WWE's Baron Corbin on Playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Smackdown Beating Raw, and Dealing With Fan Criticism
WWE superstar Baron Corbin stands tall over Dean Ambrose during a recent match.
Courtesy of WWE
WWE superstar Baron Corbin is a fighter He was an amateur wrestler in high school, a Jiu-Jitsu and three-time Golden Gloves boxing champ in his 20s, and has experience in
And back in 2010, Corbin (who’s real name is Thomas Pestock) got into a few fights as a backup offensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals while battling for a spot on the team’s main roster.
These days, he’s still kicking ass and taking names in the WWE as a part of its Smackdown Live television show. Corbin’s nickname is “The Lone Wolf,” a badass biker type who lays out opponents with power moves and knockout punches.
Last weekend, Corbin participated in the biggest fight of his pro wrestling career here in Phoenix when he battled five other superstars inside the Elimination Chamber cage during the main event of the WWE pay-per-view of the same name at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sunday, February 12.
And even though Corbin came up short in the match, he’s still one of the fastest-rising competitors in the WWE and it’s “next big thing” according to Rolling Stone.
New Times got a chance to speak with Corbin recently via telephone prior to his visit to Phoenix and we chatted about his time with the Arizona Cardinals, whom he hopes to face at WrestleMania 33 in April, and how he feels about criticism from wrestling fans.
You have a history here in the Valley from playing with the Arizona Cardinals, right?
Yeah, I definitely do. I lived out there for a couple years when I played for Arizona and I still got
Was your fellow WWE superstar Mojo Rawley with the Cardinals at the same time?
Yeah, but he was just there for off-season training and then he got hurt, so he wasn't there very long.
Oh, I loved it. I got to be a part of Arizona for two and a half years I was there and played with some great players, like, I'm still good friends with [Larry] Fitzgerald, I played with all three quarterbacks from [Kurt] Warner to [Derek]
Looking back, are you almost glad you were released by the Cardinals since you’re now kicking ass in the WWE?
You know, when my time came up in Arizona, I was ready to move into something else. I had a couple other offers from other teams, but I was just ready to move on. I had fun in Arizona but I wanted to leave football on a positive note. I'm glad that I am where I am and I wouldn't change anything that I've done in my career with athletics.
Do you think it's funny that you wound up in the same situation in a sense? Instead of being cheered on by tens of thousands of Valley residents at
Yeah, it's pretty wild. I went to WrestleMania when it was in Arizona while I was playing for the Cardinals. So now, it's a cool experience to always come back to Arizona and I still get guys that will say, “I remember when you were with the Cardinals because you got in fights in training camp. And it was in the newspaper that you were literally fighting for your NFL shot and getting in fistfights up at NFL training camp.” So I kind of built a little reputation out there, and there's a lot of people who remember that who are die-hard Cardinals fans that love football.
So you were throwing punches back then to fight your way to the top, and you’re still doing that today.
Plus, you were a Golden Gloves boxing champion, too.
Yup. I won that three times. So it's definitely beneficial to wrestling to be able to throw punches like that.
So you had a huge match on Smackdown Live recently, including getting the pin on AJ.
Yeah, I talked about it on Talking Smack. It was a really good opportunity, and I went out there with three former WWE Champions and I walked
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Did you plan that spot in advance?
No, I just react to what's in the moment, and he was flying through the air, I said, man, it's a good time to punch you in the face. So I did, and it worked out pretty well.
So was it called on the fly in the ring?
You know, we just go out there and go to work. It's what we do. We're professionals and we're out there to compete with each other and we just deal with what we have and react. To become very successful you have to be
You even got a shout-out from ESPN, who called it a “breakout week” for you.
You know, I don't read a lot of media or look at it a lot because I like to grind and do my thing and a lot of people live a life just wanting to be negative so I avoid all that. And to hear things, like I didn't even know I was in Rolling Stone until later, so it's cool to hear when someone like ESPN gives you a shout-out like that.
Or, like you mentioned, when Rolling Stone declared that you're the WWE's next big star, so fans had better get used to you.
Yeah, that's the attitude I have. People don't have a choice. So when someone else can see that it's a pretty cool feeling.
A few weeks ago, you were on commentary and seemed to have some trouble doing it. Was that the case?
No, I mean, It's a new experience, so it takes a minute to adjust. The commentators don't appreciate how good they are at their job. It's very difficult especially when we were out there. There's seven of us sitting there, between Miz and JBL and Maryse is out there, I mean, everybody's out there, and if
What did it feel like to eliminate Braun
It felt good. He's on Raw and Raw's our competition. I'm just very proud to be on Smackdown Live and Smackdown Live is the #1 show. And Braun
Baron Corbin clotheslines Dolph Ziggler and AJ Styles on an episode of Smackdown Live.
Courtesy of WWE
Would you love to go against Braun
You know, I want to keep taking Smackdown to the next level, so if they want to put me in there with a Raw guy, I've got no problem with that. And add him to the victories of Smackdown. We had a Smackdown victory at the Royal Rumble and at Survivor Series, Smackdown walked
Behind the scenes or in the locker room, is there a lot of pride for your show or brand where y'all want to beat Raw in the ratings or have the better show?
Yeah, there's definitely a lot of pride and competitive spirit. I think that's what the coolest thing about Smackdown is; it's a group of guys who love going to war with each other to create the best show possible and to really make people understand that the true passion is on Smackdown. That's what people want to see, they want to see people with
Do you pay attention to the ratings at all or care if Smackdown beats Raw?
I most definitely do. I look at our ratings, I look at how our attendance is, I look at all those things, because those are the things, at the end of the day, that show who's doing the better show. Raw's had a long time at being #1 and Smackdown's going to take it over.
There have been a couple weeks where Smackdown has beaten Raw in the ratings.
Yeah, and we just want to continue to do that. We want to make it the norm. We want to make it the
Wrestling fans are a fickle bunch. A lot of them were a bit resistant to you at first but have started to warm up recently. Do you pay attention to fan reactions?
No, because I don't really care. And that's why I'm good at what I do, that's why I'm good at my job, that's why I'm successful. I've never really cared what people think of how I'm doing or what I'm doing. If they have a problem with it, they can either change their mind or they can tell me how they feel, but it's just falling on deaf ears. And that's what's funny right now, too,
WWE Smackdown Live airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. Arizona time on the USA Network.
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