Baron Corbin Interview: The Lone Wolf Hungry For WWE Success
Baron Corbin is a driven individual. He is a former NFL player having played for both Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.
His rich athletic pedigree doesn't end there though, Corbin is a three-time Golden Gloves Boxing Champion and has also achieved success in Jiu-Jitsu. His past experience clearly stood him in good stead for when an opportunity with WWE came in 2012.
After putting the work in day in, day out at the company's state-of-the-art performance centre, Corbin wrestled for NXT, WWE's developmental system that has now transformed into a global phenomenon, between 2012 and 2016 before he finally got the big call-up to WWE, with arguably the most impactful debut of all-time.
Superstars such as Tazz, Kane and Brock Lesnar are among those to have exploded onto the scene in their first night on the job but Corbin had a debut that surely trumps theirs when he made his mark monumentally infront of 100,000 people at Wrestlemania 32 when he was an unannounced entrant in the third Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal - Corbin would go on to toss out WWE legend Kane and win the illustrious prize - becoming only the third man to win the trophy alongside Cesaro and the Big Show.
TheSPORTbible spoke to Baron as part of NXT's first overseas tour and his assessment at the time was that he had only "scratched the surface" with what he could do in WWE. It was only right to ask him to assess his current position, as a featured member of the Smackdown Live roster, to open the interview.
Speaking before a WWE live show in Manchester, he said:
"I'm on a much bigger scale here, a much bigger audience and a much bigger stage. Here [on Smackdown] you have superstars like Randy Orton that you see go out every night and who are unbelievable so I still continue to learn every night that I have an opportunity to see or be a part of the show, that allows me to grow; the old saying is that that 'a pet will only grow as big as its cage' and I realise now that my cage is much, much bigger. I did what I could do in NXT and now it's time to really floor it and see where I can go. It's still the same for me, I'm still just scratching at the outskirts of it and hopefully ten years from now we have a conversation talking about all the things that I've accomplished and I can really say that I'm it all."
Having worked tirelessly honing his craft in NXT for years, Corbin finally got his WWE debut earlier this year. Most NXT stars would take any sort of debut as long as they are on the main roster, but Baron Corbin was blessed with the once in a lifetime opportunity to debut in winning fashion at the biggest Wrestlemania of all-time when he became the third man in history to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal infront of 100,000 fans at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
He recalls his unforgettable experience in his first night on the job, from the minute he was told of his debut to the moment he eliminated WWE legend Kane to claim the prize.
"It all started after NXT Takeover, Triple H brought me in a back room and told me I was going to be a part of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. It was so surreal that it didn't really sink in because you don't expect something like that, you want something like that and that's why you are fighting every day for a moment like that. Then to be told "Hey you're going to get an opportunity infront of 100,000 people", it was pretty surreal - I didn't really sleep much that night. The day of, it was awesome, it was exciting for all the people in the building and seeing the size of the Stadium and the screens, everything is top-notch there.
"You are looking at this empty arena and you know that in a few hours it's going to be full. I had family there so that was a cool thing to have, they were excited and they didn't expect to go to Wrestlemania and get to see me participate in something. Everybody was really amped and the day itself seemed to be 100 hours long, it was insane. You'd sit in catering, you'd get dressed and it would just by minute by minute.
"When you're getting ready to walk through that curtain, I was like "Ah this will be easy, this it what I've trained for my whole life" and didn't feel much pressure at that point, then I walked through the curtain and everything changed. You walk through and you're on this ramp that seems like two miles long, it's insane. Walking down that and just hearing the people, was a whole nother level and it's literally just like a sea that's moving.
"Walking to the ring, '"don't throw up" and "don't cry" - those were my two goals because both would have been pretty embarrassing. You get in the ring, the bell rings and your instincts kick in and it's go-time. I can't tell you what I did after I got rid of Kane because it's just like warp-speed and excitement. I saw my family and my fiancee were second row and the ref was like "Well, go get your trophy" because I completely forgot, I was so excited! It was insane and the moments after, taking the pictures and everything, it was very surreal.
"I worked in NXT, grinding every day for three-and-a-half years and that was my moment. My first moment on the main roster was Wrestlemania infront of 100,000 people, how many people can say that's how they debuted? I already have a Wrestlemania moment in the books, day one. I'm still chasing that feeling I got when I won that Andre The Giant trophy."
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The 32-year old was heavily featured in the Breaking Ground series on the WWE Network, which gave fans valuable insight into the daily life of someone in NXT putting the work in and striving for opportunity. One scene saw WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall, perhaps more commonly known as "Razor Ramon" - mentor Corbin, who has the same sort of stature, traits and ego that the "The Bad Guy" possessed. He explained just what he gathered from speaking with one of the great minds in professional wrestling.
