“The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock has had an historic career that has weaved between standout moments at the height of WWE’s beloved Attitude Era and helping carry the UFC brand during it’s early days, to falling on more difficult times outside and inside the cage later on his career. Acclaimed sportswriter Jonathan Snowden has now compiled the life and career of the legendary MMA/pro wrestling star into one 400 page plus book, simply titled, Shamrock: The World’s Most Dangerous Man.

In an exclusive interview with SteelChair Magazine, Snowden took the time to answer some of our questions on how the book came about, his first interactions with Shamrock, the stories he did not expect to hear, his favourite pro wrestling bouts of Shamrock, and much, much more!

How did the book come about? Was it Ken who asked you to write this? 

“I met Ken in 2015 when I profiled him for CNN and Bleacher Report. He was training to fight Kimbo Slice and living in a mobile home behind the gym in San Diego. We hit it off pretty well—at one point he said, ‘I think you know more about my career than I do.’

That must have stuck in his head, because in 2017 his manager approached me about working on a book project. It was an exercise book about men staying in shape after 50. I turned it down politely but, that night, another idea came to me. What about a book on his life.

I wrote them an email the next day, about doing a biography instead, and for whatever reason they agreed. Three long years later, here we are.”

Was there anything off limits? As it seems very open.

“There were no preconditions or limitations on what I could cover. I would have never agreed to that. Ken did tell me, very early in the project, that he wasn’t going to ‘tell on myself’ as he put it. If I found something out, he was really open and honest in discussing it. But he didn’t hand me much. I had to dig hard for some of it.”

Shamrock book cover

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you mentioned in an email during the campaign for the book that it took longer because you didn’t anticipate the complexity of Ken’s story? What didn’t you expect to come across?

“The level of debauchery surprised me. You imagine a certain amount of sex, drugs and rock and roll with celebrity athletes—but this was wild!

I also didn’t account for the vagaries of memory. Ken’s first wrestling matches were over 30 years ago now. His first fights were more than 25 years ago. Sometimes, with that much distance between the event and the retelling, it’s not always easy to remember the details exactly right. But it’s my job to make sure it’s just right. So, occasionally that was a real struggle, especially when there were duelling stories or interview subjects disagreed on the details.”

Was there anything you wanted to include in the book but couldn’t for one reason or another?

“There were plenty of interesting stories I heard, but if I couldn’t confirm them, I had to let them go. Ken had some business managers who may have done some particularly nefarious deeds, but if I couldn’t prove it, I didn’t use it.”

Did you ever have any difficulty getting open accounts on stories? Given the negative nature of some of the tales. 

“For sure. Almost everyone required two interviews. The first was to get through their kind of stock interview they routinely give the press. Then, once we had that out of the way and some level of comfort with each other, we could dig into stuff.”

Can you recall when you first found out about Ken Shamrock?

“I was home for the summer in college and me and some friends rented UFC 3 from Blockbuster.  It’s funny—no one else seemed especially interested in watching more. But I immediately went back and watched the first two events on my own. From then on, I was hooked. Ken, of course, was a big part of that.”

Ken Shamrock Impact

What were your thoughts on PWFG and the shoot wrestling that came before Pancrase? 

“I absolutely love that style of professional wrestling. I have complete collections of UWF-International, RINGS, early Pancrase and even the more modern versions of that style like BattlArts.

As much as I enjoy the theatricality of more traditional wrestling, there’s something special about the performers distilling it to its essence—attempting to recreate an athletic contest.

The rise of MMA has forced us to see it through a different lens now, but I can absolutely understand how a young wrestling fan in Tokyo who wanted to believe, would totally buy into UWF as a shoot. Some of the work is that good.”

Just how much effect did Ken Shamrock have on early mainstream MMA and UFC in particular? 

“Ken has always been a compelling figure. Where he goes, fans follow. He set pay-per-view records in the early days of UFC, returned in 2002 and helped reinvigorate the sport, and was even drawing huge audiences in his sad, final run in Bellator in 2015 and 2016.

He’s a pivotal figure in the development of MMA. Unfortunately, because of some disagreements I get into in the book, he’s persona non grata in the UFC office, which means they do their best to minimize his involvement in their growth and success. But he was crucial.”

We see a lot of shootstyle/MMA incorporated into modern-day professional wrestling. Ken said to me in an interview a few years ago: “I showed people that this shootstyle can work in pro wrestling, and after my time, the game changed completely.” Do you agree Ken paved the way for shootstyle in pro wrestling?

“It depends on what he means. Obviously, shootstyle in Japan was thriving before Ken even came on the scene. And, equally as true, it didn’t survive the test of time. The advent of MMA hurt it badly and exposed the work more clearly.

“Shootstyle” is a dying art. But some of the moves have been incorporated into traditional wrestling—armbars, chokes and, yes, the ankle lock. Here, Ken’s influence is felt on some level. When you see someone lock on an ankle lock submission, you’re looking at Ken’s impact on the sport.”

I discussed Ken’s incredibly fun series of matches with Owen Hart with him. Do you have any thoughts on those matches, and do you have any personal favourite matches of Ken?

“I loved his series of matches with Owen. They also wrestled dozens of submission matches at house shows leading up to the Dungeon match and I would have given almost anything to see one of them.

My personal favourites are probably his bouts with Funaki and Suzuki in PWFG and his first real WWF match against Vader. Those matches show his potential as a technician and make me sad we didn’t get to see him in New Japan in 1997.”

Ken vs. Owen Hart

Of course, Ken has returned to wrestling with Impact and has shown some impressive feats of athleticism for a 56-year-old. What have you made of his run in Impact? 

“I’ve really only seen the highlights from YouTube as I don’t get the channel it airs on. It makes me nervous to watch him—but he seems to be enjoying it, and the schedule allows him plenty of recovery time. I wish him well.”

Ken said to me that he hopes other wrestlers like Minoru Suzuki get more recognition for their impact on MMA. Can you foresee doing another book on a crossover MMA/pro wrestling star? 

“Anything is possible. But between this book and my previous book Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling, I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking and writing about this particular time in wrestling history. I think my next project will be something entirely different.”


Shamrock: The World’s Most Dangerous Man is now available on order in kindle and paperback here, and you can read our review of the book here.

You can also follow and stay up to date with Jonathan Snowden’s work on Twitter.

By Humza Hussain

Humza Hussain is SteelChair Magazine's Interviews editor. He has been a lifelong professional wrestling fan and has conducted interviews with names such as DDP, Aleister Black, and Bayley. He also writes film news, reviews, and interviews!

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