These days, Ken Shamrock has one thing on his mind — the WWF World Title.
“Whether it be Stone Cold, The Undertaker, Kane, I don’t care to fight one or the other person,” said Shamrock over the phone to Slam Wrestling. “To me, it’s whoever has that belt that I want.”
There is no arguing that ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ has ascended to the top ranks of the WWF roster, but he has yet to win a title.
When this is mentioned, Shamrock is ready with an answer.
“Let’s face it. In my prior matches, I’ve wrestled Shawn Michaels and I’ve beaten him, although it was a DQ. As anybody who has seen the matches with Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Stone Cold … I’ve had my shots at these guys, and I’ve taken them to the limit.”
Shamrock did win the King Of The Ring and credits that for his vault to the top.
“I’ve got the opportunity to go for the Championship Belt, so why worry about the European, Intercontinental or any of the other belts when I have the opportunity to get the big one.”
Shamrock’s temper has cost him matches and titles. He had Rocky Maivia beat for the I-C title at WrestleMania 14, but decided to further punish The Rock and attacked the WWF officials when they tried to stop him.
“Yeah, I lose my temper, pretty much not to where I’m out of control, but basically it’s part of my game plan,” he said. “It’s called The Zone. Once I snap, it’s time to go home.”
Ken Shamrock took up pro wrestling in 1988 at the suggestion of his adopted father, in a period of his life where he “was kind of in limbo”. He started his wrestling training under the late Buzz Sawyer in the Carolinas, and didn’t have too much nice to say about the experience.
“I was going nowhere. I learned nothing. Basically, I was just wrestling guys, and when they came to tryout, I’d beat them up and they’d quit. Buzz would make the money.”
He left Saywer and hooked up with Nelson Royal and Gene Anderson in South Atlantic Pro Wrestling. Shamrock spent two years in the territory, wrestling for a time as Wayne Shamrock, but usually as Vince Tortelli. He held the SAPW title for a while, having beaten Chris Chavis (who later became Tatanka) in a tournament final.
But pro wrestling wasn’t enough for Shamrock, and he found his true calling in shoot fighting in Japan with Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi and later Pancraese, and in North America with the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
When asked about similarities between pro wrestling and shoot fighting, Shamrock insisted there are none.
“You’re talking about getting kicked in the face, open hand strikes to the face, and you get your joints twisted around. It’s nowhere near the same.”
In late 1995 at UFC VI, Shamrock defeated Dan Severn to become the first UFC Superfight Champion. Then in May 1996, the two faced off again, this time the match went to a draw, and the scorers awarded the match to Severn by a vote of 2-1.
Though Severn has followed Shamrock into the WWF, he doesn’t feel that there is any professional rivalry. “I think that left as soon as I left the UFC and got in the WWF,” he said.
For a time, it looked like the WWF was building towards a feud between the two fighters, though that appears to have been dropped from the immediate plans.
“At this point in time, I want to move forward and not backwards,” Shamrock explained. “And I think by me taking on Severn, it’s a step backwards. In the UFC, he made a name for himself and we fought and I beat him. Then we did another match which ended up in a draw. And then I made a change to go into the WWF. I’ve really excelled myself to be one of the top WWF superstars. And I think Severn is still struggling. For me to wrestle him now, get something going with him now, would be a step back for me. No disrespect for Dan, or his ability, but he needs to step up and put himself in the position to wrestle me, and not me to wrestle him.”
The biggest unfinished business for Shamrock from his UFC days is his lingering desire to get in there again against either Hickson or Royce Gracie.
“They have a legend about both of them. I thrashed one of them in my last fight, which was Royce, and he had never come back, never accepted my challenge after that. Hickson has always boasted that he’s the greatest fighter in the world, but he’s never stepped up and put it on the line in the United States.”
Shamrock claimed that if given the chance, he would “absolutely” get back into shoot fighting.
“That’s in my blood. I’m a fighter. That’s what I do, that’s who I am. That’s what I portray in the WWF. I’m no nonsense, and I take no crap.”
In February 1997, Shamrock signed with the WWF, and was immediately thrust into the storyline as a special referee for a Bret Hart vs Steve Austin match. However, when he started wrestling, Shamrock quickly realized that he was a bit out of his league.
He trained with Tom Prichard in Stamford at the WWF training facility, then went to Bret Hart’s Calgary home for more schooling.
“I needed to move on and learn more about psychology and how matches are put together and taken apart.”
The skills he picked up have helped him move up the WWF ladder, but haven’t helped in his search for a regular partner to watch his back.
“Almost every tag team partner I’ve had, except for Blackman, has turned on me — Mark Henry, Owen Hart,” he recalled. “When I was growing up, I never really had close friends. It’s hard to trust somebody to watch your back … I’ve always kind of been a loner, pretty much done my own thing.”
His best friends on the circuit are Steve Blackman and Billy Gunn, “the two guys that I hang around the most.”
Blackman makes any interesting comparison to Shamrock. Both are legitimately skilled in fighting, and both have been schooled in Calgary by the Hart Family.
“Me and Blackman have got similar styles,” said Shamrock. “We both know submission. We both know kicking and punches. And we’re both not wrestlers, but fighters. I would enjoy getting into the ring with him and then go. But we’re friends. We have our disagreements. … What happens down the road, that’s up to him. I’m doing my thing.”
Shamrock’s biography was recently published by Charles F. Tuttle Co. Author Richard Henner had his subject’s full blessing to delve into his past, and according to Shamrock, Henner (and co-author Calixtro Romias) dug out some gems.
“Rich spent a lot of time with my wife, my children, my fighters, my dad — people I had known in the past, and got a lot of inside stories on me — things I didn’t even remember.
“He put it together and I read it, and it actually brought tears to my eyes in a couple of spots.”