If there is one thing pro wrestling has shown over the years, it’s that age is just a number. One of the latest shining examples of this is Ken Shamrock. The UFC legend turned WWE superstar returned to the ring after almost a decade in December for Australia’s Battle Championship Wrestling. The experience renewed his confidence that at age 54 and showed the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” is primed for a comeback.
Shamrock now prepares for his first booking in the United States since the return, headlining McAloon Productions’ “Ultimate Bar Brawl” event on January 31 in Atlanta. Shamrock squares off against Tom Lawlor at the Wildpitch Underground in a no rules, no count outs, no ring showdown. The driven performer took time out from training to talk about his reemergence. Below is part one of a candid two-part interview.
Take me back to last year. What was the moment you realized you wanted to return to pro wrestling after all this time?
Just being able to get an opportunity to wrestle in an organization which I felt comfortable of going and being able to perform at a high level. It really was up to getting the right offer with both parties being happy.
Was it everything you thought it would be? What was it like being back in the ring? For you, was it like riding a bike or did you find it more challenging than you thought it was going to be?
I definitely didn’t put myself in a position to perform at the level I used to. Not that I couldn’t have, but I realize I had been out for a long time. So, basically when I went in, I said, “Listen. Let’s start out slow. Let’s work the foundation of pro wrestling and put on a great and solid match. Nothing too big or too much, but just enough to get my feet wet and see how it feels, how I feel physically and mentally. From there, I would see what I wanted to do. So, when I got in there and did the match, it was exciting. It was challenging, and it was fun for me. It checked all the boxes when I went in and did it. That is why I’m pursuing it more now.
I think a lot of people are excited to see you return to the ring. I think a lot of people have been impressed with the shape that you’re in at 54. Talk about the training regimen compared to when you were wrestling during your initial run. Has your approach to the business and your mindset for it changed?
I have a much bigger understanding of pro wrestling than I first went in. There was a lot to learn for me when I first walked in to a big show like WWE, so there were a lot of things I had to filter through and be careful not to step on any landmines that could derail my career. There was a lot I had to do at that time. Now because of the education I have and that I’m a veteran in this sport and worked with a lot of great wrestlers and learned a lot of stuff during that time, now when I walk into the ring I have so much more knowledge and understanding how to do a match, what the fans want to see, how we can put it out there. So many opportunities and ideas that I have now where I’m at as opposed to when I first started.
What are your thoughts on the landscape of the business now? You’re going to be working a show during Super Bowl festivities. A very unique concept working in a bar without any ring or anything like that? Today there seems to be a lot of quality pro wrestling promotions, outside of WWE and on the independent scene. Now there is this avenue where they can stream there matches. This particular show will be available on FITE TV. What are your thoughts on everything that has been going on and how the business has changed?
Everything changes. There is always something new. There is always something different. There are always these people coming up from the bottom up changing the sport, whatever those are, football, baseball, wrestling, basketball, you name it. Just to see the levels of things changing and levels being pushed, boundaries being pushed with athleticism. I think where we are at now in a time for pro wrestling since Vince had bought pretty much every independent show out there that was making any money and WCW also, where there was no competition. With MMA and no holds barred, it literally didn’t give fighters a chance to get a fair deal. To walk in and negotiate a fair deal because there was nowhere else for it to go. I think right now with the way things are going, just in pro wrestling and not MMA yet, I think independent shows are becoming much more stronger.
At least for me, it’s a lot more exciting for me to be able to look at independent shows and know that I can go out there and work, and I’m not on the road rigorously 200 days a year putting on shows over and over again. As opposed to picking the shows I want to go to and be able to wrestle when I want to wrestle and be paid the money that I feel comfortable with. I think independent shows, where they are right now.
They’re able to do that. They are able to pay guys and give them a decent payday to work these independent shows. It’s almost like going back to the beginning where guys used to work territories for a while and go to another territory. Independent shows are starting to build up to that to where guys now can actually work a certain territory for a while and go to another territory and work that independent show. Now you can stream these things through the social media sites, and you can watch them. For me, it’s an exciting time to see where wrestling is going. A lot of the independent shows have these opportunities because there is so much talent out there that they are able to get these guys and not break the bank.
