On the Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana, Stu Bennett, f.k.a. Wade Barrett, knew that his journey with the WWE was going to come to an end with the WWE back in 2016, after sliding towards the mid to lower card. He recalls that time in his life challenging, but also inspiring since it helped him move towards better opportunities like NWA this past December.
"I left [the WWE] around April or May of 2016," Bennett recalled. "I told them that my contract was coming up, and I told them that I wasn't re-signing. They tried to make a couple of offers, and I told them 'It doesn't matter what you offer me, I need to leave. I f--king hate it here.' I loved my job until, probably, the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. I did some exciting things and some not so exciting things...I thought if I kept improving my physique, and I got ripped, that'll convince them. Maybe, I need a catchphrase. Maybe, I need a t-shirt that'll be a big sell. Maybe, I need to do more with my in-ring skills. There was always something in my head like I can improve this and I can improve that.
"By the time I got to 2015, I was sliding down the card. I was getting opportunities that I thought were kind of wasted. Like, I became the King of the Ring, which sounds like it should be impressive, but what it was followed up with was zero rises. It was like 'What are we going to do with these guys today? Ah, just have them wrestle for three minutes, and have this guy [Stu] go over...' Suddenly, after putting in all that effort, I had to climb up the card and get to where I wanted to be. It wasn't rewarding, to say the least. It was a realization that it didn't matter what I was doing there, I'm just waiting for one man to give me the thumbs up or thumbs down. I'm spending my whole career waiting and hoping that I get a thumbs up."
Bennett mentioned that it took him a solid year to go back to having a normal day-to-day schedule, after the constant traveling he did in the WWE.
"I was really down [after leaving the WWE]. It's hard going from 280 days [on the road], to being off, which you're not really off because you're doing phone calls, getting your gear made, you're constantly in wrestling mode," Bennett noted. "Being someone who was recognized at the shop for being on TV two days a week, to being home all alone, it's a big period of decompression. Especially, when, it's like 'Oh man, it's Monday [for example],' then you go 'Oh wait, I don't work there anymore.'
"Then, there were things throughout the year that would occasionally come up, and I thought 'Ok, I got it out of my system now.' Then suddenly, it would be like WrestleMania season, and everybody is sending pictures from WrestleMania. Then, I'd be thinking, 'Man, I should be at WrestleMania. No, no, I'm not there anymore.' It took me a long time, probably a year to get all of that out of my system."
One thing that Bennett did appreciate the WWE for was their generosity, in terms of how much they paid him. Whether it was towards his in-ring career, to the movie roles he did through WWE Studios (Eliminators), or his character being used in the WWE 2K video game series, he made sure to conclude his interview by saying how fortunate he was for the paychecks he received there.
"I thought they made a mistake when they sent me my first video game check," Bennett informed. "The money they were paying back then, is less than they're paying them now. But back then, it was crazy money. Like, I thought they genuinely made a mistake, and I didn't know what to do. But, when you start getting these checks, and you've had nothing, ever, and you're struggling... getting these checks was a big deal."