April 4, 2008
Albright still questions WWE releaseRollercoaster career keeps moving along
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Tulsa, Oklahoma's Brent Albright has always loved wrestling. At 29 years of age, he has gone from tossing his cousins around in the backyard as a kid to working his way through developmental to achieve his goal of wrestling for the WWE. While it has been a rollercoaster of a career, through it all Albright has had a lot of fun.
Albright spoke with SLAM! Wrestling by phone recently for a look back at his career, which started at 18 when he joined a wrestling school in Oklahoma. However it was a chance meeting with two California wrestlers that changed his life.
"I first got my feet wet in a company called Oklahoma Professional Wrestling, because that is where I lived and where I found a school. I ended up working a show with Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan and Mike told me I could really benefit from training in California. I moved out there for a year and a half and trained at the APW school. I had a lot of training and shows and brought that back to Oklahoma Professional Wrestling. I worked consistently there, we were running three or four times a month. I kept working indies until I started getting noticed by WWE."
When WWE took notice, they brought Albright on the road for 14 shows over a two-month period, before offering him a developmental deal. Albright packed his bags and headed to Louisville, KY, and Jim Cornette's Ohio Valley Wrestling.
"I loved working with Jim Cornette, he has been around forever and knows so much; a lot of people don't realize there is so much more to him than just being a manager. He knows wrestling and has been around so many of the greats in pro wrestling. The way he books and understands the business is really amazing, and it was really an honor to be able to book and work with Jim Cornette," he recalled. "That was an excellent time for me. What is there better to do than to get up in the morning, go to the gym and then go wrestle? The three years I spent in Louisville were very good years for me. Being around a bunch of guys with the same goals and dreams helped keep me focused and getting to do so many shows as we got to do was so much fun."
Albright flourished in OVW, becoming the first man to win all three championships. His tenure in OVW coincided with others that have made the main roster including the Spirit Squad, Chris Masters, and CM Punk, who Albright engaged in a lengthy feud with. OVW's history also includes names like John Cena, Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin and many others. Albright expressed disappointment in the recent decision by the WWE to sever ties with the promotion.
"I wish they wouldn't have pulled their guys out because I think it benefits the WWE as whole to have guys coming from two different territories with different trainers because then you don't get a cookie-cutter effect. Now they will have guys all working the same. WWE has a habit of picking up guys that don't have a whole lot of indy experience. They get trained the same way. At least when you have two different territories they learn different things and ways to work, and you get a good variety that way."
At 6-foot, 230 pounds, Albright is a large wrestler by independent wrestling standards, and a smaller wrestler by WWE standards, but he did not let that deter him as he prepared to go to the main roster.
"It didn't make me nervous at all. Especially after Ohio Valley, having been around the wrestlers for so long before I got signed I knew I wasn't the biggest guy in the locker room, and I am fine with that. You don't have to be 6'6", 295 pounds to make it in this business. Most of the legends in this business are nowhere close to that -- Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, these guys who are legitimate stars are average height. They are all athletes who are 6', 6'1 and are stars in this business."
Albright, rechristened Gunner Scott, debuted on Smackdown on April 7, 2006, defeating Booker T in an upset when Booker was distracted by The Boogeyman. It looked like a positive sign that there were big things to come.
"That was an awesome opportunity. I never in three years imagined I would debut in WWE against a guy like Booker T. It was a privilege to be able to work with him. When I was on the main roster I took time to go down to his school and train with him. He is a real class act," he said. As for the name change, Albright said it was a WWE decision. "Making me change my name for the main roster was something I wasn't expecting, and I had to come up with a name. I tried to keep the shooter thing going, but they didn't like that. I came up with Gunner, and originally the name was Scott Gunner, and they changed it to Gunner Scott."
Chris Benoit, setting up an angle of teacher and student, approached Albright on screen after the match. Unfortunately for Albright, Benoit took time off for personal reasons, which left Albright with nothing to do. After losing to Ken Kennedy on the June 28th Smackdown, Gunner Scott was placed in a body bag by The Great Khali and never seen again.
"I know at that point in time Chris needed to take time off, and once he decided that, the whole thing kind of fell apart. The writers didn't know what direction they wanted to go with me. They had just brought up Khali and wanted to do something with Mr. Kennedy and had brought in Sylvester Turkay, they had a bunch of other things that they wanted to put on the front burner that they had ideas for at the time. They didn't have any ideas for me so I went back to OVW and got politicked out of a job," he said, adding he still does not know why he was released.
