As previously reported, Alex Riley will be making his return to pro wrestling for the first time since 2016. This is the first time he is back in the ring since being released from his WWE contract that year. He will be wrestling at GCW’s “We Run This Town” event at Tampa, FL during Wrestlemania weekend on March 31 and April 1.
During his time in WWE Riley was a growing star, working with The Miz to better himself. While he didn’t hold any major gold in WWE, the moments he was a part of were good enough. In an interview with Chris Van Vliet this week, Riley stated one of his favorite bouts involved the most unfortunate of circumstances.
“I liked the tornado tag match that I had with Jack Swagger and Rey Mysterio,” Riley recalled. “It was in Las Vegas and I did it with one contact lens. I have this horrible condition called keratoconus, I can’t wear glasses and I can only wear contacts. At night, when I take them out, I’m blind. I developed it when I was 27… I lost the “right eye” during the match, I did not have extras to them. If I don’t know where my case is, I’m f’ed. It was the best match I had in my whole career. It was one of those things where you just had to turn your mind off. Evan Bourne after that match pulled me aside and said that was the best match I ever had. And he’s a hell of a worker. I would definitely look forward to having a match with him.”
During his run with the company, Riley made a transition from wrestler to a commentator in NXT. That required him to stay away from the ring and focus on working on other aspects of wrestling. It appeared he was needed in more ways than one, something that hurt but excited him.
“They were just starting the WWE Network and they needed spaces to fill on the broadcast side. They were coming up with something calling the WWE Pre-Show, and they like the way I spoke and gave me a shot at it,” Riley went on to say. “I feel very fortunate to have had that shot. Was I not heartbroken when I came out of the ring? Of course I was; I’ve always been an athlete and always wanted to continue in athletics. I told this to X-Pac: It is hard for me to argue or complain about a life that I’ve had. To be able to work on the WWE Network when it was just a ground-breaking platform, it was great.”
“They made a decision that when I was part of the panel the wrestling was done and that was that. I wanted to give it everything I had. That included getting very close with Michael Cole. Learning as much as I could, going down to the Performance Center in Orlando and watching hours on hours of tape, it is an art. You have to think very fast, got to keep your words very tight, very concise. Michael Cole is amazing; he’s so smooth he’s so fast and he can text you while you’re home in Tampa while he’s calling Raw. He’s talking wrestling (“You see what I said and saw what I did just now?”)… This guy is a genius.”
When Riley was let go, it closed the door on his WWE story. It also opened it to new opportunities.
“Mark Carrano called me,” Riley recalling on how he got fired. “I was driving down to the Performance Center in Orlando and I had just signed a deal, a three-year deal. A year in they decided to go a different direction. That’s all good, it is their company they are allowed to do that.
“A year ago it was like, ‘Vince really like me he wants to bring me back.’ That’s entertainment for you and they are at the top of entertainment. I think I actually invested in a property that I had to get rid of, I did some restructuring. it was ten years of my life. They did end up building me up to the point that I can get a role on GLOW.”
When he returns to the ring in March, Riley rejoins a world that is full of possibilities. What exactly did the now-actor miss about wrestling?
“Everything,” Riley stated. “The whole thing; the sports, the performance, the lights, the pyro the not sleeping, the work on the road, the unbelievable dedication that it takes to be a WWE superstar.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chris Van Vliet with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.