Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman spoke with Alex Shelley at ROH Summer Supercard this past weekend where Shelley was in the main event against ROH World Champion Matt Taven. During the interview, Shelley spoke about why he left wrestling in 2018, Matt Taven's journey in wrestling, and the struggles Ring of Honor deals with when it comes to talent going to other promotions.
Shelley noted that he was nervous before his big ROH World Title match—a match he hadn't been in for over a decade, last going up against Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson). Shelley had also previous taken on Austin Aries for the title and was asked how he felt Matt Taven compared to those previous ROH champs.
"I think he's awesome, in his own way," Shelley said. "I think all three of those are very different competitors, so to compare them would be doing somebody an injustice. I've said this a lot in interviews, about Matt Taven specifically, but I feel like he's mirrored my own career in a lot of ways, or we've at least been in a lot of the same places, as it were. I've honestly the utmost respect for him, he's worked really hard, and he's had to eat a lot of s---. He came up in wrestling the same way I did and the same way a lot of guys in my generation did and for that I give him a lot of credit."
In July of 2018, Shelley announced his retirement from wrestling as he had planned to focus on finishing up his four-year medical program. Shelley returned to Ring of Honor last month when he teamed up with Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham to defeat The Kingdom.
"To be fair, it was all orchestrated a couple years back," Shelley began. "I am a physical therapist assistant, that's a four-year medical program that you have to be involved in. This is my second four-year degree, I was pursuing a Master's Degree in business at the time too, and I decided to deviate my course a little bit, alter my path. In doing so, looking forward to the future, which I try not to do too much now because you know plans can change if you're emotionally attached to 'a' and 'b' happens, then you could be disappointed.
"The logistics of this situation were that had I gotten accepted into my program, which I did, in 2018 I would spend a good amount of time doing clinical rotations. ... I knew full well that was going to be my reality if I got accepted into my program, when I signed my Ring of Honor contract back in 2016. So, I signed a two-year deal, kind of forecasting that, 'Man, this is potentially going to be it for me, too.' It wasn't an easy decision, at the time there were a lot of things going on in wrestling—as there are now—and I kind of had to figure out what path I wanted to pursue."
Back in 2003, Shelley joined Ring of Honor during the promotion's early days and was asked how things are now compared to when he first began with the company.
"It's totally different," Shelley responded. "I feel like I've popped in over the years at very unique times. I debuted here in 2003, and I think we came back—me and [Chris] Sabin—in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, we got to see a lot of changes. I've seen the different bookers, I've seen the different regimes, and quite frankly I think the one thing that kind of defines this company in particular is, for better or worse, it springboards a lot of guys, right? Less so, now, it is an end point for some guys, which is cool if that's what gonna make them happy.
"The struggle of the people in charge though is that some of these guys just aren't here for too long. I think from a fan perspective though that's in their best interest because what you get to see is a development, the maturation of these guys who go on to become superstars across the world. A lot of the reason these guys get picked up by other companies, or get the spotlight put on them is because of the things they do here. They have the freedom to do that here and they have the capacity to do it here. They have the potential to kind of express themselves in that manner."
Shelley's full interview with Wrestling Inc. aired as part of a today's episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post, or in the video above.