Is there anyone or any company that has really reinvigorated and brought your passion back to the business? Or do you always feel you had a passion for pro wrestling?
When I got into pro wrestling and starting doing shows with the WWF, I really fell in love with it. It was so hard for people, anyone to walk in and do it. Just like boxing or football or anything, it’s these one percenters that are able to do it. Pro wrestling is no different. That is a very difficult venue for you to get into and be successful at because there are so many variables to it. Not only do you have to be a good athlete or a decent athlete, but you have to have all these other pieces to get you over. For me, it was really exciting to be able to challenge myself and put myself in a position where I was one of those one-percenters. And I was able to do that.
It’s an exciting time now because I feel like I’ve kept myself in great shape with the idea of me being able to get back into the ring at some point in time when things start to get better, when I can go out there and make money and be able to do pro wrestling and support my family. That was first and foremost. Now I think things are starting to get into that point where everybody is able to go out and get a decent paycheck and be able to have fun doing it.
We saw Goldberg come back at age 50 and win the world championship. Do you feel like you have unfinished business in WWE? It seems like a lot of fans feel like you should have been a WWE champion?
Absolutely, no question. The idea is to able to put myself in a position, just like I’ve done all these years, to keep myself in great shape. There was always the idea to have the opportunity to finish some unfinished business. If that happens, that will be great. That would be awesome. I think for myself, the fans and also the company. I think people would buy into me coming back and actually making a run at that title. But if it doesn’t happen, it’s not one of those things that will keep me up at night. But it’s something I’d like to accomplish. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll be perfectly happy winning all the independent titles.
You mention guys getting what their worth. You mention that a lot. AEW is coming up now. This promotion backed by Jacksonville Jaguars owners and management there. They are clearly putting some serious money behind it. What are your thoughts on that? Is that another opportunity you’d look to with a relaxed schedule if you were asked?
Absolutely. Especially if you see me at my next show, I’m in better shape than I was in Melbourne. I really have a mental mindset and am very picky about how I look. I hold myself accountable for my fitness and diet. And so, when I step foot in the ring, I want to look nothing less than the best guy out there. I don’t care if he is 22 or 34, I’m going to be better than them. That’s my thing. I’m also going to be able to work better than them. I’m going to push myself to be a better worker and understand with the psychology and the setups and all the things that go on in pro wrestling and push myself to be great.
I think a lot of fans are excited about your book being done. Johnathan Snowden, I know is collaborating with you on this project. What has it been like to go back and remember times? It seems like it would be an inspiring story for those who are coming up. Someone who has risen in a sport and fought through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to where they were and to glory and success. I think a lot of people can resonate with that no matter if it’s an MMA fan, a wrestling fan. But it had to be fun to relive these times. Talk about the experience of putting this book together and making it your own.
Most people would have said it would be fun. But if you don’t know my story, and things I’ve had to relive and think about, which I’ve buried and forgotten about. It hurts. You have to dig those things up in order to talk about them and be able to revisit those things that happened. It was really tough. I know there were times I would get really down where my wife had to lift me up. She knew because we did this once before. It almost sent me in a tailspin because I started thinking about all those things that happened and the reasons why I was getting in trouble during those times.
The anger and frustration that I had at the world because of the things that happened to me when I was young. Then it started to come back again. It was scary at times, but with my wife Tonya who was able to keep me at an even keel and be able to bring me back to where I needed to be, we were able to do this book. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t make me look good at some points. I was an animal at one time where I was very angry at the world. I did a lot of bad things. Even as a professional athlete, I got to a point where forgot who I was. I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done, but at the end of it, the idea of the story is to be real. It’s to be able to hear other people talk about me. Not me talk about myself and be real about it and the things I was going through and what it looked to them. At times it really hurt, but the idea is to give people an opportunity to understand that no matter what you do or where you’re at, you can always be better. Even if you fall down and screw up, you can always get up and be better.
For more information on “Ultimate Bar Brawl” or McAloon Productions’ other event on February 1, “Come Hell of High Water”, visit the Eventbrite page. The shows will stream on FITE TV.