what the yellow N was. So that was a rib on the rookies, I think, from Vince.
Have you followed the British scene, what are your thoughts?
I've spoken to a few British wrestling companies since I left WWE about possibly doing some stuff. I've not agreed to do anything yet but it's been good to sound them out and see what's going on out there. I know it's a thriving scene right now. I started wrestling in the UK in 2004 prior to coming over to the US and it was a pretty sparse, barren scene. I was fortunate enough to get in with a guy called Brian Dixon who runs All-Star Wrestling. I did a lot of the holiday camps but he was really the only big promotor out there who was doing anything major. Now I look at what's going on and there's some pretty big companies out there - Preston City Wrestling, Progress, Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW), Five Star, RevPro. There's quite a few big companies that do some exciting stuff. So I'm definitely keeping my eye on what's going on. There's a bunch of guys on the UK scene that I've been impressed with and it's amazing to see that the British scene has been thriving so well. Funnily enough I was out in Finsbury Park recently when I shot the movie. I had a Sunday off and thought where shall I go? What's near here? And I saw that Camden Town wasn't far and I don't know London too well but thought it sounded great and I knew it from the Madness song. I was up late as it was a day off and got out at Camden, wandered down the street, its packed and then all of the sudden I saw this huge line of what must have been about 500 wrestling fans at the side of the street. I had no idea they were going to be there but subsequently found out they were queuing for the Progress show which was apparently in town that day. To my horror a couple of people yelled out "Oh My God, there's Wade Barrett!" So I quickly dived down some side street and sprinted away before I got mobbed but that was a bit of a surprise! But I'm glad they're doing great business and it's important that the wrestlers in the UK get the opportunity to perform in front of big and passionate crowds and fan bases that weren't there when I was coming up on the UK indie scene. Hopefully through that some people will get opportunities to come out to the States and work with some of the big companies out here and work in Japan with New Japan out there.
You faced Finn Balor in your first match, have you got a view on him and the setback his injury will cause?
Yeah, I worked with him when he was Fergal Devitt in 2004 in my debut match. It was basically a royal rumble in a little community centre in Cardiff with about 50 fans watching us. He and I were the final two in the rumble, I ended up eliminating him and being winner for the night. So that was the first time I met him and it was great to see that after all his years of success on the independent scene that he's had, that he finally came over to WWE. He always had the talent to come to WWE when he wanted and it was great that he did. I wrestled him in Singapore about a year ago in one of my final tours with WWE, we had a lot of fun and it was great to lock up with him after all those years. It's very unfortunate, I heard he did have a pretty nasty injury. I think it's inevitable, when you're in an endeavour like pro-wrestling that injuries are going to happen. I had to have two surgeries in my time with WWE and I think every few years, unfortunately, it's likely you're going to get something that's going to set you back. It won't be the first time that Finn's had a setback - he's been wrestling for years and I'm sure he's been through something like this before. It's just a case of keeping your head down, going to rehab getting better slowly and surely and as soon as he is cleared, which will probably come in the next few months, I'm sure WWE will get the power of the machine back behind him and push him to the top again. He's a very talented guy, nice guy and well liked and he deserves a ton of success.
Finally, you said previously you didn't have the time you'd like to listen to bands you like - the Stone Roses and the Manic Street Preachers - are you getting some time now, will you be seeing them live?
Oh for sure! I'll definitely check out their new stuff whenever it comes out. Part of the problem is neither band is particularly big here in the US! So if I do come to see them it's got to be over in the UK. I spend most of my time out here, I'm living in Florida right now and saddling up and probably moving to a different part of the country in the next few months so I've got all of that to deal with at the moment. But I'd love to catch the Manics of the Stone Roses and see what they're like live. I've not seen the Stone Roses before and it's been over ten years since I've seen the Manics so it would be good to have a catch-up and see how they're doing!
Luckily, it wont be years before we get to see Wade Barrett entertaining the masses again. Make sure to check out his two new films and follow him on social media for further updates!