Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Ken Shamrock Shoot Interview

An American badass covers his days as an MMA pioneer as well as his long road to success in the world of pro wrestling

Presented by Hannibal TV

Ken’s biological mother was a stripper. His father had left the family and she had little options for work.

They ate food out of dumpsters and took broken toys from other kids so they could have something to play with.

Shamrock grew up in a heavily African-American “ghetto” in Macon, Georgia. The fact that Ken was white caused a lot of his neighborhood kids to fight with him.

Ken’s mother hooked up with a military man who moved them to California. He tried to give Ken discipline and structure in his life. Shamrock rebelled and by the age of ten he was out on his own and deemed a “ward of the state”.

After being bounced from foster home to foster home, Ken was in danger of being placed in a youth detention center, but Bob Shamrock took Ken into his boys home.

Bob taught Ken how to focus his anger into sports and Ken started to play football and compete in wrestling.

Colleges were recruiting Ken for both of those sports but then Shamrock ended up breaking his neck, which ended all hopes for a scholarship. This put Ken back in a funk as his escape from his troubles was taken away.

Bob convinced Ken to focus on what might still be possible, and the fact that he may be able to once again play sports if he trains. Shamrock added 80 pounds of muscle and made it to college football as an All-American linebacker.

Eventually Shamrock grew strong enough to bench press 605 pounds while weighing around 230 pounds.

Ken was offered a chance to play higher level football, but a move to fullback was being suggested for him. This would lead to more harm to his body due to the grind of the position. Shamrock instead joined the Marines, but was kicked out for attacking a drill sergeant. Pro Wrestling was his next option.

Buzz Sawyer trained Shamrock on a wrestling mat placed in racquetball court. Shamrock was used by Sawyer as a “shooter”. Ken would beat up prospects after they paid Sawyer to train them. The guys would never come back, and Buzz kept the cash. Shamrock realized after a few months that he wasn’t learning anything or making any money, so Ken went to a tryout held by Gene Anderson and Nelson Royal.

Royal and Anderson had Shamrock and others do a 4-hour training session, then placed them in the ring with a shooter. Since Shamrock was big and had a long history of fighting, he bested the shooter and quickly became a pushed worker in Royal and Anderson’s indy federation.

Shamrock entered boxing and kickboxing tournaments and won them without any real experience training for such sports. Shamrock notes that the VHS tapes of his fights are still out there if anyone thinks he’s just blowing smoke up our ass.

Around this time, Shamrock and his friend were at a bar with a girl. The Nasty Boys came into the bar and started molesting the girl. Shamrock played it cool at first, but eventually went to beat on the Nasties. A bouncer broke things up before the fight could escalate. Ken went to their hotel and kicked their door down. Saggs knocked him out with a piece of metal and they boot stomped him, breaking Shamrock’s sternum and nose. They then went to throw him off a balcony, but someone intervened. EMTs had to revive Shamrock. He then spent months in the hospital and at home plotting his revenge as he healed.

Saggs went around telling everyone he beat Shamrock up one on one. The Nasties managed to avoid Shamrock for years until Ken was in the WWF and ran into them at an airport. The New Age Outlaws were with Ken and tried to calm him down. Ken got in the Nasty Boys’ face and they told him it would be a federal offense if he attacked them. Shamrock took their cowardice as a victory.

Working in Japan gave Shamrock a hard lesson in the fast paced, hard hitting style that the Japanese fans demanded. Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon worked with Shamrock on improving and fine tuning his style.

Shamrock got his hands on some Pancrase tapes and looked into getting into the shoot fighting scene. He went to a tryout where he proceeded to wreck all the other guys with his natural street fighting skills. After an hour of this, the Japanese brought in a few of the real deal master shooters in order to test the tired men on their heart. Shamrock got beat up, but kept coming back for more, earning the trainer’s respect.

Within 4 months Shamrock was on a card in front of 17,000 fans for a real fight. Ken won and the crowd chanted his name.

After a few months on the Japanese circuit, the brand new UFC called Shamrock to offer him a spot in the first tournament. Ken agreed, but up until 24 hours before the fight he was not sure if things would be real or worked.

The UFC banned Ken from wearing his wrestling shoes as they deemed them a “weapon”. Then Shamrock fought Royce Gracie in the second round of the tournament, only to have Gracie choke him with a GI as if that is not some kind of weapon.

