Ken Shamrock is a legend in mixed martial arts and in the wrestling world, there’s no doubt about.
As a pioneer of MMA, he competed on the first ever UFC events and he was a central character during wrestling’s fabled Attitude Era.
Now, Shamrock is 55-years-old but still in absolutely unreal shape. Y9ou could argue he looks as good as he has ever done and he’s enjoying himself performing for IMPACT.
Of course, IMPACT have made significant strides as of late and their move to AXS TV has given them a greater platform to showcase their stars.
talkSPORT was given the chance to talk all-things wrestling with Shamrock and the World’s Most Dangerous Man gave us quite the insight.
Hi Ken! So talk us through how the return to wrestling and move to IMPACT all came about?
What happened was I took a year out to rest my body and then I started getting bored. I started working out again, started feeling better than I have in a long time and I had an opportunity to get myself in my best possible shape and I decided the only thing that could stop me was me. So I started looking around at different companies that might be a good fit for me. I ended up coming across IMPACT where I had actually been before and captured the title – I was one of their first champions – and I decided ‘OK, let’s try this’.
Then we started doing some stuff there, competing at a high level and I felt really good. I decided ‘You know what? Let’s see how far I can run with this thing. See where it takes me’.
You’ve worked alongside some of the all-time greats in the wrestling business. Who in IMPACT right now has ‘that’ star quality?
There’s multiple guys there. It would be unfair for me to point out just one or two guys. But just the guys that I’ve worked with like Moose, Sami Callihan and of course, The Machine Brian Cage and many others. That roster is just loaded with a lot of talent I think. I think within a year, maybe even sooner, I think IMPACT is going to make moves towards the top of the industry.
What do you think is the main thing that will attract viewers to IMPACT right now in a climate that is full of wrestling?
It’s night and day [the quality of IMPACT’s show] compared to what other promotions are putting out right now. We’re right there with anybody. So I think the more exposure that IMPACT gets, the more we’re going to be in competition right alongside the big names out there. We just need the opportunity to be seen.
We mentioned you worked alongside some incredible names earlier. How was that for you and how did they influence you?
To work with guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart – especially Bret Hart in training, he really helped me understand psychology – working with Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels – you name it, I worked with them. Having that experience of just being able to understand some of the psychology and the thought process that they put into their matches that made them who they are… I was a student of the game. Learning from all these great performers, I really had the opportunity to take the time to understand who they were, how they got to where they were at. The way they were using their psychology to build their characters, and I paid attention to that.
When I got done working with them, no matter if it was a short programme or a long programme, that I took something from that. Understanding that they had done it for such a long time and the tremendous characters that they built, being able to understand how they did it. I was just listening to them put matches together.
I know you’ve spoken about this before, but why isn’t Ken Shamrock in the WWE Hall of Fame?
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense when you consider the parameters of who qualifies for the Hall of Fame. I think I check all the boxes? OK, did you make the sport better? Did you make an impact during the time you were there? Did you change the way that people would have to work with you? When you look at all of those things, you have to say, yes. Prior to Ken Shamrock, there was no tap-out. You could say ‘I quit’ and ‘I give up’ but there was no tap-outs. Not a lot of submission holds.
I developed all of these submission holds that countered pro wrestling moves. And now you see them in there all the time. You got people like Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and there’s a lot of other ones too that it opened the door for them to go in without having any criticism. Because when I did it, man, people criticised me. People said I was a sell-out. It was fake, so I’m fake. I wasn’t going to be honoured anymore. I had half my team turn against me in the Lion’s Den because I did.
So I was very confident in what I was doing and knew why I wanted to do it. I thought it would bring a lot of attention to MMA, it was mainstream. I thought if I was successful at it, I’d be able to elevate myself to a whole new level, so I understood pro wrestling could put me in a whole different light when it comes to popularity and being respected within the sport. If I had failed at that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had moving on. I probably would have been a blip on people’s radar if I had failed.
Guys like Kurt Angle made the Ankle Lock famous after I had done it for so long. He jumps on it and he does it, but it’s a compliment when people do that and a sign of respect.
Why did you end up leaving WWE in 1999? Did you just miss MMA?
