One of the most in-demand wrestlers on the international scene right now is Matt Riddle, the former UFC fighter and self-proclaimed “King of Bros” who has taken to pro wrestling in a way that few other athletes have. Hell, in a way that few pro wrestlers have. He’s wrestled in pretty much every non-WWE promotion that you can imagine, and he’s picking up scads of devotees along the way.
Still, although he comes from the world of literal cage fighting, and he’s a fixture on the wild indie scene, he’s pretty focused on making sure he wrestles safe, and keeps his career in front of him for as long as possible. The topic of brain injury is very much at the forefront of fans’ minds right now after Katsuyori Shibata required emergency brain surgery after delivering a shoot headbutt in a New Japan heavyweight title match.
Shoot headbutts were pretty much Shibata’s bread and butter, but Riddle explained to Ring Rust Radio that he thinks that style of wrestling is foolish, and when he wrestled Shibata, he put the kibosh on anything of the sort.
“I will tell you this; you should never shoot headbutt somebody. I don’t like diving headbutts and don’t see the purpose. In real life, I would never jump off a building or porch and try to headbutt you, that’s guaranteed brain damage. It’s just not a realistic move. Even with Shibata, I told them we can do whatever, but no headbutts.
“I am really against brain damage. I know I fought in the UFC, but at the same time I had a good record standing at 10-3 in MMA and 9-3 in UFC regardless of no contest. Most of the times I left the fight with no scratches, but sometimes I would try to slug it out and get Fight of the Night. I only did that maybe two or three times out of my 12 fights. I know guys that every time they fight, they fight like that. Even when it comes to wrestling, I see my friends trying those reckless moves in the ring. I think to myself, ‘I know you’re 22 and 23, and you feel fine now, but shit adds up. … By the time you are 35 and 40, you are going to be over.’
“In my opinion, if you ask anyone I ever wrestled if I hit them hard in the face — wait, I take that back, cause I did hit Drew Galloway hard in the face, but I kicked him in the chest and my foot slipped and got him in the face — I never kick anyone hard in the head. I never knee anyone in the head, I forearm people hard, but I do it in the safe spots so you don’t get brain damage. You may get a bloody chest or bruised shoulder, but you will never be like, ‘Wow I saw a bright light when you hit me.’ I would never do that to someone. My job is to keep people safe and entertain.”
Riddle is 100 percent correct here. It’s sort of the same argument as the ” … dive” brouhaha of the past week. Some wrestlers feel they need to go above and beyond to get noticed and make a name for themselves, or in Shibata’s case, he wanted his character and career to be based on the fact that he was the badass that hit harder than anyone else. But it’s important to be safe, and I’m very glad that Riddle is making sure he can have as lengthy a career as possible.
You can listen to Riddle’s full interview with Ring Rust Radio below.