Made in Detroit, Bound for Toronto: The Alex Shelley Interview

by Robb Vanderstoel

Smash Wrestling is less than two years old but has already built a reputation (and loyal fanbase) on the quality of its competition including AJ Styles, Chris Hero, Matt Cross, and Tyson Dux. How did you get involved with the promotion and have you had a chance to scout the locker room?

Alex Shelley: Actually, Smash contacted me a while ago. My schedule doesn’t typically allow for me to do indies, but I realized that even going up against the best wrestlers in the world in my home company, rust never sleeps. So, I figured it would greatly behoove me to be able to wrestle some of the best and brightest on the US indies. You learn from everything, and if I want to be IWGP Jr. champ or get my belts back with Kushida, I should probably get off my fat ass and actively improve. I don’t need to scout the guys you named. I have known all of them since I was a teenager! Not biblically or anything.

At Destiny Awaits you face “Psycho” Mike Rollins. They say crazy beats strong every time. Who is the craziest opponent you have faced to date?

Shelley: Crazy is such a loose term. Jimmy Jacobs is up there. Mick Foley is up there. Masato Tanaka is up there. Homeless Jimmy, probably. This isn’t an adjective pertaining to Jimmy Jacobs either.

Your hometown Detroit and Smash Wrestling’s home turf Toronto are bitter sports rivals. Does that rivalry extend to wrestling? If so, who in particular would exemplify that rivalry? If not, do you plan to make it so?

Shelley: I couldn’t care less about sports rivalries. The only sport I really enjoy is American Football. I care more about my rivalry with border control. Yes, I have been to many countries. Yes, my picture is 10 years old. No, I don’t have any firearms or presents for anyone.

Based on your experience wrestling in Canada for promotions like Border City Wrestling and Ontario Championship Wrestling, and also your experience competing against Canadian wrestlers like Petey Williams and Eric Young, would you say that there is a distinctly Canadian wrestling style? If so, how would you distinguish it from that of Japan, America, Mexico, or other places you have competed?

Shelley: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily put into practice per se, but I do believe that the Stampede style of wrestling was something pretty special that shaped wrestling as a whole. When you consider the talent that passed through that particular area, and how they shaped the rest of the wrestling landscape without changing a lot of the mechanics, it speaks volumes about some of the stuff that was being done there.

You have been in the business for over ten years and there are a few “Best of Alex Shelley” compilations available from different companies. If you made your own DVD spanning your entire career, what matches or moments would you include?

Shelley: I wouldn’t make a compilation. I haven’t for this exact reason: I am not a believer in my career being more or less important than anyone else’s. I am able to distinguish the line between wrestling and life. Being a good human being is the most important quality one can have. So, my influence on this business will lie in the palms of the hands of the guys I actively helped or the guys who called me close friends. My own career is what it is, and I have been lucky to call it on my terms and even more lucky to have had help from some amazing people. All I think about is how much I love and respect New Japan Pro Wrestling. That’s where I am at right now. Concerning myself with anything else is pointless. It’s either over with or hasn’t happened and might not.

Most North American fans are familiar with your work with Chris Sabin as the Motor City Machineguns, but they may not be as familiar with your work with KUSHIDA as Time Splitters in New Japan. The chemistry you display in both teams rivals, if not surpasses, that of Edge and Christian, Paul London and Brian Kendrick, or even Sabu and Rob Van Dam. Does wrestling a singles match limit your options in any way, or does it offer you more freedom to display your abilities?

Shelley: Tag team wrestling is unlike anything else. It’s a totally different art form. I am not bragging by any means, because I am far from the perfect wrestler, but one of the nicknames I received in a Japanese wrestling magazine was “the greatest junior heavyweight tag team wrestler in the world.” Now, I don’t believe that, but I know I have a certain knack for teamwork. That said, my two longest running partners are both incredible wrestlers. Tag team wrestling has more strategy and more possibilities. I am fair to good at visualizing these situations. On top of that, I have been coached by some of the best tag team minds of the past few decades, especially Mr. Cornette, who explained the secrets and style of the Midnight Express to me. The Midnight Express is the greatest tag team of all time.

What can fans expect from an Alex Shelley match that they won’t get anywhere else?

Shelley: My matches are usually a little different. I say this because I am, again, very lucky to have wrestled some of the best in the world. How many dudes have been able to wrestle Jushin Liger, Negro Casas, Jeff Hardy, Robbie Brookside, and Claudio Castagnoli? I just tried to pick 5 of the most random dudes I learned from in my career. I keep bringing up luck, and it’s because I am blessed to have learned from these guys who are all geniuses in their own way. There are plenty more. I was in situations where I was far less experienced and not as good as my opponent and I still end up in these spots today. When I am faced with such a challenge, I try to absorb one thing. Minimum, one thing. If I can do that from every opponent and slap it onto my own psyche like clay onto a sculpture, I can usually provide something others can’t. And I work hard. I always work hard.

You have held singles and tag team championships around the world for companies like New Japan, CZW, ROH, and TNA, and have won numerous wrestling tournaments, including the most recent CMLL International Gran Prix in Mexico. What goals do you still hope to achieve in your wrestling career? Are you aware of Smash Wrestling’s upcoming title tournament to crown its first champion?

Shelley: I had no idea about a tournament. And really, it doesn’t matter to me if I am included or not. This isn’t because the company is worthless or anything like that; on the contrary. I would very much like to win this title and come back frequently. But when you first step into an ocean, you worry about swimming, not riding stingrays or spear hunting giant squids. So my initial goal is to win the fans over, win the management over, gain the respect of the locker room and hopefully pick up a win. Rollins has loads of potential, and I mean that. If he can look back on this as a learning experience, and if I can do the same, there are no losers. Well, there are. But you know what I mean. Someone gets to go to the pay window.