Alex Shelley reveals why he decided to return to ROH and the challenging times he endured during his year away, the advice Kevin Nash gave to him about the wrestling business, his thoughts about ROH World Champion Matt Taven (Shelley will face Taven for the title at Summer Supercard in Toronto on Aug. 9), and more.
1. If you hadn’t gone into pro wrestling, would you be doing for a living?
I’m doing it. I left wrestling a year ago to finish a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, and I work as a PTA now. Honestly, this is my second college degree, and the amount of money I have spent makes my head spin. I was a guy in this business who learned over a decade ago that wrestling was somewhat subjective and that despite having all the skill in the world, there’s no sure thing.
Honestly, I was very unhappy at points working for companies that unlike ROH or NJPW, did not value talent. So I controlled what I could, thought outside the box. I wanted a degree in medicine and the skillset to fix my own body as well as help my peers. I never knew the joy of helping people on this level until I became involved in field work. Here we are. Dual careers, currently.
2. What’s the best advice you’ve received about the wrestling business and who gave it to you?
Two bits, both from Kevin Nash, always resonated with me. One: “People can tell if you are having fun.” Absolutely true, and it cuts the crap on transparency as far as acting a certain way that’s unnatural for the individual. Not everyone needs to play by the same rules. Two: “Better to look like the world’s strongest guy than be the world’s strongest guy.” This is an aesthetic and athletic training approach. We were drinking beer and watching infomercials for P90x when he dropped that one on me, and he’s right, time and time again.
3. What’s a subject you’d like to know more about?
Currently pursuing my certified strength and conditioning certification, and after that, Kinesio taping. Let’s go with those two. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen dudes tape themselves and it’s just painful to look at, but whatever, I’m not going to ruin their party. They want to look like a mummy or tourniquet their own leg, good luck with that. Google is your friend, wrestlers, research the right way to apply it.
4. What’s on your bucket list?
Again, full transparency: I went through a lot of life changes when I left ROH. I got divorced, I was homeless, no income, I was paying for school and working for free, and I had some dark, dark days. Helping people is on my bucket list. I’d like to go back to school again, maybe for psychology this time. Pain management is a huge up and coming field, so is sports psych, and to bring this answer full circle, I’d like to be able to help people not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. And maybe charm them with my rapier, Oscar Wilde wit. Laughter is a solid medicine.
5. When you walked away from pro wrestling last year, you said you didn’t think you had much to offer the sport anymore. What changed your mind?
At the time, I was on “E” -- in life, in wrestling, and I really didn't have anything else to offer. I had obligations coming up anyway that would take me away. The time away was a gift, and the weight was a gift. You can’t miss something until there’s separation. It turns out I’m not too bad at all this, and my perspective is pretty unique, I think.
6. Do you have a favorite cheat food?
No such thing as a bad food, just too much of it. But I will say this: Cerealously.net has led to some pretty serious binge eating due to product exposure. Like, I didn’t know I needed Pop Tarts cereal. Turns out I do. A box at a time.
7. What’s your most embarrassing moment in pro wrestling?
Constantly being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and being perpetually broke to the point of lots of student loans. But hey, that’s why I am the people’s champion. Drink the same cheap beer, have the same loans, play the same video games, listen to the same music.
8. What’s your favorite thing about Japan?
Cards on the table, my friends. I basically lived with [Kazuchika] Okada when I would go to Orlando; that lasted for like two years. I lived in the dojo with about half the roster. Jay White stayed in my home and was adopted by my family, and [David] Finlay and Juice [Robinson] and Tama [Tonga] are all guys I really miss. Obviously, the wrestling, too.
9. At one time you were the lead singer in a rock band that included Chris Sabin and Petey Williams. Are you still involved with music at all?
Kinda sorta. I got really good at playing and singing at the same time as opposed to doing each on their own, but it’s just kind of resulted in really rough demos and jamming with friends. I just didn’t have the time for the longest, but I could do an open mic night and not embarrass myself.
10. If Matt Taven is reading this, what would you like to say to him?
I think he’s awesome. I really do. I know he’s done things, but he’s also done things his way. His career path is similar to mine, and the guy has sacrificed heaps to get where he is. He’s really an incredible talent, and it’s an honor to have a shot at his belt and be in the ring with him. Maybe that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s the honest one.