Baron Corbin on taking pride in being despised as he looks to win WWE King of the Ring

It takes a lot to be disliked on the level of Baron Corbin. But that’s something the WWE superstar takes pride in as one of the top heels on “Monday Night RAW”.

There’s been plenty of opportunities for the audience to be upset at Corbin who has been featured plenty this year that has seen him grow from his persona as the “Lone Wolf” to become Constable Corbin and the acting general manager of “RAW.” Now, he’s looking for another change and become the King of the Ring.

Corbin began the KOTR tournament with a first round win over The Miz. Next up for him is a quarterfinal matchup Monday night against Cedric Alexander.

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Sporting News recently spoke with a very happy Corbin about the KOTR tournament, his relationship with the audience, his now infamous vest, and his evolving character in WWE.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

SPORTING NEWS: You are always so upbeat, especially for someone who is considered by some to be the most hated man in WWE.

BARON CORBIN: (laughs) I take pride in that! How can I not be excited and have energy about that fact right there? I even said it on TV the other night – there was a poll, and this was a real thing, that the WWE Universe wanted anybody, and I mean absolutely anybody, to win King of the Ring but me.

SN: When you see something like that, what’s you immediate reaction?

BC: I have to win just because it’s going to tick everybody off so much more. It’s motivation.

SN: Do you take pride or find it humorous when you do something that a lot of fans don’t like?

BC: It’s a mix of both. It entertains me to watch how angry and frustrated they get, especially when you have a six-year-old kid and then like an 85-year-old woman both giving you the finger in the front row. That – I take pride in that but it’s also really funny because you have them so ramped up that they’re so caught up in it. They believe every bit of it and, I don’t know, it’s a crazy thing when you get them that pulled in that they lose it.

SN: I think sometimes it’s the smallest things that really get people riled up. In your case, so many people made a big deal about you wearing a vest. Now you don’t have the vest but you’re wearing an undershirt.

BC: Yeah. I was just talking about that earlier to someone how with social media, people tell me what really irritates them. I would get 500 tweets a day talking about how much they hate my vest. So why would I ever take it off? That’s the kind of thing. You’re telling me what irritates you. It’s something so small. Well, you look like you work at Applebee’s. I’m going, “Yeah but all the coolest TV villains wear a dress shirt and vest. A lot of them do. All the James Bond bad guys.” It’s so fun.

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Only a matter of time!! #KingCorbin #wwe #raw

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SN: When it comes to King of the Ring, last week you sat on the throne and tried the crown on. How did it feel?

BC: It felt so good. You know, I used to actually have a throne very similar to that in my house. I miss it. So now, I’m going to need a new one. I need a bigger crown, though. I was a little worried that one was going to fall off. I’ve got a big head. Especially because my head is going to grow a little bit more, ego is going to kick in a little bit more. I’m definitely going to need a bigger crown.

SN: What was the throne you had before? Was it a collectible?

BC: It was literally the exact same throne but a different color. It actually had two wolf heads on it and it was a dark cherry wood with a burgundy cushion.

SN: How often did you actually use it?

BC: I sat in it all the time. It made me feel cool when I was home by myself. When I moved from Arizona to Florida I sold it. It was a really, really cool piece. Now I’m going to need a new one.

SN: When it comes to King of the Ring, we haven’t seen it in a few years. So far, some WWE superstars have talked about how much they like tournaments and bringing the King of the Ring back. What is it that is so appealing about a tournament like King of the Ring?

BC: I think there’s a lot more pressure when you bring a tournament into it. You have single elimination and it’s something that can make a guy’s career. It’s a moment that will be remembered forever. I try to make those moments in my career and there are so many of them that I find special. Debuting at WrestleMania and winning the Andre (the Giant Memorial Battle Royal), those are moments that people fight 10, 12 years for, throughout their whole career.

When you get something as special as King of the Ring, you look at the Hall of Famers who have won that. It’s incredible what kind of level it takes them to from (Steve) Austin to Booker to Hunter (Triple H) and Bret (Hart), these guys are icons in what we do. They’re all people we looked up to for years. To get your name on a list with those guys, that’s something truly special. There’s so many great aspects that come with it. I love the fact that it’s a tournament and it’s single elimination. My whole life has been based that way with football, getting to the playoffs, getting to the championship game because you have to be on all the time. You can’t have an off night. I think it separates the greats from everybody else.

SN: You were off television for about a month following Extreme Rules and then came back recently. Did you feel like you needed that time off after being on TV so much?

BC: I did. I feel like it was a good thing to kind of recalibrate and look at things and see what I can change or evolve. Plus, just to kind of give the fans a break for a minute, to be missed. It’s so funny because my social media would be like, “Oh my goodness, a ‘RAW’ without Baron Corbin, that was the greatest thing ever” to like after three weeks going “Wait, where’s he at? I miss him.” It’s kind of a wild thing. So I think it was a good thing for myself and for everybody to get that little break and reload. If you see the same thing over and over and over, you get kind of tired of it. I think that’s a really cool thing about King of the Ring; we pulled it back for a few years and now it’s back and people are really excited about it.