Ken wanted revenge and prepared to battle Gracie in a fight he wanted to drag out for hours to wear Gracie down. The UFC placed a 30-minute time limit on the fight, which ruined Shamrock’s master plan. Ken beat Gracie up, but since there were no judges he could not be declared the winner. Royce’s brother even ran to the cage twice and ordered the fight to go into two 3-minute overtime periods, which went against the fight contract. Shamrock busted Gracie’s eye open, and things were finally declared a draw. Gracie called Shamrock out for not coming to fight, even though Shamrock spent the fight in Gracie’s guard, roughing him up.

Years later the two fought once again as old men in Bellator. Shamrock planned on striking and not playing in Gracie’s guard. Shamrock was winning the early exchanges, so Gracie hit him in the groin and jumped on him for a controversial finish. Shamrock is still pissed about how all the fights went, since things were never fair for him.

Dan Severn was a big, tough wrestler. Severn could not beat Shamrock though because Ken was schooled in wrestling, boxing and submissions, so anything Dan tried Ken could answer. Severn ended up being choked out rather fast in their first encounter, but not before he went to Shamrock’s groin in an attempt to sway the fight.

The rematch between Severn and Shamrock took place at a time where strikes were illegal as athletic commissions and politicians were cracking down on the sport. The UFC told Dan and Ken that they would cover any fines for strikes, but they could not promise protection from the warriors being arrested.

Shamrock had a bum knee and since he could not strike, there was nothing he could do. Shamrock was hurt enough that he wanted to back out of the fight, but Bob Shamrock convinced him to go for the money.

The fight ended up being a LONG stalemate as neither men would engage. Severn finally tried to shoot, and Ken’s knee gave out. Shamrock was punched a few times and that was enough to rule Severn the winner. Ken complained afterwards that Severn was awarded the fight due to using illegal moves (punches). Shamrock was not going to punch because he had kids he was mentoring, which meant “cheating” and/or getting arrested would ruin his credibility with them.

Shamrock and Severn were due to fight in 2016, but Shamrock got caught with PEDs that Ken ended up in court over. Severn talked a lot of smack towards Shamrock after that.

Hormone replacement therapy should be legal, steroids should not.

If Brock Lesnar fought Shamrock while both men were in their prime, Ken believes that his striking and submission skills would allow him to beat Brock, with Lesnar only having wrestling to fight with.

Shamrock was brought into the WWF to help turn the company away from a group for steroid monsters and instead being a place for bad asses like Shamrock, Stone Cold and Bret Hart.

Steve Austin and Hart both listened to Shamrock’s ideas when they wrestled him. They were class acts.

Shawn Michaels was okay to work with too, but the Montreal Screwjob incident created a scenario where the workers could no longer quite trust HBK to not screw them.

The Rock was quite green when Shamrock got in the WWF, but over the first year they were there together Rocky Miavia’s skills improved weekly.

Bret Hart had served as a mentor to Shamrock, which made Montreal a messy political situation for Ken when dealing with HBK and Vince. Ken supported Hart and it lead to his push disappearing.

On top of that, the travel took Shamrock away from his family and that drained his desire to keep working for the WWF.

Tito Ortiz was the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world when Shamrock challenged him.

Ken was an old man. He and Tito drew a ton of money and may have basically saved the UFC from insolvency .

Ortiz and Shamrock are “cool” now.

UFC froze Ken out with one fight left on his deal. Dana White and Shamrock were on the outs and Shamrock did not have option to leave.

Kimbo Slice’s fight with Shamrock was rumored to be “fake”, but Ken explains that he has bad knees and can’t move like he would like too anymore. Slice tapped out and the ref missed it, which made some feel it was fake or fixed.

Don Frye and Ken talked a bunch of smack before their fight in Pride, but that is all smoothed over now.

The WWF wanted Shamrock to date his “sister” Ryan on TV. Ken refused because he did not want to put his kids through having to deal with being teased over such a storyline.

The Rock and Shamrock had great matches as the men were both young, hungry and improving each week.

Undertaker is wrestling royalty.

Working in the early days of TNA was fun. Jeff Jarrett and Shamrock are pretty close from their WWF days.

Shamrock works in a brand building type of job now, matching celebrities with businesses needing a boost.

The only MMA guys Ken trains now are his kids.

The WWF job wrecked Shamrock’s body more than his MMA career did.

There will be a few movie roles in Ken’s future.

Shamrock wants one more WWE run on top. The WWE World title was the only thing that eluded him during his career there.

Ken wants to know why he went on the WWE’s shit list and would like the recognition he deserves for bringing the MMA style to mainstream pro wrestling.

Final thoughts: If you can get past Shamrock making excuses for every loss in his MMA career, this is a fun overview of his career. In order to be a high level athlete, you need to have an ego, so I can almost excuse Ken for wanting to save face,


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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