After establishing himself in the U.K., Stu Bennett, f.k.a. Wade Barrett in the WWE, made his way over to the United States to become part of the WWE roster. Before heading towards the main stage, Bennett spent two years of his career in OVW to hone his craft. Bennett stated during his interview on Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana, that OVW was one of his favorite promotions to work for.
“To me, OVW was one of my favorite periods in my career,” Bennett announced. “I felt like I was on the greatest adventure of all time. I was there five months before WWE developmental moved down to Florida. That five-month period of my career, I improved and learned more during that period, than any other period in my career.”
Since he was scouted by the WWE while he was still in the U.K., Bennett informed Cabana that originally, he wasn’t supposed to stay in the United States after his training was complete. Instead, WWE officials had other plans for him and the other eight U.K. talents they signed, including Drew McIntyre and Sheamus.
“We get over there [to OVW] and we start training. This was in 2008, and that was when the economy crashed,” Bennett recalled. “Around this time, they started cutting these British guys [that they scouted] here and there and eventually, it just ended up being me, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus.
“It turns out, and subsequently I found this out through the grapevine, that the plan was to hire us, eight guys, take us over to OVW then FCW, train us guys, bring us all back to the U.K. and then set up a training center in the U.K., which would have been OVW U.K. or whatever they were going to call it. We were going to be the experienced guys that trained the other British guys.”
Cabana followed up by asking how far WWE was with this plan. Bennett stated that the plan was official.
“Apparently, it was legit,” Bennett replied. “It was all in place.”
Fortunately, things changed, and Bennett was able to stay in the U.S. and focus on his career from then on.
After discussing how he got in the business, Cabana backtracked, by asking about Bennett’s upbringing and where his love for wrestling began. Bennett stated that he and his brother enjoyed watching wrestling as kids, but unlike his brother, he never grew out of it.
“My parents knew I was a massive wrestling fan,” Bennett stated. [On if his family was wrestling fans] “No, but my brother was into it, the way that every kid my age was into it, like in ’88-89, with the rise of The British Bulldog. But, every kid after that wasn’t into it, but I still was. My brother was still kind of watching it. Everyone got back into it again during the Attitude Era, then back out of it, but I kind of stayed into it the whole time.”
Going back to his pre- WWE career, Bennett brought up the first time he ever met Sheamus, and how he mistook him for a bouncer at an event.
“Sheamus was booked on a show in this crappy bar, and he was the big star of Irish Whip Wrestling. He was their main champion,” Bennett noted. “We were at that show, and I thought that he was the bouncer. I walked up and didn’t recognize him. He was opening up the door and letting me in. I went and put my gear on and he comes into the locker room, and he keeps looking at me. I thought, ‘I must’ve pissed this guy off. He keeps looking at me.’ He comes over to me and says, ‘You’re f–king massive.’ He wanted me to go to Irish Whip Wrestling and work with him. The problem was, he was this massive champion and babyface over there. But, everyone he was wrestling was half his size. He really wanted to work with a bigger guy. That’s how he brought Drew in, and then he wanted to bring me in. So, I got into this [social] network with him and Drew.”
After him, McIntyre and Sheamus made their way to developmental, they became the new favorites. Bennett, at one point, felt like the pressure was on after McIntyre and Sheamus were given more opportunities to showcase their work. He mentions how afraid he was of getting fired from the WWE, and how Dusty Rhodes swooped in and saved his wrestling career, unexpectedly.
[On if he feared he was going to get fired from the WWE because they didn’t have much for him to do] “One hundred percent,” Bennett shouted. “They hired all of us guys in developmental, and I’d seen those guys get chopped, chopped, chopped. There were only three of us left, and realistically, are they going to send all three of us to the main roster? It was so difficult to get an opportunity. I was concerned. Sheamus was doing well, Drew was doing well. I was, you know, thinking is there really space for three big European heels, which is what we all were. I was concerned.
“But, I got a really lucky break. Dusty Rhodes really liked me, I bonded with him. He was the color commentator on the TV show. Dusty was writing the show, and he was doing the commentary too, so his hands were really full. He was like, ‘I need to step back from this a little. Let’s try some guys [on commentary].’ One day, he says, ‘Hey Stu, you’re doing color commentary today on the TV show.’ I was like, ‘No. Really, you need me?’ He was like, ‘I like the way you talk, go do it.’
“I had never done this before, so, I went up and did the show, and the whole time I was thinking, ‘This is so bad.’ Dusty would occasionally come in my earpiece and be like, ‘Ah, he’s so good.’ I was like ‘Ok, at least I’m making him happy, so that’s good.’ But afterward, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be so bad. I came to the back and Norman Smiley put me over, and Dusty put me over. Then Dusty was like, ‘You’re doing this every single week now. That is now your thing. You’re now the commentator.’
“So, about six months later, I was doing color commentary on the FCW show, and I loved every second of it. I got that initial burst of confidence. I loved that I was having so much fun, making up stories with people…It allowed me to be creative and get this confidence and freedom. It was one of the happiest periods of my career, just doing that.”
Luckily, his commentary skills from the WWE would carry over to his current position now, which is one of the head commentators for NWA.
You can listen to Bennett’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Art of Wrestling- Colt Cabana with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.