One of WWE's most despised heels, King Corbin, took some time to visit Cheap Heat with Peter Rosenberg to discuss his rise in popularity throughout 2019. Corbin recalls when he was first brought into Vince McMahon's office to repackage his character into "Constable Corbin" and cut off his then-signature long hair.
"It was one of those things where Vince McMahon called me into his office and said that what I am doing is okay, but we need to do something to get you to another level. We need to make a change, we need to do something," Corbin said. "I've been asking to cut my hair for probably a year at that point. I think I just finished my feud for the U.S Championship with AJ Styles. We had a triple threat match, I believe, with Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode, where Dolph Ziggler won and then quit the next night. He won my championship and then quit the next night, that was great. I think there was a little bit of stuff there for a minute and then there was the Draft where I went to RAW and that was where Vince McMahon said, 'Let's pull back for a minute and let's take you off television, and see where we can go from here.' It wasn't a nervous moment when it happened because if he's investing time to have a conversation with you, he is going to invest time on television."
Corbin understands that WWE's audience needs a character to make connections with that is more than just a "big guy" with a tough exterior. When the idea for his "Constable Corbin" gimmick came up, he admits that he had to do research to creatively develop what it would be like.
"I think Vince McMahon has been a fan of mine because I'm a big dude, a little bit old school, and have legitimate toughness. He sees motivation in certain guys and certain guys want to have it and some don't. I knew it was a repackage," Corbin admitted. "It was a thing that I needed as well because there are just so many angry, bad guys, and I think we were trying to add some complexity to it and give it some different levels, and give me some different levels. And I think that is what people connect to.
"When it's just one thing, when one guy is just big and angry, there isn't a connection. So let's just find something where people can connect to as an audience, and that was where we came up with, 'Constable Corbin'. Vince McMahon came up with it. It was a funny process because he goes to me, 'What do you see yourself wearing?' I'm like, 'Well, I don't even know what a constable is.' So I'm over here doing research and it's like a bobby over in England, and I say, 'Please don't make me wear a stupid hat.' I asked if he saw me wearing dress clothes and he goes, 'No, not dress clothes,' and then I came in two weeks later and he said that he sees me in dress clothes. So I was like, 'Okay, I'm wearing dress clothes.'"
Corbin felt like his shift in both image and attitude was enough to engage fans and take him more seriously. His storylines where he would take advantage of WWE Hall Of Famer Kurt Angle also provided Corbin with easy ways of generating necessary heat.
"We figured out what we were going to do with it but I don't think we knew it was going to be as good as it was. They were going to give me a bunch of stuff and I was going to either sink or swim," Corbin explained. "It was cool because from the very first moment I walked out with the new haircut, people were going, 'Oh, this is majorly different. It's not just the same guy with a new move, it's a whole new persona.' I think after the first few weeks where I realized that I can survive these first segment promos and you can feel the difference from the audience. Obviously, there is a special attachment to Kurt Angle and now I'm pushing this old man around. It's instant hatred from people because they don't want to see you disrespecting a legend, so it was kind of a cool spot to be in where I feel like I was pushed to that level."
Corbin believes his match with Angle at WrestleMania 35 was a success because it ultimately fueled the fire of hatred WWE fans have for him. He remembers how adamantly fans wanted to see John Cena in the match against Kurt Angle, however, it always stayed Corbin vs. Angle.
"He has done this for a very long time, so you can see he is sore and beat up. But dude, he still can go to an extent. I wouldn't want to fight the guy in a parking lot. He is still extremely gifted in being an athlete. Sometimes old age gets the best of some people, but he's one of those guys where he's going to be 85 and if he shoots and takes you down, you're in trouble. It just doesn't matter. He just has that special skill," Corbin went on. "[The angle] was something I wanted to be a part of and I loved the irritation of it because people wanted to see him against John Cena, so that was just easy heat. Wrestling fans were positive about one thing, especially on Twitter. It was fun to pour gas on that fire because everybody was like, 'I want John Cena versus Kurt Angle in this epic match.' And they were like, 'Wait, we're getting Constable Corbin?'"
Corbin says that the best part of WrestleMania was actually getting an obscene gesture thrown at him from Angle's young son. He appreciates Kurt Angle's willingness to pass on the torch and lift up younger talent on his way out of a television role in WWE.
"That was the best part, that irritation that it caused. And then to get that win at 'Mania took it to another level. For me, the culmination of it was that once I got the win, his son gave me the finger. He's like, 10 - that was awesome," Corbin said. "It couldn't have been a better ending for me. He is going out with his pride and I think he's a guy that wants to truly give back to the business, which is rare. And I think it was important for him to do that in an old school way, to go out that way. It helps younger generations. I think it comes to a point where you have to give that to the younger generation, and it allows them to step onto that pedestal where it's like, 'Okay, this guy is special. Let's see what he can do.'"
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Cheap Heat with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.