"I don't know, and I really wish I did. I got back to OVW and I was under the impression I was only going to be there for a little while and then brought back up. But when ideas were pitched for me, they got passed on, to the point that they decided they didn't have anything for me and let me go. It was politics. For some reason or another somebody didn't like me, or whoever liked me didn't have enough power. It is the politics of wrestling."
Albright's relationship with Benoit was strong off screen as well. Benoit had initially pushed for the mentorship role and Albright considered him a close friend. Like everyone, Brent was stunned at the events of June 2007, when Benoit murdered his wife and son before killing himself .
"The incident was unfortunate and a horrible thing, and unfortunately that it is the only thing people are going to remember Chris Benoit for. That wasn't Chris, he was a family guy who many times told me how important family is. He told me that all of this, the wrestling and traveling and glory will go away, it is there for a short time but family will be there forever and to value the time you get to spend with them. We talked about it all the time and what he wanted me to remember as important. That is what I remember the most about Chris."
"No, not at all. Wrestling is a passion, and just because one door shuts, especially with WWE, it doesn't mean it's not going to reopen. It took me six years to get there, it doesn't mean those doors are shut forever. I believe I am a talented enough person and still have enough to offer this business, and I am working on getting those doors opened again. Right now I am with Ring of Honor, which is a great company with a lot of growth. There are opportunities with WWE and TNA, you always keep your options open."
It can be frustrating to look at the independent wrestling scene.
"My biggest problem with the indys, to be honest, are guys that don't look like wrestlers. That is the biggest problem you come across. Some of these independent companies have guys who are 5'6" and 165 pounds soaking wet and walk around like they are a foot taller. They don't look impressive or like wrestlers. You get a lot of guys that are out of shape, don't go to the gym and think they are owed a job because they are being pushed in an independent company that draws 100 people. That is the biggest problem."
Albright's focus now is to continue wrestling, and focus on his family. Married to his former valet Kaci Kannon with a young son and a daughter due any day, Albright spends his Mondays to Thursdays working at a chemical warehouse and wrestles on weekends. It gives him the chance to be home with his family and support them while continuing to chase his dream.
"Luckily for me I have a wife who is super supportive. I was a wrestler when we met and she realized the business that she came into. I am not wrestling as much now as I had in the past and my schedule is not as hectic so I am home a lot more and get to spend a lot more time with my family. Having that to come home to keeps me grounded. The good thing is that my job, when I got it I told them that I was a professional wrestler and I am trying to make it back to WWE or to TNA and I need my Fridays to Sundays off, those are my days. I told them I would work when I didn't have any shows but my schedule was Monday to Thursday."
Being away from WWE allows him more freedom and time in matches, but he does say that WWE frequently had a reason for what they wanted, even if they didn't tell you.
"The whole creative end, you have more leeway to do what you want to do in the matches but at the same time, it is not that much different than WWE. You are told what they want and how they want to see it. The thing with WWE is they have their way of doing things, and it's for a reason. They aren't always going to tell you the reason. I was talking to Chris Masters the first time he was in the Elimination Chamber. The final came down to him, Carlito and John Cena. They told him that they wanted Cena to win with the roll up. Chris argued with them a little bit, but that was what they wanted. They did it with the roll up and when he got to the back, all of a sudden Edge's music hit and he cashed in his Money In The Bank [title shot] and won the title. They kept it from him and didn't tell him why they wanted the roll up, but that was why, because they had other plans. You just do what you are told and it is easier to go out there and just do it."
Brent is frequently asked by fans about Gary Albright. The two are not related, but share the same last name. Gary Albright was born in 1963, which makes it unlikely that he would have fathered someone born in 1978.
"I have had a lot of people ask me that, or just assume he was my father. When I tell them no, they ask what my real last name is and I say Albright they don't believe me. Technically he could be my Dad but he would have been 15."
Albright does however, have family in the business, as his 21-year-old brother Blake debuted in November 2007 and is learning the ropes. Brent's advice to his sibling is one that anyone wanting to pursue professional wrestling should take to heart.
"I told him that he needs to take it slow and really study the business and try and fall in love with it. It is one thing to love the business as a fan, but it is another to really love it as a worker. I have known plenty of people who loved wrestling as a fan but when they got into the business as a wrestler it turned them off, they really ended up not liking it. I have told him to enjoy and love the business, and if you don't, don't do it because it will ruin it for you if you don't love it. That is the whole key, it is not worth putting your time, effort and body through all that pain and stress if it's not something you love doing.
Jason Clevett is covering the Juno Awards this weekend in Calgary.