Where Are They Now? Mason Ryan
Last time the WWE Universe saw the behemoth that is Mason Ryan he was demolishing aspiring up-and-comers in NXT during the brand’s breakout in 2014. Ryan’s reputation as an absolute mauler with presence was already well-established at that point, having brushed shoulders with the likes of John Cena and Kane during his time on the main roster. These days, the big man’s presence is still being felt, but now in a whole new arena — Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas stage show, KÀ. WWE.com called the Welshman up to talk about his exciting new role and his career in WWE.
WWE.COM: WWE fans who followed your career may be surprised to learn that you’re starring in a Cirque du Soleil show now. How did your role in KÀ come about?
MASON RYAN: After I left WWE I was still wrestling independently over in the U.K., in Japan and all over the states. One day I got a call from WWE, and they said, “We might have a job opportunity, if you’re interested, with Cirque du Soleil,” which, at that time in my life, seemed like the most random thing in the world, really.
WWE.COM: Were you familiar with the show?
RYAN: I had heard of Cirque du Soleil and knew they put on amazing shows, but I didn’t think my acrobatic ability was quite up there for what they did, but obviously I was very interested. So I sent my stuff away to Cirque du Soleil and I got a call a week or two later asking me to go for an audition, explaining that it was for the role of Chief Archer in KÀ. The show is more storyline based and I would be auditioning for one of the main bad guys in the show, which, you know, sounded great with me.
WWE.COM: That is incredible that WWE had a role in helping you obtain the audition. Tell us more about the process.
RYAN: The audition was going to be in the MGM Theatre, the KÀ theatre in [Las] Vegas. We did some physical stuff at the start, just to get them to check what our physical conditioning was like, and everyone was in great shape. After that, we got to do a lot of fun stuff. We got to jump on airbags; they wanted to make sure we could fall because of the staging of the show and how massive it is. We were all like little kids to be honest with you, having the time of our lives jumping into the air into these air bags.
WWE.COM: Did you know you nailed it when it was over?
RYAN: I left thinking, “If I get this, great, but if not, everything so far has been an amazing experience.” Then, maybe a week or so later, they called me up and offered me the role, which was mind-blowing, really. It was absolutely amazing and quite the whirlwind.
WWE.COM: Would you say WWE prepared you for Cirque du Soleil?
RYAN: Yeah, definitely, especially in my role, because it’s more of a character-based role. I’m the Chief Archer in charge of a rebellious gang of archers, so my physical prowess is what makes me the leader. So having that intimidating presence was also part of who I was in the ring and I was able to bring that over.
WWE.COM: And the role gets pretty physical, doesn’t it?
RYAN: There are two or three fight scenes in the show itself, so obviously having my WWE training for many years helped a lot. What’s great about the show, as well, is that they’ve welcomed me in and they haven’t seen me as a newcomer. They see me as someone who can help and add something to the show. They’ve been open to my ideas, they’ve asked for my ideas — I’ve had a lot of input on the fight scenes that I have. We have some of the most talented athletes in the world here and they come from all different backgrounds, but I really feel coming from WWE that I bring something different than what they have. We have an amazing product.
WWE.COM: What would you say is tougher — WWE or your role in KÀ?
There are two or three fight scenes in the show itself, so obviously having my WWE training for many years helped a lot.
RYAN: They’re very different in a lot of aspects. Here, on average, I do two shows a day, five days a week. That’s 10 shows a week that are 90 minutes long and I’m pretty involved in most of the show. Whereas in wrestling, a match can last anywhere between five minutes to 30 minutes, and it’s up five times a week. Wrestling, when you’re in it, it’s a lot more intense for that 10 minutes, but with Cirque du Soleil, I’m involved in more for a longer period of time.
WWE.COM: Your show is based in Las Vegas. Do you miss performing in a different city every night like you did in WWE?
RYAN: I didn’t think about that, but that’s definitely a big difference. With me, one of my bigger things is my physical presence, so being 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, traveling on the road, eating and finding a gym and everything like that is a challenge, no doubt about it. But, being here, I have my local gym that I go to, I have all my food prepped and it just makes life a little easier.
WWE.COM: Did you enjoy road life?
RYAN: I really enjoyed being on the road. It was an amazing experience going from town to town, seeing places that you might never get the chance to see and, not only that, but getting to have exchanges with thousands upon thousands of people. It really was an amazing job. They say that luck is an objective thing, but to have worked for WWE, which is an amazing company and one of the biggest companies in the world, and now to be part of the Cirque family, I’ve been very fortunate to be where I am.
WWE.COM: Being removed from WWE for a few years now, any specific standout moments from your career that you look back on fondly?
RYAN: I will never, ever forget when I debuted. It was a crazy evening — I didn’t find out until later on in the day that I was going to debut, and then I found out it was part of the main event where John Cena was fighting CM Punk and it was going to be the last segment of the show. So, to go out with me being the spotlight of the show on a Monday Night Raw was absolutely amazing at the time, I was blown away. There are times I think back on that and it just puts a big smile on my face.
WWE.COM: What else stands out in your memory?
RYAN: I really enjoyed the international tours. It was also cool to see how the different audiences around the world knew about WWE and knew all the Superstars and Divas. It always blew my mind that you could go to Venezuela or Chile or somewhere like that and they would know who everyone was and would know what everyone’s moves were. I always enjoyed that aspect of it.
WWE.COM: Even with how busy you are these days, do you still follow WWE?
RYAN: Unfortunately, most Monday nights I’m working so I don’t get a good chance to watch, but I DVR it. I’m good friends with Adam Rose, Alex Riley, Rusev and a lot of the guys there I still keep in touch with and I like to watch them and see them. I just really enjoy the product as well. WWE does an amazing job. Every week they provide great TV.
WWE.COM: Any interest in returning to the ring one day?
RYAN: It’s hard to say. You never know what the future holds. I’m really happy doing what I do, I love going into work every day. I feel bad even trying to call it work because it’s not that. I really love doing it. But, I was wrestling for eight, nine, 10 years. Ever since being trained by Orig Williams, it’s something that is in my blood. It will never leave me in any way. Right now, I am very happy with Cirque du Soleil, but you never know what the future holds.
Purchase KÀ tickets here
Copyright: Cirque du Soleil, Inc. 2016
Photography: Erik Stein/Christopher DeVargas
Costumes: Marie-Chantal Vaillancourt