On episode 101 of The Wrestling Compadres Slamcast, WWE's Alex Riley talked about recovering from his most recent knee surgery, whether having an team sports background helps in becoming a professional wrestler, and his impending return to the squared circle.
Riley has been off of WWE programming as he has been recovering from his third surgery of his right knee. Although the process has taken longer than Riley originally planned, he stated that this is the best his knee has felt in five or six years and he has been officially cleared to return to in-ring activity.
"The rehab [has] taken a little bit longer than I would have originally liked. When the doc got in there, he saw a couple of other things and tried to do this stem cell procedure. Basically, when he got in there [he noticed] I was missing a lot of cartilage kind of on the lateral side of my knee, so he kind of did this procedure that hasn't really been approved yet, but it was Dr. Andrews down in Pensacola [Florida], who is a fantastic doctor and gets a lot of professional athletes. Like, he did a stem cell procedure, and unbeknownst to me and the WWE, it took a little bit longer for the recovery. But I'm glad he did it. My knee feels great." Riley added, "until my knees completely give out, not one of them, but both of them, I will be in there fighting it out."
When asked whether an athletic background helps individuals breaking into professional wrestling, Riley admitted that it helps prepare people for the physicality of professional wrestling, but coming from team sports is a hindrance insofar as people cannot really be coached on developing a character and getting over.
"I think being an athlete and being used to the contact and the brutality of tackle football certainly helps. I think it's something that will get you used to what you have to do as an athlete in the WWE. Now, mentally, I don't think so. I think it hurts you because wrestling is something that is very individualistic and even your coaches, they know from what they did and what they were successful at, but nobody can tell you how to be you. And I think what happens to athletes that come in here is that they're so used to 'run to that line and catch the ball and we'll pat you on the back and say 'good''. That's not how this business works. This business is 'you have to create a path. You have to create a line of your own and then maybe we'll throw you the ball, maybe we won't'." Riley continued, "you have to think for yourself [in professional wrestling]. You have to have your own ideas. You have to have your own beliefs. You have to believe in something so strongly and really be willing to die for it, in a way, because you're going to be tested when it comes to that and your character, who you are, [and] what you stand for has got to come from inside and nobody can tell you that. And I think that was a lot of what my struggle was at first. I didn't really know who I was unless a coach was telling me where to go or 'do this drill' or do that."
While Riley said that NXT's Mojo Rawley is an exception as a football player who figured out who he is in the world of professional wrestling very early on into his career, Riley called Titus O'Neil "a product of frustration".
"[O'Neil]'s a big guy. He [has] got a lot of talent. He's certainly a good athlete. And when it comes to professional wrestling, you put him out there and JBL says it all the time, and I don't know if I completely agree with it, but he has everything that it takes to be a world champion. And when you're being told things like that and it just is not happening [it is frustrating]. Titus came in a year and a half after I was in FCW and when it's not happening, he just made the choice where he's going to start kicking in doors until he gets at least somewhat of what he thinks he deserves. So he [has] done a great job in that regard. He has not quit. He [has] fought and he's being rewarded for it."
Riley admitted that doing commentary was a good learning experience, but maintained the appropriateness his cage metaphor, as he was forced into the commentary booth when he really wanted to be in the ring.
"When they had taken this from me and for whatever reason I was doing the commentary, and, again, certainly a good opportunity to do it, but do I think I should have been in the ring [instead]? 100%. Did it feel like a cage? Yes. In the regard that I was sitting there every single Monday night watching people out there that I felt that I was better than, but I couldn't get in there." Riley added, "I'm sitting there every night talking about people, telling people how great they were or how great they are and how bad I was and that's B.S."
As for his return to the ring, Riley said he is out to reclaim what he always believed was his.
"When I come back, I promise you, I'm going for it. Now whether I become WWE [World Heavyweight] Champion or I'm in NXT for the next three years, regardless of where I am or where I'm placed, I'm swinging for the fence, so it's going to make a loud noise and I'm sure you guys are going to hear it, but I have no more, I don't want to say I have no more fear because I certainly fear things, but very little. Very little at this point."
To listen to the whole show, click here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Wrestling Compadres Slamcast with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: The Wrestling Compadres Slamcast