There aren't many heels in the professional wrestling world like Baron Corbin anymore. Standing at 6-foot-8 and 285 pounds, the former NFL player generates a chorus of boos every time he appears on WWE programming. There's no ironic support from certain fans, no underground grassroots movement to try and turn him into a good guy. Whether you're just a WWE fan or religiously follow wrestling promotions around the world, there's probably a pretty good chance you can't stand this guy. It's a gift that many wrestling heels used to have, but many modern fans will cheer for their favorite wrestlers regardless of how sinister, underhanded or cowardly they may be (the perfect example being The Undisputed Era down in NXT).
Corbin, who is fresh off winning the King of the Ring tournament on last week's Monday Night Raw, spoke with ComicBook.com on Monday about what it takes to be an all-out villain on current WWE television.
"I think it's the ability to not want to feel cool," Corbin said. "You can walk out and want to be a bad guy, play your part, but if you still do cool things, cool moves, give them those moments, it's hard for people to hate you. I'm really good about studying what irritates people, because they complain about so much on social media and I can take those things and how do I amplify it. If they're going, 'Oh, Baron Corbin only knows four wrestling moves! He's the worse ever!' The next night I might do three, because I know it's going to irritate them. I'm always looking at what I can do to irritate them. It doesn't hurt my feelings when people boo me and I'm not concerned about being cool."
One of the ways Corbin seems to irritate fans the most is with his look. Since making the jump to the main roster he's gone from having long hair and sleeveless shirts to a shaved head and a vest to his current tank top look, and every time he changes it up people go insane on Twitter.
"It's crazy. All these people claim to hate me and hate everything about me," Corbin said. "But they truly obsess over every little detail. And I think that's part of having that 'it factor,' people are just drawn to what you're doing. They either hate every bit of it or love every bit of it.
"It's so funny, when I had long hair they're like, 'Aw, he's losing his hair he needs to shave his head.' Then [I] shave my head and the exact same fans goes, 'Aw man, he never should have shaved his head, his hair was great before!'" he added. "It's just one of those things where they can't make up their minds over."
Corbin originally signed with WWE in 2012 via a developmental contract with NXT, and for as long as he's been on television he's been playing a heel. But even he couldn't count out the possibility of being a babyface someday.
"I can't [imagine it], but I think some of the greatest bad guys become some of the greatest good guys. There's a lot of guys where it just naturally fits. I think that's the cool thing about what I have going now is I never force anything. People are hating me, okay, let's throw gas on that fire. So I think my career has been a very natural in progression. I think that's what put me at the level I'm at. So when I walk into the arena, every single person in there is booing. People are not sitting on their hands, they're not looking away, they're not playing on their phones. They want to see what I do and what they can yell at me about. That takes an extreme amount of work, so I think if it does ever flip it'd be pretty exciting for everybody to switch."
Last week Corbin became the 2019 King of the Ring by beating Chad Gable in a grueling match on Raw via his End of Days finisher. Corbin explained that one of the things he pushes for backstage is for that move to remain protected, hence why nobody has ever kicked out of it on WWE television.
"That's just something I stand by very strongly," Corbin said. "I think after three or four years everybody was kind of on board with it. I know Hunter [Triple H] is on board with it, Vince [McMahon] is on board with it. It's special and we haven't seen [a kick-out], so let's keep it that way."
The rivalry between Gable and Corbin continued on SmackDown when the new King had his crown, throne, robe and sceptre all destroyed during a coronation ceremony. The two will face each other on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw at 8 p.m. Eastern at Chase Center in San Francisco on the USA Network.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.