McGinnis: WWE star Barrett to appear at ‘SmackDown’Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When WWE brings its trademark show “SmackDown” to the Huntington Center on September 6, it’ll be another step in the journey of Wade Barrett — a trip that began with childhood.
“I’ve been watching WWE since the age of about nine years old,” Barrett said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I was a huge fan. I remember I was a huge fan of the British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith. He was my hero when I was a kid.”
The native of Preston, England remained a fan of wrestling into adulthood, but it wasn’t until his early 20′s when he really started to think seriously about making his lifelong obsession into a career.
“I was reading Mick Foley’s very first book, his autobiography,” Barrett said. “It was something that as I was reading it, I came to realize that the superstars and wrestlers that I’ve been watching all my life and been a fan of, that book — reading that book made them into real-life people. Until that point, I think I’d always considered them all like comic book stars.
“Something about reading his book, reading about his life, health, stuff like that, I really identified with it. And I thought, well, if he can do that, coming from the background he came from, then there’s no reason I can’t.”
Training under a wrestler named John Richie, Barrett began working for a variety of companies in both England and Ireland — some of the groups were so small, 50 people in attendance was considered a good number. But he slowly began to work his way up the ladder, performing in bigger and bigger promotions in front of larger crowds.
“Every opportunity I got, I tried to step into a company where the people were more experienced, or the crowds were bigger, where I could get more experience and more work, that sort of thing, and try and develop as much as I could on the independents, which certainly wasn’t easy,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s eyes were always trained on the ultimate prize, though. He began sending letters and photos to WWE’s talent relations department. Soon after, the company requested that he come to one of the shows during a WWE tour of the UK.
“They had us get in the ring while the arena was empty and had us wrestle some matches against each other — watched our moves, watched our abilities, I think they had us cut some short promos on the microphone, stuff like that.”
Barrett was one of several (including current WWE stars Sheamus and Drew McIntyre) who were offered contracts later that day. He soon relocated to America, training in WWE’s developmental system under the guidance of famous grapplers like Al Snow, Tom Pritchard and the legendary Dusty Rhodes.
“I think when I left the UK, I was mechanically fairly good, in terms of my work in the ring, the kind of moves I performed, that sort of stuff. My problem, I always thought, was psychology — my understanding of when to do what moves and that sort of thing. And my time with developmental certainly helped me a lot with that,” Barrett said.
After several years in the developmental system, Barrett was introduced to WWE fans in mid-2010 through their experimental show NXT, designed to showcase “rookies” to the audience. Part of the show’s structure had him paired with WWE star Chris Jericho as a mentor — an arrangement, Barrett claimed, that was closer to reality than most fans probably thought.
“I was able to watch very closely and learned a lot from him — and that, probably above any other experience in my career is where I’ve learned the most, just from standing and observing Chris in close quarters.”
Barrett’s arrival on the WWE scene has been fairly explosive, with several main events and major storylines already under his belt. But, he insisted, the brighter the spotlight, the less pressure he felt — even when working at the biggest show of them all, WrestleMania, last April.
“I always felt that the bigger the crowd, the easier it is in the ring. That’s the way I’ve always seen it, not everyone agrees with that,” Barrett said. “So when I step out in front of 70,000 people — every single person in the audience almost becomes completely anonymous. It’s just like a sea of people rather than a group of individuals. So I’ve always found it very easy to perform in front of large crowds. The larger, the better, as far as I’m concerned on that front.”
That last comment certainly applies to the Toledo crowd for “SmackDown” on Sept. 6. “There’s a lot of fans in that part of the world, it always has been a very popular traditional wrestling area. So we’ll come along and provide a great show for you. You’re gonna see all the top stars there — and you’re gonna see myself, I’m the biggest star of them all,” Barrett said with a smile in his voice.