Write & Earn
Notifications
Favorites Edit

Josh Barnett talks getting into Pro Wrestling, if he would be interested in WWE or TNA, MMA, More

I recently spoke with former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, who will be doing commentary with Mauro Ranallo for the upcoming NJPW series on AXS TV that will be premiering this Friday, January 16th. The hour-long weekly series will feature match...

FEATURED WRITER
News 14 Jan 2015, 11:32 IST
2.91K
Josh Barnett

I recently spoke with former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, who will be doing commentary with Mauro Ranallo for the upcoming NJPW series on AXS TV that will be premiering this Friday, January 16th. The hour-long weekly series will feature matches from NJPW's Japanese broadcasts and pay-per-view events and will air on Friday nights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. In part one of the interview below, Barnett talked about growing up a wrestling fan, doing pro wrestling and MMA at the same time, if he would be interested in signing with WWE or TNA and more.

Make sure to check back later this week for the second and final part of the interview, where Barnett discussed CM Punk signing with the UFC, how Bobby Lashley is faring in Bellator, today's product, Bellator bringing more showmanship back to MMA, Brock Lesnar possibly returning to UFC, if he would want to fight Lesnar and more.

You can follow Josh Barnett on Twitter and Instagram @joshlbarnett, and you can get more information about New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV at AXS.TV. You can also get his merch at indymerch.com.

When did you first become a wrestling fan?

Ever since I was a little kid. I grew up in a great era of professional wrestling. WWF was just really coming into it's own. The start of WrestleManias, the legendary performers like Macho Man, Hulk Hogan, Honky Tonk Man, Iron Sheik, Sgt. Slaughter. The AWA was still around but there was talent that would go back and forth between the two. NWA wrestling was around, it was an awesome era to watch wrestling. Then of course the wars between WWF and WCW, which was pretty cool. Also, it became the era of tape trading and all this Japanese professional wrestling made its way over.

So you got in to Japanese wrestling fairy early?

Yeah, I was pretty interested in it because I was a big anime and Japanese fan. All this stuff was introduced to me through all these channels that need programming but don't have the budget or the facilities to produce their own stuff. So they did the next best thing and go out and grab all this content, re-dub it, package it and sell it on the airwaves across the U.S., so I was already in to that kind of thing anyway-- anything unusual or different. WWF at times had a pretty decent influx of Japanese talent like the Orient Express, the Jumping Bomb Angels, Hakushi, then there's [Great] Muta and all of this talent going to WCW in their deal with New Japan. Seeing them pull out moves the American guys weren't at the time, I just followed the bread crumbs back to Japan, mainly via tape trading.

You started in MMA first, did you have interest at that time to get involved in pro wrestling?

It wasn't something I thought about. I didn't really know how one would break into that in the first place. I thought it was awesome, but I wouldn't have even had an idea how to get involved. Luckily enough, a friend of mine was working for New Japan, so I contacted him and said "Dude, I really want to get in the ring and wrestle. Can you get me in touch with them?" He said it was no problem and told New Japan I was interested and it just set the wheels in motion. They approached me and set up everything from there on out and became way bigger than anything I ever thought it would be.

Did you have much pro wrestling training before your first match in New Japan?

None. I had not a single day of pro wrestling training. I spent two days working on a match with [Yuji] Nagata. A lot of that was him getting comfortable with what I could or couldn't do, or did or didn't know. I told him he could throw me any way he wanted. I already knew how to bump from Judo, I can suplex, I can do any half throw or submission from amateur wrestling, Greco, or fighting. So he's like "lets take some wrist clutch exploders" and I'm like "whatever."

What were your thoughts after your first match?

My first thoughts were "holy s--t, I'm so utterly sick," because I'd come down with the chicken pox in the three days before I got in the ring. The lights felt 90 degrees, I thought my head was going to explode. I felt horrible. Second thought was "I don't know if this is any good," if anyone liked it.

Were you still fighting while you were wrestling for Inoki and New Japan?

Oh yeah, my first match was 2003. I came up with the idea that I'd like to fight as well as wrestle. They asked if I could do that, and I said I would reach out for fights here and there. I said I'd train any time I'm home and on tour, and I did every day. There's a lot of training in New Japan. When we'd get to the arena Nagata would run us through conditioning drills. All of the Japanese wrestlers would get in a circle, count off 20 hindu squats and then move on. He would do 300 squats before he hit the ring that night. A lot of times we would grapple and wrestle, and I would actually teach a lot.

The person I probably taught the most was Liger, he trained with me almost every day. I also worked with Goto and Minoru, Nagata and Nakamura. I trained Nagata to fight. It was short notice but we did the best that we could. I worked with Nakanishi, anyone that wanted to get any kind of catch wrestling training I was there for. On the other end of that, Liger showed me a ton about working and selling in the ring. The Americans like Scott Norton, Christopher Daniels, Perry Saturn, Mike Barton (Bart Gunn), helped me a lot with pro wrestling culture and with learning how to work in the ring. Chono showed me how to hit ropes. Just every day picking something up, and chain wrestling with Nagata. I'm just absorbing everything, I'm constantly training in the ring, so I wanted to fight. On the road someone would hold pads for me, so I'm good. I had everything I needed.

So it started with those Ultimate Crush shows. They came to me and said they wanted to put on MMA fights and New Japan. We created the rules and we told them the gloves to use, they sourced them out, I helped out some of the matchmaking. I actually booked my own opponent because they couldn't find anybody to fight. I grabbed Jimmy Ambriz, who was undefeated super heavyweight King of the Cage champion and they looked at me like "Are you sure you want to fight this guy? He's massive." He'd never lost. We went from there.

You've never wrestled in the U.S., right?

I have not. Well, I guess I did one time. I guess this could count as pro wrestling training. Mysel, Ivan Salaverry, Chris Munson and Alexander (inaudible) did a tag team submission wrestling match that we set up all the spots for. But we did it in front of a crowd as a shoot. Nobody really knew it was a work. We got such a huge pop. They thought it was the greatest thing ever. He triangles me, I pick him up into a powerbomb, he frankensteiners me through. Just some stuff we put together really quick.

You're [returned] to the ring on New Year's Eve for Inoki's show, but do you have any interest in trying your hand in the U.S. for WWE or TNA?

I wouldn't mind, I'll be honest. My old manager approached TNA back in the day. We got the connection from Kurt Angle after working a show in Japan, and they weren't interested. WWE - I don't know if any of that would be possible with my UFC deal. But they'll let a slob like Snooki in the ring, so it's not a stretch to do an angle with me or someone brings me in as the anti-Brock [Lesnar]. Or maybe Brock says he's taking over the place and he brings me in, and brings [Bobby] Lashley in and we start stomping mudholes in guys left and right and stretching the s--t out of them saying "this is what wrestling really is." That's just something I thought off the top of my head right now. If you sat down you could think of a million angles to work a short series with someone like myself. I understand from the WWE's point of things it could be like "he doesn't go out there and just work the left side all the time, he doesn't run ropes every other move, he doesn't work our style," but I think that's really irrelevant. I think that would make a person like myself stand out more, that I don't look like everyone else.

Make sure to check back later this week for the second and final part of the interview, where Barnett discussed CM Punk signing with the UFC, how Bobby Lashley is faring in Bellator, today's product, Bellator bringing more showmanship back to MMA, Brock Lesnar possibly returning to UFC, if he would want to fight Lesnar and more.

You can follow Josh Barnett on Twitter and Instagram @joshlbarnett, and you can get more information about New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV at AXS.TV. You can also get his merch at indymerch.com.

UFC
Fetching more content...