Interview Highlights: Brian Kendrick talks to SI about 205 Live, his rise to centerpiece of Cruiserweight Division, Vince’s role, more (w/Keller’s Analysis)

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Brian Kendrick (art credit Matt Charlton & Sam Gardiner © PWTorch)


The following are key highlights of the Brian Kendrick interview with Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barasso today. Read the full article HERE.

•On what viewers can expect on “205 Live” tonight: “On 205 Live, you can expect to be entertained. The Brian Kendrick character is a man who is going to use his wits to win. His intelligence is every bit as admirable as his death-defying stunts. … I want to be compelling. People have 200 TV channels. I want to prove that wrestling can be compelling. I think it’s the best art out there, it’s my favorite art. I’m really grateful and I hope I get a chance to do more of it in the future. … I’d made a lot of mistakes. The opportunity might never have come if it weren’t for the cruiserweight tournament, where I was intended just to be a small part. That was my chance to tell my story and I got a second chance. I think they liked what I did in the ring before I got fired. I believe they did, but it was my attitude. So had I really changed or was I just acting on my best behavior, and then was I going to crack at the wrong time? A lot of guys were getting contract offers throughout the tournament and I wasn’t. Then I lost my match to Ibushi, and I was told, ‘We might want to use you sometime in the future.’ I kind of sunk inside—I felt like that was a nice way of saying, ‘Thanks for a good job, we’ll see you when we see you.’ Then I heard Mr. McMahon got a chance to watch the tournament, and some people talked, and I don’t know what the plans were. But it was after I’d already been eliminated and I was gone when they called me up and offered me something. I’m going to do my best to hold onto it and not be my own worst enemy anymore.”

(Keller’s Reax: Kendrick has been the dominant personality in the Cruiserweight Division, and you can see he puts a lot into his character. I can also see why Vince McMahon is investing him as the centerpiece. That said, for the division to grow, Kendrick is going to need to be a top four guy, but not the top-top guy. He needs to a thorn in the side of a truly spectacular standout lead babyface act who comes across as a star and isn’t blemished by years of being a mid-card singles wrestler or tag wrestler.)

•On the key to the success of “205 Live”: “(T.J. Perkins, Rich Swann, and Noam Dar) are awesome. Then you throw in guys like Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, Lince Dorado, Ariya Daivari, Mustafa Ali. Once those guys start showing up, you’ll be amazed,” said Kendrick. “Gran Metalik is unlike anybody else, Tozawa is unlike anybody else. Jack Gallagher is completely different. Once these guys start showing up on 205 Live, I think it will broaden people’s ideas of cruiserweight wrestling. … In order to succeed, we need diverse characters. It needs the guys you’ve already seen, as well as Metalik and Tozawa and Jack Gallagher, who are so unique. That will really wake the fans up as to how wild and interesting cruiserweight wrestling can truly be.”

(Keller’s Analysis: Yes, the Division needs diverse characters, but more than that, it needs stars. There needs to be a wrestler or ideally two or three who really pop as stars, like Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero during the Nitro era. I’m not sure anyone has grabbed that position yet.)

•On overcoming doubts from his family: “My family didn’t believe in me, my friends didn’t believe in me, and that’s not because they are negative people. They were very pragmatic about the whole situation. But if I wanted to gamble on anything, I wanted to gamble on myself. I continued to believe that I was a wrestler. My wife has been with me through it all, we’ve been together since 2002. There were times in the last few years where she just wanted me to keep wrestling, but also go be a garbage man or something as we were drowning in bills. But I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t get a chance to continue to wrestle, and it was very selfish of me, but this is the one thing I think I’m good at. I feel at home. This is where I feel I belong. So I kept pushing along. … I need to thank Vince McMahon for giving me the opportunity. I also need to thank Daniel Bryan and William Regal for always pushing for me, and my coach, Rudy Boy Gonzalez, for always believing in me. When I would start to doubt myself, Rudy would tell me I could do it and that I belonged and I just needed to keep working hard. Without those people, and, most importantly, my wife—who stuck with me every step of the way—I would have crumbled. Without those people, I wouldn’t be here. … Believe me, I love having a job here and I want to have a job here until they tell me to get out, but I just don’t want them to tell me to get out of here any time soon. But I don’t want to have a job just to have a job. I want to use this as a platform for my art, and my art is wrestling.”

(Keller’s Analysis: Wrestling promoters love wrestlers who talk about doing this for the art, because it comes across as if they’re just happy to be paid anything. I understand he’s just being honest, but I’m not sure it helps him come across as a star fans are going to pay to see if he’s “just happy to have a job” and hopes they don’t kick him to the curb anytime soon. Imagine Conor McGregor’s drawing power if he just gushed about how thankful he is to UFC for giving him an opportunity and he hopes they keep booking him to fight? This has been a recurring theme in the Cruiserweight Division, most prominently at the very start of the Cruiserweight Classic where one wrestler after another gushed about Triple H taking them out of destitude. This is on WWE – they need to start treating and portraying their Cruiserweight wrestlers are international phenomenons and not guys sleeping on each other’s couches to get by.)

On what he does to stand out in WWE and the Cruiserweight Division itself: “I have to gamble on myself. I have to do stuff like the Survivor Series promo and try to be different in the style I wrestle. I know the style that I wrestle is not going to appeal to everybody, and it certainly isn’t going to be what people picture of cruiserweights. I’m trying to use the ring in different ways to my advantage and try to tell a story of outwitting guys even when I’m outmatched physically. I don’t think that’s what people come to expect when they see cruiserweights, so it’s risky. If the bosses don’t like it, then out I go. And if the fans don’t like it, then why would the bosses like it? They need to see there is something to it.”

(Keller’s Analysis: WWE continues to marker the Cruiserweights as being all about high-flying action. I think that is something worth marketing to a point, but it’s also self-evident and not really necessary. What’s going to take the Cruiserweight Division to the next level and make “205 Live” a destination for more than just the top tier ardent fan is marketing stars and issues between those stars that people care about. Of course, their matches need to be exciting and buzz-generating, but there’s a ceiling on selling highspots; there is no ceiling when you sell personalities and conflict between wrestlers who fans are invested in either wanting to see win or lose. WWE’s not even close to that yet with the booking or marketing. I hope “205 Live” gives the division some fertile soil to get there.)

Check out the full article including Kendrick’s thoughts on hearing Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 33 HERE.

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