No, it had to do with the time. There was a lot of stuff going on there, a lot of inner-workings and a lot going on with the Bret Hart screwjob. Me being connected with Bret somehow because he was the one helping me understand psychology. He wanted to drop the strap to me and I thought that was already being talked about with the office – but I guess it wasn’t! So I think there was a lot of uncertainty with me and what they were doing with me because after that screwjob they were beating me.
They were constantly wanting me to do these angles that I felt weren’t good character building angles for me and then I was getting beat a lot. I wasn’t moving in that direction I once was. So that’s where I think a lot of my insecurity and thoughts going into my decision to leave came from, because of the direction I was going in. I was going backwards. I worked way too long and hard building Ken Shamrock, the World’s Most Dangerous Man, to let somebody tear it down.
I was put into a lot of different groups and it was almost like they didn’t know what to do. They had so many different angles going on and different people writing different things and it’s almost like they didn’t know what to do with it.
There was quite a stir on social media when you took the ‘dick flip’ from Joey Ryan recently. How to you react to some of the negative comments about it and was it hard for you to agree to?
My thought on it when I was first approached with it was like ‘Hmmm, maybe. Let me think about it’. I didn’t want to say no right away. So I thought about it and went to my kids and asked them if they knew who he was. They said ‘Yeah’ and I said ‘Well, they want me to do this…’ and they said ‘Yeah, you should do it!’ And I was like ‘Yeah, I was kind of thinking that’ because it will help me reach a different crowd. Help me stay up with times because times are changing. So I thought to myself ‘You know, I’m going to do it’.
So when I told them all I was going to do it, they were all a little shocked that I would actually do it. But I told them ‘Listen, it’s entertainment. This is pro wrestling. It’s like people when they go to a movie; they want to be out of reality for a while, they want to watch this impact of what going on with any scenario or storyline.’ Wrestling is the same way as people going to the movie theatre and watching a move for two hours, right? It’s entertainment.
So when I hear people complaining about it saying ‘Oh, that’s Ken Shamrock, I can’t believe he did that. It’s a disgrace what he did’ and I thought to myself: if it was in fighting and that happened, yes. But because it’s in pro wrestling, what you’re saying is, we’re allowed to draw lines in the sand for what entertainment is. And if that’s the case, then we need to go back in the days and take a lot of other people out too. Because there’s been a lot of things done in pro wrestling that people would call disgusting.
It’s entertainment. It is something that we do in a character. And I’m playing a character. Joey Ryan is playing a character. And for you to say that Joey Ryan can’t play a character even though it’s over really big, and that other people are better than he is and we’re above that, are people, in my opinion, who need to take a look in the mirror and check themselves because we are all human beings and we are all trying to make a living in this world. Nobody is better than anybody else. And for them to ask me to do it and for me to do it, it’s saying it is another gimmick. It’s another opportunity to play a role in something someone else is getting over.
So for those people that have negative thoughts about it, they need to check themselves out of wrestling. Especially those people that have been managers or have been assistants or commentators in wrestling who go on their big network shows and talk bad about Joey Ryan and bad about me doing the flip look yourself in a mirror and realise you can’t beat yourself out of a wet paper bag. And yet, people took bumps for you. And that, my friend, is a joke if you’re saying what I did is a joke. You can’t fight a lick, and yet you’re complaining about someone putting over Joey Ryan when millions of people have put you over.
If fans haven’t tuned into IMPACT yet, why would you say they should?
First of all, I think the matches are tremendous. It’s almost like going back to the Attitude Era. It’s really aggressive and guys are going after one another. The storylines are tremendous and there’s all kinds of storylines, too. From what I’m seeing out there, I think we have the best storylines today. The best guys out there putting on great shows. I would put these matches against any organisation right now.
Anyone who is going to watch IMPACT, I think they’re going to be really entertained and fall in love with that time we had back in the day with the Attitude Era. That’s what we’ve got right now with IMPACT. So if you tune in, I promise you that’s the feeling you’re going to get with the matches that are going on in the ring.
Wrestling fans in the UK can watch IMPACT Wrestling every week on Fight Network UK and 5Star
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