Happy Corbin Talks Coming to Blows With Pat McAfee at WWE ‘SummerSlam’
After Corbin’s career in professional football didn’t really pan out, he decided to pursue the world of sports entertainment. This turned out to be a good move as his start on NXT led him to the main roster. Over the last decade, Corbin has emerged among the top bad guys in WWE.
During much of that time, McAfee’s football career flourished with the Indianapolis Colts. The All-Pro punter was part of a Super Bowl championship team, and his gift of gab made him an in-demand talking head as an analyst for big-time radio and television networks. McAfee joined the SmackDown commentary team alongside Michael Cole, recently extending his deal.
Here, Corbin reflects on his journey and previews the showdown at one of WWE’s biggest shows of the year.
How was it building up that confidence we see to get where you’re at now?
Happy Corbin: You have to have confidence in what you’re doing when you’re walking past the curtain. You look at my character, when he was broke and his world was crumbling. I was wearing a dirty shirt. My beard looked awful. My hair looked worse. You have to have a heck of a lot of confidence to pull that off. I always teased Vince [McMahon] that I had to walk around six days a week looking like that. I looked at private schools with my daughter looking like that, aside from the stained shirt. You have to believe in what you’re doing. For me, I want to irritate people and make people physically angry with what I’m doing. They’re going to tell me how awful and terrible I am, so you have to have that confidence in your ability to continue to find success doing that.
Your character has definitely gone through quite the evolution.
I think this natural evolution of my entire career has been a lot of fun. Everything has systematically gone together and had a nice, steady flow. I think it has kept me relevant the entire time I’ve been with WWE. I’ve always had a place. There are a lot of doubters in my world about my ability or whatever they want to complain about. That’s a pat on the back for me because I’m continuing to find success within WWE thanks to the doubters and haters because I’m the bad guy. I’m not their favorite. I’m not doing 800 moves they want to see. I don’t let social media influence anything I do on television. It all helps play to my success. I’m going to do me no matter what.
There is a fine line between comedy and being taken seriously as a performer. You seem to have found that sweet spot.
Absolutely. It’s a hard thing sometimes. Whether it’s promos, ideas, or pitches, I may think, “This might make me look like a joke.” Then I take a step back and know I’m also an entertainer. You have to be entertaining while also being that constant threat. I don’t think someone is going to come to me in the back alley and try to pick a fight because of my look and the way I carry myself. Then I can go out and entertain people as well.
What is it like for you to have a Madcap Moss under your wing and be entrusted to help him along?
I think it’s imperative for what we do. If I didn’t have Dolph Ziggler when I came up from NXT [to help me] find my footing and get going and get comfortable in arenas full of people, I may or may not have had success. You have to have guys to lift you up. I have Madcap, and we teamed up and got him rocking on his own. I think he is going to find a ton of success. You have to have new stars and new competitors. If I can help others, it selfishly can help me in the long run as well because you become an intricate part of television when you do that. It may be where Madcap becomes a world champion, and I pick a fight with him and have that story to work through.
We’ve seen so many iterations of the Corbin character. What do you think is next?
I think about my evolution. We can look back at the “Lone Wolf” and that attitude mixed with Happy Corbin where I’m successful and enjoying life. One of my idols is JBL [John “Bradshaw” Layfield], so I can see my character morphing into what he did when he put on the suit and still bringing physical dominance to what he did. We are making Happy Corbin a threat. It’s not just that I’m an entertainment act. It’s not just something to laugh at. There is a genuine threat to the character. But he also annoys you to no end. I think we’re going to get a hybrid Lone Wolf-Happy Corbin that pays tribute to one of my favorites of all time in JBL.
What kind of memories flood back when it comes to Pat McAfee?
It’s nostalgia. I can remember standing in the locker room of the Indianapolis Colts facility, and we were talking about WWE. How if we get locked out in the offseason, which we knew was coming, that we were going to go to wrestling school and hone our craft and make it so when we retire from the NFL, we can go to WWE and become elite-level performers. It’s unfortunate that my career ended about two-and-a-half years working in the NFL; his lasted a lot longer. He found a lot of success there. It’s really crazy to think about those conversations we had in the weight room or the golf course or just watching WWE. We’d hang out. We were roommates. I’d stay at his place when I didn’t know if I would make the team or not and we’d watch wrestling. We may not see eye-to-eye on things now, maybe there is some jealousy about all our respective successes, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to come to blows.
Do you look at your match with Pat differently than others because of the personal connection?
We’ve only seen a few matches of his. I don’t know what he is capable of. I just know he is extremely athletic and annoying. I can’t do hours of tape study compared to if I was facing Seth Rollins or Bobby Lashley or Roman Reigns. I’ve got like two matches to go off of, one of which was where he was beaten up by Vince, which was brilliant. He has trouble with clotheslines, and I think next to JBL, I’ve got one of the best clotheslines on the planet. So I look forward to using that and trying to take his head off his shoulders.
WWE SummerSlam, July 30, 8/7c, Peacock, and Pay-Per-View