SN: You are never going to turn down an opportunity that’s presented to you and whatever role that WWE asks you to do. At the same time, do you think you were overexposed? You were featured on TV for months when it came to what you did in the ring but also in promos and being Constable Corbin.

BC: I don’t think I was overexposed. I think it was a good thing for because coming from the “Lone Wolf” as this big, angry guy that just tried to beat everybody up, it gave me a lot of depth in becoming Constable and giving me the microphone and playing off of Kurt (Angle) and the other superstars and abusing power. It was also one of those things where me handing me a promo and I’m opening the show. That’s an important spot. That’s a Roman Reigns spot or John Cena spot, The Rock spot, opening “Monday Night RAW” and it was kind of sink or swim for me – “I gotta deliver this. I have to do a really good job at it and I kept crushing it so they’re giving me more and more.” I think it made me ready for anything in WWE and it took me, as a performer, to another level. I think being under that much pressure is only going to help me throughout the rest of my career.

SN: When it comes to your development, we’ve seen you change a few times from the “Lone Wolf” to Constable Corbin. Now you have this opportunity with King of the Ring where if you win, that will bring other new things to the table for yourself. Have you already thought about things you would like to do if you win the tournament?

BC: Yeah, I’m starting to get some small things and what I can do to irritate people. Simple things like Ricochet is in the tournament and his Twitter handle is “King Ricochet.” My first thing to do would be you have to erase that. You can just be Ricochet now. I don’t want anybody to confuse anybody else with the true king of “Monday Night RAW.” King Corbin is going to be amazing. The Street Profits – one of the kids wears a crown. That’s out. So, it going to be the little things I’m going to have fun with to torture people at first.

Then I’ll grow into it and see what kind of power I can get out of this. It was a lot of fun being the acting general manager when I get to make matches or change rules so I’ll be looking to really irritate people. Maybe I’ll buy a gigantic diamond pinkie ring while I’m out there in New York and make people bow down to that. It would be really entertaining for me, maybe not so much for them (laughs). It’s going to be fun seeing how far I can push it and what I can really do with it.

SN: You had a career in boxing and football before joining WWE. When you’re in those two particular sports, you don’t show much emotion other than aggression and you don’t want to show when you’re hurt or in pain. What has that transition been like for you to WWE where there’s a wide range of emotions that you have to show?

BC: I think for me that was the hardest transition. I had to learn the hard way a few times doing interviews when I was in college football, “Hey, show a little humility for the team, they’re a 1-5 team” and I did an interview. We played a game against Truman State, which is where Kane went to college, and we have the Hickory Stick, which is the oldest rivalry in college sports. The first thing I said was I’m going to take that hickory stick and slap everyone of them over the head with it. My coach was like, “No!”

I’ve always been very natural at doing interviews and the physicality part, the athletic part but then bringing the emotion, to convey the emotion to not only the kid in the front row but the people in the top row and the millions of people around that world that are watching. My dad always said, “when you’re tired, don’t show them you’re hurt. Don’t let them get in your head” and now it’s really opening up. I would think that I was doing things and I’d watch tape and think that wasn’t good. I’d watch a promo where I’m having to convey this message and go, “that wasn’t good.” It took a lot of work, and Dusty Rhodes was a guy who truly helped me with that and opening that up and conveying emotions with words and movement and your facial expression. I think when I got that Constable role, that really helped me with the words and promos. There are certain guys – Hunter has helped me a lot when it comes to conveying that emotion in the ring and how to show people that I’m angry or I’m hurt or tired or frustrated. There’s a lot of guys who have done an amazing job in helping me.

SN: Speaking of guys that have helped you, Paul Heyman has a big role as the executive director of “RAW.” What is your working relationship like with him?

BC: Paul and I have a very good working relationship because he’s not afraid to tell me if I’m doing something wrong. He’s not going to sugarcoat things. He’s a man’s man in the sense of he’s not afraid if he hurts your feelings for me. He knows how to handle people. That’s what I relate to. That’s why I get along with Vince (McMahon) and Hunter and Taker. Those guys will tell me that wasn’t good and I’m not going to get offended. “OK, I’m going to make it better than. I’m going to show you.” They push you to be better.

Paul, I think he’s a guy that’s perfect for me because he’s going to help push the envelope of “RAW” but also push my envelope as well. He’s a guy who believes in me and what I do. He’s done so many amazing things from ECW to WWE and it’s really awesome to have a guy in control that is going to push the envelope and it makes guys like me who want to push it very excited for what’s to come.

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