Q&A with Alex Shelley
I conducted a phone interview recently with Alex Shelley of The Motor City Machine Guns. Shelley and partner Chris Sabin will defend the IWGP junior heavyweight tag team title against LAX and No Limit in a three-way match at TNA’s Lockdown pay-per-view on Sunday.
You and Chris Sabin obviously have great chemistry in the ring whether you’re partners or opponents. Do you hang out away from the ring and travel together, and if so, does that help with that chemistry?
I think a big part of it is that we’re both about the same size and have the same strengths. And then wrestling each other, I think we got to understand each other’s styles. We had a lot of the same experiences, too, as far as training with Scott D’Amore and wrestling in Mexico and Japan. So you’re talking about two guys who basically match up perfectly with each other and have done the same things throughout their careers. And we’re also influenced by the same wrestlers, too, so we like the same style of wrestling. It just works out so much better that way because you’re talking about two minds that are on the exact same level and want to accomplish the same things and think about things the same way. But, yeah, we’re best friends in real life as well. Us and Petey Williams, we all live within about a 15-mile radius of each other outside Detroit, so we see each other quite a bit. And then we’re booked on the same shows all the time, too, so we’re always traveling together.
Who are some of those wrestlers that influenced you? I assume that you were a big fan growing up?
Yeah, I was a huge fan of wrestling growing up. Honestly, I think you can tell which guys were fans growing up and which weren’t by the way they wrestle and how they do things. Shawn Michaels I think was big influence for both of us. Bret Hart, Owen Hart. Jushin Liger. A lot of guys of that ilk. The first junior heavyweights, whether they competed as junior heavyweights or not in the United States or North America.
You and Chris and a number of the other X Division guys have some great TV matches, but you often get just two or three minutes for them. How frustrating is that?
The way I look at is a real fight can end in a minute or it can end in 25 minutes. I mean how many boxing matches have you seen that have gone 90 seconds? How many have you seen that have gone 10 rounds? From a creative standpoint, you just try to make the most with what you’re given. So if I’m given a piece of paper and I’m given three colors and I’m told to draw this landscape that has a multitude of colors, then I’m just going to do the best I can with what I have.
Sunday’s Lockdown pay-per-view consists of all cage matches. A cage match was always something special, but with a whole card of them, is it a challenge to make your match stand out from the rest?
It is and it isn’t. I think it depends on what kind of match you’re in. Luckily, we’re usually in the Escape Match, and this year we’ll be in the three-way dance, which is already a different kind of matchup as is. I think we have enough tag team combinations and we can do enough athletically that the cage is more just there if we need it, but we don’t necessarily have to rely on it, whereas there may some matches that are going to focus a lot more on it.
TNA has a nice mix of veterans and young talent on its roster. Do you take advantage of having those veterans at your disposal by seeking their advice?
Absolutely. It’s nice to have that mix, like you mentioned. The veterans I always go to are Sting, [Kevin] Nash – Nash has taught me the most out of all of them. Kurt Angle is someone who’s always willing to help out. And Jim Cornette helps out Sabin and me quite a bit, too, him being a tag team specialist and all. Those are the guys I always go to and I respect their opinion a lot. And they’re always very open-minded and give very constructive criticism as well.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
It’s tough to narrow it down, but I got to do a lot of interview work with Nash, and he basically told me that if you’re having fun doing your promos, then people can see that. And they can also see when something is forced, too, and when something is uncomfortable for somebody to do. So he said that you just have to find a way to make everything fun, and if you can do that, people can see that you’re enjoying yourself, thus they’re going to enjoy watching you.
You’ve had the opportunity to interact with Mick Foley on camera. What has that been like?
Actually, I feel really bad that I didn’t mention Mick Foley when you asked about which veterans we should go to for advice and what not. Mick’s definitely one of them as well and he’s helped us out a ton, even though he’s only been with the company about eight months or so. He’s been awesome to work with. He’s a legend, he’s made a ton of money and he appreciates every kind of wrestling that’s out there, whether it’s Mexican or Japanese or American. And it’s just nice to see that from someone who’s been on top. He’s been nothing but great to work with.
Can you describe what it was like to win the IWGP junior heavyweight tag team title in Japan?
It was a pretty special feeling. You’re talking about the junior heavyweight tag team titles in a company that’s the biggest in Japan right now, not to mention it was that biggest crowd I’ve personally performed in front of – around 40-45,000 in the Tokyo Dome. It was also our debut match for New Japan Pro Wrestling, who put a lot of faith in us by giving us that opportunity. Wrestling in Japan, whether it’s in front of 45,000 or 450 people, is always a pleasure. I really respect their style of wrestling and I’ve spent many, many weeks over there on tour before and I really enjoy myself when I’m over there.
If you could work with any tag team, past or present, who would it be?
Our very first tag team match together we worked a team called Skull and Bones, a team in Japan – Hidaka and Fujita. They quit teaming right after that. We beat them for the tag team titles in Zero-One. I would love to have a rematch with them. As far as classic tag teams go, I would love to work with Midnight Express – the Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton incarnation. I thought they were awesome. Jim Cornette actually gave us a Midnight Express packet of about a hundred matches of theirs about two years ago. We studied that rigorously for a while and just picked up as many tricks from them as we could.
When TNA first came about, a lot of people didn’t think it would last a year, but here it is seven years later and the company continues to grow. What has been the key to TNA’s success?
I think a lot of it has to do with luck, to be honest with you. All the right things have to fall into the right places at the right times for any of this stuff to happen. That said, there a lot of people in the office who work extremely hard and a lot of the wrestlers work extremely hard. You see guys take risks in TNA that you won’t see on any other product. And I hope the fans appreciate that. On top of that, it is an alternative product. Nobody is going to argue that we’re the biggest company in North America, because we’re not. However, we’re different. You buy a TNA pay-per-view, you’re going to see matches that you’re won’t see anywhere else, at least not in the States, that’s for sure. Having that alternative product, I think that’s something a lot of fans were looking forward to to fill the void from the companies that got bought up a few years back. I think seeing wrestlers from different companies in new ways is one of our attributes as well.
The Motor City Machine Guns have some interesting entrance music. What are your thoughts on it? Did you have a hand in selecting it?
Without saying anything negative, I can tell you that we had absolutely no hand in creating that music whatsoever. You can draw from this what you will, but there are no fingerprints of ours on that music whatsoever. That music was completely given to us.
Being from Detroit, it seems like there are a lot of things you could play off of with the music – maybe something resembling “Detroit, Rock City” or a Ted Nugent riff. If you could pick the music, what would it sound like?
Well you’re absolutely correct in the fact that Detroit has a super, super rich rock and roll history. If we could actually pick our music, and hopefully we’ll be able to do something like this, Chris Sabin, Petey Williams and myself have a band with two other guys – we’re called The High Crusade – and we would play our own music. We would go in the studio and figure out something. I think the best way to figure out what theme music would be best for yourself is to have something that comes out of your own brain
Who plays what in the band?
We have a guitarist and a drummer from another band called Idol and the Whip. Petey has played guitar since he was a kid – he’s been in bands for a long, long time. Sabin plays bass and I do vocals.
What are your plans for The High Crusade? Are you playing gigs? Recording?
We actually just had our first show [last week] in Detroit at a punk rock club. We just started practicing about six months ago. We’d like to do something with the music, but again, we just started practicing six months ago and we just had our first show. We made a really rough scratch demo in about two days and it’s up on our MySpace at www.myspace.com/thehighcrusade. If everybody could check out the band’s MySpace it would mean a lot to us.
Photo courtesy of tnawrestling.com