x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Intercontinental champion chats about a potential match at WrestleMania with Sheamus, his Bad News character, who he still wants to face in the WWE, and the experience of playing cricket with Ryback.

Bad News Barrett, left, in action against John Cena during the WWE's tour of Abu Dhabi last month. Ravindranath / The National
Bad News Barrett, left, in action against John Cena during the WWE's tour of Abu Dhabi last month. Ravindranath / The National

WWE superstar Bad News Barrett took time out during the WWE’s tour of Abu Dhabi to talk visiting the UAE for the first time, facing Dean Ambrose, a potential WrestleMania match with Sheamus, and playing cricket with Ryback.

To read his thoughts on his team Preston North End playing Manchester United in the FA Cup in England, click here.

How have you enjoyed the events in Abu Dhabi?

“It has been a lot of fun. It is my first time out here in the Middle East. I had never been out here before. My body clock is all messed up. I don’t know whether I am ready for bed or wide-awake right now, but it has been a great time out here. The crowds have been awesome, the fans out here have seemed to be really positive and seem to be really loving WWE so it has been a lot of fun coming out of here.”

Some wrestlers have been known to be frustrated when they get cheered as a bad guy, but you have been comfortably the most popular bad guy with Abu Dhabi crowds. What was your reaction to get cheered as well as the inevitable boos from the audience?

“I have always said I don’t care if I am cheered or booed. I tend to be booed because of my personality and character but as long as I am getting a reaction I am happy and I have had a really good reaction both nights from the fans. I think there must be a lot of British expats out here and I think that was one of the reasons I was getting cheered.”

A number of the WWE superstars have been doing fun things in the UAE. John Cena drove fast cars, Sami Zayn had a go at drag racing last month, and you played cricket with fellow WWE superstar Ryback, which is arguably the most dangerous thing of all those activities. How was it?

“Yeah, Ryback wielding a cricket bat is not a pretty sight, believe me. We had some time with a local cricket centre that are training some local kids and encouraging them to get involved in healthy lifestyles and sports and stuff like that. That was a really cool experience. I am not a cricketer at all as anyone who sees the footage of that will be able to tell, but it was a good experience and a lot of fun.”

On Ryback’s cricketing ability

“He used to play baseball so I thought he was going to have skills that might crossover but I saw him trying to catch, I saw him bowling, I saw him batting and it was like he had never used his arms before. So yeah, he was pretty terrible. He was worse than me, which is saying something.”

The next WWE pay per view coming up is Fastlane on February 22. You do not have a match confirmed yet for the event, but Dean Ambrose has been pretty vocal on TV about wanting to challenge you for the Intercontinental title you hold. What are your thoughts on that?

“He is sniffing around at the moment. As far as I am concerned he is not a worthy champion in WWE, but I might end up accepting it [Ambrose’s challenge] just to teach him a lesson. We will see about that. If I do get in the ring with Dean Ambrose I promise you I am going to smash his head in with a bullhammer. I mean I am going to be Intercontinental champion for a long time, don’t worry about that.”

How does it feel and how much pride do you take in being the Intercontinental champion and following in the footsteps of some WWE’s greatest names in holding the title?

“It feels great. The first time I had it was in 2011. I have had it five times now and when I look back and when I was a kid my favourites were the British Bull Dog Davey Boy Smith, Bret the Hitman Hart, the Ultimate Warrior, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock and as you mentioned they have all had that title. So it was a huge thing for me when I first won it in 2011. I am kind of used to carrying it around now and in this era I am the guy who has had it more than anyone I think, so I am very proud to carry that title. Ultimately I want to take it to the next level and get the world heavyweight championship but for now I am very proud as the Intercontinental champion.”

Bad luck with injuries has meant you have yet to have a real WrestleMania moment in your career? Is that something you are looking to put right this year at WrestleMania 31?

“I am always down for being on WrestleMania. It is kind of a tough spot to get on to as we have a lot of legends that comeback for matches and it is sometimes very difficult to get on the card. But I would love to have a match. I think my ideal WrestleMania match would be me against Sheamus in a retirement match. I would get him out of the WWE for good so we would never have to look at his stupid face again.”

Talk us through the origin of your Bad News character, which has proven very popular here in the UAE, and worldwide.

“It was really a silly little thing that we wanted to try online. We have a show on wwe.com called The JBL & Cole Show and they wanted me to come up with a character to be on that. So I came up with a character that was just going to be me turning up and just giving bad news to everybody. Which is kind of like my real life personality as I like to be the Debbie Downer in the room. So I started doing that and then Vince [McMahon, the WWE chairman] managed to see it one week and decided he was going to put me on TV doing it. I was a little worried at first because I didn’t really work out how it was going to translate into a wrestling character on TV rather than this quirky internet show. But it caught on and people loved chanting the catchphrase and once you get a catchphrase people are into it gets a lot easier.”

Is there anyone on the WWE roster you have not fought yet that you really want to face?

“I always used to say Dolph Ziggler was the guy that I wanted to wrestle, but we have had a bit of a run together lately and I have really enjoyed wrestling him and so that is that itch scratched I suppose. I think Roman Reigns is someone I have been in the ring with once before and he was very good. He beat me very quickly unfortunately, but he is someone I think is going to be a big star in the future in the WWE. Bray Wyatt is another one. I know we’re both bad guys at the moment, but one day I think I’d definitely like to do some work with him.”

With young guys like yourself, Bray Wyatt, the Shield guys now doing there own thing, it feels like a changing of the guard in the WWE at present. How is it viewed in the locker room?

“I think it has been that way now really since 2009 when you saw guys like Sheamus coming up, then it was my group, with the Nexus guys. I think there has been this transition going on for a little while now. It has only stepped up more since Triple H took over the developmental territory in WWE and set up the NXT school and I think the level of guys coming to the WWE now is getting better and better. You have to look at guys like Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville and a couple of others who are down there in NXT and I think the next couple of years in WWE are looking very exciting.”

What are your memories of the Nexus angle in 2010 that really made your name in the WWE and that period working with John Cena?

“That was a lot of fun. I basically went from being an unknown wrestler to being on global TV and main eventing pay per views against the No 1 wrestler in the world every week. It was a huge step up for me in terms of the kind of coverage I was getting and the pressure that was on my shoulders, but it was a great time. A lot of people were telling me at the time they were surprised how well I was coping with that pressure, but to me I felt more pressure trying to get to WWE and struggling as an up and coming wrestler as opposed to being the guy at the very top. I loved that run. I had a lot of fun doing it, I thought we got some great reactions and we got some great storylines and TV out of it.”

What was it like working with big names such as John Cena and Randy Orton so early in your career?

“I was a little more green at that stage. I was not quite as experienced as I am now obviously. I was just really trying to listen to them as much as I could. They were really taking the front foot in those matches and guiding me on that and I was just trying to do my best to keep pace with them and pick up as much knowledge as I could to use in later years. If I was to have another programme with those guys today I think it would be even better given my experience and abilities are higher now then they were in 2010.”

gcaygill@thenational.ae