Alex Shelley On His Time In WWE NXT, If He’ll Ever Go Back To NJPW
At the 2020 Dusty Rhodes’ Classic, there was a surprise appearance by someone who made his name outside of WWE. Alex Shelley was announced as Kushida’s mystery tag partner, and even though he and Kushida were eliminated in the first round, it was still exciting to see Shelley in a WWE ring for the first time in 15 years.
He talked about his WWE experience and what it was like to reunite the Time Splitters with Kushida.
“It was awesome. I had coached previously at the Performance Center in October 2019 and I thought that the way they treated their athletes was revolutionary. NXT is just something totally different and I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” stated Shelley. “The facility itself is state of the art, but also the fact that they have all these different tiers of training and this plethora of knowledge from all these awesome wrestlers from over the years – guys that I grew up watching. So, it was really interesting for me because under the same roof you had Robbie Brookside, you had Kendall Caution, you had Shawn Michaels, and you had Terry Taylor.
“And if you’re familiar with any of those names, it’s a very unique melting pot, but, of course, only WWE has access to it. These guys have so many people and resources to learn from, and on top of that, the strength, and conditioning, and the physical therapy components that they have in the place is mind-blowing. My guys have every advantage of any athlete in any sport, not just pro wrestling, and I really thought it was just an awesome atmosphere and an awesome environment.
“I was so honored to get to wrestle for NXT and especially to resurrect the Time Splitters with Kushida. I mean, we didn’t go very deep in the tournament, but what an awesome experience. You know, honestly, at the end of my first NXT match – probably before it too – I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat because it was just a dream come true. It really was – WWE is awesome.”
Shelley and Kushida were two-time Tag Team Champions in New Japan, and Shelley last appeared in the promotion in 2016. He’s currently not under contract with any promotion, so he was asked if he would ever go back to New Japan, and if so, would he only go back if Kushida does too?
“I could go with him or I could go without him. I work full-time in physical therapy here and I don’t have the ability to just up and go somewhere for three weeks, or a month, or two weeks,” revealed Shelley. “I was under contract with New Japan for three years and I know how rigorous that schedule can get. I would love to go back because a lot of the guys that were in the dojo, some of which hadn’t even been known yet, now, they are the top guys. So, your Evils, and Hiromus, and Roppongi 3k, and even Okada, to approach these guys– they are just wrestling royalty in New Japan now. I think that’s awesome, to see the evolution and the growth of these young men. I would love to go back and just wrestle them at different levels. That’s the future, but I just kind of take life one day at a time.”
One of the reasons why Shelley briefly retired in 2018 was because he has a regular job outside of wrestling. He talked more about that, and how the pandemic has affected him and other independent wrestlers.
“So I mentioned before that I worked in the physical therapy, and honestly, I never stopped. My life did not change much. I didn’t wrestle for a few months, but I’ve got a weird duel identity. My patients know me as Patrick, you know, that’s it; they don’t know what I do and I don’t talk about what I do because it’s not about me,” stated Shelley. “I’m there to help them get better and feel better and not be in pain, or get stronger, whatever the case may be. So, I never told them about myself unless I’ve been working with them for months or they ask. I just didn’t dress a lot on the weekends; that was all it was. So, for me, not a major change really.”
The pandemic has affected different people in different ways and many of those affected are therapy patients of Shelley. He discussed how the pandemic has affected people as a whole, including other wrestlers who make their living on the indies.
“I feel bad for a lot of people because suicide rate is up a lot. Homicide rate is up a lot, and you can’t even measure depression or anxiety and I’m sure that’s up, especially if you’ve got kids, and they’re not going back to school, and you don’t know what to do with them, and your kids are wigged out, and– it’s just a really tough time. I’m very fortunate that my life was fairly clear the whole time, like honestly, I can’t complain one bit. The pandemic is mildly inconveniencing for me, but only mildly, whereas some people, it’s been life-changing and very difficult,” said Shelley.
“So, I lost out on a bunch of money and that part sucks, but again, I have two identities, and two careers, and two incomes. So, I was really lucky there, and I feel bad for a lot of my friends who are independent wrestlers because for a lot of these guys, it’s almost a badge of honor to say, ‘I’m not going to have a job anymore from 9 to 5. I’m only going to wrestle.’ But if you’re doing it independently, then you’ve got no guarantee, man. You’re kind of rolling the dice every time you do it, and there are no dice to be rolled anymore because there were no more shows. To me, that’s just heart-breaking, so I feel bad that so many people took a major hit like that just in wrestling, let alone everybody else that you would actually feel bad for, like mine workers, or bartenders, or people who invested in small businesses. All of that, man, they got shut down hard, and I’m really very fortunate.”