At age 54, Ken Shamrock is motivated to make 2019 his year. The UFC Hall of Famer is readying for his return to pro wrestling in the United States, almost 20 years after his last WWE appearance. The legend was among the trailblazers whose success paved the way for MMA athletes and pro wrestlers to cross over to one another.
Tom Lawlor is part of the current crop who has followed a similar path in the modern era. In a cross-generational collision, Shamrock battles the emerging talent at McAloon Productions' "Ultimate Bar Brawl" event this Thursday, January 31 at Wildpitch Underground in Atlanta. Before the no rules, no count outs, no ring showdown, here Shamrock previews what's to come, as well as the changing landscape of MMA and pro wrestling. Below is part two of our candid two-part interview with Shamrock.
You have this no rings, no rules match against Tom Lawlor. Someone who come up in the pro wrestling ranks after doing MMA and now both sports. You're in a lot of ways one of those folks before their time, really bringing MMA exposure to pro wrestling and WWE. Now you are seeing a little bit of patterning with what Tom Lawlor is doing now. What will it be like to work with him in this sort of environment of being no ring or rules?
"I've been a part of different matches. I've worked in the octagon, the cage that they built up, the Lion's Den cage where there was no ropes. I also worked Owen Hart in the Dungeon where there was no ropes. It was just a garage. Stu Hart's training center. Then I did one underneath the arena where it was just a ring of cars called the Iron Circle. So, I've been able to be put in a lot of different situations. I even wrestled in a straightjacket in a cage. There were a lot of things I was able to do in pro wrestling and challenge my athletic ability and my strategic planning of a match during these things. I was able to be involved with a lot of it. Going into something like this is just one of those things, I just bring it back to the street fights I had and the bar fights I had when I was 19, 20, 22 years old getting into fights at the bar. There were a bunch of buddies around. There were tables, chairs, bottles, pool sticks.
"All kinds of stuff that you use to make sure you won the fight. This is no different. From what I can understand about Lawlor, he won't shy away from pain. And I won't shy away from pain. So, I think this bar fight will be really exciting because there are going to be plenty of things for us to use as weapons against one another. I'm exciting to put this one on because I think this is more my personality, my character."
For sure, it will be a unique atmosphere. And you have Tom Lawlor there, someone who has made the transition to MMA and wrestling. What are your thoughts on how this has evolved? You're seeing what Brock Lesnar did. What are your thoughts on UFC and the MMA world to when you started, the rise of the Chuck Liddell's, the Conor McGregor's and everything that has been going on with Jon Jones and the controversy surrounding the sport? From your vantage point and history and experience, what's your opinion on the business and comparing it to pro wrestling and the idea of making the transition back and forth?
"I love it. I think if it wasn't for the fact that I crossed over, I'm not sure MMA would have the fan base they have today. A lot of people want to disregard that in that there are MMA fans and wrestling fans. When I made the crossover, I think there was the understanding that no matter where you come from, the MMA or wrestling world, they're both hard to be successful at. And if you're able to make that transition successful, then you are one of those one percenter's able to do it. I think the fans understand that. To have a guy go from one place and another and be successful at it is exciting. I don't think they understood that in the beginning. There was a lot of controversy. And the only reason why there would be any controversy is whether or not they failed.
"If they failed they say, 'Man, you shouldn't have done that. You had it made at the other place.' I say to them, 'If that was the case, and we all went by those boundaries' and said, 'Hey, I'm already successful. I don't need to take that chance.' Then we won't have what we have today with guys transferring over to different sports and being able to watch and see how they advance and be successful in both. But you're going to have some that fail. They're not going to do it, but do you say, 'Oh man, they really screwed up.' No, you can't do that because people have to be able to follow their dreams and make decisions and see whether or not they're able to challenge themselves. And if by chance they fail, don't block them out to be successful in the other sport because they failed at the other one. To me, that's ridiculous. "
Just the fact of trying and attempting it. A lot of people have given CM Punk a lot of flak, but it took a lot of courage for him to branch outside his comfort zone and try something he was really passionate about doing.
"Whether you agree with the decision, I don't understand why he is not being welcomed back into pro wrestling and work his way back again. It floors me that you wouldn't praise a guy for taking that chance."
Last question. Talk about what you want to get out of this year and pro wrestling and mixed martial arts? With the beginning of the year, what are your goals? You're having this first match in the United States again and taking it from there. What do you want beyond that?
"The idea, and I've always had the same idea, was wanting to keep myself fit and in shape and ready to take on any challenges that may present itself down the road whether it be MMA or pro wrestling. When I say MMA, I say for the right fight. I'm not going to fight some 32-year-old or 27-year-old guy in his prime, that's ridiculous. But if the right fight came along with a Royce Grace or something like that, I kept myself in shape for opportunities that I may want to be able to do. Same with pro wrestling. I knew if the opportunity came my way and the right thing happened. Of course, I'm not going to do it for free. It's a business.
"But if they're making money, I'm making money. All the things had to match up for me to get in there. Things are starting to move in the independent world in that the circuit is starting to have fans come in and watch these shows and are able to pay the wrestlers. So, when I started back into this thing, was one be great. Not go in and do it because I have the free time. But because I want to make sure that when it's all said and done that I was one of the greatest wrestlers to come out of MMA. That's the bottom line right there. I want to be recognized as one of the greatest. Whether it be through independent shows or if I get another opportunity at WWF or WWE, whatever those things that happen down the road. I will be ready."
For more information on "Ultimate Bar Brawl" or McAloon Productions' other event on February 1, "Come Hell of High Water", visit the Eventbrite page. The shows will stream on FITE TV.