Ken Shamrock Has Lofty Goal For Impact Wrestling Return At 55
Professional wrestling has never been this fun for Ken Shamrock. It’s why he’s back and not going anywhere.
Fifteen years after his second run as a regular for Total Nonstop Action ended, the former WWE star is beginning what he hopes is an in-ring revival with Impact Wrestling. The 55-year-old Shamrock has said he’s never enjoyed wrestling the way he is now because of the atmosphere in the Impact locker room.
He feels good physically after taking a year off from training to heal his body — which has spent 25 years in combat sports. That and his recent in-ring work has Shamrock convinced he has a run at Sami Callihan’s Impact world championship in him.
“To be able to not only feel good, but be able to perform at a high level really sealed the deal on me being able to come back and do what I wanted to do,” Shamrock said in a phone interview. “I want to be able to put that strap around my waist.”
The year off meant everything to Shamrock. When he returned to training he said he felt “great.” It made him comfortable stepping back into the ring in Australia for a match with Battle Championship Wrestling in Nov. 2018. The UFC Hall of Famer wrestled a few more times after that and his social media war with Impact’s Moose led to their match at the “Bound for Glory” pay-per-view last month.
During that match, won by Moose, Shamrock performed a dive to the outside over the ropes and a hurricanrana. It further confirmed he was “at 100 percent” physically and further boosted his confidence.
“I never practiced them,” Shamrock said of the dive and hurricanrana. “I just did them and I think that’s what I’ll do from here on out. I’ll just be mixing in my submission stuff and my wrestling stuff. Whenever I feel like it fits into a match, I’ll do stuff that I hadn’t done in awhile because I can do it.”
What sold Shamrock on Impact and its two-hour show every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on AXS TV, was the culture in the locker room — the wrestlers try to outdo one another but are still rooting for each other to succeed — and the opportunity to help the company compete in a crowded wrestling marketplace.
“This is a great place for me to be at because I think they have a lot of room to grow,” Shamrock said. “That’s what I want to be a part of is something that’s got room to grow.”
Shamrock took his fun to a different level and one we are not used to seeing from him. On last week’s TV show he had a match with Joey Ryan, a wrestler whose gimmick revolves around the power of his crotch and includes a signature penis flip move that Shamrock took and fully sold.
“I thought it was about being able to go outside the box, being able to challenge my creativity, challenge my character, challenging people that normally wouldn’t see me do something like that,” Shamrock said. “How would I react? How would I be able to do this?”
He is now part of an era were MMA stars regularly make the jump to wrestling and vice-versa, something he helped pave the way for when he was in WWE from 1997-99, when it was still known as WWF. Former MMA stars like Matt Riddle, Cain Velasquez, Ronda Rousey and others have recently jumped to wrestling and CM Punk, Jake Hager and Alberto Del Rio took the MMA plunge.
Shamrock says the reason for it is competitive people want to challenge themselves and see if they can succeed at something new. Making the transition now is more widely accepted in his eyes than when he did it.
“I was getting hate mail, people spewing derogatory things from the media when it came to the MMA media,” he said. “I was getting hammered. It was a big risk because if I failed, I would be hated by the MMA people and I would be a joke in the wrestling world. I took a big chance. I believed I could do it and I did.”
Shamrock sees this era, in which there are so many legitimate companies to work for, as a return to the territory days and not the Attitude Era of the late-’90s. He expects to see more pro wrestling companies working together and letting talent move between them.
“I think companies like Impact are creating an opportunity for people to work, be on TV and at the same time they have freedom to work other places if they want,” Shamrock said. “I think all the other companies, except for WWF [WWE], is doing the same thing.
“I think if that doesn’t change, WWF [WWE] will be in the past because people, at least in my opinion, the future isn’t about wrestlers being locked into one company. They want to be able to have creative freedom to have an opportunity to wrestle overseas or wrestle other places without somebody telling them they can’t.”
Shamrock, nicknamed “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” won the Intercontinental championship during his time working for Vince McMahon and was crowned King of the Ring in 1998 but never became WWF champion. He believes the company recently hasn’t given him his due for his contributions.
“Right now I’m also being left out of any of the conversation with the Attitude Era when they bring back people for the Attitude Era,” Shamrock said. “When they have a reunion, I’m not there. When they talk about the ankle lock, they put Kurt Angle in there as the great submission holds and the ankle lock at No. 2 and Kurt Angle [is] doing it.
“So it just seems like it’s being done on purpose for whatever reason and maybe that’s why I never got shot at the title because there is a problem somewhere I don’t know about.”
He doesn’t dwell on it. Instead Shamrock’s focus is on Impact and growing his Valor Bare Knuckle boxing promotion. He hopes Valor can be a vehicle to slowly usher a return to the no-holds-barred-version of MMA he once competed in during the early stages of the sport, when “everybody fell in love it.” He believes it delivers a purer form of striking and truer submissions because of the lack of gloves.
Shamrock has ruled out competing in MMA or bare knuckle again at his age. His last fight, a loss, came with Bellator in 2016. His mind is focused on being a world champion in wrestling again while enjoying his health and continuing to have fun.
“I’m really blessed to be where I’m at right now to compete at a high level,” Shamrock said. “My body feels great. I really believe it has to do with me being able to step away for a year and let my body recover and heal up is what the success is really about.”