"It's obvious that I have a little bit of an ego, you can tell that from the show and just little things that kind of show my real life. He's kind of the same, especially when he came in as Razor with the tooth-pick and wanting to be Scarface essentially, he had an ego and I think he's one of the best.
"He's one of the best big men to ever come through and he just offered me a lot of advice on how to train for being a big man and work on a special skill-set that will give me advantages for a guy who's 6'8 standing in the ring. And then how to carry yourself - really he was just saying "Hey man, I know how you are as a person, let everybody else see who you are" and he was like "I didn't go out there and pretend to be cool, I was cool; I truly believed I was the coolest person in the world and the toughest guy. If you wanna be a jerk, be a jerk because you're a jerk" and that kind of allowed me to open up and expand who Baron Corbin is."
When I go through Airports or if people recognise me, they're not quite sure if they want to come up and say something or not because they're not sure what the reaction is they are going to get."
The "End of Days", Baron Corbin's go-to move is one of the deadliest finishers in WWE.
No-one has been able to kick out of the quick and impactful move, which has decimated a long list of opponents. The Smackdown LIVE superstar revealed how the move came about, with 11-time tag team Champion Billy Gunn particularly involved in the the move coming to fruition.
"I wanted something that I could hit out of any situation, anywhere and it had good, fast impact. At NXT, we had a crash pad ring which is just something to try tricks in and moonsaults and stuff where you're not going to land on your head and be dead. I was just playing around there one day and it kind of came from watching some Japanese wrestling and I saw something similar and was like "How can I make that my own?" and that's how it came along. At the time Billy Gunn was my coach and he saw it and thought it was something special; he put it in action in my debut against CJ Parker and the move has been laying people out ever since then.
"No-one's got up, no-one's kicked out and I plan on keeping it that way, that's why I wanted something to have that kind of impact and even if I'm getting run over by someone way bigger than me, I can still pull that out at the last second and that'll get the job done. The biggest thing was to be able hit in any situation, too many guys have to really fight to get into a position to hit their finish and mine can be on the floor, the pavement, the ring; wherever it needs to be, it'll be there."
Though still just years into his wrestling career, Corbin has taken to professional wrestling extremely well and has quickly adapted. He does however admit that there are still people in WWE who look at him and say "Oh, there's the NFL guy!". As someone who didn't come into the wrestling business "to make friends", it doesn't affect him though.
"At the end of the day, their feelings about me don't affect what I do at all. The criticisms and the people who hate me because I don't have the passion for wrestling, they can do it until they're blue in the face, it doesn't change that I go out there every single night in a wrestling match with the biggest company in the world and I'm successful at that so it's a good time to have those people around."
In an incredibly disappointing turn of events, "The Lone Wolf" was replaced by Shane McMahon in Smackdown's team for the upcoming 5-on-5 Survivor Series match - a bout that presented a perfect opportunity for Corbin to further establish his dominance and make his name at the iconic event, as so many others have in history.
But Corbin, a brash and cocky character who is all about taking names and getting paychecks, will surely not be too disheartened if it means he is challenging for a Championship on Smackdown in the near future. He does have one monumental achievement in the bag in the the form of the Andre The Giant Battle, and the natural step would be to be going after a title.
"If that's not your goal you have no business being here, that's truly my opinion. Whether it's the Intercontinental Championship or the World Championship, both of them are on my list of things to own. I would love that opportunity tomorrow; I'm not going to get it tomorrow, I'm going to have to put a beating on a few more people - I have no problem with that whatsoever because if I continue to do what I've been doing, that opportunity will come and I will check those off my list. When you get an opportunity to get a Championship belt, the game is now to keep it so you've got a target on your back. We've got a lot of guys on Smackdown Live who are getting great opportunities and feel like they're somebody and I'm more than happy to show them they're not."
As for the one person he wants to take out and make his name off, Corbin picked out one of the biggest names in Randy Orton, a third generation wrestler who has won a total of 14 Championships in WWE.
"We just talked about the WWE Championship, obviously whoever is holding that I would love to take that from them and make my mark but Randy Orton is someone I like to watch because I think he's the best. I would love an opportunity to get in the ring with him, punch him in the face and see what happens next, I think he's unbelievable in everything he does and he's done it for a long time and been very successful. He's another guy who has prided himself on a finish that can come out of nowhere; there's thousands and thousands of videos and memes of him hitting his finish on everything and everyone and I think that [a match between the two] would be a game of chess - it would be a very violent game of chess, but a game of chess. I really look forward to an opportunity to get in there with him."
Words by Josh Lawless
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